World Autism Awareness Day: End the Discrimination


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new figures for autism just in time for the fifth annual World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

One in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previous statistics estimated one in 110 children had ASD, which the CDC defines as "a group of developmental disabilities characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and by restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior."

Health officials attribute the higher rate to wider screening and better diagnosis, according to the Autism Support Network. Autism is almost five times more common among boys than girls at one in 54 boys, according to the CDC study, "Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders—Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network," published on March 30 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The survey provides autism prevalence estimates from 14 areas in the United States in 2008.

"Autism is now officially becoming an epidemic in the United States," said Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, at a news conference when the new figures were released.

According to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Autism Awareness Day was created to stop the discrimination, abuse and alienation experienced by many people with autism. When World Autism Awareness Day was adopted by the UN in 2007, the Secretary-General noted that while the developmental disorder starts in childhood (symptoms are typically apparent by age 3, according to the CDC), autism persists and affects a person throughout his or her life, reported CBS News.

“Autism is not limited to a single region or a country; it is a worldwide challenge that requires global action," Ki-moon stated.

A recent survey of 1,200 parents who had a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University found 63 percent of the kids had been bullied, CBS News reported. The survey also revealed these children were three times more likely to be bullied than their siblings who do not have autism.

Today in New York, Vienna and Geneva, the UN Postal Administration (UNPA) released six commemorative postage stamps and two collectible envelopes in honor of autism awareness, states the UN News Centre. The stamps and envelopes—intended to send a “powerful message to people around the world that talent and creativity live inside all of us,” said Ki-moon—are illustrated with images created by artists who have been diagnosed with autism.

Autism Speaks requests people raise support and awareness of the disease by hitting "Like" on the World Autism Awareness Day Facebook page and by posting autism awareness event information on the wall.

Indian Country Today Media Network previously covered a Denver Post news story on Interior Secretary and former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar’s four-year-old granddaughter Mireya, who was diagnosed with autism at 2 years and 1 month old. “For the parents of a child with autism,” Ken Salazar told The Denver Post, “it’s very easy to get lost."

In a November 26, 2011 op-ed, regular ICTMN columnist Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa), a writer, a pro-bono tribal attorney and a science professor, shared her son's diagnosis with atypical autism just after his second birthday. In her column "Epigenetics: Scientific Evidence of Intergenerational Trauma," Hopkins points out that "autism is a complex disease with no single known cause." But epigenetics, a relatively new field in science, "could help define the causes of Autism and offer up new modes of treatment for the disorder, as well as other diseases like cancer, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and diabetes," she states. Read the full article.