April is Autism Awareness Month. Here are some ideas for how you can celebrate as a parent of a child with autism.
Here are 10 easy, inexpensive suggestions for celebrating Autism Awareness Month that your child may be able to participate in.
1. Celebrate your teachers and therapists
During the month of April, you and your child with autism can help celebrate Autism Awareness Month by doing something special for the educators and therapists involved in your child’s life. Simple gifts like a plate of homemade cookies, a thank-you note, or a homemade card from your child would be a wonderful way for you to thank your child’s teacher, speech therapist, school principal, occupational therapist, etc.
2. Celebrate with your child’s classmates
Your autistic child may interact with many other children during their school day. Most students who don’t have autism may have no idea that April is Autism Awareness Month. Imagine how excited they would be if you made arrangements with their teacher to celebrate this occasion by having your child bring cupcakes for all of them. Even something as simple as a class popcorn party can allow the other students in class to view your child as a “giver” and someone they can interact with.
3. Bulletin boards
Decorating bulletin boards within the school is a great and inexpensive way to provide information about autism to others. With the permission of the teacher, students in your child’s class can assist with decorating a bulletin board to help celebrate Autism Awareness Month. Art teachers within your school generally have excellent ideas on how to involve students in demonstrating their creativity. They can use those skills to display information about autism to engage and educate other students and staff members in the school.
4. Blue day
Some communities celebrate Autism Awareness Month by displaying blue lights. Homes and businesses will replace their regular light bulbs with blue ones. It is a wonderful way to actively involve the community in celebrating autism. At school, Autism Awareness Month could be celebrated by placing blue lightbulbs in classroom lamps. Classroom doors could be covered with blue construction paper for the month. Students could be encouraged to wear blue t-shirts on Fridays to celebrate autism.
5. Principal’s newsletter
Many school principals produce and distribute a weekly newsletter to parents. As a parent, you can work with your child’s school principal to place information in the newsletter about autism during the month of April.
This information could involve: a fact sheet about autism, tips for parents on what to do if they want to refer their child for an autism evaluation, an explanation from an autism parent about how parents can explain autism to their children, a weekly fun question about autism that parents can discuss with their child at home, a letter from an older student discussing what it is like to have autism, etc.
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6. Show a movie
Showing a movie is a great way for students or even your family members to learn more about autism. Teachers can show an autism related movie to their students. Parents can host a movie night in their home. Your extended family members, friends or neighbors could be invited to learn more about autism.
There are many great movies to select from. Some you might want to consider could include:
- Temple Grandin
- Best Kept Secret
- Rain Man
- The Horse Boy
7. Adults with autism
Parents can assist teachers with locating adults in the community who have autism. These adults would make excellent speakers to have in your child’s classroom. Students will learn about the lives of these adults with autism and how it has impacted them. It can create a safe and comfortable environment for children to ask questions. Children will get an opportunity to see the contributions adults with autism can make to the community.
Teachers can work with the students in their classroom to identify well-known people with autism. Students can also discuss the contributions these autistic adults have made. Such individuals that could be studied could include:
- Tim Burton
- Susan Boyle
- Temple Grandin
8. Sponsor a contest
Consider approaching your school and asking teachers to be involved with celebrating Autism Awareness Month. They could sponsor a school competition about “Random Acts of Kindness.”
Each student at the school could be given a puzzle piece. Puzzle pieces are recognized as a symbol for autism. Students could put their names on their puzzle pieces and paint the puzzle pieces blue.
Then students can be encouraged to perform “Random Acts of Kindness” with people throughout the school. As an “Act of Kindness” is performed, the student can collect a puzzle piece from the person they are doing the kind act for.
At the end of the day, the students with the most puzzle pieces can be celebrated. The PTA could offer small prizes to these students. The principal could place the names of the winners in the school newsletter or a “Random Act of Kindness” bulletin board could be developed in the school. Students performing the most acts of kindness could have their names displayed, or classes demonstrating the most acts of kindness could be offered a movie party (that involves watching a movie about autism).
9. Read a book
Parents can encourage the school librarian to get involved with celebrating Autism Awareness Month. Librarians can display books dealing with autism for students to select from.
Librarians can also volunteer to go to your child’s classroom and read a book about autism to your child’s class. There are many books dealing with autism or books featuring autistic characters that your school librarian could select. Some examples are:
- There’s Something Different About Dad – Kirsti Evans and John Swogger
- Ian’s Walk – Laurie Lears and Karen Ritz
- Andy and His Yellow Frisbee – Mary Thompson
- Tobin Learns To Make Friends – Diane Murrell.
10. Involving other parents
Parents of children with autism can become actively involved in their child’s school by joining the school PTA. As an active member of the PTA, you can remind them that April is Autism Awareness month. The PTA could sponsor an essay writing or poetry contest centered on an autism theme. They could work with the school physical education teacher to develop an activity day in the gym with games, activities or even a “Walk For Autism Day”. The PTA could also sponsor a bake sale. The money raised could be used to buy a piece of equipment for children in the autism classroom or for various fidgets or sensory devices for students with autism.