On April 2nd, there will be a global effort to support Autism awareness as many landmarks around the world will light up blue. The United Nations adopted the day in 2007 to bring attention to autism as a growing issue, as the latest autism prevalence reported by the CDC as 1 in 68 births in the United States. The statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is lit up in blue, so is the opera house in Sydney Australia. The Empire State Building, the Great Buddha of Hyogo in Japan, Petra, and many, many more houses, bridges, concert halls, museums, and other buildings will turn the blue lights on to show their support for Autism awareness.
Making people aware of diseases and health issues is considered a good thing for many people. We just wrapped up a month where people wore green to show their support for Cerebral Palsy. There was also Down Syndrome Awareness Day, Epilepsy Awareness Day, and World BiPolar Day, all in the month of March.
"When you think about awareness days and start to look at them, you see there's next to no evidence on their impact," lead researcher John W. Ayers, a research professor at the San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health, told CBS News. "We have no idea if they're working."
Autism Awareness day (and month), may help bring in money for different organizations- the primary one being Autism Speaks. Light it up Blue directs everyone to send donations to their organization. Not everyone is happy with that organization, though.
Many people on the Autism spectrum who can communicate have expressed negative feelings toward Autism Speaks. Author John Elder Robison, a former member of the Science and Treatment boards for Autism Speaks, resigned his post in 2013 and said that he cannot support the organization because of the offensive ways they portray autism to the public, and the little good the Autism community receives for the amount of money raised. He is a person with autism, himself.
John says in his resignation letter:
"I have tried to help Autism Speaks staffers understand how destructive its messages have been to the psyches of autistic people. We do not like hearing that we are defective or diseased. We do not like hearing that we are part of an epidemic. We are not problems for our parents or society or genes to be eliminated. We are people.
We do have problems, and we need help. Some of us need counseling or training while others have significant medical challenges. We also need acceptance and support. There is a great diversity in our community, which means we have a very broad range of needs. Unfortunately, the majority of the research Autism Speaks has funded to date does not meet those needs, and the community services are too small a percentage of the total budget to be truly meaningful. We have delivered very little value to autistic people, for the many millions raised."
John had tried to change Autism Speaks from the inside, but he didn't see his reasoned discussions having any effect on the top leaders, so he stepped down.
Others are frustrated that people on the autism spectrum aren't on the board at Autism Speaks, and have no self-advocacy there.
Autism Speaks may very well have a positive impact on the Autism community, and they don't have a lack of supporters, as we will most likely be seeing a lot of blue in the month of April. Before people donate to any charitable organization, they might want to research where their money is going, and there is a vast amount of research available on the World Wide Web.
Will you wear blue for Autism awareness, or something else? Rainbow colors are connected with Autism Acceptance. Many who self-advocate for themselves and also parents and family are on the side of Autism Acceptance vs. Autism Awareness. The important thing for everyone to be aware of is that Autism is a spectrum, and there will be people who are indeed looking for a cure, and those who are offended at the idea that their Autism needs to be cured. Maybe "acceptance" means that those in the autism community need to accept each other's struggles also.
Here is a touching video of the bond between brothers and Autism awareness and acceptance.