According to the CDC 1 out of every 88 children in American suffers from some form of autism, affecting their ability to communicate and develop social relationships. This is not only makes life difficult for them, but for their families who must learn to cope with it themselves.
"It is essential that we speak up to ensure that community helpers understand our kids' needs, ensuring safety, understanding and acceptance, for ourselves and other families who may face similar issues," states Monica Holloway, author, whose bestselling memoir “Cowboy & Wills” is the story of her own autistic son, Wills, and the remarkable golden retriever puppy that coaxed him into the world.
Monica, who has served as a spokeswoman for Autism Speaks, also feels that “many civil servants are in positions to make decisions about the lives of families affected by autism,” and encourages working together with community officials to promote increased safety and understanding for those with autism.
To do this effectively she is offering the following tips for explaining autism to public authorities:
1) Have easy statistics on autism available.
2) Be able to identify two behaviors and two accommodations. Describe a fact pattern depicting what is difficult for your child and what helps your child to perform at their best.
3) Develop a handout card with person-specific or general autism information that can be given to officials. This tool can help officials to make more informed decisions when interacting with your child and family.
4) Consider carrying supporting materials, such as your child's photo or a copy of their diagnosis to connect the official to the child as a person.
5) Tell the facts about your child concisely. Let the official know about the autism diagnosis, listen to the official, and answer questions you are asked directly to be transparent.
6) Promote community understanding. Communicate with civil servants about autism, and even offer to visit public offices and answer questions about autism or introduce your child.
7) Have your loved one wear an ID bracelet that can identify special needs to community helpers.
8) Help your child know that while a police officer may not immediately know of a need for extra help, they should be trusted, and that the child should follow their instructions.
"It is essential that we speak up to ensure that community helpers understand our kids' needs, guaranteeing safety, understanding and acceptance, for ourselves and other families who may face similar issue." she
Winner of the prestigious Mom's Choice Awards Gold Recipient for 2010 for her book, Monica Holloway is also the author of another memoir, “Driving With Dead People,” and has recently contributed the essay “Party Girl” to the collection "Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost." Her work also appeared in the anthology "Dancing at the Shame Prom" in 2012. She is now hard at work on her third memoir, to be published by Simon & Schuster in Fall 2013.
In addition to her autism advocacy, Monica and her husband, writer Michael Price, serve on the advisory board of the National Center for Family Literacy. She also received the Women of Distinction Award from the Special Needs Network in 2011, in recognition for her work and contributions to the underserved special needs communities in Los Angeles.
Holloway lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, two golden retrievers, a hamster, four hermit crabs, three frogs, two rabbits and six neon tetras.