April is Autism Awareness Month and is a time to educate ourselves and raise awareness about a disability that affects many children and adults worldwide. Also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this disability appears in many different forms and varying levels of severity from person to person. Here in the Essex County area, there are a variety of resources for parents of children with autism. Read on to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder and how you can support those living with the disorder.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that impacts the nervous system and impairs the ability of children and adults to communicate and interact with others. Although there is no known cure for this condition, treatments such as behavioral therapies, family therapy, and applied behavior analysis (ABA) are helpful in reducing symptoms and supporting development + learning. A child or adult living with autism may experience symptoms that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others, obsessive tendencies, or repetitive behaviors. These symptoms also appear in a variety of forms and severities from one person to the next.
See More: Disability Resources in New Jersey
How You Can Support Autism Organizations from Afar
It is simple enough to support autism organizations from afar by donating to a variety of different charities. This list of well-known organizations is a good place to start:
The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) emphasizes ensuring that adults with autism reach their potential by providing scholarships to colleges, programs + resources for self-advocates, and a portal for employers interested in hiring adults with autism.
The Autism Society of America has chapters across the country that provide person-to-person support and advocacy, as well as an online database of information and recommendations for parents and caregivers.
Whole Spectrum Autism raises autism acceptance by hosting family-friendly, inclusive events throughout the year because “autism isn’t just one day or one month – it is everyday living for so many of us.” Advocacy and education are the core of their work, with the mission to build inclusive communities.
AANE is geared towards families and provides a blend of virtual and in-person services to support adults with autism as well as their family members.
The Autism Science Foundation supports autism by funding scientists and organizations that conduct research.
The Art of Autism focuses on spotlighting talents in the visual arts by children and adults with autism.
If you care to do something more hands-on to support these organizations, consider volunteering for events such as fundraising walks in your neighborhood. Many community centers (such as the YMCA) or smaller local organizations are also looking for mentors or ‘buddies’ to participate in events and activities with children or adults with autism. Considering these days of social distancing, organizations will inform you as to how you can support or help from afar until events like these are possible.
Resources to Support Autism Spectrum Disorder at Home
When a lack of structure or routine occurs, children and adults with autism tend to experience behavioral challenges. For parents and caregivers who are looking for effective resources to use at home with a child or adult living with autism, consider these online behavioral resources:
Autism Parenting Magazine is an award-winning publication aimed at improving the quality of life for families affected by autism. Established in 2012, the magazine publishes autism-related topics, events, developments, treatments, and news stories, as well as a variety of inspiring real-life success stories.
Apps to Use With Your Child at Home
Touch and Learn – Emotions is a free app that assists children in identifying emotions and recognizing body language.
ChoiceWorks Calendar is another paid app that provides visually appealing options to create a schedule and alleviate transition anxiety.
Stories in Motion is an app that is free to try but ultimately paid that uses a comic-style approach to assist children in navigating social nuances.