As April begins, Autism Awareness Month also begins. Awareness months are intended to develop a well-informed interest in a situation or issue. Each of us can view an awareness month as a challenge to seek, find, and understand additional information about a complex issue. Awareness activities should, ideally, add to any bank of information or resources about a topic. We believe the following professionally created, complimentary materials will be beneficial to people seeking additional solutions to complex challenges regarding autism and safety.

n2y sought collaboration partners to raise awareness about complex issues facing people with autism and their families. We partnered with safety experts to create materials that enhance the learning experiences for children affected by autism.

1. Sensory-Friendly First Responder Event Materials

Working with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), we’ve created the materials you need to host a local, sensory-friendly event to help your children become familiar with the sights and sounds of emergency personnel. Help individuals see emergency vehicles, hear sirens and horns, and touch emergency vehicles in a controlled, non-emergency situation. Build knowledge and awareness before the event by playing Helper Bingo. During the event, support communication by using symbol-supported materials for reciprocal understanding and learning. Afterward, the completion activity will assist children in processing and internalizing the lessons from the day.

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2. TouchChat Vocabulary Pages

TouchChat and n2y teamed up to create SymbolStix vocabulary pages to support the project by NCMEC, entitled, How to Host a Sensory-Friendly First Responder Event for Children With Autism. The vocabulary pages are communication solutions for children who have difficulty using their natural voice. They are available to download for free from the upgrade menu inside the TouchChat app.

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3. Printable Personal Emergency Profile

In collaboration with the National Autism Association (NAA), n2y assisted in the creation of a symbol-supported, printable version of the Personal Emergency Profile. You can create an emergency profile, which can be shared with family and community members in their own safety planning, to raise awareness and engage children and adults who wander and elope. The symbol supports help rescued individuals communicate with first responders on the spot, when they are found.

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4. The KidSmartz® 4 Rules of Safety

The KidSmartz program, developed by the NCMEC and in partnership with Honeywell, uses the 4 Rules of Safety to teach about safety and abduction prevention. The 4 Rules of Safety uses text, songs, images, and SymbolStix to empower all kids with information about safety. n2y worked with NCMEC to make these important messages accessible and available to users who benefit from symbol-supported materials.

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5. The Safety Dance

The KidSmartz program reinforces its 4 Rules of Safety through its own customized version of the Safety Dance. Many children respond well to music, and n2y’s two SymbolStix adaptations of the Safety Dance lyrics will help them understand and remember safety messages.

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6. NetSmartz® Internet Safety Pledges

NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational program from the NCMEC that provides resources to teach children how to be safer online. Working with NCMEC, n2y created symbol-supported versions of the Internet Safety Pledges with our very own SymbolStix images. Use these four interactive and printable pieces to help children understand what to do and what not to do in order to stay safe online.

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So how does anyone develop a well-informed interest in autism in just one month when the research and information are changing so rapidly? Autism Awareness Month is only the beginning. It is the recognition that everyone needs more information about a subject that takes so many forms and affects so many individuals, families and communities.

About the Author
Anne Johnson‑Oliss has spent more than 20 years in the special education field as a teacher, program supervisor, sales and marketing professional, consultant and business leader. In addition to teaching at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, Anne is an experienced presenter at national and international forums who has authored five books and two CDs. Anne holds several certifications in education and business, and earned a Master of Education degree from Wright State University.