Approximately 1 in 36 children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and autism affects families of every race and socioeconomic group.
Parenting an autistic child is challenging, but it’s important to remember that their siblings need help as well. Siblings are just learning to operate in the world themselves and may not have the maturity or skills adults have in relating to their autistic brother or sister.
Fortunately, you can help your autistic child’s siblings understand more about their brother or sister and how to relate to them in loving and kind ways. Encouraging a positive relationship can also help your autistic child with social skills, as neurotypical siblings can be excellent role models.
Here are some conversations and activities that can help your autistic child and neurotypical sibling bond and understand each other better.
Explain that Differences are OK
One of the first things you can teach your autistic child and their siblings is that people are different, and that’s OK. You can explain to neurotypical siblings that their autistic brother or sister struggles to use their words sometimes or can get overwhelmed by a lot of noise.
Understanding differences makes your children more empathetic and helps them accept all differences — whether related to autism or not. Whether people have different customs, cultures, races, or other identities, your children will be more accepting because of their experiences with an autistic sibling.
Teach Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness, or being fully present in the moment, and meditation, which focuses on a particular thought or activity, are enormously beneficial to people of every age.
Mindfulness can reduce stress, which is an important skill for autistic children and their neurotypical siblings. Being fully present in the moment can help avert a panic attack due to overwhelming thoughts and emotions that kids don’t know how to fully address.
Practicing meditation can also help siblings stay focused and approach challenges more effectively. Some of the benefits include lower stress levels, improved sleep, better moods, and even better physical health. You can teach children to focus on their breath or incorporate your faith tradition into meditation — there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Encourage Musical Expression
Music seems to have a way of reaching deeper than our minds, helping us feel better and express ourselves without words. When it comes to autistic children and their siblings, playing instruments and using songs to express themselves can be a powerful way to build connections.
Playing in the band or orchestra is often supported by schools, and instruments may be available for affordable rent or purchase. The mental health impact of playing an instrument is significant: musical training can make the brain better able to adapt, heal, and learn. Being involved in a band or orchestra can also reduce stress and improve listening and reading skills.
Even if your children don’t continue playing music as adults, the positive impact of playing an instrument growing up is long-lasting.
Let them Cook Together
Cooking together is a valuable chance for siblings to grow in empathy and understanding. This hands-on activity allows neurotypical siblings to directly experience the sensory challenges their autistic sibling might face, like texture or sound sensitivities, deepening their appreciation for each other’s unique qualities.
Key skills such as patience and clear communication are crucial in the kitchen, fostering empathy. Neurotypical siblings learn to patiently guide their autistic sibling, particularly when learning new tasks or needing more time, thereby strengthening their bond.
Adapting the cooking environment to the autistic child’s needs is also vital. This may involve using quieter appliances and avoiding strong odors or certain textures, helping neurotypical siblings create an inclusive space. These efforts not only deepen empathy but also enhance their relationship through teamwork and shared experiences.
Be Prepared for Multiple Conversations
As your children grow up, they may have more questions about their autistic siblings. Be ready to talk about autism, but emphasize that your autistic child isn’t solely defined by their diagnosis. Also, understand that the increased attention you spend on an autistic child may cause siblings to feel left out or less important, and it’s essential to address these feelings.
Sometimes the family’s experiences are limited because of the autistic child’s needs, and that can cause resentment from siblings. If that’s happening, consider specific trips with the neurotypical siblings so they can be involved in more activities.
Care for Yourself and Others
Having an autistic child can present unique challenges for everyone in the family, so it’s important as a parent to take care of yourself first and foremost. Make sure you have time to decompress, rest, and spend time doing what you enjoy.
From there, remember that your autistic child’s siblings may struggle as well. Help them understand that differences are OK and use the strategies in this article to encourage sibling bonding and empathy. Most of all, be ready for multiple conversations as your children grow through different phases in school and life.
Indiana Lee is a writer from the Pacific Northwest with a personal commitment to shedding light on important issues surrounding autism. Outside of writing, she enjoys the outdoors, reading, and jigsaw puzzles. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
The transition from school to adulthood is a pivotal time in the lives of all students. For an autistic student, change of any kind can be challenging, and a transition as momentous as this can seem especially daunting.
