Ways You Can Spread Autism Awareness Beyond the Month of April

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Zachary H. Morford, PhD, BCBA-D

Lucero Neri-Hernandez, MS, BCBA

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21 Media, LLC

April is autism awareness month. Launched over two decades ago by the Autism Society, the whole month is designed to bring awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to those who may know nothing or who may be misinformed about ASD, and to increase acceptance of individuals diagnosed with ASD. A causal glance at Google trend data indicate that these awareness efforts might be temporarily successful—over the past 5 years global Google searches for the phrase “ASD” spike around the end of March and first week in April, and bottom out during roughly the last two weeks in December. ASD is a chronic diagnosis affecting over 3.5 million Americans, and over 76 million people worldwide. It can carry significant challenges for the individuals who are diagnosed and their friends and families, so it’s critical that ASD awareness efforts continue past April. Here are a few simple suggestions for how you could help in that effort.

  1. Educate yourself before spreading awareness. This is perhaps the most important item on this list. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of ensuring that the information you spread about ASD is correct. An article from FactCheck.org provides some helpful guidelines for identifying whether your information is credible. While this article focuses on fake news articles, its recommendations apply to finding information about ASD as well. At the top of the list of recommendations is to consider the source. For ASD, you can find reliable information from several organizations (e.g., Autism Society and Autism Speaks), peer-reviewed research, and credible news outlets.
  2. Use social media to spread awareness. Social media can be an incredible tool for garnering attention, especially when you have a large following. In fact, this month Autism Speaks has put together a mosaic of pictures people have shared from Facebook and Instagram designed to raise awareness and acceptance of ASD. Given the variety of social media platforms, and the variety of media (i.e., text, pictures, video, etc.) that one can use, the limit is really one’s imagination in terms of what you can do to spread awareness. A look at the #AutismAwareness tag on twitter provides some suggestions, including sharing relevant stories, pictures, and events while ensuring HIPPA compliance.
  3. Attend events to support the cause. There are a huge number of events designed to raise awareness and money to support organizations and individuals with ASD, and to provide education about ASD and the latest research on ASD. One of the most well known are the Autism Speaks Walks held throughout the nation. Other events include national Autism Speaks events, ABAI conferences (including an annual autism conference), ABAI state-chapter conferences, and the Autism Society national conference. There are likely many other local events which we are leaving out here.
  4. Talk to people about ASD and introduce them to individuals with Time-tested and proven, merely talking to people about ASD can help as much as our other suggestions. While a personal conversation may not go viral like a social media post, it can be significantly more meaningful, especially if you share your personal stories and experiences. If possible and assuming both parties are willing, try to introduce your friends and family to an individual with ASD. Reading about ASD and re-tweeting social media posts can only go so far. There is really no replacement for acquiring personal experience with an individual with ASD.
  5. Become an advocate in your state. Another critical element of education and awareness involves advocacy. For example, Autism Speaks engages in advocacy efforts to increase research funding, financial tools, and improved healthcare and supports for individuals with ASD. Several regional chapters of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, for example, have worked successfully with their state legislators to pass licensure laws in the state, laws which are designed to ensure that treatment for individuals with ASD is provided by qualified practitioners, and that said treatment is high quality, safe, and necessary.

If you are a parent looking for more information on autism treatment, feel free to contact begin@verbalbeginnings.com for additional resources.

Zach Morford, PhD, BCBA-D, has been in the field of behavior analysis for 10 years. In that time, he has worked in varied areas of behavior analysis, including autism, animal training, OBM, education, and instructional design. Dr. Morford has also taught undergraduate and graduate behavior analysis courses at three different universities, presented internationally, trained behavior analysts in Italy and Saudi Arabia, and published peer-reviewed papers in multiple behavior analytic outlets regarding applied, experimental, and theoretical issues. His primary interest in the field is the large-scale application of behavioral principles to issues of social importance. Currently, Dr. Morford serves as the Executive Director of the Texas Association for Behavior Analysis (TxABA), and is the co-owner and founder of Zuce Technologies, LLC, a small-business consulting and instructional design company. You can contact him at zachm@zucetech.com.

Lucero Neri-Hernandez, MS, BCBA holds two BA degrees in Rehabilitation Studies and Applied Behavior Analysis and a MS degree in Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas (UNT). Lucero has worked to help minority and low socio-economic high school students apply and attend college, brining over 60,000 2nd to 9th grade students to UNT’s campus to experience college life and higher education—a 200% improvement over the previous year. As a graduate student Lucero designed and taught university courses, provided clinical services for undergraduates, and co-chaired and organized the professional conferences, and trained domestic and exotic animals. Lucero also worked in a life skills classroom in a public middle school, where she and her colleagues improved the problem solving of the staff and students in the class skills using an approach known as Talk Aloud Problem Solving (TAPS).

Lucero is an experienced educator and instructional designer, and has designed and implemented several educational strategies, including Direct Instruction, Precision Teaching, TAPS. As a BCBA, educator, and researcher with several years of experience working with people with disabilities and other underrepresented populations, Lucero is deeply passionate about using her skills and experience to improve peoples’ quality of life through education programs and various access to resources.

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org.  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurialbSciWebDesignbSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org

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