Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Autism in April: 5 tips to continue spreading awareness through the year

Autism in April: 5 tips to continue spreading awareness through the year

As a practitioner and as a mother of a child diagnosed on the spectrum the end of April tends to be a bittersweet time for me; it’s when autism awareness month comes to a close. 

April is a time of the year that brings the autism community together through events that raise awareness and money for research. 

April is an opportunity for individuals who are not aware, to learn and open up their eyes to the world that has been blessed by people with autism.

We get thirty days to connect with people who share a commonality and bring awareness to one of the most prevalent disorders in today’s society. 

I love ALL thirty of those days….Not just because I can get away with putting on multiple shades of blue at one time, sport puzzle piece knee high socks and wear a superman cape (even though I look pretty awesome running errands in that getup).   

I love those days because it gives me the opportunity to continuously educate others about an amazing group of people that are too often misunderstood. 

I love those days because they remind me that I’m not alone in this journey and that there are thousands of other people walking on the same road with me. 

I have noticed that after April the drive to spread awareness isn’t as strong; the social media posts, events and marketing of educational material begins to die down. 

Imagine the impact that would be made if awareness was spread with the same drive and dedication the other eleven months out of the year.

Come May I will continue to speak out, share my stories and educate.  I will continue to wear my blue and puzzle pieces proud.   I encourage others to do the same.

The awareness of autism has come a long way over the past few years, from different research studies to well known events and books that educate our society and support the autism community.

Here are five tips that you can use that can help spread autism awareness through the year:

      1.) Read:
Reading is key!  You cannot spread awareness unless you know what autism is.  Find material both written by professionals and by people diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Both will give you the perspectives you need to educate and talk about autism.   

      2.) Use Social Media:
Social media gives us the opportunity to reach out to millions of people in seconds.  Creating Facebook pages, blogs and websites that provide factual information about autism are ways to connect with the autism community, for someone from the autism community to receive needed information, as well as insight and for pretty much anyone to learn about what autism is.

3.) Attend Events:
Attend and/or organize autism awareness events or fundraisers.  Many events include resource fairs with autism focused participating organizations.  Many of these organizations provide a service (Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis, Advocacy) or sell a product that benefits the autism community. 

4.) Build Programs: 
Participate in or organize mentorship programs.  Education is needed for awareness to spread and starting programs that pair typically developing children with children with autism teaches understanding and acceptance at a young age. 

5.) Hang out:
What better way is there to learn about autism than to either spend time with someone diagnosed with autism or hear them speak about their own experiences.  Even though everyone’s experience is different it will provide you with so much insight about the daily life of someone on the autism spectrum. 

Choosing to do just one of these makes a difference.  It begins to shorten the gap of misunderstanding and begins to build acceptance of some of the most beautiful, unique and smart people. 

I encourage you to use these tips to learn about autism, then use your knowledge to educate others and spread the word all year long.

-Nat Chase

Thursday, October 15, 2015


People often ask me my thoughts on first becoming a practitioner in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and then becoming a mother of child diagnosed with autism.  Even though I have my moments of grieving, my initial response has always been a positive one; I have always thought of my situation as a blessing. 

Eight years ago when I walked into my first ABA company for an interview my only connection to the field was from an internship in a counseling center where I was taught to assist a young girl with autism through her family therapy group.  I was intrigued by the therapy techniques taught and curious to learn so much more.   It led me on an educational and career path that has molded me into the person I am today.  Who knew that years later I would find myself noticing the signs of autism in my own son and going through all of the steps of diagnostic appointments, therapy assessments and IEP (Individual Education Plan) meetings. I am still pretty amazed at how I have dedicated my life to working with special needs families and I am now walking directly in their shoes. 

Being an autism parent has made me a better practitioner; it has created a broader understanding of not only the needs of the child, but the entire family.  Becoming a practitioner first has definitely provided me with the knowledge to teach specific skills and understand behavior, but I am still human. I do not have a special superpower that separates me from the challenges that come from being a parent of a special needs child.

My son was diagnosed just over a year ago. When I reflect on this past year there have been a lot of ups and downs, and to be honest some experiences that I would like to swipe from memory.   But I choose to go through life one day at a time to the best of my ability and focus on all the positives because they outweigh anything that may bring me down; they keep me going strong. I choose to be happy (even though I am usually a pretty happy person) and to surround myself with supportive, loving and encouraging people who build me up because it helps me realize that I am not alone in this journey.

So, when I am asked about becoming a practitioner and then becoming an autism mom I tell them that I have my days (like most people do) but I am blessed. I am blessed to work in an environment and career that I truly love and I am passionate about. I am blessed because I have a smart, unique and courageous son who amazes me everyday with what he has learned and continues to learn on a daily basis.  I am blessed because I have an incredible kid that will be able to show the world that his autism is just a part of him and it does not define who he is.

Welcome to my blog everyone!  Tune in every week or so for updates on my upcoming book, The Incredible Cam Man, autism news, events and simply what may just be on my mind.