April kicks off autism awareness month: a month to focus on a disorder that impacts every school, every teacher, and an increasingly high number of families in every state in the nation. According to CBS News, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) impact 1 in 41 children in the U.S. this year. Moreover, New Jersey has the highest prevalence of autism in the nation. AutismNewJersey.org reports that in 2016 the rates of ASD cases rose higher in the state than anywhere else, though no reason seems to be given as to why. Needless to say, this is a great time to look closer at what can be done to help children on the spectrum to perform at their optimal levels, while also assisting parents with great resources to help make home-life better.
Teachers today have a unique burden of needing their classrooms to be autism-friendly, all the while keeping them running smoothly for every other student in the class. From flexible seating plans (see Edutopia research on this strategy) to sensory aids, like fluorescent light filters (ThoughtCo.com,) there is a rich array of strategies, products and resources available on line for educators. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we’ve compiled some of the most helpful online destinations to help you stay on the cutting edge of helping your students succeed. Check out our resource list here to get started (or continue) on your journey.
- Autism Speaks – Autism Speaks is one of the largest autism support organizations that exist today. Aside from fantastic information about autism, Autism Speaks also hosts events, runs research studies, coordinates autism walks, and works with advocacy groups. This organization helps connect families impacted by the disorder and encourages communities to come together to help the 1 in 41 kids who are impacted. For families who have a newly diagnosed child on the spectrum this website would be a great tool for them, and it even has a search option to find support in your area.
- National Autism Resources – National Autism Resources is an online store full of items specifically made for children on the spectrum. They offer all kinds of unique products and cool ideas that teachers can implement into their classrooms to help kids feel calmer and to improve concentration. The products are broken down into 8 categories, sensory and OT, focus helpers, visual supports, social skills, oral motor, calming products, handwriting helpers, and academic intervention. Many of these tools would be invaluable to parents as well. This is a great resource that could easily be passed along to families to help their child with ASD be more relaxed and assist with homework and home-life in general.
- Organization for Autism Research – Organization for Autism Research is a great resource for teachers and school districts. The “Teachers Corner” portion of the site has great ideas on everything to do with autism and teaching, including transitioning kids on the spectrum back to school from summer break, to simply understanding the disorder and how you can make your school and classroom a safe place for all kids to learn and thrive.
- Autism Classroom Resources – Autism Classroom Resources is a site dedicated to schools and teachers that seeks to help make learning easier for kids on the autism spectrum. They provide tools and resources for the classroom, as well as onsite and online autism consulting. This unique program offers professional development and technical assistance to schools with students that have ASD. They will even work with school administrators to plan programs and evaluate current systems in place.
- Autism Community Store – Autism Community Store is an online mall consisting of hard to find autism and special needs items to make school life more doable for kids with ASD. They offer teaching aids, sensory items and awareness products that teachers may find to be invaluable.
Making school life more doable for kids on the spectrum is the goal of every good educator. Going a step even further, and helping families navigate life at home for their ASD child is something you can do as well. There are other great resources that you can pass along to the families including:
- ASD Vacations – Works specifically with families of children on the spectrum to help plan family vacations that everyone will enjoy. Children on the spectrum have unique needs, and ASD Vacations understands that, and works to find vacation solutions that work for each specific family.
- New Jersey Autism Resources (AutismSpeaks.org) – A list of programs, medical providers, and services located locally for families of children with ASD.
- NJ Department of Education – Local programs and resources.
Happy Autism Awareness Month!