Community Connections: April is World Autism Awareness Month | SteamboatToday.com

Community Connections: April is World Autism Awareness Month

Yampa Valley Autism mission is to provide resources and direct services to individuals and families living with autism or other disorders to cultivate their abilities and maximize quality of life.    

We envision healthy communities in the Yampa Valley where all people are valued and accepted.

Our commitment is to provide specialized therapies, family support services, training, education, public awareness, collaboration and advocacy.

April is World Autism Awareness Month, but how about we embrace a new perspective? This year let's expand on the effort to promote autism awareness to focus on the rest of us encouraging acceptance, inclusion and ultimately to true appreciation of the unique aspects of the Autism Spectrum Disorder brain.

Let's make an effort to get one step closer to a society where those with ASD are truly valued for their unique talents and gifts.

Sometimes it is not easy to find appreciation within some of the extraordinary challenging aspects of autism. There can be extreme inflexibility and rigid thinking, difficulties with communication, awkward conversations or even physical aggression from frustration or anxiety.

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What is important to remember, is that behind the mask of Autism is a real human with intelligence, feelings, talents and love, no matter how cloaked it may be.

Our job as parents, educators, communities and employers is to help unlock the unique gifts within the autistic brain and find a way to harness and support the different perspectives.

Some theorize that ASD neurodiversity is responsible for progress of humanity; a direct result of the ability of the autistic brain to hyper-intense focus on a singular subject like flint-knapping, machine design and computers. Many of the most famous historical scientists and inventors are thought to be on the autism spectrum.

While it's great to recognize the geniuses, not all of our ASD folk are destined to be famous inventors. They all have abilities and talents that can contribute and add value to our communities, but for that to happen, it is critical that a child with ASD is identified early and provided the very best supports and therapies to bring them to the highest functional level.

The best outcomes for children with ASD requires early, intensive intervention. It's also important to have high expectations for what they can achieve to continuously push for progress and not have shame about their unique brains. Embrace it.

Most people with ASD have difficulties with social interaction and friendships, but have a strong desire to have friends and belong. Take the opportunity to be open to new friendships. Focus on their abilities and strengths, and you will be rewarded with an interesting and intriguing perspective on life.

Join in celebration for 2018 National Autism Appreciation Month. This represents an excellent opportunity to go beyond simply promoting Autism Awareness, and instead, encourage friends and collaborators to become partners in movement toward acceptance and true appreciation.

For adults on the spectrum, consider joining the Spectrum Social Group that meets informally Saturdays to socialize.

For family members coping with the challenges of autism, join the Autism Support Group that meets quarterly to learn about resources, attend trainings, connect with each other and brainstorm ideas.

Call Yampa Valley Autism at 970-870-4263 or visit yampavalleyautism.org for more information about these or our many other services available to those with ASD and other developmental disabilities.

Lisa Lorenz is the executive director and founding member of the Yampa Valley Autism Program, 20-year educator, former neuroscience research scientist and parent of an amazing adult son with ASD and a neurotypical daughter. She has lived in Steamboat Springs since 1982.