Autism Acceptance Month Poster.

How These Ambassadors Are Teaching Acceptance for Autism Awareness Month

We are approaching another April and Autism Awareness Month will be celebrated worldwide. It’s not without its controversy. Some feel the extra focus on awareness can only benefit those in the autism community. Others feel it does little to address the real issues of autistic people, such as independent living and employment. We see it as a time when the public and media are more open to talking about autism.

More than any other time of the year, we have an opportunity to change how the public thinks and acts towards autistic people.

The Women’s March showed us the power of grassroots advocacy — that each of us can get out into our communities to share our stories and help make a human connection to autism. We were moved by their advocacy, took action and created the Acceptance Ambassador Initiative.

Across the country, parents and teachers will be speaking to groups — their local schools, libraries, Boy and Girl Scout meetings, and homeschool co-ops — telling their stories. Here are a few of the reasons why they have joined our Acceptance Ambassador Initiative:

1.      “We are going to educate others about autism because we don’t want them to be afraid of it. Kids with autism are not so different. They just want to be loved and accepted just like everyone else.” – Cate (Mom) and Charlotte (Age 12) Luther

2.      “I think it’s important to get out in the community to help my son find his space in the community exactly as he is. And by talking about it to as many who will listen, I am helping more people see him as Ryan, not that boy with autism. I want to start with young people first because when you teach a child at a young age to see everyone as an individual they will be the change our world needs.” – Lee Ann Chergey

3.      “It’s important for me to raise awareness of the innate beauty, blessings and brilliance of neurodiversity. I want people to realize that we all have a purpose, a place, and we’re all important. My son Sawyer (age 6) sums it up best – ‘we’re all different.’ I don’t want autism to be stigmatized, and I want my son and all kids to be confident in themselves and their abilities.” – Mandi Mathis

4.      “It is important for teachers and autism advocates to get out in to the community to spread awareness, understanding and to dispel myths about individuals with autism. There are far too many widely believed stereotypes surrounding these individuals. It is my mission to get out there, and inspire change through teaching school professionals and parents how to best assist their children with autism.” – Trisha Katkin

5.      “We are going to schools in our community to put on “acceptance assemblies” for students and teachers. It’s been amazing to witness the interactions between us as autistics and the kids — so engaging and heartwarming. Schools and community groups are eager for this kind of interaction so we encourage everyone to get out there to advocate and educate!
James Sullivan and Jonathan Murphy

We all have a voice — autistic individuals, parents, educators, and professionals. We all need to be heard. And we all need to listen. It doesn’t matter if we don’t always agree. It’s more important that we hear one another as we openly share our fears, challenges and hopes with the people in our communities. We are very optimistic that together we can, and will, create positive futures for those on the autism spectrum.

We welcome you to join our mighty group of Acceptance Ambassadors. You’ll find more information at geekclubbooks/acceptance-ambassador.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.


Sesame Street episode with Julia and Elmo singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"

When My Son on the Autism Spectrum Told Me What He Thought of Sesame Street’s Julia

When the “60 Minutes” segment about Julia, Sesame Street’s new autistic muppet character, aired, within minutes my Facebook feed was filled with stories about it, and my phone started pinging with text messages.

One of the stories included a link to the online video of the segment, which I turned on and my son came to stand next to me as I watched it.

I liked what I saw of Julia, such as not responding when other characters addressed her, and flapping her arms when she was excited.

I believe the introduction of this character and these behaviors was an important step to help normalize autism for other children, so that when they saw similar actions from their classmates, they could better understand and accept behavior that might be otherwise confusing to them.

While Julia’s autism expression was different than how my son expresses his autism, it was still valuable for informing people who didn’t know anything about it.

My son liked it, too, saying he thought Julia did a good job showing what autism can look like.

But then things started to go downhill.

Almost immediately there was a sharp increase in stimming. He stopped responding to us as we tried to get him ready for bed, and resisted every step of his bedtime routine.

Sometimes if something happened during the day, like a bad encounter with another player on a game server or a problem he did not know how to solve, for example, his frustration and anxiety can come out at bedtime.

If I am patient, he’s usually able to eventually articulate what was bothering him.

So I waited, and when he was able to converse with us again, I asked him what was going on.

“I don’t know,” he answered. I tried to think of what had happened over the day which might be emerging now. As I thought about it, I realized the behavior started shortly after we had watched the “60 Minutes” segment.

“Was there something about Julia that made you uncomfortable?” I asked him. He nodded, seeming to me like he was relieved we had figured it out.

“She reminded me of how different and weird I am,” he answered.

This one statement from my son demonstrated to me how well “Sesame Street” had pegged it with Julia.

My son feeling this way was exactly why Julia was needed. If his behavior was never treated as strange by others, he would never think that he was different or “weird.”

The fact that he was responding so strongly meant to me that Julia had successfully captured some recognizable essence of autism which my son felt, not just saw.

I don’t think he would have responded so strongly if she did not ring true for him.

We work closely with our son to teach him that every aspect of him, including his autism, is unique and wonderful. We are well-supported by a network of professionals who celebrate his strengths and work with him and his challenges in positive ways.

And yet he still feels like an outsider at times. Julia’s presence on “Sesame Street” could help with that feeling in other kids on the autism spectrum.

