‘The signs were there’

A Camden County mom aims to educate others about autism every day

Shaniele Brown shares a moment with her 5-year-old son, Nasir, getting ready for his school day.

April marks Autism Acceptance Month or also known as Autism Awareness Month.

The primary aim of the month is to foster inclusivity within the community, increase awareness and advocate for the acceptance of autism spectrum disorder. It celebrates the diverse strengths and differences of each individual within the autism community while promoting inclusivity and a sense of belonging.

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For one Camden County mother, Shaniele Brown, it means educating others every day on what autism is when it comes to caring for her 5-year-old son, Nasir Smith.

The 28-year-old mom expressed the challenges she faced even before her son received a formal diagnosis.

“I knew my son was autistic before doctors even gave a diagnosis,” Brown recalled. “The signs were there. It was super hard at first, the tantrums, my son being non-verbal, and just not enough understanding/resources from daycares he’s attended. I also struggled because I barely had any family support in New Jersey.”

Advocating for her son’s needs proved to be another uphill battle for Brown.

“One of the biggest challenges was getting him into preschool at our district’s public school,” she said. “There’s no manual to parenting, so most parents wouldn’t know the proper requirements to get their child into a special education program.”

Brown also addressed the stigmas surrounding autism.

“A big misconception is that autistic children won’t be able to live normal lives. That’s a lie,” she asserted. “My son is a normal child who happens to be neurodivergent. He’s no different than a child without autism.”

Her perspective on autism has evolved over time, Brown admitted.

“In the beginning, I blamed myself for my son being autistic,” she said. “I just didn’t understand what it meant to be autistic. Now, I understand that this isn’t my fault, it’s no one’s fault, because having autism isn’t a bad thing. It’s the greatest blessing there is.”

To other parents or caregivers of children with autism, Brown offered heartfelt advice.

“The world we live in will be a dark place for our children, so be that light that they will forever need. Stand with them, not against them,” she urged. “Also, research, research, and research because there are so many resources and free things you can obtain for your child.”

This month serves as a reminder to reaffirm our dedication to respecting and embracing the distinct perspectives of those living with autism.

Here are simpler ways individuals can support the autism community:

Learn About Autism: Take time to understand what autism is, its challenges, and strengths. Knowing more helps everyone get along better.

Be Kind: Encourage others to be nice to people with autism and include them. We all have things that make us special.

Help Out: Support groups that help people with autism and their families. This could be by giving money, time, or joining events to raise awareness.

Make Things Easier: Ask for things to be made easier for people with autism, like in schools or at work. Everyone deserves a chance to succeed!

Be a Friend: Be a good friend to people with autism. Listen to them, help them, and stand up for them if they need it.

By doing these simple things, we can make the world a better place for everyone, including those with autism. Autism Acceptance Month represents the importance of supporting children with autism and their families, providing them with the resources and encouragement they need to thrive and achieve their fullest potential.

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