How do I Understand Autism as a Sibling?

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By Marcella Mackowiak

A few months ago I found out that my nephew was diagnosed with autism. It was heartbreaking, but I pulled myself together to support my sister. However, she didn’t tell anyone else in our rather large family.

Last Saturday we all got together for my other nephew’s birthday and it was very clear to the other youngsters that something was wrong with my nephew. I didn’t know if I should explain, but my sister jumped in and said he was a little sick. Then she asked me what was wrong with him. I told her. If one of my many nephews had the courage to ask, then I wonder what the other ones were thinking.

Autism Speaks put an incredible booklet out to help siblings understand what autism is. It keeps it very simple by saying things like “autism effects the way the brain work,” “we don’t know what causes it,” and even giving descriptions of what autism looks like. I think that it’s good for cousins as well.

Check out the link below….




By Andrea Martinez Cabrera

Summer is around the corner! This is the time to focus on your mental health. School hours, homework, work and even volunteering at places can wear you out and leave you feeling mentally tired at the end of the day. I encourage you during the summer to take care of your mental health by creating a bucket list of things that you would like to do in the summer. It can be as simple as getting plenty of rest, going out to a movie with friends, drinking tea while reading, etc. to something spontaneous such as going on a road trip, going to the beach, attend a festival, etc. Give your mind some peace before starting another year of school and/or breaks from work and volunteering. Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Job Accommodations

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By Andrea Martinez Cabrera

If you have a job or are looking for a job, you often wonder if your employer would be able to meet your accommodations. You might even have a question on what types of accommodations you could ask at your workplace. The following is a link for ideas for job accommodations for individuals with a learning disability.


Autism Prevalence increases 15% Nationwide.

CDC just released their biennial update for autism prevalence on children. The results showed an increase of 15% from the past two years. At the same time, CDC also released key findings in their report such as “The gender gap in autism has decreased. While boys were 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls (1 in 37 versus 1 in 151) in 2014, the difference was narrower than in 2012, when boys were 4.5 times more frequently diagnosed than girls. This appears to reflect the improved identification of autism in girls – many of whom do not fit the stereotypical picture of autism seen in boys.”

Attached below is the link to the article.’s-prevalence-15-percent-1-59-children

Advocacy Day Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

One of our students is studying Social Work at Northeastern Illinois Univerity (NEIU).  He is working very hard, and becoming incredibly active in the community as he dives into the policies and current issues that impact all people and their well-being.  He wrote a blog post about his experience at Advocacy Day in Springfield, IL.  We are very proud of his dedication, motivation, engagement, and determination!  


By Nathan Apelian

Advocacy Day was a very unique experience. The bus left NEIU at 5am, made it to Springfield at 9am, left Springfield at 3pm, and made it back to NEIU at 7pm. During this time I met two politicians and both from my district: State Rep Laura Fine (H17, NEIU Alumni) and Senator Daniel Biss (S09). Both of them are committed to helping people and very nice. Laura Fine’s Glenview office is down the street from where I live and I met her there also. Both I plan to meet again as I want to know their thoughts on bills and what they are doing in the community. I would like to meet Robyn Gabel, Kelly Cassidy, John D’Amico, and Heather Steans in the future as they represent nearby communities.


Advocacy Day is just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to be involved in the social work field because I feel that there needs to be more advocates. Some people just protest, but I feel people need to do more. I am talking about getting to know the community, be involved with agencies, get familiar with the law, get familiar with bills, and to get to know state representatives and or senators regardless of their beliefs. I also wanted to get involved in social work as anxiety is one aspect that I wanted to look into as this affects young people, college students, elderly individuals, veterans, and people that work too much to name a few. In the next couple of years, I look forward to expanding my social work experience at the micro, mezzo and macro levels.


For further information on current and upcoming legislation, representatives and senators in Illinois, please visit:



Awareness in our Community

Mounting research suggests that African-American and Latino children with autism are diagnosed late because of bias on the part of health care providers or a lack of information among patient families.

By Andrea Martinez Cabrera.

April is National Autism Awareness Month in which we bring awareness to not only ourselves but to our communities about Autism. For each of us, awareness is different. For parents, awareness means for individuals to love, accept and have compassion towards their children. For institutions and organizations, it means research, assistance, and funding towards those who need it. For me personally, awareness this month is not only understanding but opening my eyes, mind, and heart in my Latino/a community about autism. Autism is taken lightly in my community and often overlooked and seen as a bad behavior or something else. As someone who is pursuing a career in mental health with the goal of helping my community understand mental health, I found this article on NPR helpful in bringing to light the issue that minorities often deal with when it comes to autism and how children are often diagnosed later in life and thus often do not receive the adequate treatment.

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