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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Little Friends: April is Autism Acceptance Month


Update, April 15, 2024 / On this date, the 160 ft. Moser Tower with the 72-bell carillon has been illuminated “blue” to reflect Autism Acceptance Month. In our world, our favorite color is blue, always representing a deep desire for personal inner peace, truth and understanding.

Moser Tower shines different colors throughout the year to heighten awareness for various initiatives. Soon it will be illuminated in green for Earth Day. (PN Photo)

Earlier this month, Mayor Scott Wehrli and the Naperville City Council officially proclaimed April as Autism Acceptance Month at the April 2 City Council Meeting in Council Chambers, encouraging all citizens to help raise awareness for acceptance and support of individuals affected by Autism.

At the beginning of the April 2 City Council meeting, Councilman Paul Leong read and presented a Mayoral Proclamation recognizing April as “Autism Acceptance Month.” On behalf of individuals representing School Districts 203 and 204, Ray Graham Association, Turning Pointe Autism Foundation, Giant Steps, WDSRA, and the Naperville Park District, Little Friends President and CEO Mike Briggs accepted the proclamation with much gratitude. (PN Photo)

Originally Posted in the 2024 April Print Edition / Little Friends strives to be a trusted resource that provides support for families dealing with autism and other developmental disabilities. The year 2025 will mark 60 years of work as a resource in the community, and this year is our 34th year working and helping families and individuals dealing with autism. It is only appropriate that the month of April is focused on both Autism awareness while evolving into a focus on acceptance.

Autism awareness month traces its roots to the early 1970’s, when the Autism society launched a national campaign aimed to improve awareness autism and in doing so advocate for the well-being of individuals on the autism spectrum. The work that started in the early 70’s has grown to become a global initiative that ultimately led to April 2 being recognized as Autism Awareness Day.

According to the CDC, around one percent of the world’s population has autism spectrum disorder—over 75,000,000 people. Autism prevalence has increased by 178% since 2000, and in the United States it is estimated that 1 in 36 children is thought to be on the Autism Spectrum. Admittedly sobering, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls according to statistics tracking diagnoses.

Autism is considered a spectrum because it is different for every person. Some people with autism might need more support than others to live the lives they want to lead. The way autism affects individuals also can change as they grow, develop and experience different environments. Because of this, the support we and others provide is determined by the needs of that individual.

Given the growth in diagnoses, the need for what we do has never been greater. As such, our organization is focused on affecting change and development through expanded services that include therapies, education, vocational training, social support and residential opportunities. Making sure our community knows of our services speaks to the importance of awareness, but we also know through awareness that there is more.

Since 2021, we have been shifting Autism education to the idea of “acceptance” instead of “awareness.” Things continue to change in the autism field resulting in more understanding, earlier diagnoses, and evolving services. We also know that providing education is helping the initiative of creating acceptance for the neurodiverse which enables opportunities for those individuals in our community. It is exciting to see how acceptance continues to occur and create new opportunities for those we serve.

Big picture, we have learned through our own experiences that awareness is not enough, as acceptance is the next step toward a truly inclusive and community- driven society. While our journey and efforts will continue, it is rewarding to acknowledge that progress is being made.

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Mike Briggs
Mike Briggshttp://littlefriendsinc.org
Mike Briggs is the President and CEO of Little Friends. Little Friends empowers clients with autism and other developmental disabilities to thrive in our community. Their groundbreaking programs and nationally-renowned staff provide lifelong opportunities for growth, so their clients can work, learn, play and experience the joy of life’s everyday moments.