World Autism Awareness Day was established on December 18, 2007 by the United Nations. The General Assembly put together resolution 62/139, which consisted of four major elements. The participation of all UN organization and its member states, a dedication to raising awareness of Autism in the general community, and a standing request to the UN Secretary-General to move forth this message to all it the UN member states.
Autism affects approximately 1 out of every 150 children around the world. It is a neural development disorder that affects their ability to socialize normally by impacting their abilities to utilize verbal and non-verbal communication. Since 2012, there has been a 30% increase in the amount of children being affected with autism, and World Autism Awareness Day helps to bring awareness to this growing health concern.
Autism first appears very early on, sometimes manifesting as early as infancy, in other times waiting until later in childhood. The disease progresses steadily without remission, its first symptoms generally appearing around six-months, and being firmly in place by age two or three. Rather than having one distinguishing characteristic, Autism is indicated by the coming together of three separate symptoms. The triad includes difficulty socializing, problems in communication, and a limited number of interests combined with repetitive behavior such as can-stacking.
Autism is no longer classified as a single disorder, but rather an entire spectrum ranging in severity. Autism is the core of all of these syndromes, with its features being prevalent to varying degrees throughout, and includes such disorders such as Rett Syndrome and Childhood disintegrative disorder. One of the most commonly known disorders on the list, outside of Autism itself, is Asperger’s. Asperger Syndrome is signified by the presence of Autism symptoms with no impairment of language development.
Asperger Syndrome often leads to problems with social interaction with their peers. Common body language queues that are picked up on by those not on the Autistic Spectrum are often lost on those who suffer from AS. It is not uncommon among the Asperger community to hear them speak of their frustrations with non-Asperger people, as huge chunks of the conversation just seem utterly lost on them. Things such as tone, context, and sarcasm have to be considered very carefully, as they are not often native to those with AS, and their frustration with communication often stems from this and other social queues.
However, much like anyone on the Autistic spectrum, they will present with areas of intelligence that are much stronger than that of others. These areas tend to be in the reading, language, music, or spatial skills, occasionally manifesting to such a degree that they may fall into the “gifted” range in those areas. This seems to be counterbalanced by significant delays in other areas of development.
On WAAD, you can help raise awareness by hosting an event with local families with Autistic family members, bringing them all together to be among others sharing their difficulties, challenges, and joys. You could contact local businesses and encourage them to light up their building blue to signal their support for those suffering from Autism, or you could even light up your own home. Spend WAAD reading about Autism and discussing it with others, and perhaps trying to gain a little understanding about this special group of people and the syndrome they live with.