World Autism Awareness Day is observed on April 2 every year to raise awareness about people with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The resolution on it was proposed by a representative from Qatar and was supported by all member states of the United Nations.
UN declared this as one of only seven health-specific international days to educate people and mobilize organisations around the world to aid in research, diagnose, treatment and acceptance of those affected by the autism disorder.
What is Autism?
Autism or autism spectrum disorder is a development disorder that ranges from difficulty in social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech to nonverbal communication. Since it's a spectrum disorder, not every person suffering from autism has similar problems.
On the contrary, each person with autism has its own set of strengths and challenges, and so have different needs. Some suffering from ASD might need significant support for their day to day activities, while others might need limited assistance, and in some cases, a few others would be able to live independently.
What causes autism
The exact causes of autism is yet not known but scientist believe that there might be several factors that led to the development of autism. A combination of genetic, medical and environmental factors can lead to the onset of the disorder. Factors like gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, anxiety, depression are believed to influence the development of ASD.
There is no cure for autism disorder but various behavioural therapies like speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and other interventions have been found to be effective in helping patients suffering from ASD.
UN theme for 2020
Over the years United Nations focused on various aspects of the disorder and every year it tried to bring attention to one specific area of the problem. This year the theme for World Autism Awareness Day 2020 is "The Transition to Adulthood."
From the moment a child is born, certain expectations are associated with him or her. The expectation that a child should behave in a certain manner and by adulthood, a person should start contributing to the community in a constructive way is considered normal as "The Transition to Adulthood".
"The Transition to Adulthood"
However, people suffering from Autism, with their set of problems, "The Transition to Adulthood" remains a significant challenge because of the lack of opportunities and support for the development of their life.
The problems these people face range from mild to severe across the spectrum and when support services are not available or cease to supplement them, they in a way "fall of a cliff". The situation deteriorates further for them in times of severe crisis like these when the pandemic due coronavirus has affected all of us so badly.
Disability right is human right
Persons with autism should have the right to self-determination, independence, as well as the right to education and employment on an equal basis with others but a crisis like the one we are going through now, can put these people disproportionate risk.
The breakdown of vital support systems and networks as a result of COVID-19 exacerbates the obstacles that persons with autism face in exercising these rights.
With this concern, the United Nations on World Autism Awareness Day with the themes "The Transition to Adulthood" intends to bring awareness that "prolonged disruption caused by the emergency does not result in rollbacks of the rights that persons with autism and their representative organizations have worked so hard to advance."
"The government must ensure to their response in COVID-19 management includes persons with autism. "They must continue to have access to the support systems required to remain in their homes and communities through times of crisis, instead of facing the prospect of forced institutionalization," said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations in his message on World Autism Awareness Day.