MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - April is Autism Awareness Month to spread awareness and promote acceptance for those affected by autism.
According to the Autism Society, autism affects 1 in 54 children.
“You likely have somebody, if you’re a student in your classroom, some of their siblings, and then also possibly some co-workers, but know that there’s also a good bit of the population that may not be able to access some of the services that they need, just because we are growing some of those services in Alabama right now,” explained Anna McConnell, the State Autism Coordinator in the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s Office of Autism Services.
McConnell said if you haven’t yet, you likely will.
“So it’s likely that you will, if you haven’t already, you will. And so it’s important to understand autism, to be able to help bring them into the community more and make people feel welcome. Because it can be difficult. Sometimes, if you have an autism diagnosis.”
That’s where Autism Awareness Month comes in, to teach about some of the challenges, and how to be more accepting of those with Autism.
“The more we know about autism, the better we can be able to have that communication and to make people feel more comfortable.,” McConnell added.
One of the key aspects features of autism is difficulty with social interactions.
“And so if you know just a few things, it can help make others feel more comfortable. The family, all of the other groups that are impacted by somebody with autism, just knowing a little bit and going that extra mile makes a big difference to be able to bring people and feel like they’re included in the community because they should be. They’re important. And it teaches us so much about people in general. So it makes everybody better,” McConnell continued.
She oversees and coordinates services and support for those affected by autism all over the state.
“We have the regional autism networks that are based at universities. Auburn serves Central Alabama and Montgomery area. But there are four other universities that provide professional training and public education. So always feel like you can call and feel free to call with any questions that you have,” McConnell said.
The Autism Society of Alabama offers some support groups and networking groups, educational opportunities, as well.
“The Department of Mental Health, where I’m from, has specific services for the Medicaid population. But we can also connect you to private services as well. And then the Easterseals of Central Alabama is one of the primary providers for that region,” McConnell said.
This weekend, Easterseals Central Alabama is hosting the 17th annual Autism Crawfish Boil. It’s the group’s largest fundraiser of the year supporting the autism services it provides to families in and around the River Region. It’s Saturday at Riverwalk Stadium, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Learn more at this link.