In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared April 2 as World Autism Day. Above all, they urge governments to raise awareness of the diagnosis. But the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) community established April as the month to publicize the reality that these people live. And to share the lack of opportunities, human rights, and even acceptance. The goal is for more people to educate themselves and understand the challenges and opportunities of the autistic community.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incidence of autism in the United States is 1:42 for boys and 1:189 for girls. While most of these people can aspire to live independently, their chances of doing so are still meager. The lack of an early diagnosis and treatment does not favor developing these children’s communication skills and social behavior. However, South Florida is no exception; public and private sector support is scarce. The scholar system doesn’t have trained professionals committed to developing and supporting neurodiverse children in schools. Furthermore, there’s a great need for vocational schools to continue their education and companies that hire their services.
Neurodiversity is a competitive advantage if we consider these individuals have extraordinary skills like pattern recognition, memory, and mathematics. The issue is they are not receiving appropriate education and stimulation to grow and fully develop their capacities. There are even cases where families are unaware that their kids can learn and aim for an independent life. A change of perspective can be beneficial for these kids and families. By focusing on the positive ways they grow and learn, we can build a more inclusive and diverse system.
Two significant issues the autism community faced:
The first is the lack of a specialized system that supports their learning path and manages their behavior without secluding them from traditional and high-quality education. Schools must have an educated and specialized group of teachers that understand how neurodiverse children learn, interact, and behave. They would support their emotional path and teach them the social and life skills they need to build a life. The system’s structure would be respect and acceptance of everyone’s differences and the fact that we are all differently-abled. It may sound like a utopia, but for inclusion and diversity to become a reality, autistic children need real opportunities.
The second one is the insufficient commitment of companies in offering neurodiverse talent more opportunities inside their organizations. Moreover, they need to understand that neurodiverse individuals may bring new perspectives and solutions, but they open up to hire them and create an atmosphere where they can thrive. Therefore, the first step is to change the recruit process. Neurodiverse individuals may struggle with traditional procedures.
Equality, inclusion, and diversity continue to be a utopia in today’s society, and South Florida is not the exception. In conclusion, we must understand the need for acceptance, kindness, and opportunities and take action to provide the support and accompaniment our neurodiverse kids need to develop their skills and capabilities and put them at society’s service. When neurodiversity is accepted and embraced, children and adults have a successful social and academic life; their abilities are recognized and used for society’s good. This allows them to build and enjoy an independent and autonomous life.
About the author:
María Alejandra Mejía has a Bachelor’s Degree in Exceptional Student Education from Nova University (ESE), a Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) from Ball State University, and another Master’s Degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. She is the founder and director of EIBS, an education program based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to train and foster South Florida children and youth development.