Join Our Campaign for Acceptance

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Join us this April as we again focus on acceptance and inclusion, not just awareness, for National Autism Awareness Month. The #A2AforAutism campaign to move communities from Awareness “2” Acceptance, started some conversations last year, and we can’t wait to see how it builds this year.

We want people with autism, and their families, to feel welcomed in their communities. We want people to know about autism’s challenges, so they can be more accommodating. But we also want them to know how their lives can be better when they include people with autism.

How can you help share this message and move your communities from Awareness “2” Acceptance? Here are some ideas:

  • Use the hashtag #A2AforAutismeverywhere: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest!
    • Share photos of autism awareness events that you attend.
    • Share pics or videos of your child with autism playing with neighborhood friends. Or, if you have a neurotypical child, them with their friends with autism. (Remember to get parents’ permission for sharing on social media.)
    • Share photos, videos, or stories of your loved ones with autism that show off their unique talents.
    • Share stories of inclusion.
    • Always remember the #A2AforAutism, so we can share your images, too.
  • Share ASNC’s social media posts throughout the month.
  • Join us for World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day on Sunday, April 2, at Camp Royall near Pittsboro.
  • Wear the #A2AforAutism T-shirt as often as you can wash it. (Don’t have one? Buy one from the ASNC Bookstore)
  • Put an #A2AforAutism magneton your vehicle (Also available from the Bookstore)
  • Tell teachers, club leaders, faith communities, etc., about our online materials that can help them create acceptance in their communities. The free resources include videos, informational items, ideas for crafts and fundraisers, and more.
  • Ask to provide a presentation or displayon acceptance in your clubs, schools, faith communities, etc. You can find ideas on our website or the ASNC Communications Department can help you with materials.

Imagine what acceptance could do for our loved ones with autism. We thank you for your efforts throughout April!

 

Surviving the Season: Tips to Help You Enjoy the Holidays

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This article was contributed by Wanda Curley, an Autism Resource Specialist in the Triad and mom to a son with autism.

The holidays are anticipated by many, yet when the temperatures cool and bells start jingling, we will all be likely to hear people around us talking about the added stress and strain they can bring to families as well. This can be doubly true for families with a loved one on the spectrum, who must then deal with the added stress of additional changes and transitions, crowds, disrupted or broken routines, and overwhelming noise and lights.

The main key to avoid frustration and help your loved one on the spectrum enjoy (or at least survive) the season is found in one word: PREPARATION! So, how do we prepare?

Know and assess

One of the first things we as parents must do is simply to know our child well and to assess the amount of holiday cheer that he or she can truly tolerate. Can your child tolerate the additional crowds at the local mall from late November through December? If not, then consider avoiding those days and make a plan to let them shop earlier in the year or at times during the season when stores are less crowded. Can your child handle seeing big changes in your home such as the sudden addition of the lights, Christmas tree, etc.? If not, then consider scaling back your decorations or adding them very gradually over a few weeks. This can also be a good way to involve your child in the process and allow him to take ownership of some customs and activities that he can enjoy. The more control that your loved one has over the extra activity of the season, the more tolerant and accepting of the changes they are apt to be. Make sure you give ample choices of holiday activities, including some calming, non-holiday options that are familiar and typical for them in their daily routines.

Plan ahead

Have a holiday season calendar prepared for your loved one in addition to their typical visual support systems. Mark the dates of the various holiday events, such as special concerts or dinner with extended family. Create a social story for the various events so that your child will know what to expect way ahead of time. You may even want to prepare a photo album with pictures of family and other guests who may be visiting your home, or of whom you may be traveling to visit during the holidays. Schedule looking at the photo album as a leisure activity on your child’s schedule, and that way your child will feel more familiar with people they don’t see as often during the year. Role playing and scripting of typical family situations during the holidays may go a long way toward relieving the added anxiety your loved one may feel during the season.

Provide an escape

Have a calming space set aside for your child that he or she can access whenever the hustle and bustle of the holidays gets to be too much. Teach your child self-management by using a break card or developing some type of cue for them to show when they are anxious and need some space to themselves. If you’re visiting in someone else’s home, this may be just a quiet room away from everyone where the lights can be turned down, soft music played, etc.

Duplicate favorite items

If you are traveling for the holidays, make sure that you have plenty of your child’s “favorites” on hand, including snacks, books, toys, sensory items, etc. You can also help by letting extended family or friends know about some of these items so they have them available as well. Many times, our family members and friends feel just as helpless as we do in difficult situations, so they will be happy that you have not only educated them on your child’s needs but also allowed them to be part of the solution. If you must travel by plane, use social stories and visual supports to make sure your child is prepared for any delays, as well as what will actually occur during the boarding and flying process.

