Shifting from Autism Awareness to Autism Acceptance
Since 2008, April has been recognized as Autism Awareness Month in Ohio. The intent was designed to bring awareness to autism and to encourage and empower individuals with autism in Ohio and their families.
Earlier this month, Governor DeWine signed a proclamation to recognize April as Autism Acceptance Month, which states, “the purpose of Autism Acceptance Month in Ohio is to spread awareness, foster acceptance, and identify the public policy improvements needed for people with autism to live fully across all areas of life.”
The transition from the word awareness to acceptance may not seem like a big deal. But, words matter and the shift to acceptance accounts for accommodating the feelings of others and accepting and celebrating our differences. Acceptance requires taking conscious action and shifting from not only seeing and recognizing that autism exists, but seeking to listen and learn, and then adapting our perspectives and behaviors. Just being aware of autism facts and information will not necessarily lead to acceptance or create inclusive and supportive environments in our schools, communities, and relationships. However, by intentionally moving toward acceptance, we can inspire confidence and a vision for possibilities that motivate us to continue to ensure that people with disabilities can live their best lives for their whole lives.
Acceptance is also the first step toward inclusion. Inclusion then leads to belonging, which is essential to truly connecting and relating to others. Unfortunately, acceptance and belonging are often the biggest barriers to inclusion that people with autism and their families encounter. At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been working hard to break down traditional barriers for people with autism and other disabilities and explore things that others may not have yet seen as possible. While we have made significant progress, we have more work to do and we continue to explore and learn new ways of listening, understanding, and modeling. Our words and work must then translate into action.
The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone. As leaders and practitioners, autistic and disabled people, parents, family members, neighbors, and community members, we ALL play a role in inspiring the change we wish to see.
Throughout the month of April, we encourage you to seek out opportunities that promote acceptance—for yourself and within your own communities. Following are a few simple ideas to get started:
Learn more. Explore information and resources about autism. A few websites to check out:
Show support. Many organizations are hosting Autism Acceptance Month social media campaigns. You can easily show your support by reviewing and sharing the information and using designated social media tags. This month, OCALI is using the hashtag #KnowMoreDoMore, as part of a month-long email and social media campaign featuring information and resources from our Lending Library. Each week, we are featuring information and resources suggested by the Autism Center, Family and Community Outreach Center, Center for the Young Child, and Lifespan Transitions Center on various topics, including social-emotional wellbeing, early-childhood, supporting family interactions, and independence
Connect with others. Acceptance is an ‘everyone’ conversation and we all have the power and ability to support acceptance. Simply showing that you’re genuinely open and interested in learning more about autism, particularly from autistic people or their family members goes a long way.
Now, more than ever, it is important to recognize the unique strengths, challenges, and experiences of each person with autism and their families. Rather than attempting to paint with a broad brush based on a shared label or diagnosis, instead we encourage everyone to thoughtfully engage and inspire. Have meaningful conversations about what is most supportive for each person, in each setting in that moment, and then do those things! It’s much easier to write it down than to actually do the work—especially when someone’s experiences don’t match your own. But, by working together to create truly accessible spaces and ensuring that everyone is supported, accepted, and included, that’s what inspiring change is about.
The Smell of the Room is a Fire in My Nose:
A Conversation on Autism and Trauma
Trauma by its very nature is an incredibly personal and individual experience. There are many different forms of trauma and many different ways it can impact, shape, and define who we are and who we become. But, what about people on the autism spectrum—autistic people. What’s different about how they experience, deal with, and live with trauma?
These are the questions that Kim Clary and Kelly Mahler explore in Rewind, a new series within the Inspiring Change podcast that features conversations and connections from OCALICON—OCALI’s premier autism and disabilities conference. Rewind is the audio showcase of some of OCALICON’s best moments, the speakers’ sessions, and the stories that make it all happen.
Kim Clary is an occupational therapist in Bellaire, Florida and Kelly Mahler is an occupational therapist in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Kelly and Kim push us to expand our thinking beyond what we might consider to be traditional causes of trauma in a conversation about how people with autism experience different types of trauma in different ways, and in ways that ask us to think differently about what trauma is and the impact it can have. Kim further illustrates the effects of trauma by sharing some of her poems and journal entries.
