World Autism Awareness Day – April 2
World Autism Awareness Day & 5 Ways You Can Show Support
Written by Alessandra Antunes
April 2, 2021 marks the fourteenth annual World Autism Awareness Day! Today is a day to celebrate the talents of individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as a day to educate one another. Please join us in cultivating understanding, showing support, and creating an inclusive community for those living with autism!
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), commonly known as autism, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that presents unique characteristics in each individual diagnosed. Though the severity of symptoms range, individuals often experience difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, social and emotional reciprocity, and restrictive repetitive behaviours (APA, 2013). Autism typically appears in early childhood and continues into adulthood. It affects individuals and families all over the world regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic status.
The prevalence of ASD in Canada is estimated to be 1 in 66 children, in particular, 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 165 girls (National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System, 2018). This high prevalence rate is found worldwide, it is likely that everyone knows an individual with autism.
Signs & Symptoms
As autism is a spectrum disorder, every individual experiences a unique range of abilities, symptoms, and difficulties. Individuals with autism often face challenges with social, emotional and communication skills and show repetitive patterns of behaviour. Some common signs may be:
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Lack of facial expression
- Impairments in speech and language
- Repetitive motor, verbal, and nonverbal behaviours
- Inflexibility in daily routine
- Restricted and fixated interests
- Sensory hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity
Cause & Cure
While the cause of autism remains unclear, it appears to be influenced by a combination of biological and environmental factors. There is no known cure for autism, however, early intervention, behavioural treatments and therapies are available to improve daily functioning and overall quality of life.
Five Ways to Show Support for People with Autism:
- Wear blue. The colour blue is recognized as a worldwide symbol for Autism Awareness This colour was chosen for its calming and soothing effect, and it signifies “acceptance in an otherwise loud and busy world for people on the spectrum” (Autism Speaks, 2021). Wear your favourite blue shirt today to show support!
- Use your voice. Starting a conversation is the best way to raise autism awareness. Reach out to your friends, family, and community members and encourage them to learn more about autism. Use social media as a tool to promote awareness by sharing reliable resources and stories. Actively advocate for a more inclusive world for those with autism.
- Keep in touch. If you know a caregiver or the family of a person with autism, remember to reach out to them and show them you care. The best way to approach them is by simply asking if they would like to talk, reminding them you are there for support, and asking how you can help.
- Be a kind neighbour. Families caring for a person with autism often find themselves under emotional, financial, and physical stress. If you notice a family falling behind on home maintenance tasks, such as snow removal or lawn care, offer your assistance.
- Host a virtual get-together. If you have children or youth at home, encourage them to invite someone with autism to a virtual get-together. Approach the other caregiver and ask what virtual activities you can plan to make sure everyone feels comfortable and included. Some fun ideas are screen sharing a movie, having a dance party, or taking a virtual trip to the zoo.
These are just a few of the ways you can show your support on World Autism Awareness Day! What are your favourite ways to spread awareness?
To note: We want to acknowledge how incredibly important it is to advocate for people with autism every single day of the year, not just in April for World Autism Month. We appreciate your ongoing support!