Be flexible and “let go” when needed

Many of us have happy memories of past holidays and thus make expectations for the season that can be hard to meet provided the difficulties our loved ones may endure during this busy time. Perhaps you have always traveled instead of staying at home, or had a custom of exchanging and opening all gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Don’t be afraid to “change things up” if you need to do so to make it easier on your child and your entire family. Perhaps you need to start a custom of opening just one gift per day to help prevent your loved one from being overwhelmed. In our family’s case, our son with autism has never truly enjoyed the unwrapping of gifts, so we started a custom of making him a nice big gift bag with all of his gifts together. He can pull them all at the same time, or he can take his time and pull out one at a time without having to unwrap anything. He much prefers this process, and we have seen him become much less anxious now as a result of this one change we made for him.

Does your child not enjoy the concerts or other crowded events of the season? Opt for unconventional or quieter activities that can be enjoyed by just your family. One of our newest traditions is to enjoy a light show together by car. Just a handful of us are in the car, and we can adjust the sound as well as bring along some of our favorite holiday treats to share. Don’t feel guilty about having to let go of some time-honored traditions or customs. Make new ones that are more comfortable for your family, and don’t stress about those things that are difficult to access now. Our children on the spectrum can often sense our anxiety and frustration, which may then lead to their own, so it’s important to find time to take a breath and “de-stress” ourselves as well.

The holidays truly are a wonderful time of year, so don’t hesitate to begin new traditions and customs as needed. Think “outside the box” and finally … try to RELAX AND ENJOY!

Wanda Curley can be reached at 336-333-0197, ext. 1412, or wcurley@autismsociety-nc.org.

 

To Learn More

 

The ASNC Bookstore has some recommended resources for you:

Boy and a Bear: The Children’s Relaxation Book by Lori Lite

Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing With Sensory Overload by Jennifer Veenendall

Picture This: Places You Go/Things You Do, a CD Rom with pictures of modes of travel to add to visual schedules

Books to help friends and relatives understand autism:

Can I Tell You about Autism? by Jude Welton

Grandparent’s Guide to ASD by Nancy Mucklow

A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting Family with Autism by Ann Palmer

What Would Acceptance Mean to You?

 

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More than anything, the Autism Society of North Carolina’s IGNITE program is a community where young adults on the autism spectrum find the acceptance and friendship they want and deserve. For the first time, they are going out with friends, driving, and dating. They are embarking on new educational journeys and landing jobs. The acceptance that our members find at the IGNITE community center in Davidson, NC – and the growth that follows – gives them the confidence to become more involved in the other communities around them.

So for Autism Awareness Month, we thought we would ask these wise young adults to share their perspectives on the higher goal: acceptance and inclusion into the greater community.

What would ASD acceptance look like to you?

“ASD acceptance to me would be where everyone, or mostly everyone, would look at people with Asperger’s or autism as not being different, but being just the same as every other human being. We just have different needs and think differently than others.”

“It wouldn’t be considered a ‘disability.’”

“Everyone would be accepting me the way I am without judgement.”

Why is acceptance just as important, if not more, than awareness?

“Once people ‘accept’ something that is different from the ‘status quo,’ they will most likely discover that it cannot be a hindrance to our already striving society, but will make the big picture of their lives even better. In other words, autism acceptance is important because those on the spectrum have unique skills that others might not have that can be useful out in the workplace or anywhere in general.”

“If people accept you, it means they know about ASD and don’t judge you for it. Awareness is just knowing about it.”

What opportunities would be opened up to you if the world was accepting of ASD?

“If there were ‘real’ job opportunities, it would open up so many pathways, such as purchasing a car to get to and from work, and living independently like everyone else our age.”

“I think I would be more open to doing things if the world was accepting to Asperger’s and autism, which would lead to more opportunities for me.”

What is one thing you think is misunderstood about autism or you wish people understood?

“I just wish that people would walk at least a mile – or better still, a week – in our shoes so they can have more understanding about how challenging it is when you know you can contribute so much to society and work alongside your peers and yet nobody gives you a chance to support yourself financially.”

“Some of us can do everything anyone else can do. I wish everyone knew that.”

“Just because we don’t understand, doesn’t mean you can’t explain it to us.”

What would ASD acceptance mean to you?

“Emotionally, it would mean happiness, acceptance, joy, more friends, having people accept my baggage and really more understanding.”

“To me, ASD acceptance means – and should be – a huge milestone in our history when the veil of ignorance and prejudice can finally be cast down and all neurotypicals can see that, like them, we share a common goal: living life as best we can and making a better future for ourselves and for our families.”

“It would mean me and many others like me could live life that doesn’t make fun of or look down on us for being us. I would like that very much.”

IGNITE, which was founded with support from the Evernham Family-Racing for a Reason Foundation, offers activities, skills training, and educational workshops that foster social, financial, educational, and employment independence for its members.

Moving from Awareness to Acceptance

 

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This April, for Autism Awareness Month, the Autism Society of North Carolina is focusing on acceptance and inclusion, not just awareness.

We want people to know about autism’s challenges, so they can be more accommodating. But we also want them to know how their lives can be better when they include people with autism. Children and adults with autism have much to teach us, and they have unique gifts that can make our communities better places to live for all of us.

