The first National Autism Awareness Month was declared by the Autism Society in April 1970, and in 2015, then President Barack Obama issued a White House proclamation recognizing World Autism Awareness Day as April 2.
These designations are part of a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion, and self-determination for all and to assure that each person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is afforded the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. ASD affects about one in every 68 children in the United States and is the fastest-growing disability category in Montana’s public education system.
According to the Autism Society, the April 2019 celebration will go beyond simply promoting autism awareness to encouraging a movement towards acceptance and appreciation. Acceptance and appreciation are actions that invite a focus on sharing positive, respectful, and accurate information about autism and autistic people. Their website states that “autism means being different, not less.”
Autism Acceptance Month also promotes acceptance and celebration of autistic people as family members, friends, classmates, co-workers, and community members making valuable contributions to society. After all, autism is a natural variation of the human experience, and together we can create a world which values, includes, and celebrates all kinds of minds.
Adopted in 1999 as the universal sign of autism awareness, the puzzle ribbon is a trademark of the Autism Society and was selected for its multiple meanings—primarily to send the message that regardless of one’s shape and uniqueness, we are all part of the great puzzle of life.
For the Society’s purposes, the ribbon’s puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum, and the different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope — hope that through increased awareness of autism and through early intervention and access to appropriate services and supports, people with autism will lead full lives, interacting with the world on their own terms.
In April, the Autism Society encourages people to Put on Your Puzzle by displaying a magnetic Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon on their cars, lockers, or refrigerators or by wearing an Autism Ribbon Lapel Pin or pinning one on a backpack. Both are available for purchase from the Autism Society’s on-line store. People can also post the ribbon on their Facebook walls.
Despite the spotlight attention ASD receives in April, support through social media, donations, events, or other advocacy efforts are essential year-round as we work to achieve a more just world.