April is Autism Acceptance Month


April is a month of significance for millions of individuals and families around the globe as it marks Autism Acceptance Month. Society today has a greater awareness of autism. However, those living with autism often continue to face bullying, prejudice, and limited opportunities and access to health care. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 36 children in the United States today

Did you know that Mesa, Arizona, in 2019, became the nation’s first-ever Autism Certified City by Travel and Leisure? To get this designation, the organization Visit Mesa needed to have 80% of guest-facing staff trained and certified in the field of autism. Sixty businesses, 4000 community members, and over 500 Mesa Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities employees engaged in the training and are prepared to serve all travelers. Visit Mesa has a detailed website that shares certified sensory guides and autism-friendly activities. They even have a section on how to become autism certified!

Besides Visit Mesa, PAL, a not-for-profit that is dedicated to making places more inclusive and accessible for guests with developmental disabilities, has coordinated with 13 local organizations in Phoenix. Below are places on the PAL Experiences website

  • Arizona Diamondbacks baseball.
  • Arizona Science Center.
  • Banner Children’s Urgent Care.
  • Butterfly Wonderland.
  • Children’s Museum of Phoenix.
  • Flower Child Restaurant.
  • OdySea Aquarium.
  • Phoenix Herpetological Society.
  • Phoenix Mercury basketball.
  • Phoenix Suns basketball.
  • Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia.
  • Sensory Cooking in Scottsdale.

Don’t forget to check back with this site as they often share sensory-friendly activities like A Sensory Safe Reptile Encounter or Santa Cares Sensory-Friendly Event

Autism Acceptance Month is important because many have heard about Autism, yet most can not accurately explain it. Many people may have preconceived or old ideas about what autism is and how it impacts the person who has it. For example, one stereotype is that people with autism have low intelligence. Many people on the autism spectrum have higher than average intelligence and are considered geniuses. Another common falsehood is that autism is a mental disorder or illness. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. The term “autism spectrum” refers to the wide range of characteristics and abilities exhibited by individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The spectrum concept acknowledges that autism is not a single, uniform condition, but a complex and diverse neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests differently in each individual.

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” – Dr. Stephen Shore

If you would like to know more about autism, including symptoms, or want access to resources, Autism Speaks has a tremendous amount of information available. For more local resources, you can also check out:

  • Autism Society of Greater Phoenix (ASGP): ASGP is a local chapter of the Autism Society of America dedicated to providing support, education, and advocacy for individuals with autism and their families in the Greater Phoenix area. They offer support groups, workshops, social events, and resources for families affected by autism. 
  • Arizona Autism United (AZA United): AZA United provides comprehensive support services for individuals with autism and their families across the state of Arizona. Their services include applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and support groups.
  • Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC): SARRC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism and their families through research, education, and advocacy. They offer various programs and services, including diagnostic evaluations, early intervention, parent training, and social skills groups.

As we celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, let us reflect on how far we’ve come in our understanding and support for individuals with autism. While there is still much work to be done, the progress made in raising awareness, advancing research, and promoting inclusion gives hope for a future where all individuals, regardless of their neurodiversity, can thrive and fulfill their potential. Let’s continue shining a light on autism and fostering a world where everyone is valued and embraced for who they are.


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