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

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