April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day

Karlie Guy, Contributing Writer

World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognized day on the second of April every year, encouraging people to take measures to raise awareness for people with autism spectrum disorder throughout the world.

According to Autism Speaks, autism, which is sometimes also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), “refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.”

In 1943, Leo Kanner, an Austrian-American psychiatrist and physician, first described children on the spectrum as having “extreme autistic aloneness … and (an) anxiously obsessive desire for the maintenance of sameness,” according to Spectrum News. When it comes to communication, Kanner also said children on the spectrum may repeat words in the same sentence frequently.

Kanner also noted that the children were often intelligent, and some had extraordinary memories, according to Spectrum News.

Today, the definition of ASD is, according to Autism Society, a complex developmental disability. Children on the spectrum exhibit signs of autism early on in their childhoods, according to Autism Society, and these early signs often impair children’s communication skills.

The Autism Society says there is no finite cause for autism, but diagnosing it early is beneficial to the child.

“There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis and intervention and access to appropriate services or supports can lead to significantly improved outcomes,” the website says.

Autism is also a disorder that affects a lot of people in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “Autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today,” the website says.

When it comes to showing support on Autism Awareness Day, people can participate in online or local events and activities and partner with organizations that support the cause.

People can also spread awareness and education on Autism Awareness Day by donating to an affiliated organization.

People could also display their support for the cause by wearing puzzle pieces clothing; the puzzle pieces emblem is the ribbon design for Autism awareness.

According to the Autism Society, movies are also starting to be produced with autistic audiences in mind, providing sensory-friendly films to those who want them.

Karla Otte, a junior majoring in early childhood education and an executive board member for the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC), said she supports autism awareness because she feels that those with the disorder do not get enough support.

Otte also said she believes those on the spectrum should get the same educational opportunities as everyone else.

The Special Olympics, Otte said, is very impactful for people with special education needs, including those with autism. She said she helps the local people who participate in the Special Olympics to prepare.

According to its website, the Special Olympics offers “high-quality training and competition in an inclusive culture through Unified Sports which allows for people with and without intellectual disabilities to play on the same field.”

Seniors Carmen Emanuel, a mass communication major, and Rafael Cooke, a psychology major, both said they enjoy participating in the Autism Speaks Chicago Walk as a couple to support raising awareness.

Emanuel said people on the spectrum also face an unfair stigma about the disorder, but awareness and education can emphasize to others that there is nothing wrong with being autistic.

Karlie Guy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].