Advocate with Autism Resources and Education (AWARE): A Training Program to Increase Community Awareness and Acceptance of Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Their Families
Navigation through community situations is often challenging to the increasing number of individuals and families who cope daily with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The need for community awareness of and sensitivity toward individuals with ASD and their families is a growing imperative if such persons are to succeed socially, occupationally, educationally, and achieve good health, happiness and dignity.
To develop and evaluate a program aimed at helping institutions and typical individuals comprising the larger community to understand individuals with ASD and their families, and thereby improve their abilities to welcome, accept, and communicate more effectively with persons affected by ASD.
Advocate With Autism Resources and Education (AWARE) educates people in key community institutions about ASD. Such establishments receive materials indicating to the public that they have participated in such training. The program consists of a comprehensive training module, regularly scheduled follow-ups of participants with the instructor, and opportunities for individuals with ASD to provide anonymous feedback on the site where training occurred. All AWARE participants complete a pre and post-test, before and after the training.
Recently, 35 individuals at a major international airport received AWARE training. Participants included staff of several airlines, officers of the Federal Transportation Safety Administration, and customer service personnel of the airport itself. Feedback on the experience by participants has been consistently positive. We are now tracking the anonymous feedback of persons with ASD and their families. Several additional trainings have been conducted at other institutions and businesses, for a total of 70 AWARE-trained individuals in the greater Atlanta region.
Program feedback suggests that AWARE, a formal education program aimed at increasing community acceptance and inclusion of persons with ASD, has been enthusiastically received by participants thus far. We will present data on the scope of this growing initiative, and on feedback from persons with ASD and their families.