What is Autism Awareness Month?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how some people communicate and interact with the world. For example, some autistic people may have excellent communication skills but experience over or under-sensitivity to light, sound, taste or touch. Other autistic people may experience social anxiety and need support with social communication. This is why autism is referred to as being on a “spectrum” because many autistic people experience it differently.
To support autistic people Autism Awareness Month serves many purposes:
- It is an opportunity to raise awareness about autism. There are still misconceptions about what autism is and the month gives people an opportunity to learn more about autism and autistic people.
- It is an opportunity to promote acceptance of autistic people. Many autistic people experience exclusion due to people’s lack of understanding about autism, so Autism Awareness Month is a call to action for autistic allies to do more to include autistic people in society and in the workplace.
- It is an opportunity to celebrate autistic colleagues. Celebrating autistic role models can help promote acceptance of autistic people and increase the public’s understanding of their experiences.
When is Autism Awareness Month?
Autism Awareness Month takes place annually during the month of April.
Why is there an Autism Awareness Month?
The Neurodiversity Movement has made a lot of progress in changing the way we think about autism and other neurological differences such as dyslexia, depression, etc., but autistic people still face a lot of challenges due to discrimination and lack of accommodations. For example, a report by the Office for National Statistics shows that autistic people are the least likely to be in work of any other disabled group. Just 21.7% of autistic people are in employment, even though it’s estimated that around 700,000 people in the UK have an autism diagnosis.
This is not only unfair to autistic people who would succeed in employment with the right accommodations, but employers are also missing out on the many benefits of employing autistic people. For example, Patrick Bardsley, co-founder and CEO of Spectrum Designs Foundation, found that Autistic employees have a retention rate of up to 90%, behave professionally in the workplace and can be great at problem solving.
Autism Awareness Month exists to not only celebrate the positive contributions of autistic people to society, but to also get everyone thinking differently about how we can make society more accessible to autistic people and more accepting of neurological differences.
Community & EDI Officer