Apr 2, 2010

Autism Awareness Day

On December 18th 2007 the UN General Assembly adopted the declaration which declares April 2nd the International Autism Awareness Day, and the entire month of April is Autism Awareness Month.  The purpose is to raise awareness about autism and bring the attention of the society to the importance of early diagnosis and intervention of this disability.

Autism, in short, is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. It is a part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Autism can be diagnosed as early as the age of 3. It lasts for a lifetime, it affects all racial, ethnic and social groups and is four times more likely to affect boys than girls.

It is of vital importance for parents to recognize the early signs of autism. Some of them are lack of warm, joyful facial expressions, no babbling, no words, loss of social interaction. These first symptoms can be seen between the baby's 6-24 months, while the first reliable diagnosis can be placed at around the age of 3.

There are now approximately 67 million people in the world diagnosed with autism. This year, more children will be diagnosed with autism than diabetes, cancer and AIDS combined.

Why am I writing this?
There are several members of my family who have been diagnosed either with autism or Aspergers syndrome. I know how difficult it is to live with autism, but I also know another thing; I wish I could see the world through the eyes of an autistic and see how fascinating a single flower can be; I wish I had their capacity of noticing the tiniest details of this world.
Autistic people are by no means stupid or impaired. But because of their own ignorance or prejudice, people are prone to label them, isolate them from the society and treat them unfairly.
Do yourself a favor and, at least today, reach out and take a peek at the world from another, more beautiful angle.

Learn more about autism here, and read my review of Elijah's Cup: A Family's Journey into the Community and Culture of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome by Valerie Paradiž
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