Activities And Advocating For Autism Awareness
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Activities And Advocating For Autism Awareness

April is Autism Awareness Month, so what are some fun and doable ways to participate?

Activities And Advocating For Autism Awareness
Ben Cousins

As some of you may know, the month of April is dedicated to Autism Awareness. All around the country, galas, fundraisers, and other active events are being held. The highest plugged moniker for the month is to “Light It Up Blue.” Although this is mainly promoted for the Autism Speaks organization, many people decide to join in elsewhere along with sporting their puzzle piece attire.

Just lighting it up and displaying the logos should not be enough though. What should be enough is that you take the time to light it up for the life of a kid on the spectrum. What should be enough is that you put the pieces together for kids on the spectrum by gauging their interests in several things. What should be helpful for any age are ways you could contribute and advocate for Autism Awareness month. Oh, wait, here are some of them now.

1) What can you do for ages five and under?

For the little ones, the zoo is a great place to go. Of course, the kids will be entranced by the wide array of animals and sounds. However, zoos are often crowded with all kinds of people and families as well. Those that are on the spectrum will learn from experience how to behave and adapt in public among the chaos along with social skills they may gain from the other kids they will meet there. Plus, if the time comes for a cool down, there is usually a park area for kids to wear off some steam. Even those not on the spectrum will become aware of how these triggers could affect someone who is.

With thrills, games, prizes, and so on, fairs are a must for the five and under crowd. While the kids tend to love the spins and flips of the carnival rides, and are enticed by the rewards they can get winning a game of Ski Ball, they are also provided with the ultimate test of patience. As a kid, I could not stand to wait in a line for a ride as it was impossible for me to stay in one place at a time as it was. Kids will have to learn patience and tolerance on the job, so to speak. Also, with all of the music and crowd noise going on, the fair is the place where any kid could be as loud as they want without anyone really noticing it.

Keep in mind, these activities do not have to cost money. I know as a kid, my mom often took me by the river banks of the Mississippi to teach me how to skip stones. With a very careful eye since I was not always the best kid to turn your back on, she watched me wear off a bunch of steam and have a blast. The point is that all it takes is time and attention to this group of kids and you will be showing your awareness.

2) What is there for children eleven years old and under?

First and foremost, athletics is where I found my outlet when I turned eleven. Athletics are what helped keep me away from the peer pressure that most high school and college aged people succumb to. For any kid, let alone one on the spectrum, just exposing them to athletics is a great way of advocating for Autism Awareness month. Athletes come in many shapes and sizes with different backgrounds and so on. They each are great at some things and struggle more at others no matter what sport they are in. The Autism spectrum is no different where kids tend to be extraordinary in a few areas and still developing in others. Show them and yourselves that we are all one in the same by engrossing yourself in sports.

Video games should not be used as a babysitter all the time, but if other methods of hand-eye coordination are taught first, then these will serve as great alternatives. Again, you do not have to be on the spectrum to benefit in the aforementioned skill or fine or gross motor department. We all need that and to be aware that certain games that may be easy to us, may not be so for others. It is worth mentioning that video games could be a good ice breaker for those struggling socially to create a bonding time with a future friend for life.

Many kids on the Autism spectrum tend to enjoy music. Heck, most people in general tend to enjoy it too. Why not get creative and involve your whole neighborhood in a karaoke night? This helps build awareness in itself because just like Autism, the pieces all seem to fit somehow in bringing a community together when it comes to music. As a kid, I really learned how to talk through singing commercial jingles and some Avril Lavigne, among other songs. Some may find their niche this way too. Not to mention, music is a calming remedy as it is, spectrum or not.

3) The teenage crowd seventeen and under can benefit, right?

They can be involved in several ways including a neighborhood bake sale. Many kids on the spectrum tend to have specified diets or are pickier eaters than most. Although I did not have gluten or casein allergies or intolerances as a kid, I was and still am quite a picky eater with my share of phobias. For example, I like cheese, but find yellow or orange cheese disgusting.

There is a reason why books, like the one shown above, are written. People and teens with Autism can be more specific when it comes to their diets. Therefore, a bake sale would show awareness for the whole community by displaying the hard work and self-application it takes to make it successful. Even people on the spectrum will need to learn how to cook for themselves along with the independence and competence that comes with it. Additionally, the picky eaters with or without Autism may learn a thing or two about better dietary options for them whether or not they have a food intolerance or allergy.

Continuing in the community, why not organize a neighborhood car wash? It can be donation based, which will teach those on the spectrum the importance of helping others in a teamwork setting. Those not on the spectrum should understand that working in a group or team will be challenging for most that are. Plus, any money that is earned will help teach everyone the value of an allowance and responsibility.

Bowling is a fun way for anyone to get together for a good time. Why not promote it for Autism Awareness? It is an activity that promotes the value of hand-eye coordination. Additionally, the pins help with simple math; something that I mightily struggled with until my freshman year of high school. Also, no matter the skill level and if Autism is present or not, there is always the option of putting up the guardrails. This way everyone can be on an equal level and still feel a sense of accomplishment.

4) Now, what are the benefits for the eighteen plus crowd?

It is especially important to keep your faith if you are on the spectrum or know someone who is. Church and church groups should always be an option. They are filled with kind-hearted people who are not there to judge or mock who you are in any way. These groups also have a lot of social activities and retreats that will help everyone feel included and welcomed.

How can awareness further be created for the older crowd? Find your state’s Autism center because they are consistently active in creating a positive image for the spectrum. When I was in college, I gained a connection to the North Dakota Autism Center through their annual “AuSome Evening” gala as a keynote speaker, then proceeded to take part in two of their Autism walks. Each center is different, but their purposes are all the same. They all want to make a difference and accept anyone who wants to help them achieve their goals.

Speaking of getting involved and giving back, why not offer help to a family you know with someone on the spectrum? It can start with something as simple as donation based yard work. The parents may be too busy to do it themselves because of tending to the continuous needs of their kid(s) in the spectrum. Reaching out to them will show that you are aware of their stress and pressure, and can help relieve it for a bit. Also, doing this may open yourself up to other ways you can help them out along with a possible mentorship role with the kid(s).

About a year ago, I met a family with a child on the spectrum for dinner. Although I did not do charity work off the bat, I did my best to talk with them and give them hope in certain struggles they were having. From how they were describing their kid, it sounded like we had so much in common. Eventually, the kid and I met, hit it off, and I am now humbled to be a friend and mentor for that kid. Being selfless like that may lead to that kind of magic for you too.

It is as simple as all of this. There does not need to be big fundraisers or events held in order to bring attention to Autism. It truly is about quality and not quantity. All it takes to participate in Autism Awareness month is to make a difference in someone’s life who may or may not be on the spectrum.

Even if they do not have Autism, it is important to emphasize to them how important an activity would be for someone who does. A friend of mine once said that Autism is a “disnormal “and not a disability. I could not agree more. Let’s all be active and advocate for Autism and the abilities it has.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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