WHY BEING COMPASSIONATE TOWARDS THOSE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM IS SO IMPORTANT – BY SAVANNAH SLONE

April is Autism Awareness Month and, as a mother to a child with autism, I wanted to share my perspective on compassion and how it relates to how you treat those on the spectrum.

Autism spectrum disorder is currently present in 1 out of every 68 children in the U.S (https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0327-autism-spectrum-disorder.html). These numbers have increased exponentially over time and will most likely increase, if the pattern continues. With rates having increased 30% since 2012, we need to increase autism awareness so that children can begin receiving the help that they need as early as possible.

My now three-year-old son was developing normally until he hit a regression at 15 months. He became more serious and rigid and began toe walking, flapping his hands, spinning in circles, and lining up his toys. He lost his 10-word vocabulary and his interest in other children. This happened basically overnight and inspired me to do some research. With a concern of autism, I discussed his behaviors with his doctor. She recommended looking into getting a diagnosis and beginning early intervention services.

After my son received his diagnosis, at 21-months, he began speech, occupational, and ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. He has since made incredible progress and mainly only struggles with social issues, transitions, and a slightly lesser vocabulary than his fellow three-year-old peers. He is now in an autism specific preschool program and absolutely loves it.

While my son has made amazing strides, I worry over the possibility of another regression in the future. I also fear how his “normally” developing peers will treat him in the future. According to a study conducted by the Interactive Autism Network, “A total of 63% of 1,167 children with ASD, ages 6 to 15, had been bullied at some point in their lives” (https://www.iancommunity.org/cs/ian_research_reports/ian_research_report_bullying). Knowing that the majority of children on the spectrum have been bullied breaks my heart for my son.

The most effective way of lowering this tragic statistic is through educating our neurotypical children on what autism is and what an affect their words can make on a person. “Autism”, as defined by Autism Speaks, “refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences” (https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism). According to Psychology Today, children with autism are 28 times more likely to attempt suicide (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/aspergers-diary/201303/new-research-autism-and-suicide). If those with autism felt more accepted, I have no doubt that this statistic would be lower.

One form of educating your kids about autism is through children’s books on the topic. Below is a list of seven titles to read with your children.

1. “My Friend with Autism” by Beverly Bishop
https://www.amazon.com/My-Friend-Autism-Enhanced-Coloring/dp/193527418X

2. “My Brother Charlie” by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
https://www.amazon.com/Brother-Charlie-Holly-Robinson-Peete/dp/0545094666

3. “Everybody is Different: A Book for Young People Who Have Brothers or Sisters With Autism” by Fiona Bleach
https://www.amazon.com/Brother-Charlie-Holly-Robinson-Peete/dp/0545094666

4. “Hello, My Name is Max and I Have Autism: An Insight into the Autistic Mind” by Max Miller
https://www.amazon.com/Hello-Name-Max-Have-Autism/dp/1496922980/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491247470&sr=8-1&keywords=Hello%2C+My+Name+is+Max+and+I+Have+Autism%3A+An+Insight+into+the+Autistic+Mind

5. “I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism” by Pat Thomas
https://www.amazon.com/See-Things-Differently-First-Autism/dp/1438004796/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491247497&sr=8-1&keywords=I+See+Things+Differently%3A+A+First+Look+at+Autism

6. “Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book” by Celeste Shally
https://www.amazon.com/Since-Were-Friends-Autism-Picture/dp/1616086564/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491247507&sr=8-1&keywords=Since+We%27re+Friends%3A+An+Autism+Picture+Book

7. “All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism” by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer
https://www.amazon.com/All-My-Stripes-Children-Autism/dp/1433819171/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491247517&sr=8-1&keywords=All+My+Stripes%3A+A+Story+for+Children+with+Autism

By talking to your children about autism, and other developmental disorders, they will understand that they ought to be treated with respect as equals. Raising compassionate kids can truly save lives.

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DOING GOOD FEELS GOOD BY SAVANNAH SLONE

We’re all in this life together and I think that we can all agree that we feel more contented when we feel supported. It feels better for everyone when we’re helping each other get through it. Everyone is undergoing their own personal struggles, so when we feel heard and understood, we feel less alone.

It’s undeniable–the happiest people are the kindest people. Regardless of race, gender, religion, class, or amount of available free time, we can all incorporate kindness into our everyday lives. When we do good for others, we feel better, ourselves. Begin improving your quality of life today by demonstrating kindness and compassion. When you set an example by doing good, you inspire other to do the same.

Good deeds come in an endless variety of possibilities. Doing good can be volunteering, being more inclusive, smiling at strangers, or complimenting people. It can also be calling a friend to ask how they’re doing, being available as a listener, offering to babysit for free, paying for the person’s coffee or food who is behind you in line, or opening the door for others. Other ideas include baking cookies for a person or organization in your community, sending thank you cards, taking an acquaintance or new community member to lunch, shoveling a neighbor’s driveway, and sending letters to soldiers and/or people in the hospital.

An example of one of my go-to acts of kindness is leaving notes of encouragement in random places. I begin by cutting and decorating scrapbook paper and adding quotations or simple affirmations. Among these quotes of encouragement have been, “You are enough”, “You are worth it”, “Love yourself”, “You are beautiful”, “Good things are coming”, and others of similar nature. When I have my inspirational notes prepared, I put them on top of neighbors’ mailboxes, on community bulletin boards, under car windshield wipers, inside of travel guide brochures, and any other places that I see fit, depending on where I am. For example, I found a lot more spaces for these notes while in Seattle, in comparison to the small town I live in. Make your own notes of encouragement and get to spreading unexpected bits of happiness. I first began doing this after I came across one of these notes and it made my day. I wanted to brighten the days of others, as well.

Another great way to make a habit of practicing kindness is through Get it Going Now’s monthly kindness box. Each month, Get it Going Now subscribers receive a box which contains instructions, materials and cool souvenirs that result in a project to perform a good deed. By subscribing to Get it Going Now, you will feel inspired by your monthly opportunity to practice kindness.

Learn more about Get it Going Now here: https://www.getitgoingnow.com.

What acts of kindness have you recently practiced? Let us know in the comments section below.