Prism: Welcoming Autism Awareness Month The National Autism Information and Resource Center

From the Director

Welcoming Autism Awareness Month

By Tonia Ferguson
Director, Autism NOW Center

This month, in recognition of National Autism Awareness Month, Autism NOW is celebrating along with millions across the United States, and taking a closer look at how Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects the lives of many. As you know, ASD is a complex developmental disability that causes a wide range of social, communication and behavioral challenges. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (United States) released new estimates that 1 in 88 children in the U.S. has ASD. Autism is diagnosed in boys more often than girls and knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. The new statistics about autism prevalence and the costs seems discouraging, but recent efforts in early detection and education intervention have shown encouraging results. 

Relatives and caretakers of those with autism will tell you that it can be both the most frustrating and the most rewarding experience all at the same time. Dedicating a month to raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder brings a measure of hope to often difficult family situations across the country. Lives can be changed by knowing the challenges faced by individuals with autism and their families; a greater willingness to build meaningful connections in the community will happen with greater awareness and understanding.

The annual celebration gives us a chance to highlight the activities of the center but most importantly to highlight stories that affect individuals with ASD and their families. We ask that you take the time to read at least one article or story about autism that may come your way during your travels this month. Start here with our e-newsletter. Read it and share it with friends, co-workers, even your social network friends/followers. Let’s raise the understanding so many will look beyond the disability. When that happens, more and more people begin to really understand what millions face everyday. It’s just not about awareness because so many have heard of autism by now; it’s about acceptance. Only through understanding can there be true acceptance, and with acceptance comes awareness.

What Can I Do?

By Shelly DeButts
Marketing Associate, The Arc

There’s a lot you as an individual can you do to raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in your community. And, since April is Autism Awareness Month, that’s the perfect time to do your thing – we encourage you to pick at least one idea from the list below and make that your personal effort to raise I/DD awareness during April.
  • Post this as your status on Facebook at least once during April: April is Autism Awareness Month. Help me celebrate the contributions of all people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) by sharing this as your status during April. Get more information about ASD at 
  • Tweet this out on Twitter at least once during March: April is Autism Awareness Month. Be aware. Visit
  • Write a post for your blog about the issues facing people with ASD that are most important to you. Talk about your personal experiences or the experiences of someone you know and love. And, tell the world what you would like to see change!
  • Share your thoughts on Autism NOW and The Arc’s Facebook pages and Twitter profiles about what you are doing to raise awareness of ASD.
  • Make contacts in your own community by visiting Autism NOW’s Local Agency Directory or joining a chapter of The Arc. Local chapters are on the front lines of advocacy efforts and provide the services and supports essential to people with ASD and their families. Often, they are lifelines for struggling families and they need your help to accomplish their goals.
  • Talk to your employer about their practices for recruiting and hiring people with ASD. Many employers don’t realize just how much an employee with ASD can contribute to the workplace. Tell them.
  • Support businesses that employ people with ASD and make sure they know you noticed.

From the Co-Director
Safety tips to avoid Victimization of a Crime

By Amy Goodman
Co-Director, Autism NOW Center

Let’s take time out in April to become aware of not only autism, but how it can affect other areas of an individual’s life. Did you know that people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities tend to be more likely to be victims of crime? A survey done in 2007 by the Autism Society of America (ASA) found that 35% of individuals with autism have been the victim of a crime.

There are many reasons why an individual with an ASD may be more susceptible to victimization. A preoccupation with other interests, as well as difficulties with social communication and societal rules may cause a person with an ASD to become a target of crime. An individual with an ASD may not always know what the social norm is; therefore, he/she may be unaware of the rules in society pertaining to safety. Another reason may be due to the fact that he/she may take everything literally, which leaves room for deception. To avoid victimization, here are some safety tips that people with ASD may want to consider:
  1. Avoid areas that are unfamiliar
  2. Consider carrying a cell phone
  3. Travel in groups
  4. Do not dawdle
  5. Do not appear rushed in a crowd
  6. Park in a secure place
  7. Keep car doors locked
  8. Avoid gawking
  9. Do not maintain eye contact
  10. Let someone you trust know of your travel plans
  11. Do not carry large amounts of cash
  12. Dress appropriately for the area or situation
  13. Stay in well-lit areas
  14. Do not wander off well-traveled pedestrian walkways
In the case of an emergency or if you feel your safety is being threatened, contact the police. Other ideas include carrying an identification card that says you have ASD or other developmental disabilities. The card should include your emergency contacts and details about your diagnosis. Autism cards are available from the Roaring Fork Autism Network.

If you do find yourself being a victim or witness of a crime and wish to report it, keep in mind that you are entitled to certain accommodations and additional supports during the reporting and trial process. These may include:
  1. Having another adult to accompany you during an interview
  2. Using a screen to ensure that you cannot see the defendant in court
  3. Pre-recorded testimonies and live TV links, allowing you to testify from outside the court
  4. Allowing the witness to use communication devices
  5. A court appointed intermediary, who works with you to make sure you understand the questions being asked and to make sure your responses are understood by the interviewer
The risk of being a victim of a crime can be minimized by following some common sense rules, as well as knowing and exercising your rights. Hopefully, some of the suggestions above can help you to avoid being a victim of crime. However, if you do find yourself in that situation, remember that there is always help available. You should never feel like there is no one to turn to in a time of need. Be aware, be knowledgeable, and be safe. 

Join the Conversation

By David A. Kennedy
Online Communications Manager, Autism NOW Center

To help drive awareness for Autism Awareness Month, Autism NOW and The Arc and many other have sharing resources, ideas and information on Twitter. Join us by searching for the hashtag #AutismAware. Or simply view the #AutismAware hashtag here.

Today's Webinar

By Jennifer Sladen
Program Associate, Autism NOW Center

Don't forget this week's webinar:

People Taking Responsibility for Advocacy in Their Own Lives
Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), the presenters of our most popular webinar yet, is back on April 10th with a new webinar that you do not want to miss! Register today!

Time: Tuesday, April 10, 2012, from 2:00 to 3:00 PM EST
Speakers: SABE Leaders (Max Barrows, Betty Williams, Chester Finn, John Britton, Bernard Baker and Nancy Ward)

Hmmm….who is the boss in your life? It is amazing how many self-advocates lead the way by speaking up to legislators and serving on boards. When it comes to your life, are you really in charge? In this webinar, you’ll:
  • learn how to ask for support to make changes in your life.
  • hear stories from peer leaders who have struggled with this issue.
  • come away with strategies to take responsibility for advocacy in your own life.
Space is limited. Reserve your seat now for the April 10, 2012 webinar.

And remember, you can always give suggest a topic for a webinar by visiting our submit a resource form and selecting "An idea for a webinar topic."

Get Involved with Autism NOW!

You can participate in many ways. Each time you engage with the center, you help us work toward our mission of being a dynamic and interactive, highly visible and effective central point of quality resources and information for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, their families, and other targeted key stakeholders.

Find out how to participate

Autism in the News

Copyright © 2012 The Arc of the United States, Inc and Autism NOW, All rights reserved.
The Arc
The Autism NOW Center is a national initiative of The Arc.
The Administration on Developmental Disabilities