I recently attended a great presentation on the Make Friends with Autism initiative of the Children’s Specialized Hospital at Autism New Jersey’s annual conference in Atlantic City. The initiative, sponsored by Kohl’s, was launched to help people with autism become more fully engaged in community life.
Adrienne Robertiello, Community Autism Educator of Children’s Specialized Hospital, began by showing a video produced for the initiative. She spent much of the presentation enthusiastically describing tools developed for use by businesses, family and friends, and recreation providers with an interest in fully supporting people with autism. She made a lot of sense when she stressed the fact that businesses have much to gain when they become more aware of the needs of patrons with autism.
It was good to hear this message. To a limited extent, my wife and I have been educating some local businesses about autism out of necessity. For example when we go to local restaurants, we will ask for a booth, and explain that this will help us to keep our autistic child from leaving the table while we are eating. (He generally does very well in restaurants, but he may be inclined to make a beeline for a drink at another table when given the chance.) Any popular family restaurant with a limited number of booths may do well to allow families like ours to reserve one in advance.
Adrienne and her team are available to deliver on-site presentations, and autism advocates are encouraged to make use of the materials in their own communities. All of the materials are free and downloadable from the Make Friends with Autism section of the Children’s Specialized Hospital website.