Did you know that according to research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 68 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism? When many people – especially children – struggle with understanding others who are different than them, this staggering statistic can create concern for any new parent. But autism spectrum disorder, which is characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors, is nothing to be afraid of.
Rather than avoiding these individuals, work to understand them. And the best way to do that is through communication. Since those with autism often struggle with communication, observe how an autistic individual interacts with others. For example, if they don’t use any sound or speech, try using gestures instead of talking to them. Be a helper and teacher; rather than constantly doing things for someone when they are unable to communicate their needs, ask if they need help, wait, and then ask a second time before giving help.
Slow down the pace. Give an individual an extra few minutes to allow them to understand what’s happening around them and think about what they can say during activities or tasks. Also, follow the person’s lead, rather than directing them. They will more likely pay attention to you, focus on the same thing as you, and will learn how to make choices for themselves. There is a great stigma surrounding those who have an autism spectrum disorder. Don’t let these stereotypes prevent you or your children from befriending those who need support the most.
Autism Awareness Month is next month. Be inspired to share your support by wearing blue, engaging in walks with your community, and donating to worthy organizations that want to provide more research and learn about what causes autism. However, remember that support for autism awareness is not relegated to one month. Become more aware, not just by acknowledging the existence of autism, but by seeking knowledge about autism. Here are some ways of how you can continue to share your support throughout the year:
• Autism is a spectrum; it affects people in many different ways. Educate yourself about the disorder by asking questions to families, organizations and individuals living with it. The more you know, the less stigma there is surrounding it.
• Become more accepting. It is not always easy to accept those who are different, but there are many ways to think, process and live differently than those around you. When you recognize and work to become more accepting, you naturally become an advocate for the cause.
• Educating and advocating for autism awareness extends beyond expressing support to actively seeking ways to make your community a better place to live for all. Three ways to engage in the issues facing the autism community are policies, programs and platforms. Be a voice at the local, state or national level, and work to implement positive changes for those with autism.
For more ways to help, participate in local events that work to promote autism awareness. Find them at www.wcmagazines.com/events. W