According to the study published in the journal Pediatrics, “ Prevalence of Parent-Reported Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children in the US, 2007,” autism currently affects the lives of one in 100 children. However, it also touches their families, friends, and everyone they come in contact with. While early intervention can make a difference in these lives, continuing research, an early diagnosis, and educating families about the sensory issues involved only solves part of the problem.
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) attempts to reach out to all affected individuals, but it’s also designed to educate and inform medical professionals, neighbors, teachers, business owners, and the general public. By getting the community involved in collective projects and by working together to help autistic children, teenagers, and adults, worldwide fear, indifference, prejudice, and discrimination towards individuals with disabilities and special needs can be lessened and eventually eliminated.
Why an International Autism Awareness Day is Necessary
The autism spectrum is complex. It comes in many different types and manifestations depending upon which sensory systems and areas of the brain are affected. Lack of awareness and understanding by medical and educational professionals delays early childhood intervention. It can also lead to:
- less research and studies
- diagnosis delays
- inappropriate educational expectations and instruction
- inappropriate treatments and therapy
In addition, the lack of awareness and understanding by neighbors, community officials, local business owners, and the general public can also lead to:
- fear of adults or children with autism
- judgmental behavior, thinking and/or saying these individuals are stupid
- making “fun” of children with special needs
- judging or making “fun” of autistic adults or teenagers not acting their age
- calling the police when they see odd or frightening behavior
- attempting to discipline autistic children in front of their parents
- leaving these individuals out of group activities instead of including them
- preaching false ideas about people with autism (like they’re dangerous)
- emergency personnel inappropriately dealing with autistic individuals
Lack of awareness isn’t likely to resolve on its own. While most individuals react to these people out of fear or a misunderstanding that more discipline or force will solve the problem, education regarding the brain’s role can go a long way towards giving others the opportunity to change their reactions, beliefs, and attitudes.
United Nations General Assembly Approves Resolution 62/139
In an effort to begin correcting many of these problems, the United Nations General Assembly moved on December 18, 2007 to unanimously approve resolution 62/139 tabled by the State of Qatar. This resolution declared April 2, beginning in 2008, as World Autism Awareness Day, an annual event. It encourages all Member States to take adequate steps to help raise awareness worldwide. This year, the World autism awareness day is scheduled for April 2, 2023 (Sunday).
An Autism Day Can Help Autistic Children, Teenagers, and Adults
The goal of having a special day is to help autistic individuals improve their lives. While it’s great to put on unique fund raisers, buy and display autism products, dress in blue, or pass out information, the goals behind awareness go deeper than a simple show of support. Some of these reasons are:
- give parents of autistic children hope
- give parents more tools to work with
- help these individuals live meaningful lives
- overcome the negative attitudes and prejudices of society
- make universal human rights a reality for all
- support further research; become more involved in searching for answers
- make an all-inclusive, more loving and caring society
- discover additional therapies
- help more children receive a diagnosis
- find ways to assure early childhood intervention
Secretary General Ban Ki-noon, in a couple of short videos on the United Nations website, speaks about the purposes for having and participating in this international event. In addition to the purposes listed above, in “Message for World Autism Awareness Day 2010,” Ki-noon states that “On World Autism Awareness Day, I call on all governments to reaffirm their commitment to make universal human rights a reality for all who live with autism.”
Create Greater Understanding About Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism awareness in general, and an awareness day on each April 2 in particular, is about standing up and rededicating our lives to educating others about the autism spectrum. While showing support to autistic individuals and parents is important, creating real change takes more thought than just passing out flyers that might end up in the trash.
With all of the complexities involved, helping developmentally-challenged people isn’t easy. It takes hard work and patience; but then, that’s why the symbol of autism is a puzzle that comes in many different colors. Not only does a puzzle showcase the individuality of those affected, but by walking together and working toward a common goal it’s possible to create a more loving and caring world.