April is Autism Awareness Month, also referred to by some people as Autism Acceptance Month. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is characterized by challenges with social skills, communication and repetitive behavior.
Joined by the international community, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world, light blue in recognition of people living with autism. Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month to increase understanding and acceptance and foster worldwide support. World Autism Awareness Day can trace its roots back to November 1st, 2007. This is when the UN first requested that a day be established as World Autism Day. This resolution was passed and on December 18th of 2007.
This year the day is being observed themed: “Inclusive Quality Education for All”. According to the United Nations, there has been major progress over the past decade, in increasing access to education especially for persons with autism.
The UN stated that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused countries to temporarily close schools has impacted on more than 90 per cent of students worldwide. The disruption, the UN has stated had caused learning to be reversed and “years of progress and has exacerbated inequalities in education.”
This has caused students with autism to be hard hit and studies now show that they have been “disproportionately affected by disruptions to routines, as well as services and supports that they rely on.”
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) aims to put a spotlight on the hurdles that people with autism – and others living with autism – face every day. As a growing global health issue owing to its increasing exposure in the press and common knowledge, autism is an issue that is only gaining more understanding – and WAAD activities are planned every year to further increase and develop world knowledge of children and adults who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
As more people become aware of the autism spectrum, more parents reach out for answers. More awareness leads to more knowledge and greater visibility. More people who aren’t living with autism learn to accept, and respect, people who are. At present, there is no official statistics on the number of autistic children and other persons in Guyana; government officials should therefore be keen to acquire the numbers to better understand the complex disorder that affects communication and behaviour.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological disorder that typically appears during the first years of life and affects the development of the child in three broad areas: communication skills, social skills, and repetitive or rigid behaviors. As reflected in the name, children with autism spectrum disorder vary greatly in terms of the level and type of impairment in the areas of social, communication, and behavior, as well as the strengths with which they present within each of these areas. Current statistics suggest that approximately 1 in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder.
The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and the lack of understanding has a tremendous impact on the individuals, their families and communities.
Further, stigmatisation and discrimination associated with neurological differences remain substantial obstacles to diagnosis and therapies, an issue that must be addressed by both public policy-makers in developing nations, as well as donor countries.
While there are several local companies who already make autism causes a part of their charitable giving, there are many who haven’t yet jumped on board, please consider doing so. Autism is real. It affects us all. It needs not only our understanding, but our support. More importantly, those on the spectrum deserve our understanding and support. This disorder affects males and females of all races in all parts of the world.