Autism Spectrum Disorder ( ASD ) is a neuro developmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and interaction, as well as, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. The month of April is designated as Autism Awareness Month. With a lot of effort ASD has received quite a bit of media attention, and the general public is much more aware that autism exists. However, there is still a gap on knowing about autism and educating and accepting Autism Spectrum Disorder in our community. Therefore, many self-advocates and their families are spreading awareness about autism and are encouraging people to accept autism within the communities.
The developmental care specialist has provided steps that we can all implement to encourage acceptance and inclusion of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder within our country.
Offer support through advocacy.
Children with ASD are often able to receive support at school through special education services, but it is not necessary that they receive the same support in the community, such as in extracurricular activities or in the places of worship. If you see a parent is trying to advocate for accommodations for their child with autism, then offer support to them through listening to them and learning from them.
Instead of dismissing, try educating.
Most parents have been in an awkward situation in public because of the stares that their child faces as they look different and behave differently from other people. But instead of being awkward use this situation as an opportunity to educate child about the situation and build understanding. If you see a child with ASD, engage with them in motor or vocal stereotypy such as spinning in circles while humming repetitively.
Focus on strengths, not just challenges.
Though many children and adults with ASD face challenges, it is important to identify and recognize those that also accompany ASD. For instance our development care specialist exhibits highly focused interest with ASD. If the individual with autism can participate in an activity or group that involves the interest, it becomes a pathway to form friendships. Further, that individual might purse employment in that field that they are interested in, promoting individual self determination. Focusing on the unique abilities of an individual will strengthen their sense of self and achievement.
Use language appropriate to the individual.
The first language of a person with ASD is used among professionals and parents. Many self- advocates within the autism community prefer to use identity-first language as they view ASD as something that should not be separated from their identity. However, it is important to ask the family member or the individual what language they find it to be most respectful and appropriate.
Expand your social circle.
Many children with autism are socially excluded from a very young age because They engage in behaviors which are considered to be abnormal or degraded in societal norms. If we encourage people to engage themselves and form friendships with individuals with different abilities, such as ASD, is not only the kind thing to do, but it can also provide opportunities for you to connect with them and learn from others from different backgrounds and experiences. This helps to broaden the perspective of the world and even teaches open-mindedness to new ideas, beliefs and values.