By: Lani Hessen, Director of Advocacy, Cognoa, and Pediatric Occupational Therapist (OTR/L)

Autism impacts an estimated 1 in 54 children in the U.S. today. Autism is a spectrum, representing a tremendous range of skills and challenges spanning learning and communication, socialization and developmental behaviors. 

Autism impacts children and families of all backgrounds, regardless of race, ethnicity, location, or wealth. As such, autism care is a spectrum of care that aims to best support the individual needs of children and families. It includes a combination of awareness and education, acceptance, and action, on behalf of all aspects of society and community —  schools, employers, healthcare providers and policy-makers alike — to ensure that children and families living with autism have equitable access to services and opportunities. 

April is a month to underscore the urgency and value of autism awareness, acceptance and action. At Cognoa, we speak with many self-advocates who express their desires for acceptance of their differences, which are many times underappreciated and underutilized skills and gifts. We hear from adults living with autism and their desire to be accepted and valued in the workplace. We hear from caregivers and families and their desires for recognition of their children’s needs as soon as possible to help them to access the support and care they need.

This month, we share the meaning of “autism acceptance” from a self-advocate, parents, advocacy organization leader, and autism educators, researchers and clinicians:

  • Dennis is a 27 year old author and creative consultant, who is also an autism self-advocate. Dennis’ mother, Debbie, is an advocate for the autism community and is connected with organizations including the Autism Science Foundation (ASF) and The Color of Autism.
  • Dr. Dennis Wall, Cognoa’s Founder, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Stanford University.
  • Simran Garcia, a parent and autism advocate with The Autism Community in Action (TACA). TACA emphasizes autism action this month with various opportunities for engagement with the community and learning.
  • Jennifer is a parent of a teenager on the autism spectrum, and a freelance graphic designer for Cognoa.
  • Dr. Jennie Trocchio is an autism educator with Positive Development.
  • Dr. Jennifer Shannon, Regional Medical Director for Cognoa, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
  • Dr. Sharief Taraman, Cognoa’s Chief Medical Officer, practicing pediatric neurologist, and CHOC’s Division Chief of Pediatric Neurology.


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