In case you weren’t aware, April is Autism Awareness Month, with National Autism Awareness Day falling on April second. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others, and it is estimated that around 1 percent of the Earth’s population along with around 3.5 million Americans are affected by this disorder. Chances are that you know someone who is directly or indirectly affected by ASD, so what can you do to help or support those you know that are affected? We are here with some ideas and steps to help you prepare for Autism Awareness Month.
Learn All You Can
Learning everything you can about what those affected by ASD are challenged by every day is a great way to raise awareness and increase understanding around those who have to live with this disorder. Learning symptoms, triggers, and ways to help relieve attacks of panic or anxiety can help to improve the lives of those who suffer from ASD as well as the people close to them. Sites such as autismspeaks.org, autism-help.org, and local organizations or support groups are a great source of information and a perfect place to start.
Put On The Puzzle
The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community throughout the world. Showing your support for those who are struggling with this disorder can be as simple as putting a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even a Facebook profile picture can be enough to educate those who see it on the potential and possibilities of people with autism!
Connect With Your Community
Look for local autism affiliates within your community online, in the local newspaper, or around local businesses. Many of these affiliates will hold special events and fundraisers throughout the year, but especially throughout the month of April. These events will not only go on to raise awareness around ASD throughout your community, but can also help to raise funds to support those who suffer from it as well.
Create A Sensory Calming Area
If you or someone you know is affected by autism directly, a sensory calming area may be an idea to look into to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic in those who suffer from ASD. A sensory calming area uses cool, relaxing colors in a dark or secluded space to help alleviate anxiety that can be brought upon by over-sensitivity to bright lights or harsh sounds. LED lights can be incredibly useful in designing areas like these as they can provide radiant light over a large area, they can be controlled through wired or wireless switches, and can be left on for long periods of time without getting hot or raising your energy bill. It’s also important to note that the larger the bulb, the more mute the light will be, so strings such as the Blue C6 Commercial “Strawberry” LEDs paired with our Teal C6 Commercial “Strawberry” LEDs will be perfect in combination. If this seems like a daunting task, just take it from this customer testimonial how easy and effective a DIY sensory calming area can be:
“My name is Chris, I am a pediatric OT and work with a wide variety of severely disabled children in a public school system ranging from ages 3-22. One of the classrooms I service has several children with severe autism. Some days our individuals can have particularly rough days which can entail physical outbursts striking others or self-damage. While we currently have a large “sensory room” that all students have access to, at times it can be too much and can create a sensory overload situation.
Working with LED Holiday Lighting, we wanted to create a sensory calming area in the room to help prevent melt downs / dys-regulated behaviors. One of the features planned was a light wall (lights to be behind Plexiglas) that will be activated by student-controlled switches. The lights would be set against a black background to mimic a night ocean with bio-luminescent activity.
To do this we had to create and cut a plywood base for the board to which the lights would be placed. After applying a fresh coat of black paint, we installed 3 sets of each of the C6 “Strawberry” commercial LED lights in blue and teal, placed a plexiglass face over it, and fabricated a mounting system using some custom cut steel brackets to attach the board to the wall.
Since installing this light wall, it not only looks amazing, but the combined colors of lights are perfect for the purpose of a calming area. We have introduced this new area to the students, letting them get used to one piece at a time for learning how to use it. In the future we will slowly start adding in sound and touch components, though the area will overall be intentionally kept simple to minimize over stimulation.
In cases when students are having a rough day, their teachers have been able to bring them into this quiet and soft lit area, where the applied interventions have been able to help reduce over stimulated and aggressive behaviors to a point that they were no longer damaging to self and others. This small corner with controlled and limited stimuli was very much in need for situations when single sense (visual in this situation) directed input is preferred (AKA – less is more).
Thank you for supporting that need and helping us discover immediate positive impacts.”
Hopefully with these ideas and resources you can work to raise awareness and support within your own communities during this upcoming Autism Awareness Month, as well as throughout the rest of the year. For more information about sensory calming areas, LED light therapy, or LED lighting solutions visit our website here.