World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is observed every year on April 2nd to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to promote the rights and well-being of individuals with ASD. Autism awareness didn’t happen overnight. The history of how this day was proposed and what has come from its recognition by the United Nations (UN) involves the efforts of several organizations, individuals, and nations over many years.
It’s difficult to conceive that a little over a century ago, the word autism didn’t exist. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that autism research began to accelerate, leading to increased awareness of the condition. Despite this, the needs of individuals with autism were widely unrecognized by the international community. There was a lack of resources and support for individuals with autism and their families.
At ABA Centers of Florida, we celebrate World Autism Awareness Day with the attention and bombastic joy it deserves. Each person on the spectrum is unique and wonderful, and as active supporters of the autism community, we believe in celebrating each neurodivergent person. This article will cover how we got here, from a condition seldom understood to one globally recognized.
1. Growing Awareness
In the 1990s, several organizations began advocating for increased awareness and support for autism. One such organization was the Autism Society of America, established by prominent autism researcher Bernard Rimland and Ivar Lovaas, the psychologist whose work was the precursor to modern-day Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The Autism Society of America launched National Autism Awareness Month in 1995. This focus on awareness ushered the start of the era of sharing, with families and those on the spectrum voicing their needs and claiming their rightful role in society.
In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution declaring April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day. The resolution, sponsored by the State of Qatar, was the first step towards recognizing autism as a global health issue. However, the resolution did not call for any specific actions to address the needs of individuals with autism.
2. Growing Support
World Autism Awareness Day existed, but there was little backing it aside from a proclamation. This discrepancy was corrected in 2005 when the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) began organizing events and activities to mark World Autism Awareness Day and promote understanding of the condition.
In 2006, the UN launched its first-ever World Autism Awareness Day event at its New York City headquarters. The event featured speeches by UN officials, autism experts, and individuals with autism and their families. The event helped to raise awareness of autism among the international community and encouraged nations to take action to support individuals with autism.
In 2007, the Autism Speaks organization launched the “Light It Up Blue” campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of autism by encouraging individuals and businesses to light up their buildings and landmarks in blue on April 2nd.
With the growing understanding and support for those on the spectrum and the rise of diagnoses worldwide, in 2008, the UN launched the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” This recognized the rights of individuals with disabilities, including those with autism, to education, employment, and enthusiastic social participation. The Convention, embraced by over 170 countries, has helped to promote the inclusion and rights of individuals with autism around the world.
In 2009, the Autism Speaks organization and other advocacy groups launched the “World Autism Awareness Day” initiative, which called on nations to take action to provide early intervention services, improve access to education and employment opportunities, and increase research into the causes and treatments of autism.
Finally, in 2013, the UN launched the Resolution on Autism, which called on nations to take concrete actions to address the needs of individuals with autism. The resolution urged nations to provide early diagnosis and intervention services, increase access to education and employment opportunities, and promote research into the condition’s causes. We’ve come a long way in 100 years.
April 2nd of this year, from 10:00 AM to 1 PM EST, the UN will host the virtual event “Transformation: Toward a Neuro-Inclusive World for All”. It will feature worldwide speakers on the spectrum discussing how the idea of neurodiversity has led to newfound acceptance. You can register to celebrate with people from all over the world here.
ABA Centers of Florida and Autism Awareness
ABA Centers of Florida believes everyone on the spectrum is entitled to happiness, independence, and a fulfilling life with their family. This fundamental belief is why we offer ABA therapy, the gold standard, researched back therapy for those on the spectrum. Through positive reinforcement and individualized therapy, our experts teach vital skills that help those diagnosed with autism thrive and reach their goals.
Pick up the phone and call (772) 773-1437 or reach out on our website for a free consultation. Happy World Autism Awareness Day to you and your loved ones!