The Autism Blog

Surviving to Thriving: A Self-Advocate’s View

We present guest author John Wennberg’s blog From Surviving to Thriving: What Autism Acceptance Means to a Self-Advocate in celebration of Autism Month.

What does autism acceptance mean to me? For me, it means finally accepting my diagnosis at the age of 40. It also means to stop masking (the act of trying to hide one’s autistic characteristics), because masking is denying.

The first time I heard the word ‘masking’ was when I was watching an Autism 200 Series video and I realized I was doing it, but I didn’t know what it is. Masking is a strategy that autistic people use for learning neurotypical behaviors and doing our best to copy them in social settings. I did it as a kid because I wanted to fit in with everybody, but now I know there’s a name. I was an honor student, so I was known for getting my work done perfectly and on time. I was involved in many school activities and sports, and I got my Letterman’s jacket. I loved choir, but I did these activities to fit in. Read full post »

RISE at the Alyssa Burnett Center

In celebration of Autism Month we present this blog and video by the the students of the Influence and Inspire class at the Alyssa Burnett Center.

 

“The ABC is as unique and special as I am. 

When I am at the ABC, I agree to RISE

 

The Alyssa Burnett Center (ABC) is special because it’s a place where everyone can be included. RISE stands for Respect, Include, Support, and Enjoy and it is our student code of conduct made by the students of the leadership class. RISE is important at the ABC because it shows how everyone is welcome no matter who you are, as long as we respect, include, and support one another so we can all enjoy our time together.  Everyone is unique and can be themselves here and that’s what makes it a special place. The ABC is special to us because we get to experience all sorts of classes where we learn, grow, connect, socialize, and have fun.  Here are some things to know about RISE.

 

R is for Respect. I will respect one another. 

I will respect one another’s privacy

I will respect one another’s differences

I will respect one another with the words I use.”

 

We respect one another when we listen to each other. Some people may like to participate in different ways and that is okay. We respect each other’s boundaries and differences. For example, if someone doesn’t want to participate, instead of forcing them, we can respect others’ choices and decisions. People have their own ways to express their enthusiasm and engage in activities and that is a good thing. Respect is important because we need to take time to understand each other and treat others the way they want and need to be treated.

 

I is for Include. I will include one another 

All are welcome!” 

 

Everyone who is a part of the ABC is what makes the ABC special. Sometimes classes can be really big but we do our best to include everyone. The ways we do this are by giving everyone a turn, reaching out to others who haven’t spoken up, and being open to new ideas from our friends. Also, in order to include others, we make sure the environment is safe and accessible for everyone. If students need larger text, closed captions, ASL, noise-canceling headphones, or any other accommodations, we make sure they are included so we can all have a good time together and no one is left out. Another way we are doing our best to include is by our new expansion with more classrooms and our new elevator! Inclusion is important because we want everyone to feel welcome.

 

S is for Support. I will support one another. 

I will help one another. 

I will be there for one another. 

I will cheer up and cheer on one another.” 

 

One way we show support is by helping one another. Sometimes it might be a new student or other times it might be a classmate who needs a helping hand. For example, we use ASL to communicate with our nonspeaking friends. When friends are about to share their work or give a performance, we encourage them. If someone is nervous, we give them words of wisdom and after they share we give them applause. Another way we can be supportive is by welcoming new students into the fun. Simply being kind is a way we can be supportive. We all have our ups and downs and when we give each other space and privacy we can support each other. We can be there to comfort those who need it and support them through listening. Each situation is different and everyone needs support in different ways. Support is important because we help those in need and when we are all supported we can work together and conquer hard things.

 

E is for Enjoy. I will enjoy our time together!”

 

At the ABC we get to do so many fun things. We play games, make art, laugh together, and share conversations. We get to make new friends, best friends, and special memories. We get to explore new classes, meet new people and staff, and discover things we’ve never known about. It feels like a big adventure. It’s important to enjoy our time together because it makes us all happy, joyful, and builds our identity and character in life. We are one big community and this is how we RISE at ABC.

 

Autism Month – A Time for Reflection, Acceptance and Inclusion

Once again, it is April 1st, which marks the beginning of Autism Acceptance Month, also referred to as World Autism Month and Autism Action Month. Every day we celebrate the unique differences and perspectives of each autistic individual, and this month we want to highlight the many different experiences and perspectives of the autism community.   

There are many ways this month is recognized, from those who are working to shift the conversation away from awareness, which is considered stigmatizing by some, and onto acceptance (Acceptance is an Action: ASAN Statement on 10th Anniversary of AAM – Autistic Self Advocacy Network (autisticadvocacy.org); Autism Acceptance Month | Autism Society) to those who advocate for the needs of severely affected individuals (National Council On Severe Autism)  to those who are focused on all people with autism reaching their full potential (World Autism Month | Autism Speaks).

Here at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, we hold space for the varied truths and narratives that co-exist in the world of autism and we believe that every person with autism has the right to thrive: to be accepted, included, celebrated and to live their best life. Some individuals with autism need high levels of support in their daily lives, while others are able to reach their goals without special education or other supports. And many others fall somewhere in between—benefitting from support in some areas and independence in others. All deserve not just awareness of their differences, but true acceptance and inclusion. This requires a shift for all of us—not just in our healthcare and education systems to provide needed supports and therapies to autistic individuals—in our society as a whole to broaden our appreciation of diverse lived experiences and recognition of the value of neurodiversity.

This month, we will feature a series of blogs from both the Seattle Children’s Autism Center and the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center. Our goal is to share a range of perspectives including autistic individuals, parents of individuals with autism, and providers who work with people with autism. Some will address the highs, such as the beauty in the individual characteristics and talents that make up autistic people, and some will portray the lows, such as what happens when families can no longer safely manage challenging behaviors at home. We will also share resources on social media, including those available in Spanish, that readers may find helpful.

We hope that seeing different perspectives this month will allow you to challenge your own views and the views of those around you. What can you and your community do to accept people with autism who may act, think, and feel differently than you do? How can you accept and adapt to those you encounter, rather than expecting they will adapt to what makes you comfortable? How can you encourage autistic individuals to be their best most authentic selves and support society in celebrating each person as they are? As a society, we have come a long way since the days when individuals with disabilities were hidden from view, but there is still much to be done before people with autism and other developmental disabilities will be fully accepted and included. At Seattle Children’s Autism Center, we are up for this challenge and will continue to dedicate ourselves to this work. We hope you will join us on our journey of acceptance and inclusion.

 

How To Help My Kid Make Progress

Please join us for How To Help My Kid Make Progress as we continue with our new video series, Conversations About Autism, which replaced our Autism 200 lectures. 

Conversations About Autism is a series of 60-minute live-streamed sessions created for providers and caregivers of children with autism who wish to better understand the autism spectrum disorder. In this session we will have a conversation about what parents can do to support their child’s development with a local autism expert, a parent with a child with autism as well as a non-speaking adult with autism. I hope you can join us and be a part of that conversation.

 

Read full post »

Celebrating Black Futures Month

In celebration of Black Futures Month, the Autism Center welcomes guest author Vanessa Allmon, EDI Program Manager. Vanessa works to lead the antiracist and health equity work for our department. Read full post »