Guest blog by Andrea Elderkin, member engagement coordinator, Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy
Last December, in my role as the member engagement coordinator for Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy (WAAA), I had the opportunity to join Seattle Aquarium staff and volunteers to talk about how they can better serve our community. I encountered a room full of caring and passionate people, who really want to do everything they can to support the autism community. Everyone was eager to learn and embrace inclusion and diversity.
WAAA has been one of the partner organizations for DreamNight, a free event that takes place twice each year at the Seattle Aquarium. DreamNight offers a welcoming and inclusive environment for kids and adults who have a disability and their families. It’s a magical event and being surrounded by families who are so understanding and accepting of differences makes it very special.
As the nation’s only legal advocate for people with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities to access healthcare and education regardless of ability to pay, WAAA has a highly successful track record of legislative advocacy. We’ve opened access to service for nearly 10,000 clients directly and ensured rights to coverage for over 58,000 people. Our staff has specialized training and personal experience with autism and developmental disabilities, giving us practical and empathetic expertise.
Each year during the month of April, individuals and organizations across the globe celebrate autism acceptance with events to educate local communities and raise public awareness about autism. Almost 50 years have passed since the Autism Society held the first National Autism Awareness month in April 1970. Since then, autism has become the fastest-growing developmental disability, and the prevalence in the United States is estimated at one in 54 births (CDC, 2020).
To celebrate Autism Awareness Month, WAAA is featuring “Autism Gold/Faces of Autism” during the month of April, giving the opportunity for parents to share pictures of their wonderful kids and describe why they're special. WAAA’s partnership with the Seattle Aquarium shows the autism community that this is a safe place for our kids to learn and enjoy themselves.
I invite you to share photos on social media of your families’ past Aquarium visit, tagging @SeattleAquarium and @WashingtonAutismAllianceAdvocacy (Facebook) using the hashtag #AutismGold.