National Autism Awareness Month
has moved far beyond the original goal of simply making the general population more aware of autism and what it is. The goal going forward is to promote acceptance and appreciation of the unique characteristics that make each individual on the spectrum.
It is fantastic that most parents, teachers, coworkers, and people of all ages and professions now recognize that autism exists. The next hurdle for the autistic community is the acceptance, inclusion, and an appreciation for the gifts each person is able to bring to those around them. Many strides have been made on this front that parents and individuals on the spectrum may not yet be aware.
During National Autism Awareness Month, make an effort to wear something with a puzzle piece, display posters, and start conversations with clients and coworkers about some of the opportunities within the community. Supporters of the autism community encourage “lighting it up blue,” which is focused on spreading awareness and understanding the unique talents of all people with autism.
Sensory Friendly Films
Many individuals with autism have sensory processing disorders that make dramatic shifts in visibility or sound distressing. Movie theaters can be traumatic for those who are easily startled. Additionally, many autistic children regularly engage in stimming activities that others find disturbing. Sensory Friendly Films keep the lights slightly elevated, lower the volume, and do not regulate movement or sound unless there is a safety issue. This fully inclusive environment is an excellent place for families to enjoy an activity together in a stress free environment that is inclusive and welcoming for all. The movies that are shown change with the latest releases, and the times will vary by location. The theaters even allow individuals to bring snacks from home to accommodate special dietary needs.
Royal Caribbean has created cruises that are staffed and organized with the autism community in mind. Activities, movies, and dining have all been designed to accommodate those with autism and other developmental delays or disabilities. While they were among the first to do so, Autism on the Seas has partnered with numerous cruise lines, including Disney, Carnival Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line. Cruises are available throughout the year to a variety of destinations. This initiative makes an all inclusive vacation truly an inclusive experience.
Are there restaurants, businesses, health care providers, or recreational areas in your community that have made an effort to become welcoming places for members of the autism community? If so, make an effort to share them with your clients. If your community hasn’t made an effort to create an inclusive environment, consider reaching out during Autism Awareness Month and encouraging them to read the literature on how to do so.
National Autism Awareness Month has fortunately morphed into National Autism Acceptance Month in most places. Awareness has been achieved, and with the help of dedicated professionals, families, and friends within the autism community, acceptance will be forthcoming.