Last year, I attended my first volunteer meeting with Autism Speaks.
This year, I’m holding one. My, how time flies.
I was asked to be a Community Outreach Ambassador this year. Essentially, I’ve been asked to raise awareness. On a deeper level, what I discovered already is that it’s about building a local network of parents, children, and other stakeholders.
The first “task” of the Community Outreach Ambassadors is to hold a “Community Coffee” in the area. The focus of this would be to talk about the “Light It Blue” campaign. April is Autism Awareness Month and one of the Autism Speaks’ marketing efforts centers around “Light It Up Blue”.
Note: As an aside, I fully respect those that do not agree with lighting things blue, puzzle pieces or Autism Speaks.
I contacted the other local Ambassador that I saw on the spreadsheet and we set it up. Honestly, as I drove to the site yesterday I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would anyone come? Would anyone care?
Three very wonderful women attended in addition to myself and the other Ambassador. And while we talk about the campaign a little bit (great ideas) – we also spoke about what the Community Coffees could evolve into. And we talked about Child Find and IEPs and evaluations and our fears.
The consensus from our small group was that no one “really knew” about local connections or support groups. There were multiple mentions about not knowing where to go or knowing other people that struggle with the same challenges. It’s jaw dropping.
One of the mothers even has her child mainstreamed in the same elementary school that B attends. And we never knew until that meeting. He’s such a lovely boy and even spoke a little bit about what he did last year for his class – he made a PowerPoint presentation and talked about his autism.
As I’m listening, I’m shocked yet not surprised. Even in our area – autism for the most part is not really talked about, much less embraced. There are days that I don’t even want to face reality. But I’m really glad that I put myself out there to meet other people. We’ll move forward with hopefully constructing a strong network!