Will Julia solve this for all kids on the spectrum? Of course not. But I believe she is a great step in the right direction.

Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s son.

Follow this journey on Autism Mom.

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Photo source: YouTube video

Carly Fleischmann interviewing James Van Der Beek

'Speechless With Carly Fleischmann' Is Back and Features James Van Der Beek

Carly Fleischmann took the internet by storm last April when she interviewed Channing Tatum on the debut episode of her talkshow, “Speechless With Carly Fleischmann.” Now, the talkshow host on the autism spectrum is back with a second episode featuring actor James Van Der Beek.

The 10-minute interview, which aired Wednesday on Fleischmann’s YouTube channel, shows Fleischmann interviewing Van Der Beek using a communication device. The two talk about Van Der Beek’s success as an actor, as well as his roles on “Dawson’s Creek” and “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.”

“It’s OK, to have challenges, It’s OK, to be supportive of people with challenges,” Fleischmann wrote on her Facebook page introducing the video. “And it is not all right to make fun of individuals with CHALLENGES because we all have them too.”

Fleischmann has become a major voice of autism awareness. She first gained notoriety when a video giving insight to how she processes the world went viral in 2012. It’s since been viewed millions of times and brought well-deserved attention to her book “Carly’s Voice.

“Speechless With Carly Fleischmann” will continue with monthly episodes. Next month’s episode features actress Beth Behrs, known for her role on “2 Broke Girls.”

You can watch the latest episode of “Speechless With Carly Fleischmann,” below. 

woman laughing at a state fair

I Want Funding for Autism Resources -- Not for Finding a Cause

“Autism” a six-letter word that can change lives and affect so many people. Approximately one in 68 children are on the autism spectrum (and grow up to be autistic adults). Some people really want to find the cause for this. I respect that. But as an individual with autism, a young adult with autism, what I really want is acceptance.

I don’t want funding for support over finding a cause. Why, you may ask? Don’t I care about what causes my disability?

I want more of the money to go towards supporting those on the spectrum across our lifespans because while finding a cause can be important in helping us face challenges, I feel that we truly need to focus on the now, the present. How can we support individuals with autism and their families as they age? Are our needs being met? Do we have the services we need? Is funding and money being put towards that? Sometimes in life we have to prioritize, and in my mind, this is a priority.

Autism, a six-letter word many people are hearing daily. The diagnosis that can leave parents and individuals wondering, How will I do this? How will we do this? Will we get through this? Is there support available? How in the world will we pay for therapy? As individuals on the spectrum age, opportunities for funding become less and less, at least that is what I have experienced. Recently Ohio passed an autism insurance coverage mandate, which I think is great and a huge step for so many. But there is a limitation, an age cut off of 14 years old. What happens then? Who pays for the therapy then? What if the individual is making progress? I like to believe and live my life believing and showing that progress is indeed possible regardless of age.

Don’t give up. It may take a while for you to find the team you like and that meets your needs/the needs of your loved one. But in my experience, once you do that, you are taking a huge step in the right direction.

I’m so very grateful to have my village, my team — team Chloe, who is there to support me, love me, care for me, and help me learn. Autism has its challenges but with my team, lots of love and support, it’s easier. It may not solve everything, but it is a step in the right direction, at least for me, to know I am not in this alone.

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PBS KIDS to Air Autism-Related Episodes of Popular Children's Shows

To help promote autism awareness, acceptance and understanding, PBS Kids will be airing autism-themed episodes of several popular children’s shows throughout April, Autism Awareness Month.

Read the full version of PBS KIDS to Air Autism-Related Episodes of Popular Children’s Shows.

Read the full transcript:

These Popular Kids’ Shows Will Have Autism-related Episodes in April!

Starting April 10, Autism Awareness Month, PBS KIDS will air a lineup of autism-themed episodes.

These episodes will help promote autism awareness, acceptance and understanding.

The lineup begins with a new episode of “Sesame Street,” that introduces Julia, a muppet on the spectrum.

Episodes of “Dinosaur Train” and “Arthur” will also be featured.

April 10, Sesame Street “Meet Julia”

April 10, Dinosaur Train “Junior Conductors Academy”

April 10, Arthur “When Carl Met George/D.W. Swims With the Fishes”

April 11, Arthur “Pets and Pests/Go Fly a Kite”

April 12, Arthur “Carl’s Concerto/Too Much of a Good Thing”

April 13, Arthur “He Said, He Said/Bunny Trouble”

We hope this spreads acceptance this April — and beyond!

This Local Business Provides More Than Just Workplace Training for Autistic Adults

Beneficial Beans Cafe and Garden provide workplace training and raise funds for adults on the spectrum.

Read the full transcript:

This Local Business Provides More Than Just Workplace Training for Autistic Adults

Beneficial Beans Cafe and Beneficial Beans Garden are located in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Their 12-week training program prepares individuals for community-based employment.

Employees learn time and task management, customer service, attention to detail and how to respond to change and feedback.

100% of the garden’s proceeds benefit adults on the spectrum.

The program was created by Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC).

SARRC hopes raise funds and foster job skills for autistic adults.

“They taught me that I can do anything, especially with the coffee, that I put my mind to,” -Kristopher Wipprecht, Beneficial Beans Garden And Cafe Intern

To learn more, visit

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