Autism Awareness Month: How to Support the Cause

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By Marianna Reilly

April 2, 2012 — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children in the U.S. is affected with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – a statistic that represents an increase of 78% since 2002.

Cardinal Dolan visits the workshop of Possibili-Tees, an organization that employs autistic and developmentally delayed individuals to produce custom screen-printed apparel and promotional items.

This figure is even more troubling in light of new research showing that these children are bullied and emotionally abused by their peers at an above-average rate.

A recent survey of 1,200 parents of autistic children found that 63% of children with an ASD were bullied by their peers. The survey, conducted by the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Interactive Autism Network, found that this bullying is often intended to instigate the emotional “meltdowns” that autistic children can suffer from.

Today, the United Nations recognizes World Autism Awareness Day to “spur action and draw attention to the unacceptable discrimination, abuse and isolation experienced by people with autism and their loved ones,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a written statement.

Throughout the month of April, observed as Autism Awareness Month, Catholic Charities encourages you to get involved in this important cause. Want an easy way to start? Learn about Possibili-Tees, an innovative nonprofit established as part of the work-training program at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin (MIV), a Catholic Charities sponsored agency. Possibili-Tees produces custom-designed t-shirts and promotional items, and also provides gainful employment and job skills training to young adults with ASDs and other developmental disorders.

In a 2011 article in Autism Advocate, Possibili-Tees founder Tom Siniscalchi lamented the lack of employment opportunities for individuals with ASDs and the hesitance of employers to hire them. “It’s a great workforce, Just untapped,” Siniscalchi said of people with autism.  “After graduation… just a few [young adults with autism] end up landing jobs, and often it’s because their parents know somebody.”

You can support the workers at Possibili-Tees by ordering promotional items or screen-printed apparel for your company, school, or event.

Looking for more ways to learn more and get involved? Check out the resources below, and leave a comment to share your own favorite resources with us.

Autism Awareness Month Resources

Cardinal Hayes Home

Cardinal Hayes Home is a not-for-profit agency pro­viding residential care and treatment for young people who are developmentally disabled. The agency accepts ambulatory and non-ambulatory young people who are severely intellectually disabled. The individuals in the agency’s care are multi-handicapped. Some have a diagnosis of autism, others have cerebral palsy, epilepsy or neurological impairment.

Kennedy Child Study Center

The Kennedy Child Study Center is a nonprofit agency dedicated to assisting very young children who experience significant difficulties in learning and other areas of early childhood development. Additionally, Kennedy Child Study Center provides direct services and supports to parents and other caregivers as they seek to provide a rich family life in which these children can thrive.

How to Stop a Bully

How do we fight the dangerous cycles of bullying and hazing? Psychologist Dr. Susan Lipkins speaks with Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan about something she calls “Vulture Culture,” outlines the warning signs of hazing and offers suggestions for how to halt cruel and destructive behaviors.

Parish resources for Autism Awareness Month, from The National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

“Light it Up Blue”: Join Autism Speaks in replacing one of your lights with a blue light to “shine a light” on the cause.

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism (book)

Read one of the first books to explore firsthand the challenges of living with autism. At the age of two, Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with severe autism and an oral motor condition that prevented her from speaking. In Carly’s Voice, her father blends Carly’s own words with his story of getting to know his daughter.

Chamber Music Benefit Concert to support Autism Awareness Month (April 14)

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