Observing Autism Acceptance Month
April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. Since its founding in April 1972, this month has raised awareness for children and adults who live with ASD (autism spectrum disorder.) We celebrate this month by showing support to our friends living with ASD by educating ourselves about what the community needs, encouraging inclusivity in school, the workplace, and everyday life.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
According to the CDC, the diagnostic criteria for ASD states “a child must have persistent deficits in each of three areas of social communication and interaction, plus at least two of four types of restricted, repetitive behaviors.” You may have heard the phrase ‘on the spectrum’ when referring to someone with autism. This idea of a linear spectrum is an inaccurate representation of autism because one person with ASD is not going to be exactly like another person with ASD. Everyone has their own personal spectrum that presents and lives differently at different times. A more reliable representation of ASD is a pie chart. Below are two charts from two different people with autism.
As said before, no two individuals with autism are the same. Some people have more sensitivity to auditory or sensory stimulation than others, and some experience anxiety in social interactions more often than others, and so on.
The main difference between people with ASD, or any type of neurodivergence, and neurotypical people, is the way the brain works. While living with autism can present challenges, people affected by ASD have significant strengths, like extensive knowledge on subjects of their special interests. Paying close attention to detail and incredible memory retention are just some of the impressive skills that individuals with autism possess.
How to Support Autism Acceptance Month
It was only two years ago that “Awareness” was changed to “Acceptance” by the Autism Society of America, in an effort to disrupt dated stereotypes and support families affected by ASD. Seeing as this change happened not all that long ago, spreading both awareness and acceptance is necessary to have an all-inclusive future.
Acceptance Starts at Home
Have conversations with your little ones about people who are different from them. Encourage them to embrace people who have families that look different than yours, belong in different cultures, have different abilities, etc. Especially when your little one gets to school, an open heart and mind will make them an incredible friend and ally.
American Sign Language
Because some people with ASD can be non-verbal, knowing some basic sign language can be helpful in order to communicate and break down barriers.
Autism in Media
Representation in media matters, for any minority group. In 2015, Julia, a four-year-old with autism, was introduced on Sesame Street. Below is a clip of her introduction, where we see Elmo and Abby enjoying finger-painting while Julia uses a paintbrush, because she does not like the way paint feels on her hands. Julia is one of Elmo’s best friends, and little ones who love Elmo will see him treat her with the same love and respect that he treats his other friends with on Sesame Street.
Sesame Street: Meet Julia (Full Clip | 10 Min)
Our world is becoming more inclusive day by day, and the best way we can support that growing inclusivity is by showing respect and compassion to those who are different from us, and most importantly, teaching our little ones to do the same!
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Hi, I'm Miss Julia!
Miss Julia has been an early childhood educator for 5 years, with over 10 years of experience working in childcare. She has been teaching at Playgarden Prep since 2017, and is happy to share ideas on some of her favorite early education topics with you! Miss Julia has a BA from UC Irvine, and uses her experience in performing arts to inspire little ones every day in her enrichment classes at Playgarden. In her free time, Miss Julia loves enjoying nature, cooking, and creating with friends.