Raising awareness during Autism Awareness Month

Through virtual activities and advocating for people on the spectrum, people around the world are finding ways to bring light toward people on the spectrum. Activities range from worldwide events to community-wide ones.


*Lending a hand…Giving instruction, special education teacher Laura Bevil (right) aids sophomore Lilah Staehle with completing her assignments. The special education program assists students both on the spectrum or with other mental disabilities throughout their time at the high school with learning skills necessary for everyday life. Arrowhead photo by Ben Shadle.*

To increase public recognition of autism, people and organizations around the world are trying to raise awareness and promote acceptance during April through virtual events and educating the public.
Since being adopted by the United Nations in 2007, April is now celebrated as Autism Awareness Month with Autism Awareness Day occurring on April 2.
The purpose of the month is to raise awareness and promote both acceptance and inclusion for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a neurological disorder that affects communication and behavior within individuals.
“People on the spectrum should have their voice heard and valued, especially when it comes to decisions that affect their day to day lives,” former Souderton Area High School autistic support teacher Anthony Derro said.
To celebrate, organizations all around the world such as the United Nations hosted virtual events revolving around inclusion and the discrimination some people on the spectrum face.
Other organizations like Autism Speaks hosted the “Light It Up Blue” event on April 2 in which national landmarks all around the world were lit up blue in support of understanding and accepting people on the spectrum.
People have also shown their support during April by wearing blue or changing their social media profiles to an image of something blue.
Additionally, other miscellaneous organizations have been raising awareness through events like virtual 5k runs, fundraisers and online panels focusing on specific aspects of autism.
“The more events and opportunities there are to raise awareness about autism, the more chances people have to learn about inclusion,” special education teacher Kate Ball said.
Recognition towards people on the spectrum has also influenced the realm of digital media with shows on Netflix like “Atypical” and “Love on the Spectrum”, which licensed marriage and family therapist Kathleen Nash said “provide realistic portrayals of individuals on the spectrum and their supportive relationships.”
Within the community, Souderton offers programs that encourage neurodiversity like the Unified Sports program, which senior Jonathan Booz said helped him recognize why inclusion is so important.
Souderton also offers special education programs, which help teach students with autism and other mental disabilities social skills needed for everyday life.
Ball said that the best parts of her job working in autistic support come from the growth, success and achievements that appear over time.
Despite the events the community and organizations are hosting, some students believe that there is a lack of education revolving around autism within the community.
“Even today I still read people online putting up false information regarding autism, stereotyping people on the spectrum and spreading myths,” senior Ryan Schlipf said.
Myths such as the claim that autism is caused by vaccinations or that everyone with autism has other mental disabilities as well still appear on the internet even with the extra information that organizations focused on advocating for autism provide about the spectrum.
Some students think that there could also be more done in the community to increase the student body’s level of education regarding people with the spectrum, as well.
“Volunteers of various inclusive clubs could hand out something as simple as pamphlets during lunches to inform others about what the spectrum really is and how it affects people in different ways,” Booz said.
Schlipf said that something like a paid field day event focusing on spreading positivity about people on the spectrum could also help.
Autism Awareness Month has increased recognition for people on the spectrum, which some hope can be extended into more than just the month of April.
“The more we educate people, the more we encourage diversity and acceptance,” Indian Valley Middle School Autistic Support Teacher Valerie Sebra said.