April is Autism Awareness Month in New Jersey and across the country. It’s a time to bring attention to the millions of people who live every single day with autism and to move toward eliminating the stigma and misconceptions surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorders. There are many ways for individuals to get involved for Autism Awareness Month — and organizations, clubs, schools and service providers in our region do amazing work throughout our state to make this month successful in its mission.
Here in Moorestown, many of our friends and neighbors live with autism and struggle for acceptance and awareness 24/7 as countless others do around the nation. Amazing residents in groups such as the Special Education Advisory Council, and who take part in programs with the Moorestown Department of Parks and Recreation, dedicate their time to making our town an accepting and supportive community for individuals with developmental disabilities. However, we need more people to stand up and get involved to speak for those who need our help now more than ever.
One organization that I have grown to deeply respect, Autism New Jersey, has a yearly program that they run known as the Autism Ambassadors program. Each year, this program has a theme (this year, it’s “acceptance”) and encourages ambassadors to go into their local towns, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods to educate their friends, families and neighbors about the effects of autism and the necessity for our communities to embrace, accept and support these individuals and their families. This year, I proudly signed up to personally become an Autism Ambassador in hopes that I could do my part for Autism Awareness here in Moorestown.
To that end, I recently asked Mayor Stacey Jordan to issue an official proclamation declaring April as “Autism Awareness Month” here in Moorestown. The proclamation was issued at our town council meeting, and I am deeply grateful for the mayor agreeing to stand with me in the ongoing battle to raise awareness and take action for the individuals who have ASDs and their families.
I encourage my fellow Moorestonians to join me in the fight against autism this month and throughout the year.
Sign up to become an Autism Ambassador yourself, volunteer with one of our area’s many local groups or programs, or simply take part in the Autism Speaks campaign and “light it up blue” for Autism Awareness by placing a blue light in your porch light for this month.
Every action, big and small, brings us closer to a culture of tolerance, of acceptance and of awareness.
My promise to our neighbors who have children, siblings or other individuals in their lives with autism and other developmental disabilities is simple: you will never fight this fight alone.
For as long as I and my four colleagues on council serve, you will have compassionate advocates for your causes, sympathetic ears to listen to your concerns, and a government that will stand with you.
Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano