For the thirteenth time, the world is coming together on 2 April for World Autism Awareness Day, in support and recognition of people living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
In Australia 1 in 70 Australians live with the neurological condition, often characterised by a combination of challenges including social skills, behavior and communication, affecting each person in a unique way.
During the current global COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic World Autism Awareness Day, the start of Autism Awareness Month in Australia, is still going ahead, just online rather than in person as many events have been postponed or cancelled.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Autism Awareness Australia, Nicole Rogerson, says, “Awareness and understanding are always important, as it gives the general public a better perspective of the strengths and challenges of people on the autism spectrum, and their families.”
World Autism Awareness Day also brings attention to the challenges the autism community face in day to day life. These challenges are being exacerbated by COVID-19 and the measures being used to slow its spread.
“The challenges are varied depending on the individual and their particular circumstances [and] needs,” Ms Rogerson says.
“Some of the most common issues we are seeing include significantly increased levels of anxiety, difficulty adjusting to changes in routines… food issues as a result of ‘panic’ buying, inability to fully understand and implement the new regulations being imposed around social distancing and self-isolation, sensory and information overload.”
Although COVID-19 measures have changed the way World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated, it is still recognised around the globe, including here in Australia.
Ms Rogerson says, “For World Autism Awareness Day we are holding a virtual event tonight [called] ‘AUStism at Home’ via Facebook Live, a panel discussion following this years’ theme [of] ‘Transitioning to Adulthood’.”
“Our panel includes Chris Bonnello of Autistic Not Weird, Barb Cook – Neurodivergent author and speaker, Charmaine Fraser – autism mum and Director of Aurora Coordination and is hosted by our CEO Nicole Rogerson. It’s on at 8:30pm tonight and you can find details on our Facebook page.”
This event is one of many celebrating World Autism Awareness Day across the globe.
Other events in Australia include Go Blue for Autism, where you dress in blue, wear a blue wig, or decorate your school, office, or home and collect donations for Autism Queensland.
Awareness about the impact of COVID-19 on people with autism in Australia is also important, says Ms Rogerson.
“The coronavirus is having a significant impact on everyone, however for people with autism the impact is intensified and often more complex to manage. It’s important for people to understand this.”
“Our focus at the moment is on ensuring we are supporting the autism community through the difficult weeks ahead and providing them with up to date, practical information to help them manage the impact of COVID-19,” she adds.
For more information about COVID-19 and the disability sector visit our dedicated information page. You can also visit Autism Awareness Australia for autism-friendly information about managing COVID-19.
How are you spending World Autism Awareness Day? Tell us in the comments below.