How to Take Action for Families Affected by Autism
April is Autism Awareness Month, so you might be wondering how to take action for families affected by autism. The current rate is one in every 36 children in the U.S., which basically puts one child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in every two classrooms throughout America.
Because autism spectrum disorder is a disorder and not just a different way of thinking or experiencing the world, raising awareness for this disorder and taking action for those affected by this disorder is of critical importance.
Many people might say they are aware of autism and what it means to have ASD. However, some of the awareness campaigns out there do tend to focus on autism as a quirkiness of character, or a different way of being in the world. Some think awareness should then generate acceptance of others with quirks or unique perspectives. Some may then wonder why we need action at all.
Action for families affected by autism is crucial; generally, families are experiencing stress as their loved one with autism spectrum disorder is struggling with various social-emotional issues, behavioral issues, and health issues.
Many children with ASD have communication barriers making it difficult for them to express to others how they feel and what they need. Taking action for those with ASD can help in ways that you might not have considered before.
Take Action for Autism with Food
One simple way to take action for a family experiencing the difficulties associated with autism spectrum disorder is to provide a meal. Whether you cook one or deliver one from a restaurant, it would be most appreciated. Many children with ASD have food allergies and/or sensitivities so check first. Gluten and dairy free diets are common for children with autism spectrum disorder.
Volunteer to Take Action for Autism
Offer to volunteer at an autism event, such as a walk or a sensory friendly film showing. Walks might be sponsored by small local organizations or larger agencies such as FEAT. Volunteer in a special education classroom for a day or a week (make sure to call ahead and get administrative approval to be on campus).
Volunteer at an equestrian center in the community offering hippotherapy or horsemanship classes for kids with ASD. Perhaps volunteer to help train a dog for service as a companion to a child with ASD.
There are also volunteers needed at conferences for ASD. TACA is one such organization that has a huge conference in Orange County, CA, and they are always looking for administrative volunteers, general support, and people to serve on fundraising and events committees. You don’t have to live in OC to participate.
Donate Supplies to Help Children Affected by Autism
A quick way to take action for families affected by ASD is to donate school supplies to either a special education classroom in your area or to a behavioral center that provides ABA therapy for kids with autism. Crayons, markers, construction paper, books, simple toys, even tissue boxes and glue sticks would be a welcome contribution. Everyone knows teachers buy their own supplies, so donations would be appreciated.
Help a Child with Autism Directly
If you know a child in your extended family or in the neighborhood who has autism spectrum disorder, you could help him/her by teaching them how to shoot a basket, or jump rope, or ride a bike (with parent approval of course).
Maybe help a child with ASD plant a flower in the yard, or spend some time reading a book to the child. Not only does even the smallest of actions make a child feel accepted, it goes a long way to promote good feelings in the parents.
If the circumstances are right, offer to watch the child while the parents run out for coffee or fix that one thing in the house they haven’t had time to do. Again, if it’s appropriate, you could take the child with autism to a sensory friendly movie or even provide the gift card to the family so they can attend.
Shop to Support Autism Organizations
Like to shop? Well, you can take action for a family affected by autism by simply shopping! Visit smile.amazon.com and select Generation Rescue as your cause of choice. A portion of each purchase you make will be donated to support families affected by autism.
Angelica Collection makes bangles that you can buy; .25¢ of every purchase goes to support families in need. If you shop Audible, download a book related to autism. On BrokenGypsy.com, during the month of April, proceeds from the puzzle piece bracelet ail be donated to families affected by autism. And if you are a wine lover, Cellar Angels is giving discounts which also help support Generation Rescue.
Use Social Media to Promote Autism Awareness and Action
Nothing could be easier than showing you care by downloading a graphic related to autism and sharing it on social media, using the hashtags #ChatAutism. There are profile pic badges and autism related banners that can help promote awareness and encourage others to take action.
Political Steps for Helping Families Affected by Autism
Are causes and GoFundMe campaigns your thing? Did you know you could take action for families affected by autism and bring about huge change? Here are a number of causes related to autism that need help desperately. Many older children and teen with ASD need appropriate and dignified diaper changing stations in public facilities.
Baby changing stations do not work! That is one cause to get behind. Another is changing the way awareness products are sold – many companies pocket the money they make on autism awareness gear rather than donating even a small percent of it.
One very critical action step involves having mandatory police training on autism; all too often police officers encounter a person with ASD and take drastic steps during their encounter because the person is not responding appropriately. With proper training of officers, many tragic episodes can be avoided. Military families are not covered for ABA therapy; approximately 23,000 families in the U.S. are being denied ABA services due to the Dept. of Defense’s issue with lack of evidence.
Get involved to get these desperate families the therapy they need and deserve. Also, there is no specific alert system for missing children with autism. Much of what occurs when a child with ASD goes missing is not targeted to the needs or abilities of the family. Often times, searches neglect areas of danger such as pools, ponds, and rivers. These are areas where kids with ASD often go. And the result is drowning, which could have been prevented had the alert system and search been more specific.
Books and Documentaries Help Us Take Action
There is no shortage of material for anyone, any age, about autism. There are books and films about personal stories, interventions, nutrition, diets, medical issues, toilet training, sensory integration, and more. In the last 15 years, there has been an explosion of autism-related media, and you can find something on just about any topic related to ASD. Take action and see a film or read a book and understand more of what someone with autism experiences.
Donate to Take Action
A number of organizations which help families dealing with autism are not “out there” in the way that Autism Speaks is; this is probably due to priorities regarding their funds, and organizations that do indeed give direct support to families don’t often have advertising dollars.
A few organizations which could apply your donation directly to helping families affected by the disorder are The Autism Society, The Age of Autism, Generation Rescue, and TACA. Alternatively, look into local autism agencies or nonprofits that could use a financial boost.
Take a Free Online Course to Learn About Autism
The Autism Society offers free online courses, starting with Autism 101, for anyone wishing to increase their knowledge of autism in general. There is a series of courses on different topics related to autism. You can take one or several. Each course comes with a certificate of completion should the “student” want one. Courses run about 30 minutes and are completely free!
If All Else Fails, Flowers
As Autism Awareness Month rolls by, it becomes a perfect time to take action for families affected by this disorder. However, you do have 11 other months in which you can choose to make a difference. If nothing piques your interest in the descriptions above, maybe find a family dealing with ASD and take them a bouquet of flowers to brighten their day. Even one flower left on their doorstep might provide a little boost that you didn’t know they needed. One small act can (and does) have lasting impact.
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For more autism resources, see our Special Needs Directory.
Keri is a special needs parent and a veteran high school English and journalism teacher turned writer. She enjoys writing, reading, painting, hiking, gardening, cooking, wine tasting, and practicing yoga. She a passion for creating awareness for and acceptance of differently-abled individuals. Visit her blog at www.kerimehome.com.View All Posts