April: 30 Days of Autism Action Ideas to Help Friends, Family
awareness: (noun) knowledge or perception of a situation or fact
action: (verb) the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim; a thing done; an act.
April is labeled Autism Awareness Month. When it comes to autism, with 1 in 68 children diagnosed by a potentially life-long disorder that affects one’s independence, communication and socialization skills that can also impact the neurological, digestive and sensory systems, awareness only does so much to help those affected. For some time now, activists have been asking for autism action instead.
Awareness is merely knowing. It lets someone watch the epidemic grow without having to do anything about it. Action gives someone options. It gives people the chance to get up and do something about autism. Autism happens every day of every month of every year. Awareness or action. Which will you choose?
If you choose action, consider picking one of the following things that can be done now, today, this month to assist someone affected by autism:
1 visit and get to know a family in your community that’s affected by autism
2 offer respite for a family
3 the siblings needs some time and space to themselves too--take the typical siblings out for the day
4 find out what autism books the parents are reading, and read the book with them
5 order the book, and donate it to the local library
6 autism parents read a lot--give the parents a book store gift card so they can continue to educate themselves on their child’s disorder
7 find out what equipment the child needs (communication device, therapy swing, chewies, etc) and help purchase it
8 if an item or piece of equipment is needed and is out of reach financially, start a fundraiser
9 learn what dietary restrictions the family has and read why that diet has helped
10 donate a bag of groceries to the family with safe foods for their child
11 learn how to make a meal family can eat and bring it to them
12 go grocery shopping with the family to learn more about diet intervention (or to help with the kids if mom has to bring them with her while she shops)
13 offer to do some yard work or housecleaning if the family needs an extra pair of hands
14 attend a local autism workshop or conference
15 join one of the local autism events in your community (fun run, sensory movie screening, festival, etc)
16 get an autism-related magazine subscription
17 learn what therapy and interventions are helpful for autism families and help support them get that therapy
18 donate toys, books or supplies to an autism therapy center or classroom
19 find out what stims are; if a child stims on a toy, DVD, or other object, offer to get another one in case his favorite one ever needs to be replaced
20 ask to attend an IEP meeting to see how the education process works and why it’s important to have supports in place for the child
21 attend a special education parent association meeting to find out what support they need and why
22 volunteer or cheer on a local sports team that includes children on the autism spectrum
23 find out which stores and business support autism families and thank them
24 shop at the stores that support, train and hire individuals with autism or other disabilities
25 ask your local Representatives what they are doing to encourage autism families in your community
26 learn what legislation affects autism families
27 sign up to receive a newsletter to an autism group who directly supports autism families (Charity Navigator is a great place to look at how a group’s monies are allocated.). Need ideas of where to look for these groups? Check out our sponsors on this page for starters!
28 learn which organizations give directly back to autism families and donate in a specific family’s name
29 simply reach out to a friend, relative or neighbor with a phone call or letter
30 pray, light a candle or make an offering for all of those affected by autism
A child with autism has much more on his plate than a typical child. His parents have a lot to juggle as well. His whole family requires more physical and emotional support than they are sometimes able to muster. Some of what a family needs is out-of-reach, must be paid for out-of-pocket or is miles and miles away. Everyone is busy. Everyone’s lives are important. But what can you do now, today and this month to ease some of the extra work, emotions or burden for that child or his family? Keep a journal of what you do and what you learn. When the month is over we’d love to hear about your experience. Finally, thanks. Thanks for doing something this month instead of just watching. Your efforts, enthusiasm and action will be a refreshing and welcomed addition to the autism community.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
We had a request on our AofA FB page to translate this piece into Spanish. Thanks to Judith for providing the link:
Posted by: Cat Jameson | April 02, 2014 at 05:52 PM
I never realized how unaccommodating the schools are until I had to fight for my son. The IEPs were not always followed until I started taping the meetings. And even then, they do not want to furnish him with the needed help, IE: occupational therapy, despite a prescription from his behavioral pediatrician. With so many of our children afflicted by this, as a whole, the public needs to be educated and most importantly, get involved. These children deserve to have their educational needs met just as other children with disabilities and those that are blessed with no disabilities.
Posted by: Gail Basler | April 02, 2014 at 03:08 PM
Great list, Cathy, and great comment, nhokkanen!
I think that the average person does not understand the discrimination we face. Imagine if a child with Diabetes 1 was told "no insulin for you" by the doctor and insurance company. Or, imagine if the blind student was told "no Braille books for you, and you can't use your walking cane at school or bring your trained guide dog". Imagine if the hearing-impaired child was refused a hearing aid by his doctor and insurance company and an interpreter or sign language teacher by his school. Yet, our children with autism are denied proper medical care and educational accommodations at every turn...yes, that's at every turn.
Additionally, there are many places in the community that families just can't access with their child with autism (due to issues and behaviors specific to their child with autism, which may include behaviors that are considered unacceptable or unwelcome out in the community, or even at a friend's house). Ramps, elevators, designated parking spaces, and wider bathroom stalls are required in the community for those in wheelchairs, but little to nothing exists for the special needs of those with autism, and as such, many "typical" community outings are not accessible or possible for autism families.
And on a final note, autism families receive little to no support when going up against their school districts when trying to secure a free and appropriate (not to mention timely) education for their child. I was always saddened and hurt by this when we took on our son's school district(s) on more than one occasion. No one spoke up for us at school board meetings or with school district personnel and/or school board members. Yet, if a child in the district has cancer (and believe me, I don't mean to make light of children with cancer, many of whom I believe to have vaccine-induced cancer), the school and community rally in huge ways to help that child and his family. I have yet to ever see such support rallied for a child with autism who needs help, be it medical, educational, or other.
Autism is chronic, not acute. Parents and their afflicted children have no choice but to be in it for the long haul. They/We could use some help and support along the way.
Posted by: Laura Hayes | April 01, 2014 at 05:33 PM
Thanks for this great list of ideas. Sometimes autism parents become so accustomed to doing everything themselves that they give other folks the impression that help is not needed. The length of your list shows some of the many possibilities for lightening the load.
Posted by: nhokkanen | April 01, 2014 at 03:09 PM
Have one to add:
If you see a person struggling with a tantrum in public (store/restaurant/etc) stop and think twice before making a snide remark about how the child should be spanked/Is just too spoiled/etc....and instead of giving them a weird look, give them an empathetic smile instead.....you have NO IDEA how those positive little things help brighten the situation, and in turn how much worse they make the situation if it's a negative response/comment/etc....
Just my two cents!
Proud mom to Ethan, Alex, Megan, and Sega the wonder miracle service dog
Posted by: Angie | April 01, 2014 at 06:20 AM