As a parent of an autistic young adult, you have already accomplished a lot, from coping with the diagnosis to addressing all the challenges you may have faced over your child’s school years. And you will continue to play a large role in the transition-related self-discovery and planning process for your autistic young adult. Thoughtful planning, sound information, and open communication will help you support your young adult and their transition team to create a solid transition plan that leads to success.
Start small but think big! Before you begin the actual paperwork and planning with your young adult’s school and IEP team to implement the transition plan, you can start planning on your own to lay a foundation for the entire process. This article outlines a three-step process to:
- Facilitate thinking and brainstorming about your young adult’s future (Assessment)
- Begin planning future goals (Goal Writing)
- Understand realistic challenges to these plans (Anticipating Obstacles)
Step 1 – Assessment
As you begin the transition planning process, think about the “big picture” of your young adult’s future:
- What do you want your child’s life to look like 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years from now?
- What do you NOT want your child’s life to look like in 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years from now?
- What will your child need in order to achieve the desired goals and avoid the undesired outcomes?
As a parent of an autistic child, you may have struggled to adjust your expectations for the future you once dreamed of for your child. Realistic, concrete goals and expectations are the foundation of a successful transition plan. It is important not only to set progressive goals that your child can reach, but also to challenge your child to grow. Leave room to be pleasantly surprised by all that they can achieve through this process! Transition doesn’t only apply to your loved one. It also applies to you – the parent. Parents have to be ready to allow their loved one to grow and learn through experiences, failures, and successes.
Throughout your transition planning, the concept of future quality of life is central. “Quality of life” basically refers to how satisfied your child feels about their education, work, recreation, spiritual life, social connections, community living, health, and emotional well-being. You may not have specific ideas about all of these areas, but you can start imagining what you would like for your young adult and what they would like for themselves as they transition out of high school. At different times in this process, you will begin to find connections among all of these areas and start to identify realistic and attainable goals.
Although quality of life is often as much about the process as it is about the product, neither process nor product should be compromised as part of transition planning. Once you have this broad vision in mind, start brainstorming about some of the specifics, such as personal interests, strengths and challenges, past learning history, and the supports that will be necessary for your child along the way.
Step 2 – Writing Overarching Goals
Later in the transition process, you will be asked to help determine – and write down – specific objectives you want your young adult to achieve. But now is the time to think of the broad, overarching goals that reflect the future you want for your young adult. You can think of this as a mission statement for the transition you envision.
Examples of overarching goals:
- My child will be able to live independently.
- My child will be comfortable and safe in a supported living situation.
- My child will have two or three close relationships.
- My child will contribute to the community.
- My child will find satisfaction in several of their daily activities.
Overarching goals should build from the information you gathered in your assessment, regarding quality of life, personal interests, strengths and challenges, and past experience.
Step 3 – Anticipating Obstacles
Most goals are not meant to be easy to accomplish and meet in a short amount of time. But goals can be broken into smaller steps that can gradually be achieved, one at a time.
As you think of the skills, lessons, materials, and information you and your young adult need in order to move through the transition process successfully, obstacles may present themselves. For instance, as you created the list of goals for your young adult, did you think of any skills that they may need to be successful? Or resources that will help them accomplish these skills? Lack of any key “ingredient” may delay, if not stall, the transition process. So, if certain skills need development, such as effective communication, toileting, table manners, cell phone use, or personal hygiene, now is the time to create a strategy to develop them.
Obstacles may appear along the way, but you are building a solid plan that can be revised and modified to accommodate the changing needs, desires, and skills of your young adult.
Want more tips for your autistic child’s transition to adulthood? Download or order a free copy of Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood.
This post was adapted from Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood. Click here to check out this resource.
Arlington, VA, February 9, 2024 – The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) is publishing the Spanish translation of Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Military Families. The guide aims to support Spanish-speaking military families of autistic children. It is currently available online as a downloadable PDF, and will soon be released in paperback.
When a military family has an autistic child, they face all the emotions and challenges that accompany this diagnosis, compounded by the realities of military service: war, extended family separation, frequent moves, varying access to specialized healthcare, and other stressors that complicate and often work against effective treatment for autistic children. These families need help navigating these uncharted and difficult waters. The purpose of this guide is to give each family the tools and access to information they need in their unique life journey through autism.
