Yesterday marked the beginning of World Autism Awareness Month, and to kick off, the United Nations (UN) observes today, April 2, as the 13th annual World Autism Awareness Day. Autism Speaks encourages people to wear something blue and “Light It Up Blue” “in recognition of people with autism and those who love and support them.” Even when not open to the public, landmarks and businesses around the world are also participating by lighting up their places blue with special light bulbs. Along with autism-friendly events and educational activities taking place throughout the month (virtually, or postponed if physically) to foster a more accepting and informed population, the organization is inviting people to make 2020 the “Year of Kindness,” which may bring some much-needed love during this time.
“This year’s observance takes place in the midst of a public health crisis unlike any other in our lifetimes — a crisis that places persons with autism at disproportionate risk as a result of coronavirus and its impact on society,” the message of António Guterres, the Secretary General of the UN, reads. “Persons with autism have the right to self-determination, independence and autonomy, as well as the right to education and employment on an equal basis with others.”
Guterres’ letter of support in light of the current global situation draws attention to the further importance of raising awareness and advocating for the rights of those living with autism.
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The #COVID19 pandemic is causing disruption to our daily lives. Faced with widespread school closures and social distancing measures, families can use some of these tips from Arianna Esposito, BCBA, to adapt to a new home and learning routine for their children with autism. . For more updates, resources and information regarding #SocialDistancing and #COVID19 and the autism community see our COVID 19 highlight or the link in our bio and stay tuned for more IGTV videos.
“…the breakdown of vital support systems and networks as a result of COVID-19 exacervates the obstacles that persons with autism face in exercising these rights,” Guterres says. “Universal human rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities, must not be infringed upon in the time of a pandemic.”
Everyone can help ensure the rights and needs of people disproportionately affected by the coronavirus outbreak, such as those living with autism, are protected and provided.
“We must also recognize that when schools employ online teaching, students with non-standard ways of learning may be at a disadvantage,” Guterres says, also mentioning applying that thought to the workplace.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “approximately 1 in 54 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder,” with boys four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Although it affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups, “minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often.”
The Autism Society of America, which launched the first annual National Autistic Children’s week that eventually transformed into National Autism Awareness Month, is celebrating with the #CelebrateDifferences campaign.
“Designed to build a better awareness of the signs, symptoms, and realities of autism, #CelebrateDifferences focuses on providing information and resources for communities to be more aware of autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life,” the Autism Society describes on their website.
Autism Speaks offers a comprehensive and helpful page on autism facts and statistics for those looking to learn more about autism, such as associated medical and mental conditions and how it also affects caregivers and families.
“Early intervention can improve learning, communication and social skills, as well as underlying brain development,” the organization says. In relation to autism in adulthood, research shows that job activities that encourage independence reduce autism symptoms and increase daily living skills.
Autism Society has also compiled a variety of resources to inform communities.
“Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that affects essential human behaviors such as social interaction, the ability to communicate ideas and feelings, imagination, self-regulation, and the ability to establish relationships with others,” the Autism Society says on their website for this month. “We recognize that providing education materials of signs and symptoms can promote awareness and spark empathy, acceptance, and change.”
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.