Last month, OAR unveiled the goals of its annual National Autism Awareness Month Campaign. With your help, OAR aims to accomplish the following:
- Educate youth about their peers with autism.
- Empower the autism community with information resources.
- Support autism siblings with resources for kids, teens, and parents.
- Support adults in the autism community through OAR’s Hire Autism Initiative.
- Raise money for new research and resources.
Here are some suggestions for how you can help leading up to, during, and beyond Autism Awareness Month.
Goal 1: Educate Youth About Their Peers with Autism.
OAR aims to accomplish this by providing peer education materials to 9,000 general education students in grades K-8. Whether you are a parent, a classroom teacher, or a high school student seeking volunteer credit, OAR provides the tools needed to explain what autism means in a friendly and age-appropriate way. The Kit for Kids program revolves around the “What’s Up with Nick?” story, and includes a classroom set of story booklets, lesson plan, poster, and printable workbooks.
The Autism Tuned In website expands the “What’s Up with Nick?” story and engages students through animated videos and gaming activities. Teachers who use the Autism Tuned In website can award prizes to students who successfully complete the program and track student activity.
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. To get started, order your Kit for Kids set. For more information, email .
Goal 2: Empower the Autism Community with Information Resources.
OAR aims to accomplish this by sending 5,500 information guides to communities across the nation. These valuable resources help parents, educators, professionals, and self-advocates answer their immediate questions related to safety, transitions, research, professional development training, and more. OAR also provides in-kind donations of “A Guide to Safety” to autism conferences, events, and workshops upon request.
How you can help: Pass the information along. You can help by equipping people in your community with these informative 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. You can order printed copies online. If you want to share bulk copies at your next local event, contact us at .
Goal 3: Support Autism Siblings with Resources for Kids, Teens, and Parents.
OAR aims to distribute 1,800 sibling guides to families and sibling workshops. Written by siblings of autism for siblings of autism, OAR’s three siblings workbooks offer guidance to families on how to productively address conflicts that often arise in the sibling relationships, including fairness, meltdowns, inequality with attention, and more.
How you can help: Tell people about these free resources. OAR provides the siblings guides as in-kind donations to autism conferences and sibling workshops upon request. Remember, up to two copies of each of OAR’s guides are available for free through our online store. To connect with someone from our staff about bulk orders, contact with the subject line, “siblings guides.”
Goal 4: Support Adults with Autism Through OAR’s Hire Autism Initiative.
OAR’s employment initiative, Hire Autism, will continue its initial demonstration in Northern Virginia during April. Hire Autism helps applicants access autism-friendly employers, a jobs board, and resources to assist in their job search. OAR’s top goals for April are to help five more applicants find jobs and increase the number of applicants by 50 percent.
Beyond that, OAR will continue to recruit additional employers and Hire Autism advocates and begin its outreach to prospective partners within the autism community in preparation for phased national expansion of the program later this year.
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 5: Raise Money for New Research and Resources.
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 $15,000 between January 2018 and the end of April. OAR will also be continuing to recruit RUN FOR AUTISM teams for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, NYC Marathon, and multiple triathlon events with a goal of having over 400 athletes signed up for a 2018 RUN FOR AUTISM race by the end of April.
All funds raised will go toward supporting research grants 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.