More specifically, it offers:
- An understanding of autism and related intervention and treatment
- Strategies for addressing the challenges of autism from the time of diagnosis through adulthood
- An overview of the Department of Defense (DoD) and service policies related to having an autistic child
- Information on autism treatment options and coverage within the military healthcare system
- Practical information and tools to guide your child’s education
- Tips and advice relative to transitions such as permanent change of station (PCS) moves, new schools, and more
- Links to additional resources related to autism and military families
Through this Spanish-translated guide, OAR continues to provide quality information on education, healthcare, and transitions in a military context. <<Guía para familias de militares>> was translated by Spectrum Translations. The development and distribution of this guide was made possible thanks to the generous support of Navy Federal Credit Union.
The Spanish translation of A Guide for Military Families is available for download on OAR’s website. If you are interested in ordering hard copies of the guide, fill out this form to be notified when they are available to order. OAR encourages EFMP coordinators to share this resource with Spanish-speaking autism families in their communities. For discounts on bulk orders, please contact email@example.com.
About OAR: The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) is a national non-profit organization formed and led by relatives of children and adults with autism. OAR is dedicated to promoting research that can be applied to help families, educators, caregivers, and individuals with autism find much-needed answers to their immediate and urgent questions. Learn more at www.researchautism.org.
A study published in December in Disability and Health Journal found that people with cognitive disabilities, such as autism as well as other intellectual and developmental disabilities, reported significant difficulties in receiving high-quality health care. Adults with autism showed no differences when compared with adults with other cognitive disabilities.
In addition to its findings, this study is noteworthy because past research focused on the perspectives of providers or the types of care received rather than on the reported experiences of patients with cognitive disabilities.
The study found that adults with cognitive disabilities reported lower satisfaction with health care services compared to the general population (7.71 vs. 8.31 on scale from 0 to 10). Researchers used a national sample of more than 22,000 adults with and without cognitive disabilities to analyze patient-reported experiences. Adults with cognitive disabilities were less likely than the general population to report that providers:
- Listened carefully to them
- Explained things in a way that was easy to understand
- Showed respect for what they had to say
- Spent enough time with them
- Gave advice that was easy to understand
These challenges can lead to poorer patient outcomes, as found in a 2009 study.
Health Disparity Designation
In September, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designated people with disabilities as a group with health disparities. “This designation recognizes the importance and need for research advances to improve our understanding of the complexities leading to disparate health outcomes and multilevel interventions,” said Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). She said that NIH is in the process of launching a research program to better understand the health disparities faced by people with disabilities who are also part of other populations designated as having health disparities.
NIH is also calling for proposals for research focused on novel and innovative approaches and interventions that address the intersecting impact of disability, race, and ethnicity, and socioeconomic status on healthcare access and health outcomes.
Physicians Lack Education and Information
Recent research focused on provider perspectives shows that many are uncomfortable providing care to people with cognitive disabilities. STAT News published an article in December pointing to a 2022 study of physicians treating autistic children that noted they receive little training on how to provide care. A 2021 study surveyed 714 physicians, most located in Massachusetts, and reported that only 40.7% of physicians were very confident about their ability to provide equal quality care to patients with disabilities. Just over half strongly agreed they welcome disabled patients into their practices.
The writer of the STAT opinion piece noted that her autistic brother and their parents have had their own difficulties with the healthcare system. As a medical student, she has found that doctors are not required to take classes on how to care for patients with cognitive disabilities. Schools can find financial resources to offer this training, she wrote, noting that the National Inclusive Curriculum for Health Education offers grants and resources to schools willing to undertake this curricular addition. Only 15% of U.S. medical schools have taken advantage of those grants and resources as of the end of 2023.
“Addressing this problem might include incorporating disability competencies into medical education and should also include policies – for example, enhanced reimbursement – that reflect the increased time and effort that might be needed to ensure that the needs of disabled patients are being met,” said Elizabeth Stone, a faculty member of the Rutgers Center for Health Services Research at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research and the lead author of the December study.
Along with systemic and policy changes, the research team said that patients can also improve their experiences, primarily by preparing for health appointments in advance and asking for accommodations.
Sherri Alms is the freelance editor of The OARacle, a role she took on in 2007. She has been a freelance writer and editor for more than 20 years.
After working hard to obtain an electrical engineering degree with honors, job seeker Andrea Camacho was surprised to find the job search an even more daunting process than tackling her rigorous education. Following nine months of an on-off job search, Camacho was determined to find employment relevant to her education, which led her to reach out to Hire Autism for job search support and mentorship.
