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Autism Awareness Month: Why This Matters

By Elizabeth Roberts, PsyD, College Internship Program's National Director of Clinical Support Services

Self-awareness evolves and shifts in transformative ways across the lifespan. The wonder of being human is that the growth of self-awareness begins even before we learn how to talk and in some people never stops. Many adults in their final decades or even at the end of life describe the marvel of self-revelation and the astonishing experience of coming to terms with themselves in new, unexpected ways in their final decades or even at the end of life.

At an early age, students with autism spectrum disorder and other learning challenges become aware that they are different from their peers in some particular way. That is, they gradually come to perceive that the arc of their development in an academic, social, physical, or emotional domain is proceeding at a different pace and in a different way. This is bewildering and uncomfortable.

Some children have the good fortune to find a wise, generous, adult by their side who can help them interpret that experience, place it in context, and support them in the gradual and usually painful process of coming to terms with themselves. For all of us, the ultimate goal is to achieve clarity as to who we really are and come to a loving acceptance of our whole selves. Only then can we hope to be honest with ourselves and others, know what we want and convey that to others in healthy ways, and live in true peace. This allows us the power of choice and the possibility of shining the light squarely on the positive in ourselves and others. An essential purpose of College Internship Program (CIP) and other transition programs is to foster the natural growth of self-awareness and support the emergence of the "newborn" adult. Self-awareness and self-acceptance allows students to self-advocate in confident, effective ways. It is truly remarkable to witness a young adult articulate his or her strengths and challenges to the outside world and calmly ask for what he or she needs.

Autism Awareness month is an opportunity to stand up and give voice in a communal manner. CIP invites students to participate in Autism Awareness month activities in individually directed ways. This may take the form of artistic expression, such as in film, dance, or creative writing, activities aimed at raising political and social awareness, fundraising, and public speaking. We invite students to consider volunteering as a means of expression of the personal meaning of autism to each individual and as an expression of responsibility to our community. Many students choose to volunteer to give their neighbors the opportunity to get to know them as individuals, and to see their strengths. Standing up and being acknowledged allows the world to understand the complexity and heterogeneity of the autism community. Being part of a strong, visible community reminds society that autism now affects about one percent of the world's population -- roughly 74 million people! -- and that we must commit resources in order to understand and support individuals with autism. Participation supports the growing awareness that neurodiversity is an essential feature of the human race and necessary for our survival. Most of all, in participating in AA activities, family members and individuals with autism are expressing their wish that people with autism be treated just like everyone else.

Read more about CIP's Autism Awareness Month activities on their website: info.cipworldwide.org/blog/topic/autism-awareness-month

Elizabeth Roberts, PsyD, is College Internship Program's National Director of Clinical Support Services, and is a Psychologist and Neuropsychologist. The College Internship Program (CIP) offers year-round curriculum providing individualized social, academic, career and life skills instruction to young adults 18-26 with Asperger’s, ADD and other learning differences. CIP centers are located in areas that provide a wide variety of social, educational and career opportunities including Berkeley, California; Melbourne, Florida;, Bloomington, Indiana and Lee, Massachusetts. CIP also offers a satellite program in Buffalo, New York and a two week teen summer program at all of its primary locations. For more information about CIP, visit www.cipworldwide.org or call 1-877-566-9247.


Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.

 

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