April is Autism Awareness Month… and current data from the Center for Disease Control cites that 1 in 68 children is being diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
That means that most of us know at least one friend, neighbor, colleague or family member whose child is on the spectrum—or have a child on the spectrum ourselves. My 14-year-old son was diagnosed with autism 11 years ago and I’ve been impressed with the numbers of quality videos, books and online resources available to help everyone gain a better understanding of what autism is—and how to welcome, support and relate to people with autism.
Here are some of my favorites for you to use at home, school or a community setting:
School Community Toolkit: Autism Speaks has created a very comprehensive downloadable kit that contains educational materials about autism and how to support children in a school and community setting. This kit is a great place for every teacher or school administrator to begin—and parents will also find lots of resources in the kit to educate friends and family about autism.
For kids and teens
Julia: Julia is the newest Muppet on Sesame Street—and she has autism. Julia is the perfect way to teach young children about their peers who are on the spectrum. Sesame Street has also created wonderful resources and videos online about autism. Check out this powerful blog by a mom who has a son with autism—and why having a Muppet with autism on Sesame Street feels so important to her.
My Friend With Autism: This is a wonderful book for young elementary school students (approx. 1st—3rd graders) to help students better understand their peers with autism.
The Autism Acceptance Book: This is one of my favorite teaching tools—great for a school classroom, Sunday school setting or for families to use at home. It focuses on all of us having strengths and challenges and explains autism in a child-friendly way. It can be used for elementary—middle school grades.
Rules: Cynthia Lord’s book Rules is told from the perspective of a an older sibling whose younger brother has autism. It is just right for older elementary school and middle school students, who are all dealing with the nagging question of “What is Normal?”
Autism: See The Potential: This great video, created by Autism Ontario, is narrated by a young self-advocate with autism who shares about his experience—and also features his brother, who has autism and who has more intensive support needs. It’s upbeat and funny—but makes very important points about the social and language processing challenges that people with autism face.
9 Tips For Talking To A Parent With A Child Diagnosed With Autism: It’s not always clear what the right thing to say is when a friend or family member receives a diagnosis for his/her child. This blog, written by both an autism professional and parent, gives clear information about what words are most supportive.
Perspective of An Autistic Self-Advocate: Children with autism become adults with autism. We can learn so much from adults who are able to communicate about their experiences. In this powerful blog, a local mom and writer with autism shares about her perspectives.
Autism Acceptance: The Crucial String: Writer and mom Liane Kupferberg Carter expresses the way that she came to understand and accept her son’s autism and her unique parenting journey. A beautiful way in to the experience of parents.
Standing Families Who Have A Child With A Disability: I was honored to get to share my personal family story—and ideas for how everyone can support families raising a child with autism or other disabilities. We can all be unsure of what to say or do—but I encourage everyone to reach out, nonetheless.