Happy World Autism Awareness Month (WAAM) to all of our readers!

In this special post, JKP authors share their personal plans for the month ahead, what they’ll be doing to raise awareness, and what their hopes are for the future.

Susan Moreno

Susan Moreno is the Founder and president of MAAP Services, Inc. and co-author of The Partner’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome

How will you be celebrating WAAM?

I am asking all of my friends and neighbors to display autism awareness jewelry and ribbons on their apparel, and am asking them to light up the front of their homes with green lights supporting our state’s chapter of the Autism Society of America – the Autism Society of Indiana. We are distributing green ribbons for people to tie on front lawn trees and bannisters.

Also, I will be doing my daily work of reaching out to families world-wide through my work at MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger Syndrome. I have also asked my local churches to say prayers for our autism population, their families and the researchers who are trying to find answers to the mystery of autism.

Since this is the beginning of Autism Awareness Month, I will be doing a talk at local churches about how to help and encourage families with autism. We will request replies and donations on our website, as well.

What is your greatest hope for the Autism community during WAAM?

That we join forces to enact effective laws in all countries to properly educate and support people with autism. That all people in the autism community focus on positive action and not divisiveness. No matter what organization we support or what level of autism we deal with, we must focus on our shared needs and missions!

Wendy Lawson

Dr Wendy Lawson is a psychologist, qualified counsellor and social worker, and author of many books including Concepts of Normality, Life Behind Glass, and The Passionate Mind.

How will you be celebrating WAAM?

I am excited about World Autism Day because it gives us an opportunity to celebrate who we are whilst raising further awareness of our skills and talents. I’m presenting at a conference in the north of England on the day, so will be celebrating with lots of people who will share the day with me. I’d like to think that our conference will be interesting and informative. We focus too much upon the negatives in autism, which doesn’t always help our cause. So I’m looking forward to focussing upon our strengths to help build confidence in our community.

What is your greatest hope for the Autism community during WAAM?

My greatest hope for the autism community is that we are seen as a people with lots to contribute to a needy world. That the part of the world we inhabit will be all the better for our presence, gifts and dreams. I long for others to see us, know us and welcome us.

Joshua Muggleton

Joshua Muggleton is working towards a Psychology degree at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, and is the author of Raising Martians – from Crash-landing to Leaving Home.

How will you be celebrating WAAM?

With my final exams fast approaching and everything to play for, I am having to spend most of my time working. However, I am really looking forward to seeing the online presence during WAAM, and reading what other people are saying and doing.

What is your greatest hope for the Autism community during WAAM?

I believe that education is the silver bullet. With knowledge comes understanding. If even one person learns something about autism as a result of this day, in my view, it will have been a success, but with something as big as WAAM, hopefully we can educate a lot more than one person!

Ann Palmer

Ann Palmer is the parent of an adult son with autism, and has spent the last 20 years working as the Parent Support Coordinator for Division TEACCH and the Director of Advocacy and Chapter Support for the Autism Society of North Carolina, USA. Her forthcoming book is A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting Families Living with Autism.

How will you be celebrating WAAM?

On World Autism Awareness Day (April 2nd), I wore my Autism Awareness accessories and proudly shared with others my pride in my son and the many contributions individuals with ASD make in our world every day. I also reached out to my beloved autism community that has added so much to my life.

I am spending most of April speaking at autism support groups and book stores to promote my new book. The support of our families and friends is crucial and parents raising a child with ASD, their extended family members, and their friends need to support each other. I am excited about reaching out to those who may love someone on the Autism Spectrum but don’t know what to do and how to help.

What is your greatest hope for the Autism community during WAAM?

My greatest hope is that the increasing knowledge and awareness about ASD around the world will eventually eliminate the ignorance and discrimination that individuals with ASD and their families continue to face.

Eileen Riley-Hall

Eileen Riley-Hall is a high school English teacher at an inclusive public school in New York State, USA, and the mother of two teenage girls on the Autism Spectrum. She is the author of the new book, Parenting Girls on the Autism Spectrum.

How will you be celebrating WAAM?

On World Autism Awareness Day (April 2nd), I celebrated by taking my daughters out to their favourite Mexican restaurant because I think they are amazing, autism and all. I believe every part of my beautiful daughters is worth celebrating.

I will be wearing an Autism Awareness Shirt to work to celebrate the diversity of human beings, and I hope to be engaging many of my co-workers and students (I am a teacher) in positive conversations about what autism is and how the world can better accommodate those whose brains work a bit differently. I will also be doing a lesson in all my classes that relates to autism awareness, perhaps a short piece of writing that describes the world from the point of view of someone with autism, and then a discussion.

What is your greatest hope for the Autism community during WAAM?

My wish would be for the walls between those we view as “normal” and those we see as “disabled” to disappear. I wish people would understand that having a developmental challenge in no way diminishes a person’s wholeness or worth as a human being. Autism is just a part of a person, not the entire person. People with autism still have unique personalities, feelings, interests, and hopes. They are just as capable of love and attachment. It is a communication challenge, but in no way diminishes the heart of a person. I think if people could understand that, we could eliminate the prejudice our loved ones so often face and we could improve services and assistance for those on the spectrum. My greatest wish is for those with autism to be loved and valued just as they are.

Kay Al-Ghani

Kay Al-Ghani is a special educational needs (SEN) teacher who has worked for more than 30 years in the field of education, and a mother of a son with ASD, the illustrator Haitham Al-Ghani. She is the author of Learning About Friendship, From Home to School with Autism, Making the Move and the popular children’s book, The Red Beast.

How will you be celebrating WAAM?

Last year on World Autism Awareness Day, Haitham and I were invited to the Museum of Childhood in London to read our book, The Red Beast. We enjoyed it so much that Haitham has asked to go there again, so I think we will make a return visit this year.

World Autism Awareness Month is a time for me to take stock of all that has happened in the last year. As an Autism trainer, I suppose most days are autism awareness days to me. However, this year we embarked on a new venture that involves going into schools, giving whole school assemblies and working with children who wanted to learn about ASD and who are interested in becoming autism champions. As part of this initiative, Haitham and I have been invited into local mainstream schools to promote our children’s books.

What is your greatest hope for the Autism community during WAAM?

Creating children who will be able to act as champions for children with autism, and who will set up a framework for the future when the increasing numbers of children on the autism spectrum will change to increasing numbers of adults with autism in our communities. If we start to educate all children, then perhaps in years to come we can ensure that communities will recognise and care about people who have an ASD.

If we are successful, those involved in loving and caring for individuals with Autism will be able to approach the future without fear. Perhaps having ASD and coping with a different view of the world will come to be seen as a badge of honour, worthy of our respect and admiration.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

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