AUTA

Autism & Us Together Advancing

Inclusion for a new Normal

MISSION:

To improve the quality of post-secondary and adult life for individuals affected by autism, with a focus on inclusive peer networking, suitable job and other skills training sites, as well as other inclusive community engagement opportunities.

VISION:

For every adult with autism to be and feel fully integrated with pride in all facets of our society.

WHY?

We live in the same world and have to interact with one another in a variety of settings, both private and public. Many autistic individuals, such as those with the previous diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, may not have obvious physical presentations of disability and may appear quite typical. Understanding social cues and some unique characteristics of those on the autism spectrum while alternatively offering them opportunities for such understanding of the population at large, through social and other forms of interactions, could greatly contribute to better collaboration and improved social standing for many of the disabled individuals. A 2018 CDC report listed the national autism prevalence data as 1 in 59 children. Our communities and our world would benefit from a disabled population with a higher self esteem that feels accepted and included.

HOW?

  • By organizing inclusive networking events attended by autistic and typical adults in selected respectable and appropriate locations such as hotels and other event sites.
  • We collaborate with other organizations as needed for community awareness and event success.
  • By establishing a theme for each event to help meet social and personal enrichment goals.
  • By inviting speakers to present on special topics of interest when feasible.
  • By encouraging businesses and other organizations to include autism awareness in their training curriculum and establish autism-friendly programs that could be applied to selected or all areas of their establishment, such as job interview process and setting, work schedule, break times, and customer service among others.
  • By collaborating with businesses and other organizations and listing their autism-friendly programs or services on our website for public awareness.
  • By encouraging businesses to hire individuals on the autism spectrum.
  • By seeking volunteers to help us accomplish our mission.

SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Autism Spectrum Disorder
Definition: According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric

  • Association used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have:
  • Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
  • Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life

Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism. All caregivers should talk to their doctor about ASD screening or evaluation.

Signs and Symptoms:
People with ASD have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. The list below gives some examples of the types of behaviors that are seen in people diagnosed with ASD. Not all people with ASD will show all behaviors, but most will show several.
Social communication /interaction behaviors may include:

  • Making little or inconsistent eye contact
  • Tending not to look at or listen to people
  • Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others
  • Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention
  • Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation
  • Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
  • Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
  • Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
  • Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions
  • Restrictive/repetitive behaviors may include:
  • Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia
  • Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts
  • Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
  • Getting upset by slight changes in a routine
  • Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature
  • People with ASD may also experience sleep problems and irritability. Although people with ASD experience many challenges, they may also have many strengths, including:
  • Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time
  • Being strong visual and auditory learners
  • Excelling in math, science, music, or art”

Why Social Networking ?

Quality of life

  • Autistic individuals achieve high quality of life based on social support and subjective well-being.
  • Participating in social events or in pother collaborative settings can help to counter the loneliness and social anxiety experienced by many with ASD.
  • Being and feeling as engaged members of society offers better social perspectives that can translate to personal successes.

Societal integration

  • Many autistic people are misunderstood because although they may function in ways that appear acceptable or positive, they may display atypical behaviors that cause them to be stigmatized.
  • Misunderstandings may lead to patronization by others and less shared decision making that can negatively affect overall self-esteem.
  • The environment can have a positive or negative impact on all individuals, particularly those with ASD, hence the importance of positive interactions and participation in meaningful activities with others.

On the Job

  • Autistic individuals function better in well-structured environment such as vocational settings that offer both
  • organizational and social opportunities for improved self-regulation and reduction of dysfunctional behaviors.
  • Coworkers’ awareness and sensitivity to disability conditions are key aspects of integration by those with ASD

A new normal

We are facing a new world with a consistent increase in the number of children diagnosed with ASD. This growing population will live and interact with neuro-typical peers in schools, communities, and work. We must find a balance that allows for everyone to be an integral member of our society.

References:
1. Steven K. Kapp, PhD, in the article titled “Social Support, Well-being, and Quality of Life Among Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
2. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, in the article Inclusion vs. Self-Contained Education for Children with ASD Diagnoses
3. Beate Krieger, Barbara Piskur, Christina Schulze, Uta Jakobs, Anna Beurskens, Albine Moser in the research article “Supporting and Hindering Environments for participation of adolescents diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder: A scoping review.

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