By Makenzie O'Keefe

DENVER (CBS4) – April is Autism Awareness Month, and Firefly Autism in Denver is working to ignite conversation surrounding around those living on the spectrum.

“Every day is autism awareness day for us because we’re really focused on awareness, changing the narrative, and helping people understand autism is just another way of being,” explained Jesse Ogas, the Executive Director of Firefly Autism. “Everyone is different.”

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The organization in Denver kicked off World Autism Day on April 2nd with a community vaccination clinic, to help give back to the community their “Firefly’s” live in. In addition, one of their students is creating “fun fact” videos, to inform the community about those living on the spectrum.

“It’s really fun,” Ogas said.

Firefly Autism offers a wide variety of support programs for children, families and adults including home-based programs, programs at the center for early childhood and school-aged children, adult programs and even support for siblings. Ogas said for the organization, it’s about making sure each Firefly has an individual path of support.

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“When you are working with someone on the spectrum you have to deal with them as an individual — what are their needs, what are their obstacles, what are their strengths,” Ogas said. “And together my team puts together a plan, an individualized plan for every person we work with. I don’t care if they’re 18 months or if they’re in their 70s.”

Ogas said this month is meant to create conversation about what autism looks like on a broad scale, whether it’s within the community or within a family.

“It’s a different way of seeing the world and it’s a different way of communicating,” he explained. “It’s not just about learning to deal with behaviors, it’s also learning basic life skills. It’s also incorporating speech therapy and occupational therapy for every individual.”

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To celebrate Autism Awareness Month and get the conversation going, Firefly Autism is hosting its annual “Laugh Yourself Blue Gala” on June 24. The event will be hybrid with a mix of in-person attendance and watch parties around town. For more information on the event or to find support and resources visit: fireflyautism.org

Makenzie O'Keefe