By Dylan M. Klim
World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 marked the start of National Autism Awareness Month in many countries around the world, still one question lingers: are people accepting individuals with this disability?
There are a total of 200,000 reported unique cases of autism each year, with no two individuals the same. On average, one out of 68 children will be diagnosed with a form of autism. It is becoming more common, but, autism “awareness” has not really changed in the eyes of affected individuals and their families.
As individuals with autism continue to make their voices to be heard, they are simultaneously fighting for a rightful place in society, deservingly so. Yet, many families today do not support Autism Awareness Month, feeling their children are stereotyped. With the continuous progression society has forged, many feel that should not be the case.
“There are more efforts towards acceptance and educating the public on the best ways to help children and adults with autism versus focusing only on promoting information related to the cause or cure of the disorder,” said Alexandra Cunningham, professor.
In the 21st century, the large majority of the world continuously excludes autistic people, primarily in schools and workplaces with a lack of equality and fairness. Ultimately, these individuals suffer because they lack positive relationships expected in such environments. Still, a diagnosis of this disability does not mean that they should be segregated from social groups.
People with autism have extraordinary dedication and attention to detail. These are both unique attributes that workforces look for. These children are neglected, and this leads to them not gaining the skills that are required to thrive in this world.
“The development of meaningful job skills starts at the school age, where schools have programs that include community-based instruction (CBI). Students gain brief internships through CBI in restaurants, retail stores or hotels,” said Cunningham. “This can also be cultivated by parents who encourage their children to take on tasks in the home or part-time work that contributes to job skills.”
Individuals with autism struggle because the best treatment is social interaction with work or recreational activities. One problem with autism is social communication. Because of the stigma, they do not receive these much-needed relationships.
April is the perfect time to diminish these stereotypes, as autism acceptance must begin by how people view and treat children with the disability. In addition to wearing blue puzzle piece pins, autism walk-a-thons and large charity events, there still needs to be more active participation. The hope is that people should want to be involved because at the end of the day, that is what is most needed.
Companies like Microsoft are heading in the right direction by utilizing the skills that these individuals harness and placing them in situations they will succeed.
“The tech industry has famously taken on initiatives focused specifically on hiring individuals with ASD, which includes major corporations like Microsoft,” said Cunningham.
In addition to Microsoft, Walgreens has also created an entire program based on the hiring of individuals with autism and other similar disabilities. The distribution center was the company’s most productive, as Walgreens had to expand it just because of the insurmountable success.
While it is Autism Awareness Month, the attention should not stop here. It is important to accept these individuals each day and treat one another as humans.
Drawing awareness on this issue just recognizes it, but creating acceptance makes a difference and shows that all lives matter.