Autism Awareness month shines light on inclusivity

The Autism Awareness ribbon is made up of multi colors and is intended to represent diversity and with the puzzle pieces.

With autism awareness month starting up on April 2, organizations such as The Autism Society of America are using the time to involve a variety of people in the conversation about those affected by autism.

“The original purpose [of autism awareness month] was to increase awareness about autism.  Today, we spend more time talking about acceptance and inclusion of people with autism in all aspects of life,” Scott Badesch, the president/CEO of The Autism Society of America since 2010 and father of a 32-year-old autistic son, said. “I have  a son with autism, and I saw the lack of support and help provided to him and so many. I also know that far too often autism, like so much, is a have and have not issue. Those with access to power and money are able to get needed services, and those without aren’t. I wanted to be able to help those who can’t.”

The Autism Society of America works to provide advocacy, education, information, support and a community for people nationwide. Along with helping those who are directly affected by autism, the group works to include those who are not in the conversation.

“Hopefully [this month] means that [people who are not directly affected] can hear about the need to be inclusive of people with autism in all walks of life, hire people with autism and provide full opportunity for people with autism,” Badesch said.

According to Badesch, people can help support this cause by understanding that a person with autism should be respected and provided opportunity to achieving the person’s highest quality of life. This can include making friends with someone in your life with autism.

“Just be open to people being different. Not everyone has to be the same; otherwise, the world would be really boring. People can be who they are, and we don’t have to ‘fix’ or change them,” Caroline Elser, mother of Joseph (Joey) Elser, an autistic student at Peet Junior High, said.  “[Joey’s day is] probably very similar to other ninth graders. Joey gets up really early for school. He likes to have the same thing for breakfast, then goes to class with his paraeducator. After school he comes home on the bus, and two days a week he goes to speech therapy. He likes to play on his iPad as much as he is allowed, then has dinner, and then it’s usually a shower and off to bed.”

As parents who are both affected by having children with autism, both of their messages were that people with autism deserve the same amount of respect that someone who doesn’t have it would get.

“[The most important thing for people to know is] a person with autism has an inner and outer beauty and should never be stereotyped as being one way or the other. Just because you are diagnosed with autism doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to achieve success and a quality of life you desire,” Badesch said.

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