Autism Awareness (and Our Support) Should Be Local Too

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While the increase of “awareness” days have done their job, and we are all more aware of many things recently, the very first Autism Awareness Month was recognized by The Autism Society in 1970.   It was adopted by Congress in 1984, and in 1999 the multicolored puzzle-piece ribbon was released as the symbol of Autism Awareness.

Since then, however, Autism Awareness has seemingly been taken over by one certain organization, and the new symbol consists of blue lightbulbs.  I will not be bashing this particular organization in this article, but I would like to bring some… awareness to the issue.

Autism is a local thing.  It’s in your family, your neighborhood, your children’s schools. Autism is in your community.  And so are the resources and services specifically designed for children, adults, and families affected by autism.

If autism is local, and the services and resources are local, shouldn’t our awareness be local? Shouldn’t our donations be local? Shouldn’t our efforts to support those with autism benefit those in our very own communities?

Here in RI the Autism Project of Rhode Island provides support groups, social skills groups, summer camps, trainings and workshops, consultation to schools, and so much more.  Those services directly assist our friends and family who live in Rhode Island. That big national organization?  They will refer your friend or family member to the Autism Project of RI for services and assistance.

In Massachusetts, there are 7 regional autism projects providing resources and support services to children and adults with autism, and their families.  In Southeastern MA, that center is Community Autism Resources. If you’re on the Northern border of our great state, the Autism Resource Central, a part of HMEA, is where your MA friends and family likely receive support.

If you are planning to donate to benefit Autism Awareness (now also being referred to as Autism Acceptance, with a new symbol- the multicolored infinity sign, at the request of individuals with autism who have been speaking out), please, please, please make sure your donation goes to a local autism resource and service center.  Do not send your hard earned dollars to multi-million dollar organizations simply because you see a lot of blue this month.

For more ways to support Autism Acceptance Month, follow allow with Community Autism Resources on Facebook for 30 days of Autism Acceptance, and donate to the Autism Project of RI today for #401gives. Find autistic adults who have platforms, and listen to what they are saying. Support autistic artists, and businesses. Read books, and talk to your children.

You can read these articles about autism from our very own Providence Mom team members:

Autism Isn’t A Dirty Word

Helping Families Ride the Waves of Autism

If nothing else, reach out to a family member or friend with autism. Beyond donating money, local support means actually being there for our people.

If you’d like to read more about the blue lightbulb and it’s issues, you can find some great articles here, here, and here.

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Brooke Rainville
Brooke has spent most of her life in Rhode Island, having grown up in Foster, and moving back to RI after high school in Foxboro, MA. Since becoming a foster parent in 2005, she has cared for 8 children with special needs. The first child placed in her home is now 22, and continues to both brighten and challenge her days. She is stepmom to two young children, who brighten and challenge her days in totally different ways. Brooke has worked with people with special needs for 17 years and currently works as a case manager for children with autism at a non-profit in Southeastern MA. She feels strongly that raising tiny, adorable beings up into functioning, kind, emotionally stable adults is hard, and we all, as mothers, aunts, stepmothers, foster mothers, friends, and grandmothers, have a role in making that easier for each other. Every child (and adult for that matter) we come into contact with will either be better or worse off for the experience, and we should take that seriously, while extending grace to those along with us on this journey. Brooke is passionate about serving others (although she sometimes struggles to do so cheerfully) and advocating for those who can not advocate for themselves. She loves Jesus, a well made gin and tonic, home renovation, and overlooking the dog hair on her floors.

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