Learning About Autism for Autism Appreciation Month

The month of April is Autism Appreciation Month! According to the CDC, 1 in 44 children are autistic, so it is very likely that your child will interact with or know someone with autism. This month is a great opportunity for you and your child to learn more about empathy. Here are a few ways to do so!

Read Books Together

There are so many great picture books that can help kids learn about autism, and autistic people. Here is a list of 10 books that you can read with your child. Some of my favorites on the list are My Brother Otto, written by Meg Raby and illustrated by Elisa Pallmer and Nope. Never. Not for Me! written and illustrated by Samantha Cotterill. My Brother Otto is about Piper and Otto Crow. Otto has autism and is non-speaking, so he uses a tablet to communicate. Nope. Never. Not for Me! Is about the worries and fears of trying new foods for people who have a sensory processing disorder or are autistic. It's one of a few books in a series called Little Senses, that focus on sensory processing.

One thing to keep in mind when reading books about autism is to look for books written by autistic authors. There are tons of #OwnVoices books and this post talks more about them. While it can still be appropriate to read books by non-autistic authors, I believe it's best to find a good mix of the two.

Model Acceptance and Appreciation

Kids are curious and may ask questions about autism that you might not know the answer to. This can feel awkward or you might worry that you're going to say the wrong thing. Answer questions respectfully and honestly. If you don't have an answer, that's okay, focus on accepting others' differences and being kind. One of the best ways to teach children is through example. The way you talk about autistic people will impact the way your child talks about them. Even if you don't have the answers, you can teach your children to be compassionate of others' differences.

Television

If your child watches TV or has screen time, there are a few children's programs with autistic characters. Sesame Street, and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood are two shows with great representation. Sesame Street has Julia, a little girl who is autistic. Sesame Street also has a lot of great resources that you can find here. Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood recently introduced Max, a little boy with autism. The show consulted with professionals so that they could be as accurate as possible.

Additional Resources for Adults

There are many organizations that are spreading awareness, acceptance and appreciation for autistic people. Two that I would recommend are the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network. I like both of these organizations because they focus on support and empowerment rather than "curing" autism. Both have great informational resources if you are looking to learn more about autism and how to help the autistic community.

Finally, here is a list of books by actually autistic authors for adults. These aren't picture books, so I wouldn't recommend them for your child. These books can be helpful in expanding your understanding of people with autism.

I hope that these suggestions help you and your children appreciate autistic people not just during the month of April, but all the time!

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Wednesday, 07 December 2022

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