Autism World Awareness Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was on April 2nd. We celebrated the unique talents and strengths of individuals on the autism spectrum and recognized the challenges they may face in their daily lives.
What is autism? It is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. While there is no known cure for autism, early intervention and treatment can greatly improve outcomes for individuals on the spectrum. Throughout the past 24 years of working with children with ASD, I have been blessed with the opportunity to
see the wonderful gains that children can make from
accessing early intervention services.
World Autism Awareness Day made me think about the wonderful diversity of children, teens and adults that I've worked with over the years and the evolution of the autism field. Firstly, I want to express my strong belief that every individual has soooo much potential that a lot of people don't see. There have been many situations where parents have been told by practitioners very limiting beliefs and it's not until therapists start working with children that we can see what the children can really achieve. I want to emphasize the fact that individuals with ASD can really harness their interested and 'tunnel vision' to have a valuable contribution to society and therefore feel a valued part of the community.
My first exposure to autism was in the late 90's while at high school. I was in the library and looking for a research book for some reason. I'm not a good reader and frankly reading was frustrating and boring. But, a thin book stood out to me so I read the blurb and decided to read it. This book was "Nobody Nowhere" by Donna Williams. This autobiography of a woman's life experience with autism blew my mind. I found it so intriguing to see the world from her eyes and learn of the pain and trauma she went through. This was such a heartfelt and emotionally impacting story that soon after I found out about a vacation care program for children with ASD that was looking for volunteers. I put my name on the list and before I knew it I was supporting a group of children with various levels of autism. I loved it, and seemed to have a natural ability to connect and engage with the children, most of whom appeared to be withdrawn from their surroundings.
Since that day I have continued to follow my passion for supporting and expanding the possibilities of the children I work with. After working in various companies with varying methodologies, I found that behavior analysis stuck with me the most. The field of behavior analysis has grown and matured over the years and it's amazing to see the contemporary and positive practices becoming more widely used. I have found the science that behavior analysis is based on sets no bounds for the neurodiverse individuals I work with. Taking a person and family centered approach, we can teach the skills that will empower the individual and ultimately lead to a level of independence that fits with them. I'm a strong believer in the fact that we can always learn no matter our age. I am constantly learning and trying to change my own behaviors depending on what my goals are. So, why do some services and funding systems stop or reduce as the people we work with get older? Why do we settle with situations where the individual with ASD needs someone to do something for them without having the objective to teach them the skill? No matter what age or ability, we all can learn. We just need to find the key that works for the individual and then the sky's the limit!
If you would like to read more about autism, get statistics and learn more about how this day is celebrated: WORLD AUTISM AWARENESS DAY - April 2, 2023 - National Today
If you are based in the UK, here is a great resource for the community to learn more about autism and for people with autism to find a community and support: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism