People living with autism and their families are at the heart of a number of events and initiatives this month, as part of National Autism Awareness Month (1-30 April).
Supported nationally by the various state-based autism support organisations and networks, the month, which includes World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, aims to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.
Since 2012, Queensland based autism peak body, Autism Queensland, has been hosting an event called Go Blue for Autism, which asks supporters to help raise awareness, and funds, to support those in the state living with autism and their families by holding or attending an event in their local community.
Autism Queensland Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rod Cameron says the initiative is Queensland based, but is joined by a number of other state-run events and campaigns, all with the same aim.
“Go Blue for Autism aims to raise awareness, acceptance and understanding of autism spectrum disorder and is also a fundraising campaign for Autism Queensland’s vital services for Queenslanders with autism,” Mr Cameron says.
“The prevalence rate of autism diagnosis in Australia is 1 in 100 people and during Autism Awareness Month and campaigns like Go Blue, we aim to increase understanding of just how many people are living with ASD and also educating them about what Autism is.”
Mr Cameron says during April, Go Blue supporters, made up of families, individuals, schools, community organisations, child care centres, government departments, hold or attend events to help raise awareness and support people living with ASD and their families.
He adds that cinemas, theme parks, museums and the like also host their own sensory friendly events.
The South Australian peak body for autism support and awareness, Autism SA, is also getting involved in Autism Awareness Month by hosting a range of community events.
Throughout April, Autism SA Chief Executive Officer, Jenny Karavolos says the organisation is undertaking a number of community engagement activities to raise awareness, and encourage acceptance and inclusion.
"These include staging autism friendly events, developing and releasing video content sharing insights and inspiration from individuals on the spectrum, and a broad ranging communications campaign highlighting the importance and benefit to all of creating and maintaining a truly inclusive society that celebrates and embraces diversity,” she says.
“Statistics state that one in every 100 Australians is on the spectrum, so there is an obvious and compelling reason for the general community and businesses across our country to work together to harness the collective value of all individuals at its best.
“Individuals on the spectrum may think and learn differently, but all have contributions to make and want many of the same things out of life.
"We are firmly committed to delivering on Autism SA’s mission - to empower individuals on the autism spectrum to live the lives they choose.
“This is why National Autism Awareness Month is so critical.
"The more awareness, understanding, acceptance and inclusion of autism in the context of day to day life in society, the more we can achieve to enable the enormous social and economic contribution those with autism can and do make across all walks of life - harnessing diversity at its best."
More information about what events are being held in your area as part of National Autism Awareness Month can be found via contacting your state or territory autism organisations.