How much do I LOVE that President Obama has appointed the first ever autistic White House appointee, Ari Ne’eman, new member of the National Council on Disability (NCD), advising the president and congress about ways to reform health care, schools, support services, and employment policy?! And he’s only 22 years old!! Inclusiveness is such an important element of our leadership right now, when divisiveness rules the airwaves and rhetoric (and public appearances by government officials–thoughts and prayers for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and all the families of each and every victim of that tragedy).
Autism is a thing we never heard of, or spoke of, when I was growing up. Like peanut allergies, it must have been there, but wasn’t named or responded to as sensitively as it is now (and I am not likening the two–just my own obliviousness to the issues prior to recent years). I have dear friends who have autism in their families, and are so inspiring in the empowering and nurturing ways they work together as families–it is truly a lesson in how to BE in this world.
If you know or are part of any families with autism, ever saw a TV show or article about autism that hooked you, or just know you can be of help…think about doing some Autism volunteering.
- Traveler’s Worldwide offers volunteer vacations to help children with autism in South Africa. How much time do you have? A month? a summer? You will work in a school dedicated to treating autistic children as a classroom assistant and work one-on-one, tutoring. When the end-of-school bell rings, you still get to have incredible interactions in the evenings, playing and imagining with autistic children who are resident at the school.
- The Beijing Institute for Autistic Children in partnership with Volunteer Abroad provides opportunities to work with Chinese children with autism. For one to eight weeks, volunteers help autistic children develop skills and learn to interact with others.
- WLS International also services the autistic community in China and has volunteer experiences from one week or longer, in Beijing.
- Teach Abroad provides volunteer opportunities to work with autistic children, ages five and older, in Delhi, India. For a minimum of two months, you will teach subjects like music, drama, English, and arts with a motivated autistic student body.
- The Canadian Alliance for Development Initiatives and Projects does a three-week camp program (one week of training and two camp weeks) for volunteers to work with autistic kids in Courtenay, British Columbia.
- The Comox Valley Child Development Association sends volunteers to help children at a yearly autism summer camp in Canada. At this three week camp, volunteers help autistic children and teens participate in group activities, meal preparation, and day trips.
- The Cultural and Academic Travel Organization facilitates volunteer vacations to Ghana’s New Horizon School for Persons with Intellectual Disability. At this school, volunteers help children and adults with mental challenges, including autism. Volunteers teach academic subjects, tutor autistic people in life skills, supervise activities, and work at the autism resource center.