The world marks its International Autism Awareness Day on the 2nd of April. Subhadrika Sen reports the various events taking place globally to support the campaign.
Autism is a behavioural condition developed in children and remains for a lifetime, wherein they find difficulties in communicating and forming relationships. At times, children also face kinetic disabilities which result in, requiring help for completing simple chores like tying a shoelace. Autism is a neurological disorder which is beyond the control of the victim and those around the victim.
However, those who have fallen prey to this disorder find it greatly difficult to adjust within the society. They are often neglected, laughed at, teased and this leads to them feeling unwanted and ignored. Society has more often than not attached a stigma with those who suffer from Autism.
The 2nd of April is thus, celebrated as Autism Day, to make people aware of this neurological disorder and to reduce the stigma that society puts on the victims of this disorder. The Colour of Autism Support is Blue. Thus, this year, those supporting this cause and showing awareness towards this cause have pledged to wear blue.
World over, this day would be celebrated through various awareness programs, lectures and events at charities that help autistic victims. The Aspect Hunter School in Australia takes special care of those children who suffer from autism. They have developed various games like Minecraft which keeps these children engaged for long hours. This has helped in the educational development of the children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Boycotting the ‘Mindless wandering’ which is usually a characteristic of these children, they are now trying to challenge their knowledge and harness their creative talents to their advantage. Deputy Principal Craig Smith says that Minecraft gives the children “a much more understandable version of the actual world”. Aspect encourages such social interaction amongst students where they learn, interact and grow. They have also made accessible their guidebooks online so that parents and teachers can take inspiration from them and help in guiding the children.
The Early Autism Project in Kuala Lampur, Malayasia has a two way campaign to spread awareness regarding Autism. Their Social Media campaign spreads across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest with hashtags #lovesomeonewithautism and #welcometohope drawing huge support from the general audience. They have also organised an event on the 2nd of April in the University College Sedaya International (UCSI), North Wing; where they would hold screenings, presentations and autism research opportunities. In addition, they would also provide a ‘fun area ‘for the children to spend some time in. There would also be a ‘paint for autism’ event where random paintings would be joined together to reveal a masterpiece which would signify ‘hope’ for those struck with autism.
The Oakland University Centre for Autism (Michigan, United States), would join in the global events of The World Autism Day. They have an event planned at the University where guest speakers would express their opinions on various topics related to Autism. “The OUCA volunteers and the Amplifying Autism Awareness student group have planned lots of food and activities. It will be a fun event” said Meghan Chowdhary, graduate assistant for the OUCA. Later, as part of the event and part of the Light It Up Blue (#LIUB) Campaign, there would be a short walk to the Elliott Tower which would be lit up in blue lights. Earlier there have been various international monuments like the Nelson Mandela Bridge in South Africa; Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia; the Tokyo Tower in Japan and many others; that joined in the #LIUB Campaign.
The Royal Borough of Greenwich, England aims to team up with various local and regional organisations which aim to promote awareness regarding Autism. Some of the participating organisations include National Autistic Society (Greenwich Branch), Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and Shared Lives. The Royal Planetarium has also organised for a show titled ‘Morning Stars’. All children and their families are invited for this event. David Gardner, the Royal Borough’s Cabinet Member for Health, Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “There are some excellent local organisations offering support for people with autism and their families. World Autism Awareness Day offers us an opportunity to bring those organisations under a single umbrella, and local families can take the opportunity to come along and find out what’s on offer.”
Autism Together was established in 1968 to help those suffering from autism and their families, all over the UK. Since, then they have been actively spreading awareness and helping friends and families to cope up with the situation. This year to celebrate the 8th International Autism Day, they have organized various fundraising events like a 100 mile walk along the banks of the Shropshire Union Canal and wearing blue by adorning wristbands and ribbons. The About Autism Parent Support has also organized for a Ladies Pamper night in the Wallasey village Library for the families of autistic victims. More details about these events and the organization can be found on their official website which is http://www.autismtogether.co.uk/ .
This year #EmployAutism has been made widely popular over Twitter. The main intention of this hashtag is to make people aware of the fact that those suffering from Autism are no less talented than normal people. They have equal rights to be employed. This awareness action is also an eye-opener for the employment firms that every special child is talented in their own ways and should be given an opportunity to express themselves in the society.
However, it is often arguable whether employment would actually benefits those suffering from autism or not. Mary Duffy, a student of the University of Salford who has worked extensively with charities and deeply cares about the health sector comments, “The autism spectrum is so large that every case of autism is completely different, so for some, jobs would be a great thing but for others it might not be. Employers need to be educated about autism learning difficulties in general, those with learning difficulties are no different to those without and employers need to realise that.” Thus, in the days to come, #EmployAutism believes to make a difference in the world by creating more jobs so that those with special needs can relish the feeling of being employed and independent like many others.