More than 3.5 million people in North America have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is a condition classified by certain communication or social interaction difficulties. A child with ASD may be quieter than others or react negatively to loud noise. They may also prefer less bright environments, make repetitive movements or engage in strict routines. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability diagnosed and can be detected as early as two years into a child’s life.
With April being Autism Awareness Month, it’s a fantastic time for groups big and small to help raise positive attention to the neurodevelopment disorder of ASD. Organizations such as AutismUp, a support program and service provided in Rochester, New York, are one of the many who share the mission to make the world better for people living with autism.
We asked Phil Mesiti, the Program Director of AutismUp, to paint us a picture on the importance of autism awareness.
“Most people will encounter a person with autism in their life so it’s important that everyone can recognize the signs. We are trying to change the narrative on how people respond to someone who may be ‘socially awkward’ or who may ‘act out’ in public.”
The goal of AutismUp is to provide support to families, caregivers, and individuals of all ages that are affected by autism. This support makes up a huge part of what Mesiti and his team aim to accomplish because an inclusive understanding of autism remains relatively uncommon in the world.
“The more people know, the better they can adjust their reactions to such behaviors. One of the biggest things we see is that our families are afraid to bring their child out in to the community because of the looming judgement if their child displays different behaviors (flapping, stimming, aggression, elopement, echolalia, melt downs, etc.). The community awareness that April brings, helps increase inclusive understanding and opportunities. AutismUp is a place for help and hope; a lot of what I get to create in my day-to-day work life is a catalyst for both.”
But being aware is not all that can be done to make a welcoming place for children with ASD. How can camp directors and staff who have never interacted with autistic children before help welcome these campers correctly into their summer camp? How should any summer camp approach this?
Here’s what Phil had to say about introducing an autism friendly environment to summer camps:
“Hire behavioral specialists and make sure there are proper supports in place. Also training! Make sure that all staff are trained to work with campers and that they understand that inclusion is the ultimate goal.”
Thank you, Phil! Inclusion plays such an integral part of preparing a welcoming camp environment and AutismUp has a wonderful list of resources for anyone seeking to learn more. For Autism Awareness Month, Phil and the AutismUp team were at full force with many amazing events. Check out what’s in-store for this week!
But wait! The opportunity to learn about autism doesn’t have to end with April! There are other Autism Awareness Groups that make for great resources (and blog reads) on ASD education. Have a look at the list below!
American Camp Association Blogs
Resource Website List:
PS: If you happen to operate a summer camp with children living with autism, please share your knowledge with us in the comments below!
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