Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month

April is Autism Awareness Month, and April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. During the entire month of April, you will hear about autism-oriented fundraisers, autism awareness presentations, autism-friendly happenings, and special opportunities to recognize people on the autism spectrum. You will also notice that most people involved with these activities are wearing the color blue. In fact, you might even notice buildings “lighting it up blue” on April 2.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. National Autism Awareness Month represents an excellent opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year.

April is World Autism Month, an annual opportunity for a dedicated conversation about autism spectrum disorder. Autism touches more than 70 million people globally. The month of April is a special moment to inform the public and increase awareness regarding autism and other disorders on the autism spectrum. It also represents an opportunity to overcome prejudices, which are the main obstacle to the integration of those people in the community.

The first National Autism Awareness Month was held by the Autism Society in April 1970. Nearly a quarter-century ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion, and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with autism spectrum disorder is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.

For over 50 years the Autism Society has worked in communities both large and small in order to ensure their actions, through their services and programming, supported all individuals living with autism. They want to expand this work to focus on the rest of us – ensuring acceptance and inclusion in schools and communities that result in true appreciation of the unique aspects of all people. They want to get one step closer to a society where individuals with autism are truly valued for their unique talents and gifts.

Autism Awareness Month represents an excellent opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year. During Autism Acceptance Month, people should focus on sharing positive, respectful, and accurate information about autism and people with autism.

Most of the people who celebrate Autism Awareness Day or Month are not individuals who have autism spectrum disorder. Instead, they are parents, organizers, and other people who care for or about autism. But where are the self-advocates with autism? In many cases, they are actively avoiding celebrations.

Different responses to Autism Awareness Day and Month come about as a result of the history of the events, the intent behind the events, and the people who created them.

Autism Acceptance Month promotes acceptance and celebration of people with autism as family members, friends, classmates, co-workers, and community members making valuable contributions to our world. Autism is a natural variation of the human experience, and we can all create a world which values, includes, and celebrates all kinds of minds.

In a nutshell, Autism Acceptance Month is about treating people with autism spectrum disorder with respect, listening to what we have to say about ourselves, and making us welcome in the world.

For many families, particularly those who benefit from or support programs at Autism Speaks, Autism Awareness Month is a very important observance. For those with a different “neurodiverse” perspective, however, Autism Acceptance may be a better choice.

World Autism Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate the autism community, highlight the challenges people with autism spectrum disorder face in society and educate the wider public to have a better understanding of the condition.

Every day the autism community adapts to a world that is often not designed to meet its needs. A world that can so often disable people, sometimes without even realizing it. Small changes in how people think and act can be the difference between the autism community being able to participate or not.

Why Is It Called ‘Awareness and Acceptance’?

  • Because people on the autism spectrum are your friends, family members, children, partners, co-workers, fellow-citizens, customers, and neighbors.
  • Because autism is a natural part of the human experience.
  • Because autistic rights are human rights.
  • Because people with autism can speak for themselves, and Autism Speaks wants us to listen to them.
  • Because this is our world too.
  • Because there are all kinds of minds, and this world is big enough for all of us.

How Is It Celebrated?

  • Presidential/Congressional declarations
  • Online events and activities
  • Local events and activities through Affiliates
  • Partner opportunities
  • Taking, sharing, and eat some desserts
  • Joining the webinar
  • Attending an autism awareness event in your area.
  • Recommending your favorite autism books or check out some new ones.
  • Developing and using a personal participation story to let alert someone that this will be a month filled with a lot of autism information in the news and a lot of autism activities to attend.
  • Shopping and fundraising with beautiful autism awareness glass jewelry.
  • Shop for autism. Be a walking billboard of acceptance, tolerance, and awareness.
  • Creating some visual supports for a student, teacher, or family who needs them. Then wrap them up as a present and say “Happy Autism Awareness Month“
  • Supporting a business for people with autism or other developmental disabilities.
  • Learning about fantastic people with autism.
  • Setting up a circle of friends for someone with autism.
  • Planning a trip for success.

Events That Take Place During Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month

Autism Awareness Month kicks off on April 2, especially that day because for avoiding April fool’s Day, with World Autism Awareness Day. On that day, you can expect to see an awful lot of blue. People in blue T-shirts, homes with blue lights, and personal profiles with a blue puzzle piece will be everywhere. There will also be media coverage of autism, special stories about people with autism, and promotion of merchandise featuring the autism puzzle piece icon.

Look for buildings lit with the blue light. In the past, some iconic buildings that have been lit up blue include the Empire State Building in New York City, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and the CN Building in Toronto. During the month of April you will find, among other things:

  • special “sensory-friendly” days at all kinds of venues, from movie theaters to amusement parks
  • autism awareness events at schools, community centers, hospitals, and elsewhere
  • fundraising marches and events across the United States and beyond

Put on the Puzzle!

