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Autism Awareness Month about education, inclusion

Posted at 7:44 AM, Apr 05, 2022

TREYNOR, Iowa (KMTV) — Millions of Americans are on the spectrum, but there are many people who still have questions about autism.

Treynor, Iowa’s Wendy Andersen says that’s what Autism Awareness Month is all about.

Andersen’s son Dexter was five years old when he was diagnosed with autism.

Since then, she has joined the Iowa Governor’s Council for Autism, co-authored a book about her experiences, and became the President of the Guild for Autism Action Partnership.

She says now that we are going out more you will likely come across a time where you will see someone with autism that is uncomfortable in their environment. Something we may refer to as a meltdown.

In these situations, she says to not stand and stare or ignore the situation. Instead, ask the caretaker if there’s something you can do to help and reassure them that they are doing a great job.

She says when interacting with someone that has autism it’s important to always come from a place of love and kindness.

“Children with autism, families with autism are not something to be feared. We’re something to be embraced and loved. So, ask questions, learn about it, there are a ton of resources in the community,” Andersen said. “I’m always open to questions, and so are so many other families that I know. Go out there, get knowledge, interact with us, and truly see the love in our children.”

She says people with autism may not communicate traditionally but they can still understand, and just communicate in their own way.

Andersen says as a caretaker it's important to continue to fill life with experiences.

As we get out more, set the intention of going but release the expectations, and always be flexible.

She says it took quite a few trips of going to the movie theatre before being able to sit through an entire movie and that’s okay.

She recommends talking about the event you are attending multiple times with your child, even on the drive there, so they have an idea of what to expect.

If a meltdown takes place, she says to block everything out and do what you need to do to help them cope. It’s more important to help them cope than to worry about what other people may be thinking.

For Andersen, Autism Awareness Month is all the time. She hopes more people will take this time to learn more about the disorder and wants to see more people include children like her 13-year-old son.

“That’s my advice, include them. If you’re nervous about it call the parent and say, ‘Hey we really want your child to be there. What do we know and how can we help it be an environment for them?’ Andersen said. “So just creating that environment for them to live life and experience it.”

Andersen is spearheading a new park in Treynor that is all about inclusion.

The new park will have a playground designed for children with disabilities which will give all children a safe place to learn, play, and interact. It will be named ‘Dexter's Dream Playground’ after her son.

There will also be a splash pad and other fun games and activities. If you are interested in donating or learning more, click here.