During the month of April, we celebrate Autism Awareness Month, but what exactly are we celebrating?
The purpose for Autism Awareness Month is to educate people on what exactly autism is and how to support people with autism for who they are.
Gillian Moss, an English teacher at Lake Shore High School, has worked at the MISD with autistic children and enjoys sharing her experience. Moss commented, “Working at the MISD was the best position I have ever held in the education field. I say that because of all it taught me, both personally and professionally. While I do not believe it was my long term goal and destiny as a teacher, the experience I gained will stay with me for a lifetime. Those children changed my life forever, and taught me about what is truly important in life (the small things!).”
Diagnosis of autism is incredibly important and crucial to bringing more awareness to it. Moss explained, “I believe increase in diagnoses have led to more of an awareness worldwide. This has also lead to more research into the causes of autism, and helps us better support the autism community as a whole.
People see autistic people as the same and that their diagnosis is identical. Moss said, “No two individuals on the spectrum are alike. Some are more low functioning, with severe speech and language deficits, while some are more high functioning, and appear to be just like every other student. They have different strengths and weaknesses, just as neurotypical individuals do! Just because a teacher has one student with autism, does not mean another student with an autism diagnosis will need the same support. Teachers must be flexible and understand that autism is a spectrum. Oftentimes, we need to use a variety of approaches to figure out how to best support our students with ASD.”
Stereotypes are a huge thing when it comes to autism. Moss also mentioned, “We can fight stereotypes regarding anyone with a disability by getting to know their story; when we know a person’s story, we have empathy. Empathy is a super powerful tool that can help us connect with those different from us.”
When people celebrate Autism Awareness month, society uses the term “Light it up blue!” But why exactly is blue the color we use for autism? The reason behind that is because the color blue is loved by a lot of people and is a common choice in advertising. Autism Awareness Month is also celebrated with the color blue because of Autism Speaks, which is an organization that sponsors autism research and conducts awareness for families and the public, started the light it up blue movement, which they then used the color blue.
Puzzle pieces are also often related to autism awareness. Moss explains, “A puzzle piece represents autism awareness because autism is a spectrum; every person with autism is individual and unique, just like the puzzle pieces.”
All in all, students and teachers should start learning more about autism and realizing that those that have autism shouldn’t be thought of or treated differently. Instead of judging, people should treat those with autism with respect in order to help fight the stereotype. Empathy is a huge part in fighting the stereotype because understanding what people are going through is really important.
You can learn more about autism awareness by visiting https://www.autismspeaks.org/.