National Autism Awareness MonthSource: iMore

April is National Autism Awareness Month and today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day. It's a day to celebrate our friends and family members on the spectrum and to learn about research, early diagnosis, and tools for helping those with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) live their best life.

If you want to know more about National Autism Awareness Month (NAAM) and donate to the Autism Society of America, there is a dedicated website where you can learn about the organization and find out how you can help out.

One of my favorite sites that promotes awareness of ASD is Autism Speaks. This organization helps families by providing resources and education tools and advocates for the ASD community around the US. If you have a kiddo on the spectrum and are feeling a little lost about what to do next, check out Autism Speaks for some helpful resources.

"Being non-verbal doesn't mean we can't speak"

There are a lot of amazing resources available to help people on the spectrum live their best life. One important resource for non-verbal individuals is an outlet to help them speak. A company pioneering augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in today's tech-friendly world is AssistiveWare. Their Proloquo2GO app helps spectrum individuals have a voice. It uses pictures to help people with different levels of visual and auditory skills. Whether you want to ask for a snack or tell your mom how much you love her, Proloquo2GO gives non-verbal kids and adults a voice.

To celebrate World Autism Awareness Day, AssistiveWare is dropping the price of Proloquo2GO and four other AAC apps by 50%.

Flappy when I'm happy

Our ASD friends and family members are very much like people not on the spectrum. They play video games much longer than they should, have a favorite food they could literally eat every single day (and some literally do) and use art as a way to express their unique take on life.

The Art of Autism is a website that showcases art and poetry from the ASD artist community, as well as helps to share day-to-day life stories for others to connect with. This year, The Art of Autism collaborated with Apple to help ADS artists create digital works of art using an iPad and Apple Pencil. The gallery, titled "Created on iPad," includes digital art from 15 participants, all of differing abilities and ages.

ArtNet News interviewed some of the artists, as well as Sarah Herrlinger, director of global accessibility policy and initiatives at Apple. Some of the comments made by the artists are inspiring.

Sydney Edmond: OrangesSource: Apple

Sydney Edmond noted that, due to Apraxia, it's difficult at times to paint without mistakes. "My body frequently makes movements I don't want, and these movements cause horrible mistakes. The iPad allows me to remove that dastardly mistake." Sydney, I'm with you. I don't have Apraxia and I often make horrible mistakes when I try to paint, too.

April Griffin is able to pick up her art again after slowing down due to failing eyesight. "The Apple iPad and Apple Pencil have me back on track, and this month I made more art than I have done I three years."

Be sure to check out the current pieces, plus more art to come in the Created on iPad Gallery at the Art of Autism.

iPad for the win!

Apple LearningSource: Apple

Speaking of iPad... The iPad is a fabulous device for spectrum kiddos (be sure to get a rugged case for little ones that tend to throw things when they're mad) for many reasons. Whether they're watching their favorite YouTube videos, playing games, talking to others, or doing homework, an iPad offers a plethora of accessibility features to help customize their experience.

With Safari, for example, you can turn on Safari Reader, which blocks out all the buttons and ads and distracting logos. It's helpful for people wanting to keep their minds quiet while they read.

Guided Access is a Parental Controls feature that allows parents to keep their kids from accessing anything other than specific apps, but it's also a fantastic aid for people worried about sensory overload. Restrict access to a single app and you won't be tempted to hop on over and play that game. Well, you might be tempted, but you won't be able to do it with Guided Access enabled. Apple has a dedicated page spotlighting features that help with learning, communicating, and staying focused.

The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF) champions the iPad as a great tool for ASD kids for learning, communicating, and just plain having fun.

The world for an autistic child is full of imagery, rather than words. On an iPad, an autistic child can create a sentence or even story using a series of images. By doing so, the child can communicate with parents, caretakers, and instructors without frustration. Since the iPad is mobile, children with autism can take this communication tool wherever they go.

The ASDF provides financial assistance to families with ADS members. Currently, the organization has temporarily closed applications for iPad requests due to funding.

You can help by donating to the iPad for Kids program today. Let's try to help them reopen those applications!

To better understand ASD

Today is Autism Awareness Day, but autism covers a wide spectrum of traits. Some are non-verbal and may even act as though they are emotionally distant. Some are high-functioning and you might just think they're difficult people, or antisocial. But they're not. They have all the same feelings of love, sadness, joy, and anger that you and I do. They just express it in a different way. We identify so strongly with social queues, emotion identifiers, and expected behaviors that it can be difficult for us to see that someone on the spectrum is reacting, just as we would, to a situation. Whether it's a man on the bus pacing back and forth or a child in the store screaming for no reason, they are experiencing life and responding to it in their own, unique way.

You don't have to know someone on the spectrum to learn how to engage and interact with someone with ASD. One important way you can participate is to learn more about it. Today is a good day to start. April is a good month to discover more.

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