With April being Autism Awareness Month, everyone is getting into the spirit of helping out when it come to this cause. People are turning their Facebook pictures blue, putting blue lights outside their homes, and going to fundraisers for autism. The big question is what can you do after April is over? Autism does not stop at the end of April and start back up when the time rolls around. The new statistic out is that 1 in every 68 children has some form of ASD and has to live with this every day. I think it is great that so many people want to spread the awareness of Autism in the month of April, but there is so much more people can do after the month is over.
Working part-time as a bartender, I get the chance to meet a lot of interesting people. I am always asked what I do as a full-time job. When I say I work at an autism center as a Supportive Employment Manager, people are always amazed and commend me for having this job. Questions come up about my job, my individuals, and the staff that I have on my caseload. But the best question is: “What can I do to help?” I always say, “Just spend some time with someone with autism and see how they live.” Some of the individuals I have on my caseload even surprise me as to some of the interests they have or some of the things they can do. I have one individual who knows something interesting about any date in history. Another individual will sit for hours with me and talk about sports as if he were an ESPN sportscaster. One nonverbal individual is able to pick up any skill just by showing him once, and is able to speak to me through an iPad.
One of the requirements of my job is going to work sites and speaking with managers about the progress that the individuals on my caseload are making. Even some of the managers I speak to are amazed by what the individuals can do. Some of the managers are afraid to give the individuals new tasks. I tell the managers “Just show them what you need them to do, and give instructions to the staff.” I enjoy the managers’ later surprise at how well the individuals did completing these tasks. After the first time of trying this, some of the managers do not even wait for me to come in and ask me if the individual can do a new task. Sometimes I will walk into a jobsite and see the individual already doing a new task and the manager says, “I just wanted to try this and see if they could do it.”
Even though April is Autism Awareness Month and I love seeing everyone’s enthusiasm for helping, the best thing to do after April is to volunteer your time with someone with autism. Who knows, you may be able to teach them a new life skill or job skill that could help them gain more independence. They may also be able to teach you something new. I know I have learned so much after working with the individuals I have.