April is Autism Acceptance Month

photo of Leigh Anne Wenning

By Superintendent Leigh Anne Wenning

April is Autism Acceptance Month! In past years, we celebrated Autism Awareness in April, but people on the Autism Spectrum deserve more than awareness. They deserve acceptance and inclusion. About 1 in 44 U.S. children are identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to the Center for Disease Control.

A diagnosis of ASD can be completed by a doctor and involves looking at a person’s developmental history and behavior. The diagnosis is considered a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact, communicate, and learn. Children with a diagnosis of ASD are often eligible for services provided by their local county board of developmental disabilities.

The Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD) provides services for children and adults with Autism. One of the first services we can provide is Early Intervention and PLAY. I wrote about Early Intervention last month. The PLAY Project is an evidence-based, intensive autism early intervention. The Shelby County Board of DD shares one employee with the Champaign County Board of DD certified as a PLAY consultant. This employee has undergone rigorous training in order to provide quality services to children as young as 18 months in our county. The program is designed to engage children in a natural way and to empower the parents and caregivers to help their child build skills through play.

A student with ASD may be eligible for special education services in school. And as they become young adults, they may need assistance with job skills. The Shelby County Board of DD can provide assistance in the form of a case manager, or what we call a Service and Support Administrator, to help navigate and make sure that needs are being met, along with other specialized services.

Every person is different and wants something unique from their life. That is no different for people with a disability. Many of the people we serve have jobs and go to work. We even work with some individuals who go to college. Just like everyone else, people with a diagnosis of ASD have likes, dislikes, and hopes and dreams.

At the Shelby County Board of DD, we believe that including everyone makes our community a better place. For more information on the Shelby County Board of DD, check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/shelbydd.org or our website at www.shelbydd.org.