Celebrating Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month: Promoting Acceptance and the Platinum Rule

A young child holds their hands in front of their face, peering through fingers. Their hands are covered in bright paints.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

As children, many of us were taught the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do to you. More or less, treat others the way you would like to be treated. In theory, this ‘rule’ seems like a good lesson to live by, but what it doesn’t account for is that we are all different and we may want different things—including the way we are treated.

As we celebrate Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, consider embracing the Platinum Rule, which implies that we treat others the way they would like to be treated. Acceptance exemplifies the Platinum Rule, which accounts for accommodating the feelings of others and accepting and celebrating our differences. While the concept may seem simple, it’s not always easy to put into practice. To truly treat others the way they want to be treated requires learning about a person and engaging with them to understand their likes, dislikes, perspectives, and more.

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 creating inclusive and supportive environments in our schools, communities, and relationships. 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.

At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been committed to working hard to promote and embrace a culture of awareness and acceptance—with our staff and with those we serve around Ohio. 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.

As leaders and practitioners, parents, and family 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 and the Platinum Rule—for yourself and within your own communities.

For additional autism resources, visit OCALI’s Autism Center and Lending Library.

 

Elevating Families’ Voice and Vision: The Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI

A smiling family sitting on a pier - to young boys sit in their parents' in their laps - everyone is smiling.

The voice of the family is powerful. And when used to share stories about inspiring change and the possibilities of people with disabilities, families play a critical role. Equipping and empowering families with knowledge, information, and resources to support the whole family, including the person with a disability, is at the heart of the work of the Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI.

“We believe that families are an important asset in the equation of ensuring people with disabilities have the opportunity to live their best lives for their whole lives,” shares Jen Bavry, program director at the Family and Community Outreach Center. “We strive to build families’ confidence and encourage a vision for the possibilities and opportunities for the whole family.”

While new to this position, Jen has been with OCALI for five years, originally joining the team to support the development and implementation of ASD Strategies in Action. In addition to her professional background, Jen also brings personal experience and a passion for working with families.

“As the mother of a son with autism, I have a deep understanding of the services, resources, and community opportunities that are valuable to families and the person with autism. Because of this, I bring a unique perspective to my role—one I hope will inspire and encourage others.”

Connecting Families and Communities

“We support families by connecting them to information regarding services, training, and resources to ensure they understand what supports and opportunities are available to them,” explains Jen. “When families are equipped with reliable information, they are better able to navigate the journey with their family member.”

Over the years, the Center has been instrumental in keeping families informed, as well as making sure families are included and their voices are represented. This is a “must” for Jen as she takes on her new role. Although not a new focus for the Center, more attention will be directed to community outreach—raising awareness and acceptance to enhance the experience of people with disabilities and their families in their communities. Efforts will focus on building awareness, knowledge, and inclusion to create meaningful experiences and social opportunities. By doing this, the Center will continue to play an important role in informing policies that benefit families and the person with a disability.

Inspiring Change

Inspiring change is part of OCALI’s mission and each Center contributes to that mission in its own way. Jen shares how the Family and Community Outreach Center is inspiring change.

“I wear two hats—one as the director of the Center seeking to equip and empower families and professionals with knowledge, information, and resources to support the whole family. The other as a mother to a young man with autism. I have been in the shoes of the family just receiving the diagnosis, the one seeking services, the one working with a school for educational support, and the one advocating for access and acceptance. Having the opportunity to share experiences with and hear from others has always given me the strength to make the change I want to see. I can only hope that through my role at OCALI and my experience as a parent, I can provide the same for others—either by sharing my personal story or by sharing the stories of others—inspiring them to make the change they want to see.”

Resources You Can Use

To learn more about the Family and Community Outreach Center, visit https://www.ocali.org/center/family.

OCALI’s Office of Policy: State budget, Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, Multi-System Youth Legislation and More

Office of Policy color

April is a busy month at OCALI, as it is Autism Awareness and Acceptance month. In fact, the team put together a communications toolkit for various agencies within the Interagency Work Group on Autism to use to raise awareness and acceptance within their key audiences. Additionally, there will be a joint meeting of the Interagency Work Group on Autism and the Employment First Taskforce that will be attended by agency Directors in April.

In addition to work around Autism Awareness and Acceptance month, there are several key pieces of legislation at the Ohio Statehouse that OCALI’s policy team is engaged in, including the state biennial budget.

Governor DeWine introduced his proposed state budget on March 15, and informal testimony by members of his cabinet and others began on March 20. On March 25, the official “budget bill,” House Bill 166 was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives, and was referred immediately to the House Finance Committee, where formal testimony began.

If you’re interested in seeing the budget, related documents, or understanding the budget process, check out these resources:

The Office of Policy has been keeping up with the budget process by attending informal and formal testimony; conducting a thorough review of the budget provisions; attending meetings with key members of Governor DeWine’s administration and state legislators; and participating in key stakeholder/coalition meetings. In every meeting, the team’s goal is to ensure research, evidence-based best practices and the real-life needs of individuals with disabilities and their families are at the forefront of conversations about services, programs and policy decisions.

