The month of April marks Autism Awareness Month, which spreads awareness of those in need and celebrates diversity. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined as a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. About 1% of the world population has autism spectrum disorder, and the prevalence of autism in the United States is estimated at 1 in 59 births. The official Autism Awareness Day is April 2, but the entire month is dedicated to spreading a message of acceptance and recognition.
The Autism Society began a nationwide awareness campaign in the early 1970’s and strengthened in 1999 with the release of the multicolored autism awareness ribbon. Congress adopted the campaign in 1984, which established the movement and spread awareness across the nation. The Autism Society also hosted the first national conference on autism in 1969 in order to reach the public with their message. The Board of Directors of the organization as well as other key roles have included individuals with autism since the 1980’s. Currently there are more than 120,00 members/supporters of the Autism Society connected through a network of nationwide affiliates. The society dedicates itself to educating the public on the matters of autism, supporting medical research and advocating for accessibility and programs for the autism community.
“I believe the purpose of Autism Awareness Month is self explanatory: to allow for others who many not know much about the disorder to gain knowledge through the teachings of experienced teachers, advocates, and people on the spectrum themselves,” said senior Emma Quarequio. Quarequio dedicates part of her speech and debate career to bringing attention to the Autism Awareness movement and addressing social acceptance. “I believe that it partially achieves this goal, as more attention and publicity is given to autism, but little else is done to truly educate and advocate for inclusion otherwise.”
National Autism Awareness Day may have passed, but there are still opportunities to show support for the cause. The “See the World A Different Way 5K” donates 15% of each registration fee to the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) and involves a virtual run/walk that must be completed by May 31. The “Who Wants to Race 5K & 10K” is another virtual 5K/10K which donates at least 15% of every registration to the Doug Flutie. Jr Foundation for Autism Inc. and provides a Doctor Who themed medal to each participant.
“The best thing that you can do is be kind. Simply reaching out to anyone with autism, or families you know affected by it, is an fantastic way to get involved,” Quarequio said regarding how to get involved in raising awareness. “The only solution to ignorance is education, and education begins with a connection between you and those who surround you.”
The Autism Awareness Society also provides resources on how to get involved online and offline with your community to show your support and move toward acceptance and appreciation.