Your job as an ambassador is to raise awareness, educate your community and dispel myths. We recognize that autism is more than a simple statistic and a puzzle piece. There are many issues that are complex and require more in-depth discussion.
Feel free to use these posts as a springboard to raising awareness and growing acceptance in your community or feel free to bring up other topics on our Autism Ambassador Facebook page.
Autism is a Spectrum
Always keep in mind that autism is a spectrum disorder and how it affects people is varied. Treat every person as an individual. While some with autism can go on to college, be successful at jobs and live independently, there are also those who require intensive support and supervision to help them stay safe, complete everyday tasks and treat challenging behavior. Remember to paint a full picture of the spectrum.
The Autism Matrix: A More Realistic Approach to Understanding the "Autisms"
Autism Society of San Francisco
By Jill Escher
My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About
By Bonnie Zampino
Making Severe Autism Visible
By Amy SF Lutz
How a Child With Autism Became 'His Own Man' After Treatment
ABC News/Nightline, 10/6/15
Tells the story of two young men, Jake and Andrew, who despite similar early treatment, ended up with very different outcomes.
Adults with Autism
Autism is lifelong. Awareness is not just about children with autism, but also adults. As individuals with autism turn 21 and leave the school system, many encounter a “Service Cliff,” according to Drexel University’s National Autism Indicators Report. Twenty-six (26%) percent of young adults with autism in the US receive no services during their early 20s. Many more are underserved. Awareness of the lack of services and advocacy can lead to change.
Autism New Jersey has embarked on a campaign to expand and enhance our services directed at the needs of adults with autism in New Jersey. Our goal is to achieve measurable and meaningful improvements in the life of every adult with autism in New Jersey.
Our goals include:
- Improve Access to Services
- Enhance the availability and quality of services
- Shape public policies affecting adults with autism
Learn more about our efforts here.
Here's an op ed that explains why it's so important to include adults in autism awareness:
We love autistic children - until they grow up
AZ Central (2/21/16)
What do you think? How will you incorporate adults with autism into your ambassador activities?
Language - Person with autism vs. autistic person
It can sometimes be confusing to know how to refer to someone with autism.
Generally speaking, disability advocacy organizations (like Autism New Jersey) prefer the use of “person-first” language since it puts the focus on the person and not their disability. However, many self-advocates and their allies prefer “autistic” or “autistic person,” since they see autism as an essential part of their identity.
A great rule of thumb is to always speak to and about someone respectfully. Here's a great post that get to the root of the issue.
ASAN - Autistic Self Advocacy Network
By Lydia Brown
(The post was originally posted on the blog "Autistic Hoya" under the title "The Significance of Semantics: Person-First Language: Why It Matters")
Why is autism on the rise?
Statistics show that the prevalence rate of autism has been increasing. (For example, the rates increased from 1 in 94 in New Jersey reported in 2007 to 1 in 41 reported in 2016.) Autism is a complex condition.
No single factor can explain why more children are being identified with autism, although a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role.
In addition, some of the increase in the rates in the CDC's study may be due to changes in the criteria for diagnosis, greater awareness, and better record keeping.
Check our website for the latest updates on statistics
Why Awareness Still Matters - We have a lot of work to do!
While we have made great strides towards our goals to raise awareness and build acceptance, we still have a lot of work to do.
Unfortunately, there were a number of incidents and news stories, in New Jersey and across the country, where individuals with autism were bullied, put in dangerous situations and felt unwelcome in their schools and communities.
Through your ambassador activities, you are helping to build acceptance and understanding for all individuals with autism.
Here are some examples of why your work as an ambassador is important:
Meltdown Leads To Felony Charge For Teen On The Spectrum
Modesto Bee via Disability Scoop, 2/1/16
Trial ordered for Howell men in autistic teen's dare
Asbury Park Press, 10/28/15
Autistic Man’s Near-Death Experience Inspires New Anti-Bullying Law
The Mighty, 1/13/16
Neighbors file ‘extraordinary, unprecedented’ public nuisance lawsuit against autistic boy’s family
Washington Post, 10/7/15
Encourage and Demonstrate Kindness
Our ambassador campaign encourages everyone to help build communities that embrace and accept individuals with autism.
One easy way to do this is to simply encourage kindness, especially when encountering individuals with autism in your day-to-day activities.
If you see a parent or caregiver with a child or adult with autism who is acting out, instead of staring or walking away, ask “Can I help?” Offer to let that family move ahead of you in a grocery store line or help find their waiter in case they need to exit a restaurant. It’s understandable that those unfamiliar with autism might not know how to act or find such scenarios awkward or disruptive. You can be a role model for others and help alleviate a stressful situation.
Here's a story that gets to the root of the issue.
Apple Store Worker Wows Mother of a Child with Autism
The website The Mighty frequently posts uplifting stories about how far a kind gesture can go.
A recent op ed talking about adults with autism also sums it up nicely:
Much as Braille elevator buttons and stairway ramps strip away limitations imposed by physical disabilities, so can a genuine welcome from the community, and slight adjustments by “the rest of us” to the ways people with autism relate socially go a long way toward neutralizing the perception that they don’t, and can’t, “fit in.”
Getting there is easy. It’s ordinary decency. It’s not being put off by someone who doesn’t make eye contact. Not jumping to conclusions that an unkempt man strolling down the sidewalk is dangerous. Rolling with it when the woman dining alone at a neighboring table rocks in her seat. Sizing up your strangely speaking neighbor as a potential friend, rather than making him the guy to avoid.
There are many myths and misconceptions about autism.
People with autism cannot love.
They do not want friends.
They do not like to be hugged.
They are often by themselves because they want you to stay away.
They cannot have fun or learn to play games.
Since autism is a spectrum disorder, its characteristics vary from person to person. A good rule of thumb is to find out about each individual’s preferences, which might change over time or be expressed in different ways by different individuals.