April has been National Autism Awareness Month for more than half a century – ever since The Autism Society held the first one in April1970. Its efforts have been so successful that the United Nations General Assembly followed suit in 2007 and adopted a World Autism Awareness Day (celebrated April 2).
Why the name change?
As Christopher Banks, CEO of The Autism Society of America, put it: “While we will always work to spread awareness, words matter as we strive for autistic individuals to live fully in all areas of life. As many individuals and families affected by autism know, acceptance is often one of the biggest barriers to finding and developing a strong support system.”
The shift in terminology, which is backed by such groups as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, is intended to foster acceptance and ignite change through improved support and opportunities in education, employment, accessible housing, affordable healthcare and comprehensive long-term services.
Why is Autism Acceptance important?
Acceptance is of such paramount importance to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network that the organization – run for and by people on the autistic spectrum – has been referring to April as Autism Acceptance Month since 2011, maintaining that accepting autism as a natural condition is “necessary for real dialogue to occur.”
The Autism Society of America is also advocating that the federal government officially designate April as “Autism Acceptance Month” since there has never been a formal designation for the annual observance.
Yet, as the world continues to struggle with autism acceptance, the clearest path to change is both awareness and acceptance on an individual level. It all starts with you and educating yourself. Read on!
Autism’s Growing Prevalence
Autism is the fastest-growing diagnosis in the world, with the diagnosis rate of children with autism increasing from 1 in every 2,000 children in the 1970s and ‘80s to 1 in 44 in 2021. According to the Autism Speaks website:
- In 2021, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 1 in 44 children in the United States is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2018 data.
- 1 in 27 boys identified with autism.
- 1 in 116 girls identified with autism.
- Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
- Most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2.
- Thirty-one percent of children with ASD have an intellectual disability (intelligence quotient [IQ] less than 70), 25% are in the borderline range (IQ 71 – 85) and 44% have IQ scores in the average-to-above-average range (IQ over 85).
- Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
- Minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often.
Other Autism-Associated Challenges
- An estimated 40% of people with autism are nonverbal.
- Nearly half of those with autism wander or bolt from safety.
- Nearly two-thirds of children with autism between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied.
- Nearly 28% of 8-year-olds with ASD have self-injurious behaviors. Head banging, arm biting and skin scratching are among the most common.
- Drowning remains a leading cause of death for children with autism and accounts for approximately 90% of deaths associated with wandering or bolting by those age 14 and younger.
- Early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the lifespan.
- There is no medical detection for autism.
To learn more about understanding autism and recognizing its signs, check out this blog from our friends at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center or this one from OSF HealthCare. For more about the history of National Autism Awareness Month, read this blog from Stages Learning. Find out more about The Autism Society of America and other resources for families of autistic children at its website. And you can learn more about recent advances in autism research at this helpful link: