World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), celebrated each year on April 2, was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health issue. Autism is one of only three health issues to be recognized with its own day by the United Nations. WAAD activities increase world knowledge of autism and impart information about the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. Additionally, WAAD celebrates the unique talents and skills of persons with autism around the world.
On World Autism Awareness Day, Autism Speaks celebrates its international Light It Up Blue Campaign. Thousands of iconic landmarks, communities, businesses, and homes across the globe unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families around the world affected by autism.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological condition that can affect the normal function of many systems of the body. It impacts normal brain development, leaving most individuals with communication problems, difficulty with typical social interactions, and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour. There is also usually a restricted repertoire of activity and interests. Individuals on the autism spectrum tend to have varying degrees and combinations of symptoms and therefore treatment needs to be specific to the individual.
Currently, there is no federal government monitoring system (like the US CDC) in place to provide us with accurate statistics on the prevalence of ASDs in Canada (although a system is scheduled for roll out in 2015) even though we know that ASD is the most common form of any neurological disorder or severe developmental disability of childhood. However, a US report from the CDC in 2014 shows:
- Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and this number is on the rise
- Boys were almost 5 times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls. About 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls were identified with ASD
- This new estimate is roughly 30% higher than the estimate for 2008 (1 in 88), roughly 60% higher than the estimate for 2006 (1 in 110), and roughly 120% higher than the estimates for 2002 and 2000 (1 in 150)
- Most children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age 4, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age 2
- Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics, and medical problems
- There is no known cure for autism