Last evening we had one of our SSTAR Scout meetings. The subject of discussion was what the word advocacy meant to them. After coming to a common understanding of advocacy, we then pursued a conversation about how they might best advocate for themselves, and the benefits of doing so. What impressed me the most was the manner in which they simplistically articulated the need for others to have a real understanding of autism. With mutual understanding, their hope was to increase their ability to participate and succeed in society. One of the scouts expressed it very well when he said, “If others understand about Asperger syndrome it makes it easier for me to feel comfortable… to feel like I belong.”
As we teach our scouts how to advocate for themselves, it is imperative that society meet us half way, or at least takes steps towards understanding autism spectrum disorders. Understanding, quite literally, can improve the quality of life for an individual with an autism spectrum disorder. As one scout painfully recounted an interaction with an adult at his school, it was very clear that had she understood autism, the conversation would have taken a much different path.
I challenged the scouts to become self-advocates by taking a more active role in educating others. This puts them in a position of being proactive rather than reactive which ultimately results in much more positive outcomes.
April 14, 2012 is our 5th annual walk for autism awareness, the Autism CARE Walk at Heartspring. This is our opportunity to increase awareness in our community while raising funds for programs and services we provide for over 300 families. We’ve adopted a slogan of Care N.O.W. (No One Waits), because each and every family we serve here and around the nation is in need of services now. Not only service, they also need everyone to take a step towards a mutual understanding of autism as a spectrum disorder, so that we respect the individual and provide them with the opportunity to reach their potential, whatever that may be.
Please join us for our walk on April 14th and be a part of a community that truly cares about the future of some remarkable individuals! For more information, please visit www.autismcarewalk.org.