Light It Up Blue! – Autism Awareness Month by Mayor Aidsand F. “Ace” Wright-Riggins
April is Autism Awareness Month… and current data from the Center for Disease Control cites that as many as 1 in 68 children is being diagnosed as being 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 beloved godson was diagnosed with autism when he was a toddler and I know several families in my in the Collegeville community who live with the challenges of childhood and adult autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental disorders. These disorders are characterized by problems with communication and social interaction. People with ASD often demonstrate restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped interests or patterns of behavior. ASD is found in individuals around the world, regardless of race, culture, or economic background.
Of particular concern in Pennsylvania is the growing number of adults with autism requiring services, which reflects an increase of 334% since the original count in 2005. A dramatic growth is expected to continue as more children transition to adulthood and more adults are diagnosed. Most of these individuals will require services across their lifespan.
Autism awareness requires that we plan for the thousands of children with autism who are already transitioning into adulthood. While Pennsylvania has developed nation-leading programs to meet the needs of adults with autism including the Adult Autism Waiver and the Adult Community Autism Program (ACAP), the current funding levels will serve only a fraction of the adults with autism who currently and will, in the future, require support.
As children like my godson grow into adulthood, I have become even more aware of the need to provide access to appropriate employment and transition services for adults with autism. Adults with autism need services such as supported employment, vocational training and career counseling to obtain and maintain employment. Individuals with autism are valued members of our community, and it is vital to ensure they are provided the opportunity to live as independently as possible, engage actively with their communities, and experience enriched quality of life.
It’s not always clear what the right thing to say when a friend or family member receives a diagnosis for his/her child. I know this was an issue for me and my friends as we welcomed my godson into the world. This blog, written by both an autism professional and parent, gives clear information about what words are most supportive. 9 Tip for Talking to A Parent With A Child Diagnosed With Autism:
Another good resource is a wonderful book for young elementary school students (approx. 1st—3rd graders) to help students better understand their peers with autism is My Friend With Autism
Are you familiar with 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.
During April, you may see plenty of blue being shown off to support autism awareness. The color blue’s association to autism originated with the autism advocacy association known as Autism Speaks. Their “Light it Up Blue” campaign calls for people to wear blue to promote autism awareness. During April, the lights outside my home will be shining blue. Please join me in lighting Collegeville up Blue!
Borough council meets the 1st Wednesday of each month.
Borough of Collegeville
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