Celebrate Autism Awareness Month
By Julie Diamond, OCT
World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2 this year. Throughout the month of April, Teachers to Go will be shining a spotlight on people on the Spectrum by sharing their stories and accomplishments in the hopes of increasing the understanding and acceptance of people with Autism. What can you do as a parent or teacher to celebrate this month?
1. ‘Light it Up Blue’ or ‘Design Your Flag’: Autism Speaks started a campaign to ‘Light it Up Blue’ encouraging the international community to come together on April 2 to show their support for people with Autism. Join hundreds of thousands of people, landmarks, buildings and homes around the world by using the colour blue. Wear a blue shirt, light up your home with blue lights or make a craft with your child to hang in your window with the colour blue.
Another great organization, and one I’m happy to say I’ve been a volunteer with since 2017, is Autism Ontario. They have chosen their theme this year to be ‘Celebrate the Spectrum’ and have a contest until April 15 called ‘Design Your Flag.’ You can see the details of the contest here.
2. Spread awareness on social media or in your community: Help others understand about Autism by sharing stories others on the Spectrum have shared or share your own. You and your child/student could create a post together as a class to raise awareness in your community. Autism Speaks also discusses the options of fundraising on social media here.
3. Support businesses that are Autism-friendly and/or owned by persons on the Spectrum: The UN declared “Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World” as the theme for World Autism Awareness Day. The transition to adulthood and gaining independence can be a struggle for many young adults on the Spectrum. Check out our post on April 1 to see tagged businesses owned by persons on the Spectrum.
4. Learn more about Autism by researching about persons on the Spectrum: The saying is true that ‘once you’ve met one person on the Spectrum, you’ve met one person on the Spectrum.’ As a teacher and board member with Autism Ontario I’ve met many people on the Spectrum and no two were alike. Each were incredibly unique in their own way. Many also taught me something whether it was offering more consistency, clarity, or a different perspective.
Start learning about Autism by visiting the website of Temple Grandin here who is an American Scientist and prominent speaker on Autism and animal behaviour.
Leave a comment below with ideas of how you’ll be celebrating Autism Awareness Month with your child(ren) or student(s).
By Julie Diamond
March 8 is International Women’s Day. Today is an opportunity to reflect on women’s achievements and raise awareness against bias. It’s a day to act for equality in the hopes of a world free of bias and discrimination. Depending on your child(ren)’s age, it may be challenging to know how to teach them about today. Here are some age-appropriate ways to approach this topic that you can choose from:
Refrain From Using Gender Stereotypes
Tell your son it’s okay to show emotions. Encourage your daughter to make her own choices and give her the opportunity to express opinions. As parents we may not realize our own gender biases so take a moment to reflect and make changes. Instead of commenting on your daughter's appearance, try praising her on not giving up or finishing something challenging.
Start with a Discussion
Depending on your child’s age and/or interest level, they may have questions about International Women’s Day. You may want to focus on a particular issue such as healthcare, employment, the women’s suffrage movement, equality, or education. Start by explaining that things used to be different in Canada and women and girls still face inequality issues everyday.
A great way to introduce your child to the barriers girls face with education is the story of Malala Yousafzai. She has several children’s books available for all ages that illustrate her story about standing up for education at the risk of being shot by the Taliban. She is a children and women’s rights activist and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Or if your child is interested in learning about the women’s suffrage movement, here’s a website that gives an interactive map about the timeline of the movement across Canada.
Let their interests guide you. Or use a book or movie..
Introduce a Book or Movie
Regardless of age, I find a book or movie is the best way to introduce a topic to a child. Kids learn best from what they see so the best way to teach them is with strong and confident female characters your child can learn from. Disney’s Frozen and Mulan have become mainstream favourite movies. There’s also Anne of Green Gables, Little Women (both are also in book form for 10+) that are classics. Some fiction books I would recommend are: The Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires or Kelly for President by Kelly DiPucchio. A non-fiction book that's great for all ages is Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky.
Spend Time with the Women in Your Lives
Your child will learn by the examples set by women in their lives as well. Whether it be your female neighbour, relative or family friend, take this day to spend time with them and make it special, whether it’s in-person or video. Encourage your child to write them a letter (see our IG post last Friday as an example) or cook them a meal to show the women in their lives how they inspire them.
Help Your Daughter Find Her Voice
Encourage your daughter to build her confidence through journaling, singing, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) activity, or playing a sport. With the Paralympics on now, cheer on a female athlete either on the tv or at a local sporting event. PBS has a great article with tips on how to raise a confident girl here.
How are you celebrating the day with your child? Comment below.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant/social media co-ordinator at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.
Fun Fact: Her and Julie (see above) are also sisters :)