Typically during our weekly round-up of the biggest autism-related news stories of the week, we focus on national stories; whether it be new research, a breakthrough in treatment, or tools to reduce its symptoms. We tend to look at national news and overlook the countless local news stories that pop up every week, each often chronicling an effort on behalf of a community to improve day-to-day life for their neighbors with autism. In celebration of Autism Awareness month, a month where we take a step back from the “big” stories to see how autism affects those all around us, we’re taking a look at several recent local news stories that caught our eye.

First off, myCentralJersey.com recently ran a profile in their weekly series, “The Secret Life of” which looks at the fascinating people across Central Jersey. Their most recent profile was of a videographer named Andrew Duff who works with Autism Speaks, the leading autism awareness organization. He serves as a multimedia producer, capturing footage all around New York and New Jersey to chronicle what happens on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, as well as creating video content for the organization throughout the year. What makes Andrew different from other videographers is that he was not yet two years old when he was diagnosed with autism, providing him with a unique insight with the video content he creates.

In talking about the role of World Autism Awareness Day and how it’s often one of the busiest days of the year for him, the twenty-four year old said, “I’m usually so entrenched in work I don’t get to talk to people about it during the day. But in the weeks that follow, people ask me about it and that’s what’s really exciting for me. It’s a fantastic day, but the goal for that day is to keep the conversation going beyond that day, and that’s what excites me.” Click here to watch a video chronicling a day in Andrew’s life.

Moving up north to Canada, our next local news stop is in Ontario where parents of toddlers displaying signs of autism will soon have the opportunity to help them at a younger age when the province opens four new treatments for children as young as twelve months old. The interventions follow a “naturalistic” model, which is a growing approach to the treatment of autism that occurs in the child’s own environment—not at a special center or research lab—while they play and follow the normal course of their day.

The treatment’s key feature is to teach parents strategies that they can use both now and in the future to help improve the communication and engagement of their children. According to the Ontario ministry, their decision to open these four early treatment centers was due to increased research showing that earlier intervention tends to result in better outcomes.

Finally, one national news story we’ve discussed at length in this space is the disparity between early diagnoses in boys while girls tend not to be diagnosed until much later in their development. A new program based in Puget Sound, Washington is aiming to offer girls on the autism spectrum a place in which they can learn to socialize and interact with one another in a safe and supportive environment. The program, called Aspire Girls of Puget Sound, was created by the organization Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy. Click here to watch an especially enjoyable news story chronicling these brave young girls and their parents who are trying to give them the best head start possible.