A little education can go a long way.

As a professional speaker who also has autism, I often talk to hundreds of parents, educators, therapists, and businesses each year about diversity & inclusion. During these conversations disability awareness and acceptance often come up as a main theme.

When it comes to conversations with our kids for example I believe talking about disabilities has the power to make an impact in our schools. I often discuss to parents the importance of an early diagnosis along with early intervention being the key in development for children with disabilities. The thing is though is that I also believe that to be true of non-disabled children when it comes to respecting differences.

A big reason this can make an impact in the schools is the prevalence of bullying. Growing up on the autism spectrum I was a victim of bullying because there was a lack of acceptance of the quirks of people like me. Some studies have shown those with special needs are twice as likely to be bullied compared to their non-disabled peers. In my classrooms early on I was the only student in most classrooms who had autism yet no one, even including myself, knew what autism was.

Tell stories of people impacted by a diagnosis for example is one way of initially having these conversations. Research books for your child’s age range that discuss disability and consider doing a book club type of discussion event with your family around that book. Also consider for movie nights watching movies that discuss disability such as the biopic ‘Temple Grandin.’ Even consider having guest speakers with disabilities come in to discuss their experiences growing up with a disability.

Then, also consider talking with your co-workers about disabilities too. A lot of people don’t know this but those with disabilities make up a trillion dollar market. By being accepting and hiring skilled workers with disabilities in the workplace, not out of charity but because they can be some of the best candidates, helps build on this topic of inclusion even further. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is impacting individuals today too. You can even host an event to build on understanding. October for example is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

So for all those who may read this today, I hope you will consider taking the time out to educate on disability. So many of us have personal connections to this community, whether we are a parent, educator, therapist, family member and/or are a friend to someone with a disability.

And if you don’t know where to get started in these conversations, just ask someone such as myself or someone in your community. You may be surprised that they have a good tip or two or have even started talking to others about disabilities already. Thank you.

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