Helping Others

Helping Others
The life of every individual, whether they function on the spectrum of autism or not, is enriched when helping other people. There are many volunteer opportunities in our communities, but sometimes we need to look carefully to scout out spots that match the abilities and interests of our friends with autism.

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Social Skills, Quality of Life, Personal Interaction
Some individuals with autism are serious about the motto “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Nearly every office, school, library, church, hospital, and agency needs help with organization. Some of the volunteer jobs my organized friends with autism have enjoyed include filing papers at a local hospital, putting away returned books at a local library, stuffing envelopes for mailings for a local social service agency, putting newsletters in boxes at a church or school, and putting away dishes after meals at a senior center or church. One teenager helps put away the toys at the end of the day at a church’s day program for pre-schoolers.

Some individuals are not able to tolerate the sound of a vacuum cleaner, but others love the loud roar. Those who enjoy vacuuming can lend a hand at the end of the day at a local church day school or a senior center. Those who prefer quiet can “swiff” the tile floors and wipe off countertops. Some of my friends with autism are obsessive about removing every tiny piece of dust or dirt, a trait that is admirable when related to housecleaning.

Young adults with autism can enjoy having a specific responsibility every day or every week. For example, they can be in charge of changing the calendar at a school or the hymn board at a church. They can be a part of a “Meals on Wheels” delivery team, riding in the car and checking off each delivery. Or, if they are able to do so, they walk up to the house with a partner, ring the doorbell, open the doors, and greet the recipient of the meal.

Some individuals with autism love to talk. These conversationalists often find that we are too busy to listen to their long discourses. But they make a great addition to a daily social hour at a nursing home or adult day care.

Even folks with very limited skills can lend a helping hand. A group of my friends with autism helped compile personal care kits for Lutheran World Relief ‘s efforts to help victims of the tsunami and of warfare and extreme drought in Africa. They worked with their volunteer buddies to wrap a toothbrush, comb, washcloth, soap, toothpaste, and bandaids in a towel and tying it up with a thin rope. Everyone was able to help in one way or another.

So, sometimes it may take time to find just the right volunteer project to match abilities and interests and attention spans, but it is worth the effort to see the satisfaction that comes from lending a helping hand. We hope you will take time to share your ideas and experiences with volunteer projects. Just click on the comment button or send a message to

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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