There are so many ways to be a person in our world, and neurodiversity is part of the equation.

Every April has become known as Autism Acceptance Month. Autism Acceptance Month was created as an alternative to Autism Awareness Month, and last year it was formerly adopted by the Autism Society. There will be all kinds of acknowledgements and information shared over the course of the month to celebrate those in our community who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. No matter how you celebrate and spread awareness with our neurodiverse community members, we encourage you to also advocate for autism acceptance. The Autism Society’s call to action is: #CelebrateDifferences.Autism Awareness and Acceptance

If you are interested in learning more about autism, here are a few local resources:

  • Chicago Autism Network is a nonprofit dedicated to helping locals find and afford effective autism therapy & supports.
  • The Answer Inc is an organization based in Forest Park that provides support, resources, education, recreation, and advocacy, for families living with Autism and other Developmental Differences
  • Oak-Leyden Developmental Services is an organization that offers playgroups, early intervention, evaluations and screenings, and therapy services to young children and their families.

In addition, Shannon Ellison, Manager of Health and Development here at the Collaboration for Early Childhood, is a member of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, Tau Xi Zeta Chapter. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated has a national team focused on initiatives that support autism acceptance and awareness and provides free, short courses to help more people learn about ASD. You can access the courses here.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated has established a partnership with Micah’s Voice. Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men created Micah’s Voice in honor of his son, who was diagnosed with autism at age two. Micah’s Voice is an organization that provides community, hope and financial support to families affected by autism. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated and Micah’s Voice have come together to build awareness, strengthen advocacy and execute fundraising to support families of children with autism.

When we celebrate, let’s remember that words matter in neurodiversity. The Harvard Medical School explains it like this:

Neurodiversity advocates encourage inclusive, nonjudgmental language. While many disability advocacy organizations prefer person-first language (“a person with autism,” “a person with Down syndrome”), some research has found that the majority of the autistic community prefers identity-first language (“an autistic person”). Therefore, rather than making assumptions, it is best to ask directly about a person’s preferred language, and how they want to be addressed. Knowledge about neurodiversity and respectful language is also important for clinicians, so they can address the mental and physical health of people with neurodevelopmental differences.

The Collaboration for Early Childhood exists to support all children 0-5 and the people who care for them. We examine local systems and create ways to impact capacity and to provide resources, information, and support for families and providers. We invite you to learn about the signs and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder. You can learn more by visiting our Developmental Referral and Services Directory and clicking on the “Autism Assessment” tab to see more organizations that do this work.

All young children in our community deserve to get the support and services they need as early as possible, so that they may reach their full potential, and be their true selves. If you have questions about your child’s development, reach out to us. Our door is always open.

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