Twenty years ago autism spectrum disorder affected one in every one-hundred fifty kids, today it’s one in every sixty-eight. For boys, it’s one in forty-two.
Families with autism face a lifetime of challenges – from getting the early educational services and assistance they need, to making the transition to life after school and finding jobs, activities, and safe housing.
One in every sixty-eight children. We can help them reach their full potential, every one of us can make a difference.
April is Autism Awareness Month – it’s time to advocate for autism!
Businesses can help in many ways. A US Department of Labor study has found that youth with autism are far less likely to continue on to a job or college after high school than youth with other disabilities. If your business is looking to hire, consider reaching out to your local autism support agency! Most have job banks and training and even on-site support services. If you offer internships, many agencies have programs that can help defray the cost.
Offer sensory friendly opportunities. If you are a retailer, set aside times for families to shop without crowds, noise and distractions. Provide a getaway corner with manipulative toys and turn down the speakers. Movie theaters can designate screenings that will run with the lights up and the sound turned down. Live theater can do the same. Restaurants, bowling alleys, even museums, and galleries can make special times for families dealing with sensory issues. Not sure how to begin? Contact your local support group, they will be glad to offer guidance.
What can an individual do to help? Consider the old recommendation; give your time, your talent and your treasure. Most agencies offer social outings and events for the families they serve. Attend one, and bring your family so everyone can get to know each other. Volunteer at the local office, especially if your talent is filing, stuffing envelopes or answering phones. If you’re an amazing event planner, put together a fundraiser of your own. Offer your legal expertise to help families navigate the benefits system. Support the businesses that offer sensory safe opportunities.
Which leads to treasure. Donate. Job services, professional training, clinical services, family support and research cost real money.
One in every sixty-eight children.
According to the Center For Disease Control, the total costs per year for children with ASD in the United States were estimated to be between $11.5 billion – $60.9 billion (2011 US dollars) from medical care to special education to lost parental productivity. Each year more and more youth are aging out of their educational and support services.
Learn about housing, education, and employment in your community and healthcare and insurance in your state. Learn about legislation that can affect families and individuals with autism, from wage regulations to wandering protection. Then speak up! Ask your legislator to make the right decisions in funding family services. Be an advocate for autism!
Where to start? Autism Speaks, a global organization dedicated to awareness of autism and increasing research and access to care and support, has an Autism Advocacy site (https://www.autismspeaks.org/advocacy ) that provides information on pending legislation on the state and national level, as well as links to contact your elected officials.
Become an advocate for autism!
Lora Lewis is a multi-platform content creator who covers a wide variety of topics and loves the art of conversation.