April 2nd is International Autism Awareness Day and, by extension, April is generally known as Autism Awareness Month. For those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or living with/loving someone with ASD, Autism Awareness Day is every day.
A report conducted by the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System (NASS) in 2018, estimates that 1 in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with ASD in Canada. In the USA, 1 in 54 have been identified as ASD according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.
Every person with ASD represents their unique place on the spectrum with unique health, education, and support needs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “people with autism have higher rates of unmet health-care needs compared with the general population.” This is, in part, due to “health-care providers’ inadequate knowledge and understanding of autism.”
Given the prevalence of ASD, this cannot continue to be an acceptable response. Governments must commit to improving the quality of life of people with ASD and caregivers. We must demand that the infrastructure that promotes and supports the health and well-being of those diagnosed with ASD – and their caregivers – be established and/or strengthened. Change will only happen if we come together and demand it.
Access and Availability to Support and Care
I know several families living with someone diagnosed with ASD and the consistent thread is the difficulty they have identifying and finding the best/appropriate/affordable support and care. And when they do find good support, it’s met with joyful relief and appreciation. Read a few notes of appreciation for yourself (names removed to protect privacy):
- Thank you. You’ve touched our son’s life and delighted in his progress by providing a classroom that promotes acceptance and inclusion and friendship. Through this, we have developed an appreciation for the little things – moments of interaction and progress that steal your breath away. Every day miracles. With you, our son has had many of those moments. You truly understand the depths of pure joy when you see your child overcoming challenges and just enjoying the moment. Your warm and thoughtful hearts are a source of inspiration and comfort to us as we continue our journey, facing our fears, our dreams, and our hope.
- Our child brings joy and sunshine into our world as he sees beauty and majesty in things we don’t even notice or we take for granted. As he navigates life with more sensory and communication challenges than most ever have to imagine, he has taught us the true meaning of love, patience, determination and family. Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. The potential for greatness resides in all of us.
- During Autism Awareness Month we want to thank ALL teachers who work tirelessly with children, building classrooms of awareness and acceptance. Where all kids feel safe and valued as they are and encouraged to strive for their personal best. During this time of social distancing, we miss your kind and thoughtful spirits. We appreciate everything you do.
Raise your voice in support
Regardless, if you are directly impacted – or if there is 2 or 3+ degrees of separation between you and someone with ASD, we all must raise our voice and demand access to more and better care and support for all. It is also imperative to advocate for Autism Awareness to raise the understanding and acceptance of individuals living on the spectrum – awesome, beautiful individuals. We need to shed light on the abilities of these young people with ASD and bring about the realization that autism does not define a person – it is just a part of who they are.
World Autism Awareness is celebrated to recognize individuals with autism and those who love them, and to inspire a kinder more inclusive world. Together we speak out against discrimination, and celebrate the diversity of our global community and strengthen our commitment to inclusion.
As we move towards the end of Autism Awareness Month, let’s demand change and embrace acceptance and inclusion always so every day is Autism Awareness Day.