What is World Autism Awareness Day?

Introduction

World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognised day on 02 April every year, encouraging Member States of the United Nations (UN) to take measures to raise awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders including autism and Asperger syndrome throughout the world.

Background

It was designated by the UN General Assembly resolution (A/RES/62/139).

World Autism Awareness Day”, passed in council on 01 November 2007, and adopted on 18 December 2007. It was proposed by the UN representative from Qatar, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, Consort of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, and supported by all member states.

This resolution was passed and adopted without a vote in the UN General Assembly, mainly as a supplement to previous UN initiatives to improve human rights.

World Autism Day is one of only seven official health-specific UN Days. The day itself brings individual autism organisations together all around the world to aid in things like research, diagnoses, treatment, and acceptance for those with a developmental path affected by autism.

Components

The original resolution had four main components:

  • The establishment of the second day of April as World Autism Awareness Day, beginning in 2008.
  • Invitation to Member States and other relevant organisations to the UN or the international societal system, including non-governmental organisations and the private sector, to create initiatives to raise public awareness of autism.
  • Encourages Member States to raise awareness of autism on all levels in society.
  • Asks the UN Secretary-General to deliver this message to member states and all other UN organisations.

Themes

For the past years, each World Autism Awareness Day has focused on a specific theme determined by the UN:

  • 2012: “Launch of Official UN “Awareness Raising” Stamp”.
  • 2013: “Celebrating the ability within the disability of autism”.
  • 2014: “Opening Doors to Inclusive Education”.
  • 2015: “Employment: The Autism Advantage”.
  • 2016: “Autism and the 2030 Agenda: Inclusion and Neurodiversity”.
  • 2017: “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination”.
  • 2018: “Empowering Women and Girls with Autism”.
  • 2019: “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”.
  • 2020: “The Transition to Adulthood”.

Notable Initiatives

Onesie Wednesday

In 2014, WAAD coincided with Onesie Wednesday, a day created by the National Autistic Society to encourage people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to show their support for anyone on the autistic spectrum. By wearing a onesie or pyjamas, participants are saying, “it’s all right to be different”.

Outcomes

United States

In a 2015 Presidential Proclamation, President Obama highlighted some of the initiatives that the US government was taking to bring rights to those with autism and to bring awareness to the disorder. He highlighted things like The Affordable Care Act, which prohibits health insurance companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition such as autism. He also pointed out the recent Autism CARES Act of 2014, which provides higher level training for those who are serving citizens on the autism spectrum.

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