How can you help share this message and move your communities from awareness to acceptance? Check out these ideas:

  • Use the hashtag #A2AforAutism everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest!
    • Share photos of autism awareness events that you attend.
    • Share pics or videos of your child with autism playing with neighborhood friends. Or, if you have a neurotypical child, them with their friends with autism. (Remember to get parents’ permission for sharing on social media.)
    • Share photos, videos, or stories of your loved ones with autism that show off their unique talents.
    • Share stories of inclusion.
    • Always remember the #A2AforAutism, so we can share your images, too.
  • Share ASNC’s social media posts throughout the month.
  • Join us for World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day on Saturday, April 2, at Camp Royall
  • TshirtWear the #A2AforAutism T-shirt as often as you can wash it. (Don’t have one? Buy one from the ASNC Bookstore)
  • Put an #A2AforAutism magnet on your vehicle (Also available from the Bookstore)
  • Tell teachers, club leaders, faith communities, etc., about our online materials that can help them create acceptance in their communities.
  • Ask to provide a presentation or display on acceptance in your clubs, schools, faith communities, etc. You can find ideas on our website or the ASNC Communications Department can help you with materials.

We are truly excited about this campaign. Imagine what acceptance could do for our loved ones with autism. We thank you for your efforts throughout April!

 

Magic of Sesame Street Lets Us #SeeAmazing

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This article was contributed by Amy Perry, an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist and mom to a daughter with autism.

I’m going to get personal. When I heard Sesame Street was launching an autism initiative, I was very happy, and in some ways, I felt it was long overdue. I grew up watching Sesame Street and enjoyed sharing it with my own children. In many ways, the characters, videos, and catchy songs were some of my first teachers. They gave me a glimpse of the world, other societies, and cultures when I was still too young to venture outside my own. Sesame Street taught me about the people in my neighborhood and showed me how to be part of a diverse community, even if I was only watching it for the puppets.

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Amy Perry’s daughter has autism. #SeeAmazing

Most of the time, I feel like I live, eat, and breathe autism. Because of my job, it’s what people want to talk to me about, and because it’s also my child, I have to talk about it a good deal as well. You could say I am saturated with autism, and because of this, something really has to be extraordinary to get my attention, much less move me emotionally. I sat down to look at the videos that Sesame Street released on its website with the idea that I could find some materials to integrate into future workshops or to share with parents of young children. Thirty minutes later, I was soaked in a waterfall of tears – the good kind that heal wounds in your soul. I never expected to be touched so deeply by Sesame Street.

First, if you don’t have a child with autism and you are kind enough to be interested and watch some of these videos, they are NOT going to make you cry. Nothing is sad. These are beautiful stories of mothers, fathers, spouses, friends, and siblings who live with autism and they give you a tangible, honest glimpse of life inside autism. It is likely that you will leave with fresh understanding and insight, and hopefully a desire to share with others. If you do have a child with autism, you might cry because you will see that other people understand and live your life, and they are teaching others what it is to live in a family with autism. You are NOT alone.

These videos are real. In the magic that is Sesame Street, they have captured the lives and feelings and experiences of children, parents, spouses, and friends of autism in the most beautiful and Sesame way I have ever seen. Maybe it’s because I grew up with the characters on Sesame Street, but there was something about seeing autistic kids playing with my loveable furry blue pal, Grover. Seeing Grover love and understand these children who are so much like mine and tell everyone how great they are stirred something in me. It made the past 18 years with my daughter feel real and valid and accepted in a way that nothing else in the media ever has. I thought of all the times kids at the park would say, “What’s wrong with her? Why can’t she talk?” I watched Elmo and friends dance and sing “The Amazing Song,” celebrating kids with autism for their uniqueness and individuality, the way they should be. I dream of a world where kids can say “She has autism? That’s amazing! What does she like to do?”

collageI cried through A Sibling Story that features three sisters, just like my family. The sisters talked about how the family works together to support their sister with autism and the special kinds of help they give their parents, such as entertaining their sister while she gets her hair done. The girls talked about how it was hard sometimes, but that was all the more reason to help each other as a family. I wish my other daughters had been able to grow up seeing things like this on Sesame Street, to see other kids also challenged by the unusual requirements of life with autism. I thought of the moms and dads in my ASNC support groups when I watched Being a Supportive Parent and A Parent’s Role, because these videos say what I tell parents every day: You have to take care of yourself, we have to take care of each other, and you have to have support. It’s the only good way through this; connecting to others is how we weave our silver linings.

Sesame Street has created the most beautiful platform to teach autism awareness to children and families. I am stunned, I am humbled, I am grateful, and I encourage you, if you want a better understanding of autism, if you want to know what it’s like for the families whose 1 in 68 children have autism, if you want your children to know, if you want to learn things that help, I’ll see you on Sesame Street.

#SeeAmazing!

Amy Perry can be reached at 910-864-2769, ext. 1206, or aperry@autismsociety-nc.org.