April: Autism Awareness Month

As April comes to an end, I’d like to remind you that it is Autism Awareness Month. For almost a year, I have worked with Home and Community Options (HCO) in Winona. It is the mission of HCO to provide support and residential services to people with developmental disabilities in order to enable individuals to live as full members of their communities. I became aware of this organization when I tried out for their annual musical last year. My friend had been in their musicals in the past, and he took me with to try out with him. During auditions, I began talking with one of the employees, and they encouraged me to apply for a position in the company. I applied, and after a few interviews, I was hired at their children’s resource center.


Before the musical and being hired by HCO, I did not have that much exposure to people with developmental disabilities. I had two classmates in my grade throughout middle school and high school who were diagnosed with Asperger’s and Autism, but they were not included in classes. To be honest, I was a bit ableist, as I would go out of my way to not interact with people who had disabilities because I had no idea how to behave around them.


This past year, however, I have grown tremendously as a person and I truly love each individual I work with. Since I work at the children’s center, I go with my kids to the pool, the park, the library and just about anywhere else in Winona that will further immerse them into the community. I have also seen the kids grow as individuals themselves. When the kids come to the center, they partake in programs that help them become more independent. This includes but is not limited to, teeth brushing, bathing, tying shoes, cooking, etc. Watching the children I work with go from struggling in their programs to excelling in them has made every bad behavior incident worth it a million times over.


I am so excited and honored to be a part of this organization that helps individuals with developmental disabilities, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me in the future!