April is Autism Acceptance Month! Let’s join together to promote inclusion and connectedness for people with autism this month and all year long, too. Social and community support can help people with autism achieve optimal health and reach their full potential. Looking for ways to celebrate or learn more? We’ve gathered together a few resources and local events that we invite you to engage in.

Upcoming Events:

  • April 3, RESCHEDULED TO JUNE 4, 7:00 p.m. (Virtual) – Special Event with Dr. Temple Grandin hosted by the Forest Park Public Library and Illinois Libraries Present. Dr. Temple Grandin is one of the world’s most accomplished and well-known adults with autism. Dr. Grandin has been at the forefront of research and activism for autism and neurodiversity for decades. Her memoir, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, was published in 1986 and she has continued to write about autism and neurodivergence over the decades. Her most recent book is Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions.
  • April 14, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Virtual Book Club – In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, CAYR Connections will be discussing “Sincerely, Your Autistic Child,” a collection of 30 short vignettes written and edited by Autistic people themselves. Attendees will have the opportunity to enter in a giveaway for the next book club pick! Join on on 4/14 to discuss Sincerely, Your Autistic Child: What People on the Autism Spectrum Wish Their Parents Knew About Growing Up, Acceptance, and Identity by Sharon daVanport & Emily Paige Ballou, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
  • April 29, 7:00 p.m. at the Oak Park Public LibraryNormalizing Neurodivergence: Understanding ADHD and Autism Caregiver Workshop. When you think about autism or ADHD, do you picture a boy in a school? Are you or your neurodivergent family member looking for support to help explain your needs? Curious about neurodivergence in general? Books and media often only share one narrow way to be neurodivergent, when in fact there are infinite ways! This workshop will explore facts and dispel myths about autism and ADHD by listening to self-advocates of all ages. Presented by Ms. Shelley, a neurodivergent librarian. Ms. Shelley partnered with us to create this “Resources for Children with Disabilities” webpage, which has lots of great information on it.

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

  • 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.
  • Come As You Are (CAYR) Connections is a Chicago-based organization that aims to increase the accessibility of inclusive, neurodiversity-affirming resources to families, child care centers, schools, and organizations. You can find events, and resources on their website and social media.
  • The Resource Center for Autism and Developmental Delays provides support for those who care for, teach and serve children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or other developmental delays. RCADD serves families currently enrolled in an Early Head Start or Head Start program as well as others throughout the Chicagoland area. RCADD offers support at no cost to in the form of resources, referrals, training and ongoing consultations for families and professionals.
  • Center for Autism and Related Disorders is one of the world’s largest and most experienced applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment providers and they have locations across the United States. Their Oak Park center is located at 6930 Roosevelt Road.

In addition, Shannon Ellison, Director of Programs and Contracts 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 autism. You can access the courses here.

Understanding autism with young children

There is more and more representation of people with autism in the media, and many of these characters help young children (and their caregivers) who do not have autism better understand how to be a friend. Did you know that in 2015 Sesame Street introduced a new muppet named Julia who has autism? You and your little one can watch Bird Bird get to know more about Julia when he meets for for the first time. Daniel Tiger also has a friend named Max who has autism. Daniel Tiger learns that Max loves to play with buses and finds a different way to play that works for both of them. Pablo is a cartoon about a little boy who is on the autism spectrum. It was developed in 2017 and all the main characters – Pablo and his animal friends – are voiced by autistic actors, while the writing team for the series is also all autistic. Pablo’s experiences offer a window into how children with autism think about and approach situations, and it can help people who aren’t autistic support and understand their experiences better, too!

If you are looking for neurodiversity-affirming toys, MEAVIA Toys is a company that designs well-considered toys and tools to aid in the development of children with autism and kids with other learning and developmental challenges. They will be donating a portion of their proceeds to the Collaboration for Early Childhood during the month of April and are offering a 10% discount on purchases during the month as well! (Promo Code: Aprillove)

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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