The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. Autism prevalence is now one in every 59 children in America. Show your support for people with autism by wearing the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon – as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even your Facebook profile picture – and educate folks on the potential of people with autism spectrum disorder!

Connect With Your Neighborhood.

Many Autism Society local affiliates hold special events in their communities throughout the month of April. But if you can’t find an event that suits you just right, you can create your own!

Watching a Movie.

Did you know that something that seems as simple as going to the movies is not an option for many families affected by autism? The Autism Society is working with AMC Theatres to bring special-needs families Sensory Friendly Films every month.

Donate to the Autism Society.

Help improve the lives of all impacted by autism with a financial gift to the Autism Society. Every dollar raised by the Autism Society allows them to improve the capabilities and services of their over 100 nationwide affiliates, provide the best national resource database and contact center specializing in autism, and increase public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families.

Goals of Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month

  • Educating youth about their peers with an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Empower the autism community with information resources.
  • Supporting autism siblings with resources for kids, teens, and parents.
  • Supporting adults in the autism community through OAR’s Hire Autism Initiative.
  • Raising money for new research and resources.

How Can People Get Involved in the Movement?

Learn more about how the brain of an individual with autism works: You can watch a recording of the webinar, read a summary of the webinar’s Q&A portion, and download a free e-book which is “5 Tips for Working with Children with Autism.”

Showcase your support with the Autism Awareness Ribbon: Autism Society created the puzzle piece ribbon to represent the complexity and diversity of those on the spectrum. The brightness of the ribbon represents the hope for increased awareness of autism, early intervention, and access to appropriate services and supports for individuals with ASD to help them lead fulfilling lives. Advocates wear the ribbon as a pin on their clothes, attach ribbon magnets on their cars, and more.

Get involved: You may want to participate in one of the hundreds of autism walks scheduled around the nation or spending time with someone with autism. Or you can find your local Autism Society affiliate and attend events or activities they have planned.

Why Isn’t Everyone Happy With Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month?

Because of the fact that Autism Speaks has become such a large and ubiquitous organization, it essentially “owns” autism awareness month. Television specials, telethons, multimedia advertising, and other forms of outreach are all part of the event.

But Autism Speaks has had a very questionable relationship with the autism community. And, it still continues to have. Both self-advocates with autism and many groups of parents have had issues with their funding priorities, governance, and perspectives on the causes of autism. While some issues have gone away (such as the presentation of autism as an evil force stealing babies from their carriages), others are still of concern. Just a few of the issues people have with Autism Speaks:

  • For most of its existence, Autism Speaks had no people with autism on its board. From time to time very high functioning individuals have gotten involved, but at least one individual resigned after a short tenure.
  • Autism Speaks, from its very inception, has been about “curing” what many self-advocates with autism and quite a few parents feel is a set of personal qualities rather than a “disease.” Thus, instead of accepting children and adults with autism, Autism Speaks has been all about “fixing” them. Over time, many programs have emerged that are more supportive of people living with autism but bad feelings have remained.
  • Despite numerous large, well-documented studies to the contrary, Autism Speaks put quite a bit of research money into yet more digging into vaccines as a cause of autism. This focus has nearly disappeared at this point, but it is still a sore point.
  • The vast majority of the many resources created by Autism Speaks are intended, not for people with autism, but for their parents and families.

Autism Speaks and Autism Awareness/ Acceptance

In 2005, Autism Speaks was founded. It is created and funded by the extremely wealthy and influential Bob and Suzanne Wright who have a grandson on the autism spectrum, the organization quickly became the major autism-related non-profit in the world. With their strong connections, the Wrights were able to create very high profile autism awareness programs, including:

  • World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) which is adopted by the United Nations in 2007
  • Light It Up Blue, an international effort to light iconic buildings in blue to raise awareness of autism
  • The Power of One March, which takes place annually on April 2

Autism Speaks sells blue T-shirts, provides resources to groups interested in fundraising or running autism-related programs, and also promotes fundraising marches and events during the month of April. Institutions ranging from museums and zoos to libraries, schools, and even businesses run special events during that period.

World Autism Awareness Day

It is an internationally recognized day on 2 April every year, encouraging the Member States of the United Nations to take measures in order to raise awareness about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) throughout the world. The day itself brings individual autism organizations together all around the world to aid in things like research, diagnoses, treatment, and acceptance for those affected by this developmental disorder.

Joined by the international community, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world come together on April 2, Autism Awareness Day, to Light It Up Blue in recognition of people with autism and those who love and support them.
Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month, aiming to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, foster worldwide support and inspire a kinder, more inclusive world.

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