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How to Be an Ally During Autism Awareness Month

Autism touches everyone’s lives in some way, whether you have a child on the Spectrum, or it’s a bit less direct, like a neighbor or cousin. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, (also called Autism Acceptance Month), we wanted to share with our readers some opportunities to show support, love, and acceptance to the Autistic community. 

Understanding Autism

The first step to accepting Autism and AutisticDaycare and Preschool in Greenville NC people is understanding what Autism really is. Right now, there’s a lot of stigma surrounding it. The media often portrays it as an epidemic and using the statistic as 1 in 59 people now being diagnosed with Autism as something that is scary or an emergency. People sympathize and pity parents of Autistic children rather than celebrate them.  

Autism isn’t a disease, it’s not something to be pitied, and it’s not an epidemic. It’s a neurological variation that effects between one and two percent of the population, and while each Autistic person is a unique individual, there are some common characteristics: 

  • Sensory processing variations like light sensitivity, or hearing sounds or feeling textures differently
  • “Atypical” repetitive movement, also called “stimming” like hand flapping, vocalizing, or jumping (basically a form of fidgeting, not unlike tapping your toe or drumming a pencil)
  • Difficulties with communication from more extreme cases of being non-verbal to more mild difficulties with nuance, idioms, and expressing feelings
  • Differences in social interaction, such as delays to social stimulus, avoiding groups, or preferring “parallel interaction” like side-by-side play or watching a movie with someone. 

It’s important to note that Autism Spectrum Disorder is just that – a “spectrum” –  every person experiences it differently and it presents in a multitude of ways. 

Being a Friend and Ally to Autistic People

One of the most important ways to show Autism Acceptance is to show it on a personal level. This simply means being present and welcoming to Autistic people and their families. 

A lot of families feel isolated due to Autism – they don’t get invited places, friends don’t visit, and it’s hard to be involved in the community. While sometimes this can be because of sensory issues or an aversion to certain places, much of it is simply society not being welcoming. For example, a child who flaps his or her hands when they are excited or overwhelmed is “distracting,” so parents feel obligated to leave, rather than the group accepting the family.  

Showing Acceptance

  • Treat Autistic people with kindness and respect – remember, just because they may not speak doesn’t mean they don’t understand. 
  • Assume ability and intelligence when you’re speaking with an Autistic person 
  • Make the first move – if you see a family at church, a school event, or a birthday party sitting by themselves (especially if they are new), ask to join them and make them feel welcome. 
  • Encourage friendship and set up play dates if a child is in the same grade as yours, or invite them to your child’s birthday party (reach out to the parents specifically for any special arrangements to provide a safe, enjoyable experience)
  • If a person appears to be having a difficult time or a meltdown, ask if you can help in some way (for example, if a parent is trying to help their child leave an uncomfortable situation, they may need help carrying belongings).

Get Involved at the Local Level

During Autism Awareness Month, there are plenty of  ways to get involved! Join the Eastern Run/Walk for Autism here in Greenville on April 27th for a fun 5k for people of all ages and abilities. 

If you want to donate, consider a local organization that provides more direct support and opportunities for Autistic people here in Greenville and North Carolina, such as The Autism Society of North Carolina.

Inclusive Preschool Education in Greenville

At Children’s Campus in Greenville, we strive to provide a safe, caring environment for all children. To learn more about our 5-Star preschool program and more, call us at 252-756-8200 or fill out our contact form!

Note: We chose to use “Autistic” rather than “person with Autism” because many in the community consider it to be an essential part of their identity (like an athletic person, gifted person, Christian person, or tall person). While we also believe “people-first languauge” is important (ie: person with Autism), we chose identity-first language in this case.