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Each year during the month of April, individuals and organizations across the globe celebrate Autism Awareness Month with events to educate local communities and raise public awareness about autism. Almost 50 years have passed since the Autism Society held the first National Autism Awareness month in April of 1970. Since then, autism has become the fastest growing developmental disability in the world, with the diagnosis rate of children with autism increasing from 1 in every 2000 children in the 1970's and 1980's to 1 in every 68 children today.
How Has It Changed?
Momentum around Autism Awareness month has increased with higher diagnosis rates, particularly evidenced by the more recent establishment of World Autism Awareness Day. This day helps to kick off a month of events and takes place on April 2nd every year, a date chosen by the United Nations General Assembly. This year will mark the tenth annual World Autism Awareness Day with the theme of “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination.”
How You Can Participate
There are many ways to get involved with autism awareness month this year with your children, either in your child’s school or your local community. Reach out to your local autism awareness organization to find out what events are ongoing that you can participate in. For some ideas on popular events each year, check out our list below. If your local group does not have any activities planned, create your own with your family, child’s school, or the broader community.
1. Fundraisers and Walks
Many groups and organizations will choose to hold fundraisers throughout the month. If you’re looking to participate in one with your child, research different options in your area to see what activities might be involved and where the money for each one goes before picking the best fit for your family. Awareness Walks are a fun, low key event to show support in groups while enjoying the spring weather.
2. Hands-on Awareness Activities
Large organized group events may not always be the best fit for your family. Stages Learning offers a wide range of free resources, including fun activities that can be done in small groups inside the home or classroom. Puzzle pieces are a global symbol of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Pinterest has many puzzle themed crafts you can do with your child, such as decorating bookmarks and picture frames with puzzle pieces or designs. Teachers may enjoy this Puzzle Piece Project and Autism Awareness Toolkit for using in the classroom with any grade level.
3. Books About Autism
Reading books with your child is a great way to start important discussions about support and awareness, especially if your child is still learning what it means to have autism. If you’re looking for a good book to start with, check out Catlaina Vrana’s review of her book "Ella Autie." "Ella Autie" follows a 4th grade student with autism through a day in her life.
4. Light it Up Blue
As part of Autism Speaks’ Light it Up Blue campaign, wear blue on April 2 to show your support during Autism Awareness Day. Keep an eye out for local and global landmarks showing their support by changing their lighted colors to blue. Last year over 11,000 buildings joined the campaign, including the Empire State building in New York, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
5. Join the Social Media Conversation
Posting on Twitter and Facebook is an easy way to join the global dialogue. Share your support with your community and read your favorite tweets and posts with your child. Don’t forget to tag @StagesLearning!
What are your favorite ways to spread awareness? Share with us in the comments!
Laura works with Stages in all areas relating to communications, social media marketing, and newsletter development. Laura worked as a second grade teacher for several years in Chicago and is a graduate of Northwestern and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education Language and Literacy Program.