When introduced to Paolo Encarnacion, a Hire Autism navigator, the pair quickly got to work. They met virtually over the next two months to discuss Camacho’s job search and explore employment opportunities. Encarnacion coached Camacho on how to share her interests with employers and how it could be beneficial during the job search. Camacho found that advice extremely helpful when asked about her hobbies during her interview with her current employer.
Camacho had previously received outside assistance but found that Encarnacion brought fresh insight from a recruiter’s point of view. “I valued Paolo’s patience. I felt like I was respected when I didn’t understand something right away,” Camacho said. “I asked a lot of questions and took a lot of notes, knowing I was in a non-judgmental environment.”
Similarly, Encarnacion applauded Camacho’s coachability throughout their sessions, “I remember our first few sessions were filled with curiosity to learn and Andrea’s hard-working nature. She was receptive to feedback and actively sought out my suggestions when necessary. By the end of our coaching sessions, Andrea was organized, confident, and focused.”
Camacho’s dedication to her job search paid off, and she started receiving e-mails, phone screens, and interviews from employers eager to connect with her. Even though her nerves remained, Camacho gained the confidence to push forward and found success. She was offered and accepted employment as an electrical designer at Kupper Engineering.
Reflecting on their time together, Encarnacion said, “Andrea’s journey with OAR was one of self-realization. She was clear about her values, particularly in finding a company she believes in.”
“I couldn’t have done it without my navigator, and without Hire Autism, I could not have met him,” Camacho said. “I really appreciate that the Hire Autism program had the option to meet me where I am at. Without exaggeration, this program changed my life. If somebody is autistic and they are qualified for a job, but they are not getting it, then I think this is the program that can help bridge the gap.”
Encarnacion noted that he was not only pleased for Camacho, but he also benefited from her success. “Helping a job seeker actualize their goal of landing a job impacted me in the most profound way possible. I’ve personally benefited from professional mentors in the past, and being able to pay it forward is an extremely rewarding feeling. As a Hire Autism navigator, we have the opportunity to positively influence a jobseeker’s career, livelihood, and their being. It is not only transformative for job seekers, it is equally fulfilling as a Hire Autism navigator as well.”
For all job seekers looking for employment, Encarnacion encouraged them to stick with it. “Job-seeking is a journey, one with highs and lows. While the ultimate prize is securing a job, the journey itself may present a valuable gift of self-discovery and priceless life lessons. Work hard, listen to your Hire Autism navigator, and look for opportunities to learn but don’t forget to enjoy the process along the way.”
If you are an autistic job seeker searching for meaningful employment, get started on your journey today by contacting us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by creating an account. If you would like to impact the lives of autistic job seekers directly, please consider becoming a Hire Autism navigator.
Join OAR to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month with the sixth annual Active for Autism 5K & Kids Dash. This fitness and fundraising event spreads autism awareness and acceptance in our communities and raises money for OAR’s Changing Lives Fund, a fund dedicated to OAR’s goal to raise money, fund research and change lives. You can help. Run, walk, and fundraise to support OAR this spring.
Participate In Person or Virtually
The in-person 5K & Kids Dash will take place in Alexandria, Va., on Saturday, April 13, beginning at 8:00 a.m. This family-friendly event features a fast, flat, and spectator friendly out-and-back course, kids dash, and post-race celebration.
If you can’t make it in person, participate virtually. Take on a 5k your way any time between April 1 and 12. Run, walk, cycle, or swim at a place and time that suits you; we will supply the finish line tape. Take on a 5K right outside your front door, stay inside on a treadmill, or find somewhere new to explore. Kids 12 and under are also welcome to participate in the Kids Dash by completing a virtual race of any distance suitable for them.
All Active for Autism 5K participants will receive a race t-shirt and bib and are eligible for fundraising prizes. All Kids Dash participants will receive a race bib and finisher’s ribbon. Register today!
Help Us Meet Our $80,000 Goal
Last year, the 2023 Active for Autism Virtual 5K & Kids Dash attracted nearly 400 runners from 27 states and three countries, combining forces to raise more than $50,000. This year, we aim to raise $80,000, enough to fund a new OAR research study and distribute autism resources around the country. Through your support of the Active for Autism 5K & Kids Dash, you are directly supporting OAR’s ultimate objective: to change lives.
