AKRON, Ohio — April 2 marks World Autism Awareness Day, meant to recognize and celebrate people with autism.
The Autism Society of Greater Akron says this year, during the coronavirus outbreak, highlighting acceptance and the challenges of autism is taking on new meaning.
“All Ohio families are going through a hard time right now, but when you have a child with autism, you can multiply that by ten,” says Executive Director Laurie Cramer. “The entire support system has collapsed. We’re very used to a village of teachers, therapists, activities that we do outside of school…in order to socialize our children, so everything being closed has really created a lot of anxiety for parents and children.”
To help families cope, ASGA launched a program, called Take a Break on ASGA, providing gift cards and funding for respite care.
“The reality is we need to get to the store still…The ability to do that without having to bring your children with you, especially your child with autism, are things that can really help reduce some stress for our families,” said Cramer.
Parents, grandparents, foster parents and guardians who are primary caregivers of a person with autism spectrum disorder and live in ASGA’s five county service area are eligible for the program (Summit, Stark, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties).
They’re also asking for the help of volunteers for a program called Operation Cheer. Anyone can help spread encouraging messages of support to those with autism and other disabilities who live in intermediate care facilities and group homes. Like nursing homes, those are also now closed to visitors. Cards and crafts can be mailed to the group – and they’ll pass them on.
Mail these items to:
The Autism Society of Greater Akron
703 S. Main Street
Akron, OH 44311
You can find additional COVID-19 resources and support programs by clicking here. They’ve set up virtual support groups, online webinars and how anyone can get involved with Autism Awareness Month.