Today- April 2nd- is World Autism Awareness Day. Our nation celebrates the entire month of April. 

As I sit down to write this blog on the Eve of World Autism Awareness Day, my mind is spinning with how I personally have been affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. I don’t have a child with ASD- but I have known and loved hundreds.

When I was in graduate school over 15 years ago, my very first client in our university clinic was a child on the Autism Spectrum. I was incredibly unprepared for what I would face and for how to interact with my little friend. We were both scared our first few sessions together. I made many mistakes and struggled through learning how to engage him and help him enjoy communicating. It wasn’t easy. It never is…

Little did I know then that 15 years later I would be the director of a Speech and Occupational Therapy clinic where over half of our kiddos are on the Autism Spectrum. I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest a few ways of how ALL of us can celebrate Autism Awareness Month. 

I’m suggesting that we each volunteer to help a family with autism this month. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Babysit. It’s hard for families to find someone they can trust to watch their kids. Even if it’s just for an hour so they can go to the store without kids- they’ll appreciate it.
  • Go with the family to the Autism Speaks Padres vs. Dodgers game on April 10th.
  • Make a basket for the parents for a “night in” – they rarely (if ever) get pampered.
  • Fix them a meal or treat- but be sure to ask about special dietary restrictions.
  • Offer to run an errand or two for the family.
  • Give a gift certificate to places that get the parents out of the house without the kids – and don’t forget to provide a sitter.

If you don’t know of a family to help, you can help by supporting Toys R Us, Build-A-Bear, Stella & Dot, Home Depot and many other companies in their initiatives this month to increase awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Or, donate money to improve and expand research. Take a minute and read this link about what research funding has resulted in this past year. It’s amazing.

I consider myself blessed to be in a position where I can walk with families through their journey with a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This Autism Awareness Day and month, I am aware of how Autism has impacted my life. Very, very positively. :)