The 11th annual World Autism Awareness Day happened on April 2nd; a day devoted to raising awareness about people with autism worldwide and to educate people on autism.
“Autism Awareness Day is important because it brings attention to a population that often goes overlooked in our society. There are many misconceptions surrounding this population, and this day helps to address them,” said Emma Gallagher, a third-year Social Services Dawson student.
Autism Awareness Day is celebrated amongst the autism community. “The community holds parades, events to educate the community on autism, some places even give seminars on autism, and everyone wears blue, the color that represents the autism community,” said Megan Anton, a special care counselor interning at Giant Steps, a specialized school for people with autism.
For others who are not as involved in the autism community, this day is just as relevant. “This day is important because the more knowledge we have on autism, the more people can effectively include the autism community. I feel like misunderstanding leads to exclusion,” said Ciara McLaren, second-year Studio Arts Dawson student.
“People who have autism are people first. No one is autistic, but people have autism. It is a person with autism, not an autistic person. It is important to be aware that not everyone is the same. Some people may act different or look different, but that is no reason for someone to be treated differently,” continued Anton.
According to the Canadian Government health services website, 1 in 66 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and 1 in 42 of those diagnosed being boys. Boys are currently four to five times more likely to have autism than girls. As reported by the Autism Speaks Organization, both genetic and environmental factors play significant roles in the causes of autism. The rate at which children are being diagnosed with autism is growing and it is currently the fastest-growing developmental disorder.
“Just because an individual has autism does not mean they live an unfulfilled life. Autism spectrum disorder is just that, a spectrum with a wide range of capabilities. People that have autism simply have a different way of expressing their thoughts and needs,” explained Gallagher. “Everyone has feelings, sometimes they can be hard to express,” Anton adds.
“Patience will bring you a long way. Only once we begin to take the time to actively listen to their needs, observe their body language, and embrace their differences can we begin to achieve a successful working relationship,” concluded Gallagher.