Autism Tennessee Junior Ambassador Program
The Autism Tennessee Junior Ambassador Program brings together, trains and supports teens to advocate for and talk about Autism Spectrum Disorders in their community, with their elected officials and before their peers at school, sports leagues, scout troops, camps and after-school programs. [They also have the opportunity to discuss Autism Spectrum Disorders in Congress during Disability Day on the Hill].
Spread Acceptance of Autism
The goal is to educate children in Middle Tennessee about autism, and to spread tolerance and acceptance of autism, while displacing the myths and stereotypes that are often associated with this disorder. The teen and their adult parent or guardian comprise a Junior Ambassador (YA) Team – with the teen giving presentations and the adult helping with scheduling and other arrangements.
Develop Your Leadership Skills
Junior Ambassadors enjoy many personal benefits to their participation, such as learning to work as team members and developing increased confidence in public speaking. Junior Ambassadors learn skills they will use for the rest of their lives as they help enlighten new generations about autism spectrum disorders.
This is an excellent opportunity for interested teens to learn public speaking, build friendships with other teens involved in the program, gain leadership and advocacy skills, and represent the autism community as they raise awareness through JA Program activities.
Junior Ambassador Requirements
- The Junior Ambassador must be between 12 and 17 years old (9th-12th grader).
- The Junior Ambassador may or may not have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.
- The Junior Ambassador must be paired with an adult who will take on the responsibility of helping with the program, presentation, schedule and outreach. These are typically teen/parent teams, however the adult does not need to be the JA’s parent (it could be another family member, neighbor, teacher, etc.). If JA’s parents are not interested in being part of JA’s team, JA must have written parental consent before teaming up with another adult.
- Junior Ambassadors must have a clear understanding of autism syndrome. You will be trained, however you must accept responsibility to become proficient in and comfortable with speaking about autism spectrum disorder.
- Comfortable with speaking before a group.
- Must be willing to share your personal experience/story about autism spectrum disorders with community leaders
As an Autism Tennessee Junior Ambassador Team, you play a key role in increasing awareness and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder in your community. You will be required to present in various settings (for example: schools, after-school clubs, scout meetings, athletic team meetings) as needed.
- Additionally, you may be required to:
- Become an active advocate by learning about autism spectrum disorders, Autism Tennessee and the issues impacting families.
- Prepare short statements to explain autism spectrum disorders and how they impact you (or an individual’s life).
- Be interviewed by your local media.
- Attend functions to present short speeches and chat with local officials and/or business owners.
- Participate in Public Policy Action Alerts and recruit other local activists to support grassroots advocacy efforts.
- Organize events for the Autism Tennessee during Disability Day on the Hill and attend Capitol Hill meetings.
- Meet, call, or write to state and local elected officials as needed.
- The role varies throughout the year, and is often linked directly to major annual events. For example, children and families might work with local media during Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month in April of each year.
Estimated time commitment required from each Junior Ambassador Team:
- This is flexible, however JA Teams are asked at minimum to commit to scheduling 4 presentations/activities per school year.
- Please note: It may not be unusual for Junior Ambassadors to be asked to present during school hours, as a large portion of a Junior Ambassador’s role is to educate in schools during the school year.