April is National Autism Awareness Month
By Marguerite Kirst Colston
Vice President, Marketing and Strategic Initiatives Autism Society of America
Established in the 1970s by Autism Society of America (ASA) advocates to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, National Autism Awareness Month presents a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. With one in 150 Americans now being diagnosed, the need for services and supports are greater than ever, and this year ASA hopes to raise awareness of the many issues faced by families affected by autism.
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disability that typically appears during the first two years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.
The Autism Society of America, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, will be presenting a slew of awareness activities to celebrate National Autism Awareness Month this April. ASA’s goal is to present activities that create opportunities for people with autism and their families to be included in their communities, educate their friends, but most importantly, have fun.
1. 1Power4Autism. ASA just launched 1Power4Autism, the first grassroots fundraising website for the autism community. It gives people an opportunity to “turn on their power” by starting an event online and the tools they need to mobilize friends and family. Learn more here.
2. Bounce for Autism. After a successful first year, ASA and inflatable playground franchise Pump It Up are bouncing again with “Bounce for Autism” - a nationwide, community-based fundraising event that combines family fun with raising awareness and support for autism in locations that welcome children on the autism spectrum. Find a local event here.
3. The Horse Boy. In The Horse Boy, Rupert Isaacson shares his inspiring story of how he and his wife learned to think of their son’s autism as an adventure rather than a curse, a beginning rather than an end. After seeing the progress his son Rowan makes when he’s around a neighbor’s horse, Isaacson convinces his wife to join him and their child on an adventure that combines horses with traditional shamanic healing in the untamed landscape of Mongolia. Though this kind of adventure is far from the norm, both ASA and the book aim to empower families to think creatively and openly when it comes to treatment. Little, Brown and Company is publishing The Horse Boy on April 14, 2009, and will be partnering with the Autism Society of America to raise awareness. Learn more here.
4. AMC Sensory Friendly Films. Did you know that something that seems as simple as going to the movies is not an option for many families affected by autism? Autism often comes with sensory challenges, such as hypersensitivity to light or sound, and children or adults affected by autism may not understand the social boundaries of movie theatre etiquette, such as not talking during the film or sitting still through most of the show. In order to accommodate these special needs, AMC Entertainment has partnered with ASA to bring Sensory Friendly Films to families affected by autism: the movie auditoriums have their lights brought up and the sound turned down, families will be able to bring in their own gluten-free, casein-free snacks, and no previews or advertisements will be shown before the movie. Additionally, audience members are welcome to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing - in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced unless the safety of the audience is questioned. In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, we will be having two Sensory Friendly Shows this month: Monsters vs. Aliens on April 4, and Hannah Montana: The Movie on April 18. For a list of participating theatres, visit here.
To learn more about the Autism Society of America, autism and National Autism Awareness Month, please visit here.