We’re counting down to race day and look forward to seeing you there.
As we celebrate the beginning of a new year, OAR is also looking ahead to the ambitious goals it has set for 2024, including goals for Autism Acceptance Month. Join us to promote autism awareness and acceptance in your community and across the country.
Goal 1: Support the autism community with information (autistics, families, educators, professionals).
OAR’s collection of guidebooks, manuals, curriculums, and online resources offer comprehensive, high-quality, research-based information for
parents, teachers, and autistic individuals. These resources cover essential topics such as the transition to adulthood, education, and safety.
By the end of April, OAR hopes to distribute 40,000 information resources to families, individuals, schools, community organizations, police and fire stations, and libraries.
How you can help: OAR is a national organization, but you are an expert on your local community. Please spread the word about these informative resources to people in your community. Reach out to local support groups, families, schools, organizations, community centers, or first responders who might benefit from these resources. Or, if you wish to actively distribute many resources in your local community, sign up as an autism materials distributor and tell us your community impact plan to get started.
Your efforts will help others learn more about autism and be better community members for autistic adults and children around them. Download or order paperback copies of our resources in our online store.
Goal 2: Teach students in general education about autism using the Kit for Kids program.
Autistic individuals are essential to our communities, so teaching children about their peers on the spectrum is vitally important. Our Kit for Kids peer education program helps educators, parents, friends, and classmates teach K-8 students about autism. Thanks to Nick, the autistic character featured in the Kit, neurotypical children learn that autistic students are just like them, even if they may think differently or need some accommodations. Since 2014, more than 190,000 students have learned about autism through the Kit for Kids. Let’s reach an additional 15,000 students by the end of April.
How you can help: Use the Kit for Kids materials at your local schools to help start class discussions, enhance school campaign efforts, and help build friendships among classmates through a greater understanding of autism.
In addition to telling the “What’s Up with Nick?” story, teachers can also use:
- OAR’s Autism Tuned In website, which features animated videos and online games
- Friendship Tip Sheets to encourage students to be good friends with their autistic classmates
- The Kit for Kids Activity Workbooks to help students engage with the materials presented in the Kit for Kids
For questions, comments, or bulk orders, please contact the Programs team at programs @ researchautism.org.
Goal 3: Support autistic young adults through OAR’s Hire Autism initiative.
Hire Autism, OAR’s employment initiative, supports autistic adults in finding meaningful employment. To achieve this, Hire Autism welcomes autism-friendly employers to post their active job listings free of charge on the Hire Autism job board.
In support of our mission this year, Hire Autism aims to provide job search mentorship to 220 job seekers to help them find employment and recruit 90 national employer partners of varying scopes and sizes.
How you can help: Use our services and partner with us.
- Work with a Hire Autism navigator for free one-on-one virtual assistance with the job search, including resumes, cover letters, and interview prep.
- Explore current job opportunities with our autism-friendly employers on the Hire Autism job board, and set job alerts to get notified when new positions are posted.
- Apply for the Synchrony Tech Scholarship, which supports autistic adults interested in obtaining technology-related certifications to pursue or advance their careers.
- Download free employment-related resources such as A Guide to Job Searching, A Guide to Resume Writing, and more on Hire Autism’s Resource Center.
- Diversify your talent pipeline by creating an employer account and setting up a time to meet with Hire Autism staff.
- Actively post job listings to our job board, considering candidates for a wide range of positions.
- Pursue training opportunities and explore resources on how to best support autistic employees.
- Support our mission and goals by volunteering as a navigator or regional ambassador.
To learn more about how you can get involved or contribute to Hire Autism’s mission, contact the Hire Autism team.
Goal 4: Raise money for OAR’s programs, resources, and new research.
RUN FOR AUTISM is OAR’s signature fundraising program. This year, RUN aims to raise $1,000,000 through 1,000 athletes dedicating their 2024 miles to autism research.
RUN’s goal for April is to:
- Raise $80,000 by the end of April through the Active for Autism 5k and Kids Dash, enough to fund a new OAR research study and support OAR’s mission to apply research to the challenges of autism.
How you can help:
- Join us for the sixth annual Active for Autism 5k and Kids Dash on April 13 in Alexandria, Va., for a fun, family-friendly event.
