World Autism Awareness Day is observed on April 2 every year with an aim to highlight the need of recognising and spreading awareness for the right of people with autism, especially children. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly on 2007 designated April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day with an intention to make people understand and accept those living with autism, foster support and spread kindness. Furthermore, it also appreciates the unique talents of people with autism and hope to develop adequate knowledge and offer information about the importance of early diagnosis. This day is one of the seven official health-specific UN Days.
Autism also called Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological developmental disability that typically begins during childhood and continues into adulthood. Autism affects the normal functioning of the brain and the first signs appear before a child is three years old. People living with this condition often find social interaction difficult, problems with verbal and non-verbal communications, show restrictive and repetitive behaviour and restricted set of interests and activities. This disorder affects both girls and boys of all races, and in all geographic regions and the prevalence is rising in many countries across the globe. As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of autism has increased steadily since 2002 across the world. As per statistics, about 1 in 100 children in India under age 10 has autism, while about 1 in 8 children has at least any one neurodevelopmental condition. The main challenge is to deliver proper care and education for children and young people with autism.
On this day several events and activities take place where international communities, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world are “Light it up Blue” and come together to provide support, love and accept the people with autism.
There is a lot of misconception and negative perceptions that exist among people about autism, which can lead to people living with this disorder being isolated and more extreme cases, lead to abuse and bullying. So let’s debunk some of the common myths.
Myth: All people with autism are alike.
No, Autism is a group of developmental disabilities that affect social, communication and behavioural skills. It is called spectrum disorders as they affect each person in a different way and symptoms range from mild to severe.
Myth: Vaccines cause autism.
There is no known cause of autism and no evidence to support a connection between getting vaccinated and developing autism. Furthermore, research also discloses that individual vaccine ingredients such as thimerosal do not cause ASD. Researchers believe that environmental, biological and genetic factors may be a causative factor. Children with ASD sibling are at higher risk, while boys with certain genetic disorders and those born to older parents are at high risk than girls.
Myth: Individual with autism do not make eye contact.
Generally, a person with autism feel comfortable and confident with the communication partner, eye contact can be instinctive. Remember it is not a good idea to force a person to have eye contact with you.
Myth: Individuals with autism have a special talent or 'savant' skills.
Evidence revealed that 10% of individuals with autism spectrum may develop special skills in music, art, mathematical calculations, memory and manual dexterity. However, most people may have areas of high performance that relate to their special interests and these skills are referred to as splinter skills.
Myth: Autism can be cured.
There is no cure for autism, however, early intervention, education and vocational training can help improve a child’s developmental and learning abilities. Moreover, it is also important that all children should be screened for ASDs at 18 and 24 months.