According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism occurs in about one of every 68 births. That makes April, designated as Autism Awareness Month, the ideal time for everyone in the autism community to spread awareness, take action, and increase acceptance of persons with autism.

OAR is gearing up early to do its part in raising awareness and acceptance and to surpass its outreach efforts from last year. Here is what OAR is doing and how you can join us in making a difference.

 

Goal 1: Expand the Autism in the Schoolhouse Initiative to educate youth about their peers with autism.

Given the increase in autism diagnoses over the past several years, it’s become more important than ever to teach our children about autism. Since 2014, OAR’s Kit for Kids program has been used to inform more than 80,000 students in grades K-8, start a discussion, and help eliminate myths and common misperceptions about their classmates with autism.

This year, OAR hopes to reach an additional 8,000 students by the end of April. In addition to using the story booklet “What’s Up with Nick?”, an online version of the story will be available beginning in February. The online version tells the story through animated videos and fun activities. OAR’s hope is that this new resource helps reinforce student learning and retention about autism in a fun and engaging way and make Nick’s story more widely accessible.

How you can help: Start an autism peer education program.

The impact of this peer education resource is magnified when entire schools and districts participate, rather than a few scattered classrooms. These types of efforts typically start with one individual or group that commits to making autism and peer acceptance a priority. You can be that catalyst for change. We offer guidance for parents, educators, and administrators on starting an autism peer education initiative.

 

Goal 2: Empower the autism community with informational OAR resources so that no family has to go it alone.

Last year, OAR delivered over 5,000 copies of its “Life Journey Through Autism” guidebooks, including the newest, A Guide to Safety. These guidebooks offers tools, lessons, and advice on how to prepare to meet the needs of persons with autism.

AGuidetoSafetyThis year, from January through the month of April, OAR will engage supporters and the public with information about these high-priority resources via email and social media outreach. OAR’s goal is to ensure that families, educators, and professionals are equipped with the essential information provided in these resources. OAR hopes to distribute 5,000 “Life Journey Through Autism” guides, including 1,000 copies of A Guide to Safety, to families, schools, conferences, police and fire stations, and lending libraries.

How you can help: Distribute autism resources across your community.

You can help by equipping people in your community with these helpful resources. If you know of any local support groups, families, schools, organizations, medical facilities, or first responders, please spread the word to them. Knowledge is power, and these resources will equip your local community with the knowledge it needs.

 

Goal 3: Support autism siblings with resources for kids, teens, and parents.

Being a sibling has its highs and lows, on or off the autism spectrum. For autism siblings, however, there are a few unique challenges. OAR can help. Each of OAR’s three sibling guidebooks, written by and for autism siblings, are aimed at meeting the specific needs and concerns of young children, teens, and caregivers.

This April, OAR’s goal is to deliver 1,600 copies of “Life as an Autism Sibling: A Guide for Teens,” “Autism, My Sibling, and Me,” and “Brothers, Sisters, and Autism: A Parent’s Guide.”

How you can help: Distribute sibling resources to those in need.Parent Sibling Guide

Are you a parent or guardian looking to learn how to help your kids who are not on the spectrum? Do you know or work with any siblings of kids on the spectrum? Use OAR’s sibling guides to make sure their questions are being answered and that they are receiving the support they need. Spread the word far and wide. Remember, up to two copies of each of OAR’s guides are available for free through our online store.

 

Goal 4: Jumpstart OAR’s volunteer program with 30 new volunteers.

 Are you interested in making an impact by increasing autism awareness, understanding, and acceptance? This year, OAR is looking for people who can help improve its ongoing projects and initiatives. Volunteers will receive an OAR t-shirt, recognition for their service through The OARacle newsletter, and a certificate of excellence.

 OAR is seeking interested volunteers in several program areas:

Autism resource distributors share informational materials about autism with their neighbors, parent groups, first responders, schools, clinicians, and more.

Blog contributors share their experiences with autism on the OAR blog and on the Hire Autism

Graphic designers support OAR’s social media presence and enhance its main website with high-impact visuals.

Newsletter contributors write news reports from the autism community or share their expert knowledge through How To section in OAR’s newsletter, “The OARacle.”

Youth education leaders play a critical role in raising awareness and building acceptance among elementary and middle school students by teaching them about their peers with autism using the

Event volunteers support the special fundraising events that OAR hosts during the year, including selected RUN FOR AUTISM races, OAR’s annual Casino Night fundraiser, and conferences.

 How you can help: Spread the word and volunteer for one or more projects.

Take on one or more of the opportunities outlined above to make a direct impact on your local community and/or the wider community. You can also share our volunteer flyer with educators and high school guidance counselors to recruit more volunteers to work with OAR. If any of these project areas sound interesting to you, apply today.

 

Goal 5: Support adults in the autism community through Hire Autism, a website that connects job seekers with autism with local employment opportunities.

HireAutism_NEW_000 OAR’s newest initiative is Hire Autism, a website where job seekers with autism can begin their job hunt and access employment-related support resources. It is presently being tested in Northern Virginia. Businesses can post jobs on the site and view information about autism, workplace accommodations, and more. After being hired, individuals can still look to Hire Autism for tips on how to be effective workers and maintain their jobs long term.

In launching Hire Autism last year, OAR took its first major step toward supporting adults with autism seeking employment. The 2017 goal is to engage five additional employers and an applicant cohort of 50 Hire Autism users by the end of April.

How you can help: Spread the word about Hire Autism and contribute your expertise.

There are many ways you can get involved with Hire Autism. You can spread the word about the Hire Autism website to your friends and family using social media. If you know of any businesses in the Northern Virginia area that may be interested, give them OAR’s informational brochure. If you like to write and are interested in the topic of adult employment, contribute to the Hire Autism blog.

To learn more about how you can get involved or to request brochures and other Hire Autism promotional materials to share, contact .

 

Goal 6: Raise money for new research and resources.

This year the RUN FOR AUTISM has partnered with endurance events all over the country as well as a few international events. These new events make this year’s calendar one of the largest in OAR history. OAR’s DIY – Athletic Events program allows you to participate in any run, walk, triathlon, or any other athletic event anywhere, anytime, at any distance.

OAR’s goals are to have 30 DIY athletes participate in a local race of their choice during April and for the DIY Athletic Events team to raise $10,000 by the end of the month. OAR will also be continuing to recruit RUN FOR AUTISM teams for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon, and multiple IRONMAN events with a goal of having over 400 athletes signed up for a 2017 RUN FOR AUTISM race by the end of April.

All funds raised will go toward supporting research grants and scholarships and distributing resources. OAR also hopes the DIY program will highlight OAR resources and get them into the hands of new readers.

How you can help: Run a race and fundraise for autism.

Taking on a fitness goal for a cause might just help you stick to your personal fitness goals. Pick any race in the month of April—your local 5K or your state’s big marathon or something in between—and register on the race website. Then sign up for OAR’s DIY Athletic Events program and participate in any event, any time all while raising money for autism research. You can also join the RUN FOR AUTISM at one of our featured events and be a part of the OAR team.

Do you know of anyone who loves to run or wants to join the campaign? Then let them know how they can join by sharing this article. For more information, contact Sean Flynn, manager of RUN FOR AUTISM, at 703-243-8020 or .

Remember, it is not too early to start preparing for April’s National Autism Awareness Month! If you are interested in joining the cause by volunteering, proposing new ideas, or in some other way, then please contact OAR at or 703-243-3466.