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Beyond Awareness: Building Acceptance of Autism in Ohio

PHOTO: There are efforts in Ohio to make this August the first ever  Autism Acceptance Month. Graphic courtesy of Autism Society of Ohio.
PHOTO: There are efforts in Ohio to make this August the first ever Autism Acceptance Month. Graphic courtesy of Autism Society of Ohio.
July 28, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Autism is a reality of life for an estimated one in 68 people.

And while annual observances such as Autism Awareness Month in April have increased recognition of the disease’s prevalence, some say better understanding also is needed.

Andie Ryley, board chair of the Autism Society of Ohio, says that's why her organization is promoting this August as the first ever Autism Acceptance Month.

"You have to have awareness,” she stresses. “And after awareness comes acceptance – and then comes empathy and understanding."

Ryley says too often negative words – like suffering or tragic – are wrongly used to describe the lives of those with autism. She says these impressions are misconceptions.

"Many adults believe their autism gives them special and unique abilities,” Ryley points out. “So, there's many people who don't want to, quote-unquote, cure autism – because they like, and they just want acceptance of, who they are."

Ryley says part of acceptance is learning that each individual with autism is unique, with his or her own strengths and abilities – and that, with the right supports, can live happy and enjoyable lives.

Ryley adds helping people understand autism will require better education. And she says more research also is crucial, because much of the focus has been on young children on the autism spectrum, but not enough about what's needed for them as they age and integrate into the community as adults.

"Awareness – you know that it exists,” she says. “Now, how are we going to go through developing the supports and the practices to accept this population of people, and accept what they can contribute?"

The Autism Society of Ohio is networking with other state affiliates to make Ohio the first state to declare August as Autism Acceptance Month.




Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH