Learn All About World Autism Day

World Autism Day is commemorated every April 2 around the world, as decided by the United Nations. This year's theme invited us to recognize the importance of kindness towards people with autism.
Learn All About World Autism Day

Last update: 03 October, 2021

Since 2007, the United Nations declared April 2 as World Autism Day. The specific name for this day is World Autism Awareness Day.

World Autism Day aims to raise awareness among the general population about the existence of autism spectrum disorders, and the possibilities that these people have for social inclusion. In short, social inclusion is everyone’s right.

A practice that’s been associated with this day is to “light it up blue”–which means lighting up monuments and historical buildings of the countries with the color blue. The color blue is an emblem of support for autistic people and their families.

In 2021, the theme for World Autism Day was “Lead with kindness”. Therefore, it covers two major axes of social inclusion of individuals with autism: Education and employment.

World Health Organization (WHO) statistics estimate that 1 in every 160 infants has some degree of autism spectrum disorder. However, this may be an underestimation, since the detection of autism is uneven across the planet.

What are autism and autism spectrum disorders?

A child with autism looking out a window.
Nowadays, it is preferable to speak of autism spectrum disorders, as there are different degrees of affectation.

World Autism Day also serves to deepen the knowledge of the condition. Today, it’s preferable to speak of autism spectrum disorders, rather than just autism.

These disorders are characterized by altered social behavior, deficiencies in language and communication, as well as repetitive patterns of behavior. It’s common for autistic people to seem uninterested in their surroundings and environment, and to avoid physical contact with others.

The disorder is considered a developmental disorder, as the onset of signs takes place early on, before 3 years of age. One of the characteristics is that these symptoms will persist throughout the rest of the individual’s life.

The concept of the existence of an autistic spectrum responds to the fact that there are different degrees of affectation. One child may have a milder alteration than another, and this modifies their relationship with the outside world, also modifying the therapies they should receive.

World Autism Day: The Kindness Campaign

As we mentioned above, the theme for World Autism Day 2021 was “Lead with kindness.” This represents an absolute invitation to treat people with autism spectrum disorders with constant empathy. The truth is that we can apply kindness in any area within society, including learning and work.

In this sense,  distance activities have provided fantastic opportunities so that this valuable group of individuals can be incorporated into actions with different social guarantees. In other words, the effects of the environment due to altered social behavior can be made bearable without direct contact.

Therefore, kindness translates into inclusion, greater opportunities, and the use of innovation to adjust certain tasks for those facing autism spectrum disorder. The campaign’s aim is for change to begin with individual reflection and to spread to all corners of society.

Give kindness

Overall, to achieve the overall goal of widespread kindness in every country in the world, World Autism Day promotes a series of specific goals that can be practiced to accelerate transformation.

The way to lead with kindness that Autism Speaks recommends is through direct support for people with autism spectrum disorder who apply for jobs in the companies where we work. In addition, ensuring the adherence to favorable public policies.

Teach with kindness

The kindness that the World Autism Day slogan promotes also applies to learning. That’s to say that we, as a society, must seek a way to insert them into an educational process that respects their particularities.

In the world, several pedagogical approaches have been developed for children with autism spectrum disorders. Some of them include:

  • Floortime: Stanley Greenspan designed the floortime method. The basic idea behind the methodology is that the educator or therapist interacts with the autistic child in their play and under their conditions. The educational concepts to be transmitted can be included through the game.
  • TEACCH: This method stands for Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children. It includes education in an educational institution and the child’s home, coordinating both environments, including the actual physical space where the person has to spend their educational day. In general, it involves drawing up a schedule of tasks.
  • ABA: Applied behavioral analysis focuses on stimulating attention and language. It’s used more as a methodology to support traditional schooling.

Connect with kindness

It focuses on the expansion of information from networks, which can be done by replicating heroic stories of autistic individuals, sharing effective treatment manuals, and fostering an increase in the support community.

Care with kindness

In this case, specialized autism response teams can provide help, fostering communication between autism communities to encourage support and fostering both hospital and research networks for the improvement of therapies.

World Autism Day: “I can work”

Two women doing crafts at a table.
On World Autism Day calls us to increase job opportunities for people with this condition.

The organization Autismo Europa estimates that around 80% of people with an autism spectrum disorder are without employment. That’s a huge figure that complicates the quality of life of autistic individuals.

Fortunately, one option used to favor the labor insertion of low-functioning autistic people is occupational therapy. Low-functioning refers to the patient’s reduced possibilities when it comes to relating to the outside world.

Occupational therapy can be implemented in the form of workshops that adapt to the real possibilities of a person with an autism spectrum disorder.

On the other hand, if the person has high-functioning autism, meaning they’re capable of more interaction with the outside world, then there are other options. In fact, it’s even possible to consider their insertion in regular companies.

Essentially, the most common support for these cases is the accompaniment of a trained operator who guides the autistic person in their tasks. This operator assists in the individual’s job and helps them in their relationship with their employers and other co-workers.

Previous themes

The progress of World Autism Day has been marked by each of its specific previous themes in various countries. In the list below, you’ll find examples of previous themes:

  • “Autism speaks: listen to it”
  • “Autism Awareness”
  • “The forgotten half of autism”
  • “Celebrating the ability within the disability of autism”
  • “Opening doors to inclusive education”
  • “Employment: The autism advantage”
  • “Autism and Agenda 2030: inclusion and neurodiversity”
  • “Towards autonomy and self-determination”
  • “Empowering women and girls with autism”
  • “Assistive technologies, active participation”
  • “I can learn. I can work”

“Lead with kindness”

The recent theme of kindness focuses on the importance of raising awareness of how kind welcoming, autism-friendly adaptation, and social inclusion affect the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

How can I participate in World Autism Day?

Donations, free therapy days, and tokens of affection are always good options to be part of World Autism Day. In addition, there’s the kindness campaign called Light It Up Blue.

This initiative consists of wearing blue clothing as a sign of support and understanding for this remarkable and valuable group. Also, there’s the possibility of acquiring the official Autism Speaks clothing, an action that will help to raise funds.

Finally, social networks are among the essential tools in the task of raising awareness of the problems facing the autistic community. In fact, tags such as #LightItUpWithKindness and #LightItUpBlue with photos, in addition to loving messages, are also useful.

Making autism visible

World Autism Day should serve to make autism spectrum disorders visible. The number of people that ASD affects is considerable.

So, if we fail to include these individuals in education and the working world, we’re leaving out a great many people from everyday life.

Final recommendations for World Autism Day

To conclude, kindness is a very powerful resource that we shouldn’t limit only to World Autism Day. Rather, we must extend our kindness throughout the year. This means extending it to those affected by ASD who are close to you both in the community and at work to continue evolving their social benefits.

Likewise, becoming a monthly benefactor, being aware of all the activities taking place in your area, and volunteering is welcome at any time!

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