As many of you know, April is National Autism Awareness Month. Despite the disruptions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, OAR has been working diligently with teachers, parents, and other members of the autism community to gear up to raise awareness, educate others, and increase autism acceptance.
What do you have planned for Autism Awareness Month? We have some suggestions for how you can get involved and help OAR reach its goals.
GOAL 1: TEACH CHILDREN ABOUT THEIR AUTISTIC PEERS.
According to the CDC, one in 54 children in the United States has autism. Autistic individuals are an important part of our communities, so it’s important to teach non-autistic children about their peers on the spectrum. That is why OAR developed a peer education program called Kit for Kids: to help educators, parents, friends, and classmates teach students in grades K-8 about autism. The kit revolves around “What’s Up with Nick?”, a story about a new autistic student named Nick. It teaches children that autistic students may think differently or need some accommodations, but all students are of equal worth and should be treated as such.
How you can help: Since 2012, more than 135,000 students have learned about autism. Together, let’s reach an additional 5,000 students by the end of April. You can use the Kit for Kids materials to help start class discussions, enhance school campaign efforts, and eliminate common misconceptions students have about 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 about Nick
- The new Friendship Tip Sheets, which encourage non-autistic students to be good friends to their autistic classmates
- The newly printed Kit for Kids Activity Workbooks, which help students engage with the materials presented in the rest of the Kit for Kids
GOAL 2: PROVIDE INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES, SCHOOLS, AND SELF-ADVOCATES.
OAR’s comprehensive Life Journey Through Autism guidebooks offer high-quality, research-based information for parents, teachers, and autistic individuals. These resources cover important topics such as education, safety, and transition to adulthood. This year, OAR hopes to distribute 5,000 Life Journey Through Autism guides to families, schools, police and fire stations, and lending libraries.
How you can help: Help spread the word about these informative resources to people in your community. Reach out to local support groups, families, schools, organizations, medical facilities, or first responders who might benefit from these resources. You can also sign up to be an autism materials distributor and help spread the word about these resources through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Knowledge is power, and these resources will equip your local community with the knowledge it needs. Download any of our resources for free or use our online store to order up to two paperback copies of our guides for free. For bulk orders, contact .
GOAL 3: HELP AUTISTIC ADULTS PREPARE FOR EMPLOYMENT THROUGH HIRE AUTISM.
Hire Autism’s mission is to improve employment opportunities for autistic individuals and help businesses create more inclusive workplaces. Hire Autism supports job seekers through various aspects of the job search process, from career exploration to providing helpful job search tools and advice. Additionally, employers receive assistance and virtual training on how to hire, train, and retain autistic employees.
Hire Autism’s top goals for April are to register 100 new job seekers on Hireautism.org, recruit 20 volunteers for our Navigator Program, and recruit 20 new employer partners.
How you can help: There are four ways to get involved and support Hire Autism’s goals:
- Sign up to become a Hire Autism navigator and directly help individuals prepare for the job search by providing feedback on their resume or cover letter.
- Ask your employer to join as a Hire Autism employer partner. Hire Autism is free for employers.
- Spread the word or refer job seekers to Hire Autism.
- Share our step-by-step guides and resources.
To learn more about how you can get involved or contribute to Hire Autism’s mission, contact Amanda Rioux at arioux @ researchautism.org.
GOAL 4: RAISE MONEY FOR NEW RESEARCH AND RESOURCES THROUGH RUN FOR AUTISM.
RUN FOR AUTISM is OAR’s signature charity running and fundraising program. Its goal is to raise $80,000 for OAR during the month of April and have over 500 athletes signed up to dedicate their 2021 miles to autism research. All funds raised will go to OAR’s Changing Lives Fund, which supports research grants and resource distribution. The name of the fund comes from OAR’s mission tasks: Raise Money. Fund Research. Change Lives.
How you can help: Starting April 1, the Active for Autism 5K & Kids Dash will be back for its third year in a row. Join us for this completely virtual event that can be completed from anywhere, anytime between April 1 and April 11, and dedicate your virtual miles to autism research. Through your support of the Active For Autism Virtual 5K & Kids Dash, you are directly supporting OAR’s ultimate objective: to change lives.
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, director, RUN FOR AUTISM, at 703-243-8020 or run @ researchautism.org.
Remember, it is not too early to start preparing for April’s National Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. If you are interested in joining the cause by volunteering, proposing new ideas, or in some other way, please contact OAR at programs @ researchautism.org or 703-243-3466.