What is the One Thing You Wish People Knew About Autism?
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
April is Autism Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation Month and each year the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) joins organizations all over the world in working to foster awareness, understanding and acceptance of this disorder that affects so many people of all ages from all walks of life. According to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, about 1 in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here in New York, OPWDD supports more than 30,000 people with autism.
In preparation for this month, OPWDD decided to reach out to some of the people we know who have first-hand experience with autism to help kick off this year's awareness campaign we've created called "Voices from the Spectrum." The campaign has one simple ask: "What is the one thing you wish people knew about autism?" What we knew in advance was that the answers we would receive would be as different as the people sending them in. Because everyone's experience with autism is uniquely their own.
While those of us with experience with autism grasp that the word “spectrum” is vitally important in understanding ASD, it is incumbent upon us, especially this month, to highlight that message for the public at large. While we may know that there are a wide range of behavioral signs, symptoms and degrees of severity that affect individuals, not everyone shares our knowledge. And it's up to us to educate them if we are to achieve our goal of acceptance.
So, as we celebrate Autism Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation Month this April, we'll be sharing with you what we learned on our social media channels throughout the month. We are hoping that many of you will add to this important conversation by sharing your voice during the month. You can participate and add your voice to other Voices from the Spectrum by sending us your answer to email@example.com or by sharing your message on your own social media pages and using the hashtags #VoicesFromTheSpectrum #AutismAwarenessMonth and #NYSOPWDD. To help amplify the message, we'll also be sharing messages with the Greater Capital Region Autism Society who is asking their stakeholders the same question this month and creating a digital quilt!
Let's learn from each other this month by sharing what we wish others knew about autism. When we share our stories the only thing we have to lose are the misconceptions and misinformation that is all too common when it comes to autism. Let's put our stories out there this month so we can all benefit from the understanding and acceptance all people with autism need and deserve.
Thank you for you joining us in the effort.
Theodore Kastner, MD, MS