Light it up blue this Sunday, alongside thousands of symbolic landmarks, as April 2nd, 2017 marks the 9th annual World Autism Awareness Day. In fact, the entire month of April is World Autism Month. These events were created to promote understanding, as well as acceptance, of this very prevalent disorder. 1 percent of the world has autism spectrum disorder and, in the United States, 1 out of every 68 children born are autistic. It is the fastest growing disability, one that generally appears during the early stages of childhood. There is no known cause, although research does point to hereditary links, and people who fall on the autism spectrum have severity at a wide range of degrees.
This month, organizations around the country will help raise awareness through various opportunities and events. In Philadelphia, the Flyers will host Autism Awareness Night on March 30th. Here, the Wells Fargo Center will light up blue and ribbons will be worn by coaches, broadcasters, and fans. Children who have autism will be able to use a special lounge during the duration of the game, which has beanbag chairs and crafts. There will be walks and marches around the U.S., such as the San Benito 10th Annual Autism Awareness Event, which expects over 1,000 people to attend. In New Rochelle, New York, police and emergency vehicles will feature a special magnetic decal shaped like a puzzle piece to show the community they understand the special needs autistic individuals have.
One main goal in the autism community is to educate others about the disorder. The educational minds at Sesame Street recently announced the inclusion of Julia, an autistic Muppet, to their show. They wanted to help diminish the stigma associated with autism and help children understand and appreciate individuals with the disorder. The creation and development of Julia was highly researched in order to depict an accurate portrayal of someone on the autism spectrum.
“If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.” Stephen M. Shore
Being diagnosed with autism does not mean that the individual will not flourish in life. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a professor at Colorado State University, author, and world-famous animal scientist. HBO made a movie, which won an Emmy Award, about her incredible life. Jason McElwain became an instant celebrity when he, the team manager, made 20 points in the last 4 minutes and 19 seconds of a high school basketball game in Rochester, New York. McElwain, who could not talk until he was 5 and did not chew food until 6 years of age, had his life change in that moment. He won an ESPY Award for the Best Moment in Sports in 2006 and authored a book on his life. Now, he travels the country to help raise funds for autism research.
Daniel Tammet, an autistic author of two books, set a European record when he recited the mathematical constant pi to 22,514 decimal places from memory in 5 hours and 9 minutes. Alexis Wineman, who was named Miss Montana 2012, is the first autistic contestant to compete in the Miss American pageant. Daryl Hannah, who captivated audiences in Splash and Roxanne, is an autistic actress. Hannah has been in over 40 films in her life. These men and women are just a few examples of thriving autistic individuals.
During the month of April, individuals and companies across the country will shed light upon this important topic. Autism does not have a cure, but early detection can greatly improve an individual’s chance for success later in life. Learn more about autism and how you can support the autistic community at the Autism Society.