- Join us virtually for the Active for Autism 5k and Kids Dash between April 1 and April 12. Run, walk, cycle, or swim at your own pace from wherever you are.
- Sign up and be part of the RUN FOR AUTISM team at one of our signature events or join our DIY program to raise money for autism research at any race.
- Share these opportunities with someone you know who wants to dedicate their miles to autism research.
For more information, email the RUN staff at email@example.com.
Goal 5: Fundraise for OAR’s mission in a new and exciting platform: Stream for Autism.
Stream for Autism gives gamers, streamers, and content creators a platform to support the autism community by raising awareness and funds for OAR. Our goals for April are to:
- Raise $50,000 to support the distribution of informational resources, educational programs, and OAR’s mission to apply research to the challenges of autism through the Stream for Autism program.
- Sign up 100 new content creators and streamers to fundraise for OAR and spread autism awareness in April.
How you can help:
- Join this exciting initiative. Sign up to create your own charity stream and start fundraising today. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or new to streaming, your efforts will contribute to a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with autism.
- Share these opportunities with your online communities or someone you know who is a content creator or streamer.
For more information on OAR’s Autism Awareness Month initiatives and activities, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
OAR is thrilled to kick off our fourth annual Youth Art Contest. This year’s theme is growth, encouraging young artists to explore and express their perspectives on personal and community growth.
How to Participate
Participation is open to any autistic child or their siblings, classmates, or friends who are inspired to create. Here’s how to get involved:
- Create your masterpiece: Let your imagination soar and create an artwork that reflects growth. Whether it’s a painting, drawing, or a mixed-media creation, we want to see what growth means to you.
- Submit your entry: Head over to the Youth Art Contest webpage for details on how to submit your artwork. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 EST on February 29, 2024.
- Spread the word: Share your participation on social media and encourage your friends, family, and community to join in the celebration of creativity and growth.
In addition to having their artwork featured on OAR’s website, winners will receive exciting prizes, including an Amazon gift card, certificates of recognition, and a spotlight on our social media channels.
Autism is a spectrum, and so is growth. This year’s theme invites participants to explore the various dimensions of growth, not only in the context of autism but also in their personal journeys. We believe that art has the power to inspire, educate, and foster a greater understanding of the world around us.
For more information and to submit your entry, visit the Youth Art Contest webpage.
The year 2008 marked a profound shift in my journey. My two-year-old son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and I was determined to ensure he had every resource to flourish. However, I quickly discovered a stark lack of support for families like mine, particularly in the Black community. This realization spurred me into action, leading to the inception of The Color of Autism Foundation.
Established in 2009, the foundation’s mission is both straightforward and formidable: to offer education and support to African-American families affected by autism. Historically, our community has contended with inequities in healthcare, education, and societal acknowledgment—challenges that autism intensifies. Thus, equipping families with knowledge and tools for advocacy is essential to transforming our children’s futures.
Affirming Inclusivity as a Fundamental Right
Our foundation’s voyage has been one of discovery and championing rights. We advocate that inclusivity is an inherent right, not a luxury. We’re dedicated to removing obstacles and paving the way for African-American families to secure prompt diagnoses, effective therapeutics, and indispensable community support.
Our efforts are exemplified by initiatives like Spectrum of Care, which provides comprehensive support through education and training. Our national virtual training has empowered over 600 caregivers to support their loved ones effectively and become potent advocates for their children. Witnessing these parents transition into community leaders and advocates has been profoundly moving.
Nurturing Potential Through Education and Support
We adopt a neuro-affirming stance, recognizing the vast potential within individuals on the autism spectrum. Their distinct talents and viewpoints, when fostered, can culminate in remarkable accomplishments. Our programs, particularly Spectrum of Care, deliver an array of services targeting not only health and educational needs but also the all-encompassing growth of Black children on the spectrum.
The foundation’s commitment to culturally competent support has built a resilient network within communities of color, pivotal in establishing connections, securing services, and most importantly, ensuring that no family navigates their path alone.
Envisioning a Radiant Future
Looking ahead, The Color of Autism Foundation is resolute in is resolute in revealing the nature of autism within the Black community. We aspire to cultivate a society where everyone is embraced, and their potential is fostered. We envision a future where inclusion and effectiveness are tangible for our families.
