In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, I thought I would post about a topic that brings fear to many parents: wandering. If your child has Autism and is in danger of wandering, please check out these resources. Autism Speaks has several resources for parents, educators, and first responders to prevent, educate, and address wandering. Also, check out the National Autism Association’s caregiver toolkit. There are also products such as Be safe the movie, which teaches appropriate ways to interact with law enforcement; Alert Me Bands, customizable emergency alert bands; and angel sense, a GPS device with voice monitoring. I have only mentioned a few here. but you can find more resources on their websites. I hope this will bring some peace of mind to you!
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April is Autism Awareness Month–an opportunity to help others learn more about Autism. With that said, I thought I would take an opportunity to share with you how Autism has touched my life, both personally and professionally. On a personal note, I have a handful of people in my life whom I hold dear and who happen to have Autism in one form or another. They have helped me experience the Autism journey from a different perspective than I have had as a professional. I have seen them grow on their journey and I have grown with them. As a school psychologist, I have the pleasure of working with individuals with Autism almost daily. Just like any journey, there can be hills, valleys, and plains. Frustration is inevitable, but so are the joyful moments. A day doesn’t pass that I don’t smile or giggle because a student with Autism has helped me see things a little differently or challenged my expertise.
I’m sure you have seen the puzzle icon in your community, whether as a bumper sticker, a logo on a t-shirt, or as a profile pic on social media. In case you didn’t know, this icon represents Autism. If you somoeone displaying it, they are touched by Autism in some way. I’m not sure about why this icon was chosen to represent Autism but I know what it means to me in my journey. Autism is a puzzle. We didn’t use to know as much as we do now about Autism. We used to have a few of the pieces–we weren’t sure of the causes or how we could help individuals with Autism to be successful. Over the years, however, knowledge has increased through research and education. Students and individuals with Autism have more resources in school and the community to help them experience growth and success. We’re getting more pieces to the puzzle. Perhaps some day all the pieces will fall into place and the puzzle will be complete. Until then, I will continue to enjoy my journey with those who are touched by Autism.
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* President Obama issued a proclamation recognizing April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day. You can check out more of the details on the Autism Speaks website: https://www.autismspeaks.org/advocacy/advocacy-news/obama-issues-world-autism-awareness-day-proclamation-2015 . Also, check out the “Useful Resources” tab at the top of this page for links to websites devoted to Autism.
Spread the Word to End the Word is an ongoing national campaign meant to raise awareness about the harmful and dehumanizing effects of the word “retard(ed)”. The intent of the campaign is to encourage schools and communities to foster acceptance and inclusion of individuals with disabilities, and to pledge to eliminate the r-word from everyday speech. The annual day of awareness is during the first week of March. However, people are encouraged to spread the word in their schools and communities throughout the year in hopes that the r-word will no longer be used inappropriately. I am excited to share how the high school I work in has promoted the campaign this past week. Check out these posters and a special video our students made! Join us in taking the pledge and encourage others to do the same!
If you would like to know more about the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, check out http://www.r-word.org
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Did you know that December 3rd was the International Day of Persons with Disabilities? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know. I have been a school psychologist and have worked with individuals with disabilities for 13 years and have never heard of it until today when I ran across a YouTube video in my news feed on Facebook that piqued my interest. If you haven’t seen this one yet, please take a few minutes to view this amazing and touching video.
Needless to say, since I was not aware of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I have not been recognizing nor promoting it. So, I thought I would take the opportunity to do so now, albeit a few days late. After watching the video, I did a little research and discovered that the annual observance of this day was enacted in 1992 by the UN. To learn more about the UN’s promotion and advancement of rights for and well-being of persons with disabilities, check out their website at http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=17 .
After watching this video, it made me think about opportunities we have as parents to teach our children compassion and appreciation for individuals with disabilities. In today’s society where the “r” word (retarded) is commonplace and as we hear more accounts in the news of individuals being bullied and abused, it makes it that much more important for us as parents to be vigilant about teaching our children empathy and appreciation for individual differences. I’m confident that if you are a parent, you are taking every opportunity to do this when you see or come into contact with a person with a physical disability, but have you thought about opportunities to do so when you come to know someone with a “silent” disability such as a learning disability, ADHD, or emotional disturbance? I found this to be much more challenging to teach when my children were growing up. I can remember occasions when my kids would come home from school and tell me about a student who was annoying because he fidgeted all the time and wouldn’t stop blurting out his thoughts; or when a student was difficult to deal with because of his or her behavior. I tried to teach my children that these students need our support, too, and I tried to stress the importance of empathy and tolerance.
I encourage you to do the same. If you are a parent, what an awesome opportunity you have to teach your children these important qualities while they are young. Your children might employ these individuals one day. If you are a student, what a great opportunity you have to be the person who could make a difference in the life of one of these individuals. Right now, you can be an excellent model for other students to follow. One day, you might be a co-worker with one of these individuals and they will need your support then, too. If you are one of these students, what a great opportunity you have to advocate for yourself, to teach others about your challenges, and how to embrace your differences. If you aren’t sure about your disability and want to learn more, ask your parent, your special education teacher (if you have one), or the school psychologist at your school. You can also post a comment here with a request for more information about a particular disability and I would be happy to post more information about it.
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