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Celebrating Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month.

That is the eighth time I have made that announcement in one medium or another. Since my first April with the Hormel Historic Home in 2013, much has changed in my awareness of autism and I hope in yours.

Words like spectrum and sensory have taken on different meanings. I have learned new words like stimming and neurodiverse. I started calling my own kids neurotypical instead of normal-in my head of course, not to their face.

I’ve made friends with kids who came to camp and with some of their parents and they have changed me. My mind has been broadened by understanding the challenges and barriers that families dealing with autism may encounter. I have learned from others and I have gained knowledge that helps me be more inclusive and tolerant of those who are different from me.

2020 should mark my eighth year planning a group fundraising event that brings all those interested in autism together for a celebratory walk. The goal of the event has always been raising awareness and funds to support the youth summer camps offered at the Hormel Historic Home.

We’ve walked through snow and mud puddles and we’ve had to go buy sunscreen because one year it was so hot and sunny. We’ve never had to cancel. But we didn’t anticipate a health scare that would make us consider whether we could host our outdoor walk in 2020. As it turns out, we didn’t have to decide whether to cancel.  Thankfully, leaders in our government made the choice for us, for the protection of all.

So instead of walking together, we are asking that the community support the Stepping Out (SAFELY) for Autism event in a virtual format. The campaign is live on our website and on our Facebook page, and during the week of April 13 we will promote live presentations and activities for you to engage with. We are all being encouraged to go out in our family units, or by ourselves, and be active outdoors so we are asking that you do your own walk (or run, or ride, or skate) and share it with us.

I felt totally unprepared for the first walk I was involved with, and I am not sure I am prepared for an online version of a walk this year, but here we are. Together. In uncertain times. There are many needs arising all around us and I see amazing people doing amazing things to help others. So, I hope that you will consider making a cape (for real or virtually) and being a superhero for someone on the autism spectrum. You can make a donation, start a fundraising campaign, buy a t-shirt, color a picture and put it in your window, or just learn something about autism.

If you’d like a copy of our annual Autism Friendly Austin programming report, let me know and I will send you a copy. Visit www.hormelhistorichome.org for more information and to view a list of sponsors.

Monday, April 6

• Healthy Relationships for All Abilities, 4-5 p.m. A free online parent caregiver event. Katie Thune of Mad Hatter Wellness will discuss with parents and caregivers tips, tools and resources to support friendships, relationships and sexual health for all abilities. RSVP to receive the ZOOM meeting link by calling  the Hormel Historic Home at 507-433-4243 or emailing autism@hormehistorichome.org.