We’re about halfway through April, and we’ve been able to enjoy warmer weather and spring-related festivities. However, April is not only a time of warmth, but also has officially been recognized as Autism Awareness Month. The month has been designated not only to educate others about autism, but also to promote genuine acceptance and improved support for autistic individuals, including in education, employment, and healthcare.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is recognized as a developmental disorder that impacts the nervous system, affecting communication and interaction. According to the Autism Society, the number of children with autism has increased over the last ten years, now affecting about 1 in 54 children in the United States. Because it is a spectrum, symptoms and severity can cover a wide range. Some symptoms can include difficulty communicating, repetitive behaviors and patterns, and obsessive activities and interests. Additionally, boys are about 4.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism compared to girls of the same age.
Importance of Action
Autism awareness is commonly associated with the color blue, and many people are inclined to show their support through wearing blue-colored clothing or accessories. In addition, events such as pep rallies are often organized in schools to promote awareness. However, the autism community needs genuine support, and passive forms of awareness like wearing blue and attending celebratory events do not provide anything substantial towards the cause on their own. Therefore, it is essential that we show our support during Autism Awareness Month through more active and productive strategies.
For instance, donating to organizations can be a simple and effective way to help. There are many organizations that are not truly effective in their service for the autism community, so doing the proper research and ensuring that your donations are being utilized effectively is important. Some great organizations include the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network, and Foundations for Divergent Minds. Furthermore, you can also donate to organizations with more specific services, such as Autism Service Dogs of America, an organization that aims to provide service dogs for autistic individuals.
Volunteering can also be a great way to get involved and contribute your time to the cause. This can include signing up to volunteer at organizations like The Autism Project or Autism Empowerment, which work towards developing and improving support systems for individuals with autism. In addition, joining programs like Best Buddies can also be greatly impactful, as they work towards building one-on-one connections and promoting leadership development for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Autism is not something to be shamed or hidden, but something to be accepted and understood socially. As a society, we are responsible for providing autistic individuals with the opportunities they deserve in education, employment, and other areas of life. Therefore, use this April as a reminder to not only show your support through spreading awareness, but aiming to be more active in your contributions and making genuine efforts to improve the level of opportunity for autistic individuals everywhere.