Beyond Awareness: Acceptance  

April 24, 2015
Each of us has a need to belong. This is a simple statement with profound implications. Psychologist Abraham Maslow, in creating his hierarchy of needs, included belongingness as a major motivator of human behavior. Belonging can often mean fitting in, being like others, or adopting behaviors that the majority of us endorse as “normal.” 
Benefits to belonging include knowing others understand our perspective, share similar interests and demonstrate sense of caring for us. This leads people to feel secure. For most individuals, becoming a part of a group or belonging is not too difficult. For other people, like those on the autism spectrum, differences in communication, social interaction, and behavior/interests can result in barriers to belonging. A key to breaking down barriers is awareness. With knowledge about the characteristics of individuals with autism comes awareness that while individuals on the autism spectrum are different, they share commonalities with all of us. This leads to an increased ability to understand and appreciate those with autism with their uniqueness. Increased awareness fosters acceptance. 

April is Autism Awareness Month. Increasing belongingness through Circle of Friends (CoF) programs is one focus of Autism Action Partnership (AAP), a Nebraska-based non-profit. The AAP Circle of Friends webpage devoted to Autism Awareness has great videos for autism awareness trainings. Take a look at one or more of these videos listed below to increase your own awareness or acceptance of individuals with autism. Then, forward this list to others, letting them know which one is your favorite. 

Just Like You Autism-on the Autism Action Partnership website there are questions to facilitate group discussion 
Arthur: When Carl Met George
Autism Awareness-10 Things You Should Know
‘A’ is For Autism, ‘F’ is For Friend
A Teens Guide to Autism
World Autism Awareness Day Ontario
Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew
Intro to Autism for Kids

The following link to the Circle of Friends webpage includes videos listed above as well as news about autism awareness activities occurring across the state  

Goals of the Central Region Autism Spectrum Disorders Team (CRASDT) focus primarily on assisting school districts in providing quality education opportunities for children with ASD. This entails providing training on a state-wide, regional, and district basis as well as responding to referrals with technical assistance. In addition, CRASDT has over 450 materials, including books, CDs and DVDs, on topics related to autism.

-by Dawna Sigurdson, ESU 10 School Psychologist