Promote Understanding through World Autism Awareness Day

Embrace the opportunity to promote understanding of this often misdiagnosed condition as we celebrate World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd.

By David Moadel

World Autism Awareness Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 2, 2013. This event was declared by the United Nations to be an annual event beginning in 2007. Some people might not know much about autism or its impact. However, a bit of fact-finding will reveal that autism is a serious developmental disorder with far-reaching effects.

An Issue We Must Not Ignore

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism is a category of spectrum disorder. This means that it affects different people in different ways and to different degrees. Currently, there is no known cure for this disorder. The behavioral and/or communication challenges can be significant for individuals with autism. Social interactions that seem fundamental to many people might be extremely challenging for these individuals. Additionally, minor changes in routine can be highly disruptive for the autistic person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 out of 88 children is identified as being on the autism spectrum. In fact, there are probably more children who have autism, but have been either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Autism affects whole families because everyone in the family must make major changes in their lifestyle in order to accommodate the autistic individual.

Facing Up to the Challenges

World Autism Day has been established to raise awareness and facilitate the battle against the disease of autism. Furthermore, this yearly event is intended to erase the social stigma attached to autism. Autistic individuals have often had to suffer from the lack of understanding associated with autism. Hopefully one day soon, no autistic child will ever be misdiagnosed by adults or bullied by children again. This vision, along with an emphasis on continuous research to try to identify a cure, is what World Autism Day is all about.

In addition, it is essential that we take up the cause on a year-round basis.  While it is true that World Autism Day only lasts for 24 hours, the challenges faced by autistic individuals and their families and caretakers is ongoing.  It can be a struggle for an autistic child just to get through a school day, or for the family to meet the unique needs of an individual with autism.  Consider the fact that for the person with autism and his or her immediate family, there is no break or "time out" from autism; it is always present and must always be dealt with.  Given the financial and emotional costs of caring for these individuals, it is imperative that we take action to support the cause and find a cure for this disease.

You Can Make a Difference

Finding a cure for autism is not just the job of researchers or the government; we all must play our part in the battle against this affliction. One way to contribute is by donating a portion of your time, effort, and money to the cause. If you choose to donate, please make sure that you are giving to a reputable organization, such as The Autism Society, Autism Speaks, or the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center.  Fortunately, it is now possible to use the Internet to conduct research on charitable organizations.  Thoroughly researching any organization before making a contribution—especially a financial one—is highly recommended.

Another way to help out is to lobby public officials and legislators to take action in the fight against autism. Most of all, we can all look inward and examine our attitudes toward individuals with autism; people just like everybody else and deserve to be treated with respect and understanding. If we continue to work toward a cure for this disease, then we can give our autistic friends hope—the greatest gift of all.

Autism Lesson Plans:

Social Skills for Autism

Children with autism can learn the appropriate way to say "hello" with this lesson plan. This might sound like a simple thing to do, but social interaction can be a challenge for autistic individuals. Greeting people appropriately is an essential skill that will be taught and assessed in this Social Skills for Autism lesson plan.

Autism and the Brain

This lesson plan from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be used to introduce the concept of autism to middle and high school science classes. Learners will have the opportunity to explore how brain function relates to autism, and will identify new ideas for autism research.

What's Really True? Discovering the Fact and Fiction of Autism

Pupils will get to conduct their own research on autism in this lesson plan. After investigating a number of websites, learners will evaluate and discuss the research from each source.