April 2nd, 2016
Representational Image: thehindu
Today is the 8th annual World Autism Awareness Day which is generally celebrated all over the world through fund-raising and awareness programmes. The Light It Up Blue (LIUB) initiative by the ‘Autism Speaks’ organisation is another way of indicating support for autism that involves painting the world blue with blue attires and blue lights on the 2nd of April every year. World Autism Day might just seem like one of those days on which a few social initiatives are taken up and forgotten later. But this is not the case!
Real significance of World Autism Awareness Day
On the 2nd of April of every year, the member states of the United Nations take measures to raise awareness globally. Action plans for the future are drawn up on this day and voted upon by the member nations so as to mainstream the disease of Autism. April 2nd is recognized as the official day for autism awareness due to the resolution tabled by the State of Qatar on the 18th of December, 2007.
UN’s theme for 2016
“On this World Autism Awareness Day, I call for advancing the rights of individuals with autism and ensuring their full participation and inclusion as valued members of our diverse human family who can contribute to a future of dignity and opportunity for all.” -Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
The theme for this year is “Autism and the 2030 Agenda: Inclusion and Neurodiversity”. The United Nations has laid constant emphasis on the need to mainstream the disability of autism. In its theme for this year, the UN hopes to incorporate social inclusion for those affected by autism in its agenda for 2030.
What is ASD?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Autism are terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. The characteristic of these disorders include- difficulties in social interactions, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviours. Individually named disorders like autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and asperger’s syndrome have been brought under the singular name of ASD. Despite several cases of intellectual disabilities, motor coordination disorders and attention issues, ASD victims sometimes excel in visual skills, music, math and art.
The sufferers of autism
Symptoms of autism arise at very young ages- 2 or 3 itself. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified a ten-fold increase in the prevalence of autism in America in the last 40 years. The increase in the number of cases has been attributed to the improvement in diagnosis and awareness over the years which has led towards the increase in detection of the disease. Also the occurrence of autism in boys is much higher than in girls. About 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States.
After continued research over several years, it has been established that there is no one cause for autism just as there is no single type of autism. Scientists have recently identified rare gene changes and mutations in autism affected victims. But most cases are a result of autism risk genes and environmental factors that influence early brain development. In certain cases, advanced parental age at the time of conception, maternal illness during pregnancy and difficulties during birth leading to oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain has also been linked with autism. A particular research states that a woman can reduce risk of autism in her child by consuming prenatal vitamins containing folic acid or eating a diet rich in folic acid before conception.
The leading Spokesperson for autism awareness
With autism requiring a lot of further research, several NGOs have come up to raise funds and awareness. One among them is Autism Speaks which is an autism advocacy organisation in the United States. It was founded by Bob Wright, the vice chairman of General Electric, along with his wife Suzanne a year after their grandson was diagnosed with autism. They have done a world of good to those affected by the disability across the globe.
This day is of importance not only for those affected by autism but also for the rest of the society that need to accept autism.
The Logical Indian thanks all the NGOs and organisations that back research and development in the battle against autism. Let us all join together in mainstreaming the disease that has unfortunately affected so many children in the world. Our small contribution to any of the NGOs could mean a lot for a child affected by autism.