Autism Awareness Month: What does it really mean?

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You cannot read a paper or browse online without seeing something about autism awareness month.  It is great to make people "aware" of autism and other disorders, but what does awareness really mean?  Is awareness making life better for people with autism and their families?

The Oxford Dictionaries define awareness as:

  1. Knowledge or perception of a situation or fact 
  2. Concern about and well-informed interest in particular situation or development
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Other than letting the public know that autism exists, is there a substantial effort to educate and inform the public about:

  • Interacting with a person with autism
  • How to tell that someone might have autism
  • Employing people with autism
  • The capabilities and talents of people with autism
  • Practical help that families of people with autism need
  • The help children and adults with autism need in education, health and housing

I don't think so.

Helping your child with special needs transition to a new school

Credit: Lee Cannon on Flickr
Children change schools several times throughout their lives. These changes can make kids nervous or anxious. For children with special needs, these changes are particularly stressful. Parents can take steps to reduce their children’s anxieties. Here are some tips to help make the transitions go smoothly and reduce your children’s anxieties.

Make a transition plan
The development of a transition plan should involve parents, staff from the children’s current schools and staff from the children’s new schools. Children should be included or at least consulted about the transition plan. The transition plan should include:
  • Several visits to the new school. Each visit should have a specific purpose. For example, during one visit children can learn the physical layout of the facilities including restrooms, lockers, cafeteria, gym, bus pick up/drop off area etc. During another visit, give children the opportunity to sit in on a class or two. During additional visits, children should meet teachers, school staff and other students.
  • A meeting(s) between parents and the staff from each school to review the child’s particular needs and what techniques, strategies or accommodations helped your child as well as what didn’t work. There should also be a
    742680 on Pixabay
    discussion about the type of supports your child will need in the new school.
  • Getting a sample timetable or schedule from the new school so your child can see what a typical day is like
  • Getting or obtaining a map of the school to review with your child.

The legacy of Brittany Maynard and the right to die with dignity

Following Brittany Maynard’s fight for the right to die with dignity, at least 15 states proposed legislation allowing medical assistance for death. Right to die campaigners realize many of the proposed bills will not end up as law.  They view the introduction of legislation as a "testament to the growing support of the Death with Dignity movement."

Graphic by author with screen grabs from You Tube.

2014 survey of physicians by Medscape found the majority of US physicians in favor of physician assisted death.  One physician commented:

I believe terminal illnesses such as metastatic cancers or degenerative neurological diseases rob a human of his/her dignity.  Provided there is no shred of doubt that the disease is incurable and terminal, I would support a patient's decision to end their life, and I would also wish the same option was available in my case should the need arise.

In comparison, just 41 percent of European physician were in favor of physician-assisted suicide.

Art therapy allows children with autism to express themselves

Patrick Fitzgerald on flickr
Most children with autism struggle with communication and social skills. Getting your child to express his or her emotions is a struggle for many parents. 

Children with autism are extremely frustrated if they cannot express their emotions. Giving these children the chance to paint or draw can ease this frustration.

Painting and other art forms allow kids with autism to express their emotions in a fun and creative way. Children use art to express what they want and need. Even children who are verbal may feel safer expressing their feelings through art.

A study by the University of Lagos examined how effective art therapy was with children who have autism.  It concluded, "multiple art therapy interventions have been identified as effective in assisting children with autism to communicate through artwork."
\Nemo on Pixabay

Art or art therapy is used to teach children with autism social and communication skills. There is a formalized field of art therapy and therapists who work with children who have autism and other learning difficulties.

Kate Lacour, an ABA therapist, describes art therapy as a "natural fit for autism." She states that art therapy is beneficial for emotional expression, social skills and sensory processing problems. 

When you have a rainy day this summer, give your child paints or crayons and see how she responds to art. Some schools found art very beneficial for work with children who have autism.

If you are considering art therapy for your child, look for a qualified therapist with experience helping children with autism.

For more information about art and autism, go to:

The Value of Art Therapy for Those on the Autism Spectrum

Painting gives children with autism a chance to shine

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Advocating for Your Special Needs Child – Make it Personal

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Getting educational and medical services for your children with special needs is usually a struggle.  Lack of money, staff and other resources are reasons given for not providing proper supports.  When your child needs services, you present your child’s case to school or medical administrators who receive many other requests for limited resources.  So, how do you make your request stand out?  Make it personal.

The people making decisions about our children are just people.  When you need a service or support for your child, your request should touch the emotions of that administrator.  You want the decision maker to form a mental picture of your child.  Your child is unique and is not another 8-year-old on the waiting list for occupational therapy.  Turn your request into your child's story.