Imagine that you are in the midst of a hurricane outside without protection. That you cannot seek shelter. Imagine that you are in a burning building and cannot leave. Or that your body is covered in angry fire ants. Imagine that you are suddenly attacked, suddenly blinded by sharp daggers in your eyes. Imagine this – is your life. You can imagine it, but I don’t have to. These things are my life.
“What we know about trauma is that it is a response to an event or a series of events that make someone feel unsafe, threatened, or severely distressed and trauma impacts your neurology—both your brain and your body,” explains Kelly. “Trauma also impacts your physiology. It’s important to point out that trauma is dependent on how a person experiences an event.”
“I think that it just goes to show that we really need to be good detectives and always think through a trauma-informed and an autism-informed lens and really figure out what’s going on with each individual person,” continues Kelly. “I think our main goal – besides offering hope and strategies of how to support – is to challenge the way that we’re viewing trauma in the autism field.”
What’s New at OCALI
Register for the last session on April 28! This interactive, three-part learning series is designed to provide practical, easy-to-use strategies on how to include learners who are deaf or hard of hearing in gym, art, and music classes. Each session will incorporate considerations to ensure each learner is safe, engaged, and challenged. Each 30-minute session will include a 10-minute webinar with simple tips and strategies, followed by 20 minutes of live Q&A with Abbey Weaver, an itinerant teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing in Ohio. The sessions are free, but registration is required. Certificates of completion are available for the series. Join us for the last session.
Nationally, prioritizing language and literacy development for all learners has been a focus for many educators. This focus requires that we build educators’ capacity to support evidence-based language and literacy instruction, particularly for educators supporting learners who are deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or blind/visually impaired (B/VI), who access English and print in different ways.
To help those who are assessing and teaching literacy to these learners, the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI is pleased to offer this interactive, virtual professional learning event designed to explore and connect the areas of phonological awareness, phonics, writing, fluency, vocabulary, communication, language, and comprehension specifically for learners who are D/HH or B/VI.
Inspiration can come in many forms. A conversation, a connection, a bit of information that sparks a new perspective. Sometimes it happens gradually, and sometimes it happens in an instant. Inspiration opens the door to imagine new possibilities. And action breathes life into those possibilities that can bring about real change.
OCALICONLINE 2021 marks the second year of hosting the event exclusively online, but the 15th year of providing participants with ample opportunities to transform inspiration into action. As we reflect on the last 15 years, we take stock of not only how far we have come within the field of disabilities and as a conference, but as a society. Much has changed. Some for the better, some not for the better. We look back on the last 15 years knowing we have come a long way, but we look ahead to the next 15 years knowing there is still much work to do.
No matter where you are personally or professionally, OCALICONLINE 2021 is the place where you can gather, connect, rest, or regroup.
There’s a place for you here. And we’ve saved you a front-row seat.
The transition to remote learning left instructional leaders and educators little to no time to prepare and transition how they deliver instruction. Meeting and assessing the needs of all learners in this online environment has been challenging, particularly for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired.
To help school psychologists and district and building leaders build comfort and confidence in virtually assessing all learners, particularly those who are deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or blind/visually impaired (B/VI), OCALI launched a free webinar series, Building Capacity to Serve All Learners: Effectively Assessing Learners via Telepsychology.
Part III: Administering Telepsychological Assessments
Parts I and II of the series explored preparing for and completing telepsychological assessments with learners who are D/HH or B/VI. Expanding off of Parts I and II, Part III is designed to focus on the practical demonstration of specific aspects of telepsychological assessments, including how to administer a standard test battery to learners who are D/HH or B/VI.
Did you miss an InspirED learning session or want to go back re-watch or check out other sessions? Explore the InspirED Video Gallery. Here, learners can access all previously aired sessions, which include interactive transcripts, audio description, and session materials. This gallery is also a great resource to share with colleagues and others who may benefit from the information.
Don’t forget learners have the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each session. Did we mention that this is a FREE way to get professional development hours?
To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free webinar series, called The Journey, designed to explore important topics and feature resources and tools for transition assessment and planning, as well as student instruction and family engagement. Register for the upcoming May webinar:
What I Wish I Knew Then: Parents’ Perspectives Following High School
Monday, May 17, 2:30–3:00 PM
Parents of young adults with complex support needs offer insights and considerations after experiencing life after high school. This panel discussion is an authentic dialogue that provides educators, SSAs, OOD counselors, families, and others awareness about what was most helpful during the school years and what else might have been helpful in order to prepare for the future.