As many of you know, I’m extremely passionate about autism. Okay, I’m passionate about everything I do. But autism hits close to home, my home, my family. My son, Eric, is a person with Autism. Raising a child with autism has its own challenges. Things get worse, though, when schools, business, and other segments of our society come at this with ignorance and lack of understanding. It even drove me to become a special education teacher! That’s why we’re so proud of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and my husband Steve’s business, Friendly Auto Centers, for taking a leadership role in supporting the Autism community.
News About Mesa and Autism
The Mesa Chamber of Commerce recently launched its Mesa Chamber Autism Initiative. The goal is to “ensure each member would become a Certified Autism Center.” In order to achieve that goal, the Chamber partnered up with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES.org) to make Mesa “the most autism inclusive community in the world.” And it all starts with local businesses, as well as healthcare and educational institutions, getting certified in working with the autism community. Why is this important?
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that covers a wide range of functions, from social interactions to repetitive tasks to non-verbal communication. While kids with autism are usually diagnosed when they’re young, the diagnosis is just as complex as the disorder itself (DSM-5 Criteria).
But here’s the thing. Autism affects individuals, families, and communities. You probably know somebody or have a family member with autism. Here are some statistics from Autism Speaks:
- More people are diagnosed with autism than you think: 1 in 37 boys, 1 in 151 girls. That’s basically one in every-other classroom in school.
- While autism affects all races and socioeconomic groups, minorities tend to be diagnosed later.
- Roughly one third of those with autism are non-verbal.
- Nearly half of those with autism will wander away from safety.
- Nearly ⅔ of autistic children aged 6-15 have been bullied!
Autism is part of our community.
Friendly Auto Centers’ Certification
Friendly Auto Centers will be the first auto repair shop in the entire country with this distinction and accreditation, following the Chamber’s lead in becoming the first chamber in the country to do so. Steve has always worked closely with the Chamber and the City of Mesa — that’s where his shop is. This is just one more way that he’s taking a leadership role there. And this one means so much to our family, and it will do so much good for the community. If you haven’t already, give Friendly Auto a visit and show your support as well.
How to Support this Initiative
Get smart on autism. The way our community works with children with autism, in schools, in churches, in healthcare and in business, is a big part of our culture. If you own a business, inquire about becoming certified. Talk to Steve about the process and the personal rewards of doing so. If you notice a certified business, go in. Ask them about it, they’ll be glad to share their experience.
As an family with a son who has autism, we are so proud of the Mesa Chamber for taking the lead on this important issue, and we’ll continue to do what we can as a family, members of this great community, and business owners to make sure that this initiative moves forward with great success.
And Steve puts it best, “If you really want to help the cause of autism, invite your neighbor, whose kid has autism, over for coffee.” It’s time to connect rather than separate.
Thank you, Mesa!
Image courtesy ibcces.org