What is World Autism Awareness Day?
On the 1st November, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly designated the 2nd April as World Autism Awareness Day through resolution “62/139”. In subsequent years, its member states have used the day to raise awareness of autism and funds, in an effort to improve the quality of life for those who suffer with autism.
Autism is a lifelong condition which can affect anyone in society irrespective of gender, race or socio-economic status. There are a range of symptoms on the Autism Spectrum that can vary significantly between those affected. It is normally diagnosed in early childhood and currently around 700,000 people in the UK fall within the spectrum. This means that, including family members, autism has a direct impact on millions of people within the UK.
Despite these high numbers, there is still a stigma attached to autism and one of the main aims of World Autism Awareness Day is to remove this stigma. By highlighting the affect autism can have on people, the treatment available, and the positive impact on society autistic people can have, this stigma is slowly being broken down.
“When they enjoy equal opportunity for self-determination and autonomy, persons with autism will be empowered to make an even stronger positive impact on our shared future.”
Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres.
What happens on World Autism Awareness Day?
Everyone in society is encouraged to get involved with World Autism Awareness Day either through fundraising, raising awareness or by volunteering to help those with autism.
Employers are asked to submit voluntary commitments to make employment opportunities available for people on the autism spectrum. This is largely due to the high level of unemployment – it is estimated that over 80% of adults with autism are out of work – but also the benefits that the skills of this largely untapped talent pool can bring to the work force.
There have been many notable initiatives brought into effect by World Autism Awareness Day in the ten years since its conception;
- Autism Speaks is a non-governmental organisation that raises awareness of autism, carries out research into treatments and acts as an advocate for people on the Autism Spectrum.
- Autism-Europe is an international association whose main objective is to advance the rights of people on the Autism Spectrum and their families.
- The Power of One March is a night time march in Washington D.C. with an aim of raising awareness and to unify the autism community.
- Light It Up Blue is an initiative designed to raise awareness of autism. Global landmarks and buildings are lit up blue, or individuals can wear clothing in the colour, to show their support.
How can I get involved in World Autism Awareness Day?
There are many ways that people from all walks of life can get involved and show their support for World Autism Awareness Day;
- Employers can make a voluntary commitment through the UN website to make positions available for people with autism.
- Employers can offer autism awareness training courses to employees.
- Global landmarks, businesses, and schools can register to light their buildings in support.
- Individuals can raise awareness of the day by wearing the colour blue or they can encourage their schools or businesses to join an existing event or to create a new one.
World Autism Awareness Day has already achieved a great deal in breaking down barriers for people with autism but there is still a lot of work to do. Everybody is encouraged to get involved – the 2nd April is a day to think of new, creative ideas, and to have fun getting together as a global community.