Autism Awareness Day is April 2, and the entire month of April has come to be known as Autism Awareness month.
In 2007 the United Nations passed a resolution declaring April 2 World Autism Awareness Day. This condition, which was considered rare just a decade ago, is in fact, fairly common. A report based on 2008 data estimates the prevalence of autism among children to be 1 in 88.
Autism is a complex, bioneurological disorder that generally appears before the age of three. It impacts communication, cognitive function, behavior and social interaction. It is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder because symptoms and behaviors can present themselves in a variety of combinations and can range from mild to severe. Autism is a highly misconstrued condition that definitely needs to be better understood.
Simply being “aware” of autism, however, is just not enough. Paula C. Durbin-Westby, an autism activist in Virginia, suggested that autistic people and their friends and families use April 2 as an occasion for promoting acceptance and understanding rather than for awareness.
One important aspect of autism awareness is early intervention. Early intervention is important because it can allow children to attend mainstream kindergarten and reduces the cost of care later in life. Progress has been made to increase autism awareness and develop screening and diagnostic tools, but the average age of diagnosis remains close to five years, and is higher among some minorities and low-income families.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a developmental milestone checklist for children ages zero – five years that can be found here.