Autism Awareness - April 18, 2017

This is an image with a blue background, several autism awareness puzzle pieces, and a statement on Autism awareness

It’s that time again, time to Light It Up Blue! World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on Sunday, April 2, 2017 and provided an opportunity to show support to individuals with Autism and their families. Across the world people spread the word about autism, supporting a campaign adopted over 10 years ago by the United Nations “to shine a light on a growing global priority”. April is recognized as Autism Awareness Month and your support can be expressed by wearing something blue or putting a blue bulb in your porch light for the month. In Virginia, The Adventure Park lights up blue every Friday and Saturday night for the month of April.

Two of the defining characteristics of autism are deficits with verbal and nonverbal communication and social interactions. Many of us have witnessed loved ones or students struggle with effectively communicating with others, participating in group activities, or simply making friends. By spreading awareness about autism this month, we help others understand the challenges and work together to support individuals with autism by creating opportunities to practice and celebrate successes.

At CAHELP, we continue to spread awareness about autism, by communicating the social challenges individuals with autism face daily and correcting the common misunderstanding that individuals with autism do not want friends or are happy to be alone. This is a misnomer. Most individuals with autism want friends and social interaction just like their typically developing peers and family members. Unfortunately, it is much easier to isolate oneself or limit social interactions than it is to determine why multiple attempts at socializing or making friends isn’t working. Many of the social/emotional needs of individuals with autism go unaddressed, most often due to a lack of understanding of the impact impaired social skills have on not only academic progress but also overall quality of life. Having quality friendships and the skills to make and maintain those connections is essential to everyone’s wellbeing, including individuals with autism.

Because we recognize the importance of friendship and connection, CAHELP offers the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS). PEERS is a social skills program specifically designed to help individuals with autism learn the skills needed to make and keep friends through direct instruction, practice and parental coaching. Click here to learn more about this fast-growing program, originally developed by the University of California at Los Angeles, or contact Julie Wheeler at julie.wheeler@cahelp.org. Thank you for joining us in spreading awareness about autism during the month of April.