We dream of a world where the autistic community has access to employment, skill enhancement, and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to lead the charge in advocating for policies that address the needs of those who require more support and to alleviate the stress and isolation that many caregivers face.
The Essence of Allyship and Community
Parents ought to lead by example in allyship, embracing their children for who they are, promoting open dialogue, and championing their children’s autonomy and preferences. These caregivers set a precedent for the community, catalyzing a culture of allyship within the Black community and beyond.
This is our invitation to a journey of enlightenment, where every step we take is toward a more just, understanding, and supportive future for African-American autistics and their families. Join us as we illuminate this path, creating a legacy of inclusivity and insight for generations to come.
Camille Proctor is the executive director of The Color of Autism Foundation, which she founded in 2009. By providing culturally competent support and training, she and her foundation aim to improve outcomes for children in underserved communities on the autism spectrum. She has served as a diversity and inclusion advisor for both television and film, contributing to more inclusive storytelling in the entertainment industry. She also presents on the topic of autism nationally and internationally. In September 2020, she was appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the Michigan State Disability Council, supporting people with developmental disabilities in achieving their life dreams.
As the founder of Autism in Black®, my passion for our mission runs deep. It’s more than just words; it’s a guiding light for our community. Our goal is as clear as day: to empower, educate, and advocate for the Black autism community. Join me as I take you on a journey through our goals, our tireless efforts to realize them, and why this mission holds profound significance.
At the heart of our mission lies a commitment to break down long-standing barriers that have hindered the Black autism community’s access to crucial resources, support, and understanding. This commitment is deeply personal to me. As a mother of two autistic children and an autistic individual myself, I intimately understand the isolation, shame, and stigma that often accompany an autism diagnosis, particularly within the Black community.
A main focus for Autism in Black® is to bridge gaps, particularly when it comes to accessing timely diagnosis, quality care, and education. Black families have faced numerous hurdles in securing prompt autism diagnoses for their children. We work tirelessly to establish connections among families, healthcare professionals, and educators to ensure that Black autistic children receive the support they need right from the start.
Because understanding autism and its unique characteristics is essential for the Black community, we provide valuable resources and guidance. Whether it’s dealing with bullies, navigating interactions, or embarking on the special education journey, we aim to equip individuals with the knowledge they need to foster understanding within our families and communities.
We recognize the significance of culture and how it shapes approaches to autism. Emphasizing the importance of understanding this cultural context, we strive to create a more inclusive and informed environment for autistic individuals and their families. Cultural sensitivity is at the core of our work. We provide tools and resources to shift practices towards greater cultural responsivity. Our approach centers on diversity and inclusivity, ensuring that autism support is always tailored to the unique needs of the Black community, moving far beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.
Our endeavors come to life through stories—stories of transformation and empowerment. Many of these stories revolve around parents who found solace and strength through our workshops, knowing they are not alone in their journey.
Our mission culminates in our annual Autism in Black® Conference. What sets our conference apart is that Black neurodivergent individuals lead it. It’s a space where we don’t just focus on the professional aspects of autism; we also share our own lived experiences. The conference is a celebration of unity, mutual understanding, and empowerment. It’s where we bring together our community, experts, and advocates to exchange insights, share stories, and offer unwavering support. It’s a gathering where we honor the journey of every Black autistic individual and their families.
Our cause matters because it challenges existing norms and champions a world where every Black autistic individual thrives. It revolves around celebrating our rich diversity and acknowledging that every voice, every experience, and every life deserves recognition and value.
What we do here at Autism in Black® isn’t merely important; it’s a lifeline. It encapsulates compassion, resilience, and an unshakable belief in the boundless potential of every Black autistic individual. It’s an invitation, an open call to stand alongside us, embrace our mission, and collaborate in forging a brighter, more inclusive future for everyone within our Black-centered, neuroaffirming community.
Maria Davis-Pierre is a licensed mental health counselor, autism awareness advocate, and founder of Autism in Black. As the autistic parent of two autistic children, she understands the isolation, shame, and stigma that often accompanies an autism diagnosis. She uses her personal experience and professional expertise to connect and empower Black parents of autistic children. A dynamic, in-demand speaker, she also conducts workshops and lectures on topics such as autism in the Black community, the intersection of race and disability, and self-care. Her work has gained national acclaim with features in Forbes, The New York Times, USA Today, Parents magazine and on PBS.