World Autism Awareness Month & Day: A Call for Advocacy and Understanding

A ribbon made of multicolored puzzle pieces.  It has become one the most recognizable symbols of autism in the world.  The various colors reflect the many “faces” of autism, a condition often referred to as the autism spectrum (ASD) because no two people with autism are alike.  (The cognitive abilities of people with ASD range from nonverbal to intellectually brilliant.)  The ribbon symbolizes solidarity and hope of a happy, fulfilling life for people with autism.  The puzzle pieces remind us that the condition and the people with it are still very much a mystery.

 National Autism Awareness Month is a public call for greater understanding, appreciation, and advocacy for persons with autism.

     Autism Awareness Month first came to be about 25 years ago, when the Autism Society of America undertook an effort to promote autism awareness.  The primary objective was to “promote … inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest quality of life.”  This year, the Autism Society seeks to go beyond awareness and encourage the public to play an active role as advocates, to speak out for inclusion of people with autism in school and community, embracing acceptance and engaging in an appreciation of their talents and gifts and for what these children and adults are capable of.

In addition, April 2 is designated World Autism Awareness Day, as a result of a 2008 U.N. resolution (first proposed by Qatar).  An autism research and education organization, Autism Speaks, initiated the worldwide Light It Up Blue, campaign in its effort to raise autism awareness.   Among many in the autism community, both advocates and self-advocates, Autism Speaks is highly controversial, because that organization is seeking a cure, whereas many people prefer to see autism as simply another way of being, “different, not broken.”  These advocates and activists prefer the completed puzzle over the single puzzle piece that is a trademark of Autism Speaks.

An astonishing video from a television documentary has recently made the rounds via the social media.  It shows how a Carly, a teenage girl with autism, who grew up nonverbal, was finally to express her inner voice that had been captive for over a decade.  It proves how much there is inside children like her.  Her message would be one we should all listen to.

Early Signs of Autism
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease control, early signs of autism include the following, and early intervention is urged:

  • Does not babble or coo by 12 months
  • Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
  • Does not say single words by 16 months
  • Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
  • Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age

World Autism Month is a call for all of us – and society at large – to understand and appreciate children and adults on the autism spectrum and, according to one blogger, to advocate for their parents as well.

Did You Know?

  • In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease for Disease Control estimated the prevalence of autism as being 1 in 68 births.
  • Autism comes from the Greek autos” meaning “self.”   Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1910 used the New Latin term autismus to describe schizophrenic symptoms of children; US psychiatrist Leo Kanner first used the term autism in 1943.
  • Asperger’s syndrome is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who in 1944 first described the symptoms in children he was observing.
Asperger Asperger's syndrome advocate psychiatrist physician

Asperger’s syndrome is named for Hans Asperger, who was the first to describe the condition. He did not live to see this honor.

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