Why do we observe the World Autism Awareness Day?

The World Autism Awareness Day is observed on the second day of April each year. This year, the 14th World Autism Awareness Day, as in previous years, aims to raise awareness about autism and educate people about it; make them understand and accept people with autism, foster worldwide support, and inspire people.  The UN Secretary-General says: “We recognize and celebrate the rights of persons with autism. Persons with autism have the right to self-determination, independence, and autonomy, as well as the right to education and employment on an equal basis with others.” The strategy is to cover four areas – health and social welfare, education, employment, and inclusive and equipped communities. The United Nations family always promoted the diversity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – entered into force in 2008- reaffirmed the fundamental principle of universal human rights for all. The main aim of the convention is to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. It also ensures that all children and adults with autism can lead full and meaningful lives.  Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurological disorder or a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders that manifests during early childhood, irrespective of gender, race, or socioeconomic status. The term Autism spectrum means a range of characteristics. It is characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviours. In other words, we can say that Autism is a brain disorder that affects the ability of a person to communicate with others. It begins in childhood and lasts through adulthood. Autistic Disorder or classic autism is the most general form of autism.  People suffering from this disorder usually face difficulty with language interruption, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviours and interests. Several people with this disorder may also have an intellectual disability. People suffering from Asperger Syndrome have mild symptoms of autistic disorder. They might face social challenges, unusual behaviours, and interests. Therefore, people with Asperger Syndrome do not have problems with language or intellectual disabilities. In Pervasive Development Disorder, also known as typical autism, people who do not meet the criteria of autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but not all, may be diagnosed with PDD-NOS. People who suffer from PDD-NOS have milder or fewer symptoms of autistic disorder. The symptoms may cause only social and communication challenges. On this day several international communities, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes, and communities around the world come together to provide support and love to people with autism. All through the month several activities like autism-friendly events and educational activities take place in cities to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism. Educating and making people aware of autism is important. As we know the rate of autism in all regions of the world is high. According to WHO, approximately one in 100 children worldwide have autism, with some studies suggesting that this number may be even higher in certain regions. In terms of financial impact, the cost of caring for individuals with autism can be significant. In the US, it is estimated that the lifetime cost of care for an individual with autism is between $1.4 million and $2.4 million, which underscores the importance of early intervention and access to resources for individuals with autism, as it can help to improve outcomes and reduce the overall financial burden on families and society as a whole. Despite these challenges, there is hope for the future as efforts to increase funding for autism research and improve access to healthcare and educational resources continue to gain momentum.  Autism rates have long been a concern, influenced by cultural and socioeconomic factors significantly influencing its prevalence. Studies show higher rates among certain cultural groups, like Caucasians and Asians, than African Americans and Hispanics. Socio-economic status is also linked to autism, with low-income families reporting higher cases. These findings carry vital implications for businesses, shaping inclusive policies and practices for employees and customers on the spectrum. Prioritizing knowledgeable and sensitive staff, offering flexible work arrangements, and sensory-friendly environments fosters inclusivity. Caring for individuals with autism costs around $126 billion annually in the US alone, emphasizing the need for an accommodating environment, benefitting individuals and businesses by reducing costs and boosting productivity.

Source:  Hindustan Times