The team is also keeping an eye on three key pieces of proposed state and federal legislation, including including House Bill 166, which focuses on funding for services for multi-system youth, autism and early intervention; the Ohio Fair School Funding Plan; and the Autism Cares Act.

OCALI Policy & Research Corner

With March being DD Awareness Month, OCALI’s Office of Policy has been coordinating with multiple organizations and agencies to maximize the opportunity to educate policy makers about the challenges, opportunities and possibilities for Ohio’s DD community, its stakeholders and its supporters. The team’s new webpage has resources and information about these efforts and more!

Continue reading “OCALI Policy & Research Corner”

How OCALI Promotes Accessibility

Information is everywhere we look—from the books and documents we read, to the videos and movies we watch, and conversations we have at work and in the community. Information shapes our experiences and our experiences shape us. When information and interactions are presented or created in ways that are not accessible, people with disabilities may encounter barriers that prevent full access and participation. Increasing access to information connects us, it empowers us, and it promotes independence.

“At OCALI, we’re striving to ensure all people with disabilities have the opportunity to live their best lives for their whole lives and that starts with accessibility,” explains Jan Rogers, Program Director at the AT&AEM Center.

Continue reading “How OCALI Promotes Accessibility”

OCALI’s Center for the Young Child: Promoting a Strong Start and Charting a Positive Course for Young Children with Disabilities

Early identification of developmental delays and entry into intervention significantly improve lifelong outcomes for young children.

“We want young children with disabilities to be represented in all early childhood initiatives in Ohio,” shares Laura Maddox, Center Director at OCALI’s Center for the Young Child (CYC). “This will ensure that all children with disabilities get the best possible start in life because early experiences impact lifelong outcomes. We do this by informing policy, creating, and sharing resources, and providing training and technical assistance so that young children (0-8) with disabilities have the foundation they need for a lifetime of learning, growth, and opportunities in their community.”

The CYC grounds its work in the latest brain science, policy, and research, representing the perspective of young children and their families when programs are being developed and deployed by the many providers and systems supporting early childhood care and education.

Continue reading “OCALI’s Center for the Young Child: Promoting a Strong Start and Charting a Positive Course for Young Children with Disabilities”

Jody Fisher and the Center for the Young Child: A Passionate and Rewarding Career in Developmental Disabilities

With nearly 40 years in the field of developmental disabilities, Jody Fisher has a passion for serving and impacting others. As a consultant with OCALI’s Center for the Young Child (CYC), Jody brings an extensive background that spans direct service and teaching, to state and national policy work.

“Advances in brain science have provided us with a new roadmap of how we approach early care and education, and how important our earliest experiences are in the formation of our lifelong health and well-being. Having foundational work experience in home, classroom, and clinical settings, I have learned that services and supports can be more responsive and meaningful if our view considers the whole child and family— the day-to-day experiences, routines, surroundings, and interactions all come in to play,” shares Jody.  

“Part of my role as a consultant for the CYC is to connect dots and look for partnerships and opportunities that support OCALI’s mission at the local, state, and national levels. It’s the diverse perspectives and experiences with people and organizations, the flow of new ideas, and seeing possibilities turn to realities that fuel me,” she says. “What I find energizing about my role at OCALI is working alongside the next generation of leadership in the field of developmental disabilities. It is a privilege to be part of such a talented group of professionals.”

One of the most exciting areas of Jody’s work in the CYC is promoting a solid understanding of how important it is to have the best start to life as early as possible and how to connect people with the right resources at the right time. From families and individuals to professionals and experts—Jody enjoys seeing the benefits and impact of early support and intervention.

“Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work with an infant with developmental disabilities in her home. Many years later, I ran into her mother who shared with me how important those early visits had been for her as a parent, and that her daughter was now an adult living on her own and employed in the community. Yes, it showed my age, but on a serious note, it was a testament to the impact that early intervention can have in setting the trajectory for positive life outcomes.”

For Jody, inspiring change starts with relationships. Her affiliation and involvement with many agencies, organizations, and associations serving and advocating for Ohioans with developmental disabilities has been a source of motivation.

“We can be much smarter in our thinking and way more creative with our ideas when we sit down with the collective brainpower of a diverse group of people to innovate. For me, that is what inspiring change is all about.”  

The CYC values the relationships it has with state agency partners, educators, service providers, and other early care and education stakeholders, and most importantly, individuals and families by encouraging this collective thinking and openness that leads to positive and lasting change.

Outside of OCALI, Jody enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She has been happily married for 27 years and has two millennial sons which keep her constantly challenging herself to “raise the bar” on her technology skills. A self-proclaimed “nature lover,” Jody loves the outdoors and fitness activities. She shares, “I have spent a life-long career in the field of developmental disabilities working to create opportunities for individuals and families to live their best lives. But truth be told, it has been those individuals and families that have impacted my life so deeply in ways too many to count, and I am forever grateful.”