What is Autism Awareness Month?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. More than 3.5 million Americans currently live with ASD, and 1 in 68 children are born with a variation of it, so it’s likely you know, whether or not you’re aware of it, someone on the autism spectrum.
With a growing incidence in the country, The Autism Society was founded in 1965 and in the early 1970s began a nationwide campaign to raise awareness. The first National Autism Awareness Month occurred in April of 1970. Nearly 50 years later, April is still celebrated as a time to raise awareness around the differences of those on the spectrum, supporting people and educating the public on autism.
But what can you do to participate and how can you help support the cause?
How to Raise Awareness
Wear Blue on Autism Awareness Day. Within the month of April, there is a designated Autism Awareness Day, when Autism Speaks celebrates the beginning of its yearly campaign, Light It Up Blue. Many landmarks, buildings, homes and even people around the country “light up blue” to support people with autism. On April 2 this year, wear your favorite blue shirt to help raise awareness for this important day. Posting on social media with the hashtag #LIUB is a great way to show your support!
Share the Puzzle. The most recognizable symbol of autism awareness is the Puzzle Ribbon. Sharing the ribbon (whether on your backpack, car, refrigerator or social media) is an easy way to stand with people on the autism spectrum, and provide education and advocacy for those who may not know quite as much about people with autism. You can buy a ribbon from the Autism Society here.
Donating to Credible Organizations
Last year, the National Institute of Heath’s budget for autism research was $216 million. But the more research that’s done, the more progress we can make.
According to a 2014 study, an autism diagnosis can cost more than $17,000 annually per child. Autism Awareness Month is a perfect time to donate to the cause, and to make sure you’re donating to credible organizations, I’ve put together a list of a few that provide support, commit to research and enhance lives for people with Autism—all fully credible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.
Autism Speaks – Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization founded in February 2005 and is dedicated to advancing research into causes and treatments for autism spectrum disorders. They also promote increased understanding and acceptance of people on the autism spectrum through advocacy and support.
The Autism Society – The Autism Society is a not-for-profit organization with the goal to raise public awareness about the issues people on the autism spectrum face in their daily lives.
The Autism Research Foundation – This Boston-based foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to provide answers to the autism community through research, education, family resources and social inclusion programs.
Actions That Show Support
If you don’t have the resources to donate to the cause, there are still many ways that you can participate in Autism Awareness Month.
Participate in a walk. There are hundreds of Autism walks around the country throughout the year. If you can participate in one during the month of April, great! If not, walking any time during the year for registered events is a great way to spread support and awareness.
Spend time with someone with autism. The best way to begin to understand autism is to interact with someone who is affected by it. Giving someone you know with autism support and consideration is a great way to celebrate the month and spread awareness and advocacy.
Be an advocate. Talk to your local school board. Write a letter or go to a meeting. Show your support for inclusion and for autism spectrum disorders in your local schools.
No matter whether you choose to raise awareness and show your support through social media, donations, events or advocacy, the important thing is that the support is there. Although Autism Awareness Month is a great time to show this, the disorder does not only exist during April, so it’s essential to advocate for children, and adults, with autism year-round.