If you’re the parent of a child with autism, chances are you have plenty on your plate already. So perhaps the thought of celebrating Autism Awareness Month in April inspires you … or perhaps it feels like just one more thing to add to your already-long list.
That’s why we’ve compiled ten easy ways for you to get involved this Autism Awareness Month, and celebrate the strength, hope, and dedication of our autism community.
Celebrate and enjoy your child for exactly who they are.
While it’s true that this is one item you do every day of the year, it’s also the most important one on the list. Simply loving your child and including him or her in your family’s daily life is a powerful choice. After all, it wasn’t long ago that many children with autism were institutionalized and segregated from their families.
When you choose to involve your child in your home and community, you set an inclusive example. This ripples outward and encourages other families to do the same.
What might you do? Perhaps you could write a story about your child and submit it to a popular site such as The Mighty, which helps families face disability and mental illness together.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even help your child to start a small business that allows them to share their gifts and abilities with the world. For inspiration, check out Made By Brad, a booming furniture-assembly business with one employee: a young man with severe autism.
Wear blue on World Autism Awareness Day.
World Autism Awareness Day is sanctioned by the United Nations and takes place on April 2 each year. Light It Up Blue (LIUB) is Autism Speaks’ celebration of World Autism Awareness Day. Through LIUB, homes, shopping centers, and major landmarks also feature blue lighting as a statement of solidarity with the autism community. Plus, thousands of people wear blue to raise awareness of autism spectrum disorders.
So pick out your family’s favorite blue t-shirts and dresses and take the pledge to wear blue on Saturday, April 2, 2016. Share a photo on your social channels, email, or text, and spread the message of supporting our autism community. On that note…
Take part in the Light It Up Blue online campaign.
Explore this list of additional ways to Light It Up Blue with social media, including personalizing your LIUB Selfie Sign, tweeting autism facts with the hashtag #LIUB, and turning your Facebook or Twitter profile picture blue.
Consider participating in a fundraising event or making a donation to an autism support organization that you trust.
The two major autism advocacy organizations in America are Autism Speaks and The Autism Society of America. However, those are definitely not the only options. If you’d prefer to donate to a local or grassroots organization, just be sure to use a free online vetting tool such as Guidestar to ensure that the organization has a proven track record of using funds wisely. Share this information with your friends and family to raise support!
Obtain educational materials about autism support to share with friends and family.
This is a practical way to advocate for your child and strengthen your bonds with loved ones at the same time. Gather materials that explain autism in clear, concise terms and use them to answer questions. Keep in mind that your friends and extended family members may want to learn more but feel unsure about initiating the conversation. So don’t be afraid to share what you know.
If you want to reference an article containing the basic facts about autism, our post Autism Resource: Common Questions About Autism is a great place to start.
Read up on the latest findings in autism therapies and treatment.
Check out The Association for Science in Autism Treatment, which was founded to fight against inaccurate, false autism information. Its focus on evidence-based treatment helps parents discern which services are worth pursuing for their children.
Connect with fellow parents by joining a local nonprofit or support group.
Individual awareness and advocacy efforts are important, but groups allow us to share knowledge and join forces. If you’re looking to connect with a local organization, check the state-by-state Resource Guide provided by Autism Speaks and The Autism Society of America’s Autism Source Online Directory. You can also Google your location and “autism support” or “autism non-profit”. As we wrote in our post A guide to autism support for parents:
“Families in your area have valuable experience with government programs, school systems, non-profits, and more. Local parents have a wealth of information about how to advocate for your child in your specific town or city. It’s much more efficient to ask questions of fellow parents than to try and figure everything out alone.”
Prevent wandering and promote safety.
Wandering-related injuries and deaths are a tragic problem in the autism community and seem to be happening more often. The National Autism Association’s AWAARE Collaboration site contains a wealth of safety materials designed to prevent wandering-related incidents. Download the free toolkit materials and take precautions today; it could save your child’s life.
Write to your state senator and representative to advocate for autism insurance reform.
This is an exciting time in autism-related reforms; in March 2016, the United States Federal Government announced that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy will be covered by all government health insurance plans as of 2017.
Join the fight for ABA coverage in the insurance industry by visiting Autism Speaks’ State Initiatives page. Click on your home state to be directed to a list of current representatives to contact.
Begin ABA therapy with your child.
ABA therapy is the autism treatment endorsed by the United States Surgeon General, the American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Autism Society of America, and many more professional organizations. (Click here for a full list of ABA Endorsements.)
As Dr. Brad Ramsey said in How ABA therapy helped Jack blossom:
“With autism, there’s a lot of things out there that you can read on the internet but the only thing that’s been truly proven is ABA therapy.”
Want to help your child grow and develop all year long? Sign up for your free 14-day trial of FirstPath Autism today! You’ll receive access to our full ABA video library so that you can start providing in-home autism support.