Autism Awareness Day

What is Autism Awareness Day?

April 2, 2021 was Autism Awareness Day. The focus of this day was to provide an opportunity for people to learn about what Autism is, acknowledge the lived experiences of people with Autism and increase support to these individuals, their families and caregivers. Approximately 1 in 66 children are diagnosed with Autism. However, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is still very misunderstood by many people. ASD is a term used that refers to a wide variation in types and severities of symptoms people with Autism experience.

The purpose of celebrating and acknowledging this day is to build stronger, more inclusive communities for people with ASD. For instance, strategies to promote inclusive environments include making public playgrounds accessible, having support in place at educational settings, promoting diversity in the workplace to include these individuals, along with many more.  

ASD affects the ways in which people communicate with others as well as how they interpret their environments. Every individual’s experience is unique, and they all have their own strengths, gifts and support needs.  

While working at a residential home for adolescents with Autism, I learned many valuable lessons and gained amazing relationships from the individuals living there. One thing that really stuck out was the importance of sensory interactions for people of all abilities. 

Everyone varies in their sensibility to stimuli. Some people experience hypersensitivity in response to stimulating environments whereas others experience hyposensitivity. For people with Autism, some experience many challenges regarding their senses, such as the adolescents I worked with.

To help these individuals cope with their anxieties and feelings, the residential home created a sensory room. This room provided the individuals with an opportunity to engage with their environments in many interesting ways. The atmosphere of the room provided feelings of security and calmness. Individuals were able to come here if they felt overstimulated and overwhelmed, giving them a quiet place to sit and play on their own if they needed. Alternatively, the environment of the room could also be loud and exciting. Some individuals chose to use the room as their own personal concert hall, using various musical toy instruments to create songs, play for their peers and engage with their creativity. Oftentimes, the sensory room acted as a science centre where individuals could play and interact with paints, slimes, playdough, scented candles and other great sensory objects that enabled them to focus on their touch and smells. Finally, the sensory room was a fantastic library, offering books of different levels and topics. Individuals were able to interact with these stories and learn about new things. Overall, this room helped each individual in different ways. I saw many times how one individual would be upset about something and ask to go to the sensory room to help them calm down and cope with what was bothering them, whereas others chose to go simply because they enjoyed the environment. The activities available in the sensory room helped these individuals further their communication skills, as well as provided an opportunity to develop many valuable life skills.

Resources to support people with Autism and their families:

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Therapies and Supports
  2. Autism Canada Foundation
  3. Autism Society Canada
  4. Autism Resource Centre  
  5. Health Canada
  6. Autism Community Training
  7. Autism Speaks Canada
  8. Autism Awareness Centre
  9. Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network
  10. Geneva Centre for Autism
  11. Autism Ontario

~ Post written by former Live Work Well URA