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Autism Awareness Month 2019

Use the hashtag #AutismAwarenessMonth on twitter and be sure to wear blue on April 2nd - World Autism Awareness Day!

April is National Autism Awareness month, a time to focus on children and adults living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). With the CDC declaring that 1 in 59 children may be impacted by ASD, it’s a fair bet that each one of us knows someone with autism or someone who has a family member or friend with autism. Many people are talking about challenges to be overcome – but here at The Arc Westchester, we choose to focus on accomplishments to be achieved. We work toward the goal of full inclusion in our community, showing, by example, that everyone benefits when individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, become productive members of society. It starts with our youngest children attending The Children's School for Early Development. From our early intervention program supporting infants and toddlers to preschool classes in the community settings, our focus is on supporting families and building independence and inclusion for children to grow and thrive in their communities. 

On April 2, the 2019 World Autism Awareness Day observance at United Nations Headquarters in New York will focus on the importance of “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”. For many people on the autism spectrum, access to affordable assistive technologies is a prerequisite to being able to exercise their basic human rights and participate fully in the life of their communities, and thereby contribute to the realization of the SDGs. Assistive technology can reduce or eliminate the barriers to their participation on an equal basis with others.

The Arc Westchester is proud to say that we continue to be ahead of this initiative. Four years ago we held our first Technology Supports Conference for People with Cognitiive Disabilities. Our latest conference, held on March 28, 2019, welcomed over 160 educators, professionals, families and individuals with disabilities the opportunity to explore the latest technologies that can assist individuals to Learn, Work and Live.

The Project SEARCH Autism Enhancement package we participate in grew out of a vocational and internship program that NEXT for AUTISM founded and operated from 2011 to 2016. Called Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism (PSCA), that demonstration program provided high school seniors with employment skills, workplace immersion, and job placement. Students participated in three internship rotations at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and were coached in work, communications, interpersonal and other life skills. Graduates have found successful job placements in prestigious local businesses like Regeneron, Home Depot, Dannon, Jackson Lewis LLP and with government agencies such as the Yonkers District Attorney’s office, to name only a few. 

We have also taken the steps to introduce our staff to the methods of teaching used by the University of North Carolina's TEACCH® Autism Program. The program is based on understanding each individual's strength and working together to achieve success. Many of the successful techniques are applied to work, school and home environments for students and adults with autism.

Individuals with Autism should be embraced as vital, productive members of our community who earn a living wage, participate in meaningful activities and develop supportive friendships. Many organizations, including  The Arc of the US,  have developed programs to help individuals with autism live fully productive lives.

This month is a time for us to educate our community about autism. Spreading autism awareness is a great way to celebrate April and promote inclusion and acceptance in our world for people with autism and other developmental disabilities.