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Autism Acceptance: Celebrating Differences in the Fox Cities

In the Fox Valley, acceptance happens every day.

Two kids enjoying Building for Kids during one of our Sensory Friendly Events

April is Autism Acceptance Month — 30 days dedicated to embracing the diverse and unique experiences across the autism community. But true inclusion is a year-round effort. The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin works throughout the calendar year to ensure that autistic individuals and their families feel a sense of belonging.

Since 2019, the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin, together with its local Fox Valley chapter, has partnered with local businesses through the Autism Friendly Communities program to strengthen the resources and accommodations available for those with autism.

Child and ASGW volunteer enjoying Building for Kids during one of our Sensory Friendly Events

These partners recognize that individuals with autism experience the world differently and commit to making accommodations to support a diverse range of community members. Fox Valley area partners include the Building for Kids Children’s Museum, the Appleton International Airport, Mill City Church and Clipper Chaos Hair Salon.

ASGW staff recognizing Building for Kids Children’s Museum as first Autism Friendly Communities partner

“With ‘inclusion’ as one of our key organizational values, the Building for Kids Children’s Museum was excited to be the first Autism Friendly Community Partner recognized by the Autism Society for Greater Wisconsin,” said Building for Kids Executive Director Oliver Zornow. “Through the partnership, the Building for Kids has been able to ensure that both their staff and their facility are a safe, welcoming and accessible environment for families in the autism community. The Autism Friendly Community Partner designation serves as a symbol and catalyst to further develop a community inclusive of all families.”

Kirsten Cooper, ASGW executive director, presenting Abe Weber, airport director, with plaque recognizing Appleton International Airport as Autism Friendly Communities partner

The Building for Kids offers a variety of accommodations available for autistic individuals or anyone else who may benefit, including a designated quiet room, visual supports, sensory kits and regular sensory-friendly events which provide a lower sensory experience at the museum. By providing these accommodations, people with autism and their families can have a stress-free experience at the museum, knowing their needs will be met in this community space.

The Appleton International Airport is another key community organization that has partnered with the Autism Society to ensure all community members have access to travel and feel welcome and supported within airport spaces. In addition to receiving training about autism, the airport has designated quiet rooms for sensory breaks, hosts rehearsal programs, and offers a social narrative video available to the public.

The video shows the steps to take at the airport when traveling and can help individuals and families know what to expect before arriving at the airport. Social narratives are a common practice used to support those with autism by providing structure and routine to help individuals navigate situations that may be unfamiliar or overwhelming.

“The Appleton Airport has joined us on our journey from awareness to acceptance by working regularly with the autism community to implement programs and supports to help travelers with autism have a successful experience at the airport,” said Kirsten Cooper, executive director of the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin.

In April — and every month — the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin is committed to strengthening the Fox Cities community by promoting inclusion and acceptance. We all want to belong. For individuals in the autism community, acceptance starts with accessibility and support in community spaces to cultivate belongingness.

Learn how you can get involved and #CelebrateDifferences during Autism Acceptance Month:

  1. Learn about autism from autistic voices and other trusted resources. Join us as we seek out and amplify a range of autistic stories, experiences and perspectives.
  2. Share your story of acceptance and inclusion on social media using the #CelebrateDifferences hashtag during Autism Acceptance Month.
  3. Support acceptance and inclusion in our community. The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin is currently seeking support to expand the Autism Friendly Communities program, creating more space for belongingness and acceptance in the Fox Cities. Get involved here.

A huge thank you to these funds from within the Community Foundation that have generously supported the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin:

Community Vision Fund
Jewelers Mutual Charitable Giving Fund
SAC Developmental Disabilities Fund
SECURA Insurance Companies Charitable Fund

What does a Community Foundation do? Glad you asked! Learn more here.



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