By Kerry Magro, Self-Advocate, National Speaker, and Author
When we think of the impact of Autism Awareness Month in April, we sometimes forget May’s Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) that had an impact on those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Organizations have spearhead efforts to start a conversation for those with these communication challenges.
This month has a special connection to me as I was diagnosed with autism at four. Being in special education settings, I was often in classes with students with a wide range of speech, language and hearing disorders. Our supports were very challenging in our public school setting due to limited funding going to special education. Until 4th grade, before moving to an out of district school for those with learning disabilities, we only had one special education class ranging of students from the ages of 6-14. I often think about how this month could have truly benefited me as a student but also our educators. It’s the same way that I never knew about Autism Awareness Month in April as a child because it was never introduced to me or my classmates.
BHSM has a significant impact to me today as a consultant to parents of children with cognitive disabilities along with a mentor to teenagers and adults who deal with communication challenges. In our digital age that we are currently living, kids have access to technology that can at times make it a struggle for families to be able to look at things such as verbal communication and personal interaction. BHSM stresses the importance of these interactions that makes my work much easier.
So throughout the month of May I hope you will consider getting involved with the cause by providing resources from groups such as the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). Encourage not only schools to get involved but also local organizations and businesses who may be looking to hire those with a communication-related disability.
In addition to educating, please remember to thank the incredible teams who make a difference for the cause each day from your local Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) and audiologists. Listen to their stories and how they look to make strides in their local communities. But then also don’t forget to listen to the stories of those who are affected by these challenges. Find ways to do small special events where they can share their stories. One that we often have done is focused on five minute monologues where students and educators alike can share how having a communication disability has impacted their life and what they’ve learned from it.
Every time I think of this month I often remember the quote about ‘disability does not mean inability.’ I believe this to be true of anyone with a communication-related disability. The amount of education and awareness we can get out there about this subject will be of a huge benefit to our community. I hope you will join us in our efforts!
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