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.

In Vogue: ASD

Research Paper Title

What is Austism?

Background

The term “Autism spectrum disorder” (ASD), in vogue at present, has evolved after continual substantial developments taking place over more than a century.

ASD is a heterogeneous, multi-factorial, developmental disability in which an unusual pattern of development takes place during infant and toddler years.

As per DSM-5, Autism spectrum disorder is a combined phrase for a family of complex developmental disabilities inclusive of “Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger’s Disorder”.

“ASD is characterized not only by persistent impairments in reciprocal social communication and social interactions, but is also manifested by restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities”.

The classical clinical signs that exist in two major domains, viz. the ‘social domain’ and the ‘behavioral domain’ for the precise diagnosis of ASD have been tabulated and major differences between DSM-5 and DSM-4 are depicted with the help of a figure in this basic review article.

A sharp rise in the incidence of ASD cases has been observed worldwide owing to various risk factors such as genetic predisposition coupled with adverse environmental conditions, gynaecological interventions, etc.

Two official manuals viz. the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM) (published by the American Psychiatric Association), and the “International Classification of Diseases” (ICD) (published by the World Health Organization) is being regularly updated to facilitate diagnosis of ASD.

ICD-11 guidelines being prospectively implemented with effect from January 2022 have attracted global attention.

Reference

Joon, P., Kumar, A. & Parle, M. (2021) What is Autism? Pharmacological Reports. doi: 10.1007/s43440-021-00244-0. Online ahead of print.

Book: A Clinician’s Guide to Mental Health Conditions in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Assessment and Interventions

Book Title:

A Clinician’s Guide to Mental Health Conditions in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Assessment and Interventions.

Author(s): Eddie Chaplin, Debbie Spain, and Jane McCarthy.

Year: 2019.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

This comprehensive and much-needed guide addresses the issues faced by clinicians in assessing and treating the range of mental health conditions, which can affect adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Its particular focus on adults fills a notable gap in the ASD professional literature, with an extensive array of contributors from across the psychology and healthcare professions.

Covering a wide variety of common co-occurring mental health conditions including mood disorders, anxiety, psychosis, OCD, personality disorders, and eating disorders, this guide also explores broader issues to do with promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. Authoritative and detailed, this is an essential resource for all clinicians and professionals looking to understand and tailor their approach to mental health in autistic adults, and the need for specific methods and strategies to enhance assessment and treatment.

Book: Family Therapy and The Autism Spectrum

Book Title:

Family Therapy and The Autism Spectrum – Autism Conversations In Narrative Practice.

Author(s): Marilyn J. Montero.

Year: 2016.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Routledge.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

The autism spectrum presents a range of communication, social, and sensory differences that are challenging for clinicians to address. Family Therapy and the Autism Spectrum provides a guide to conceptualising those differences and ways to discuss them with clients and their families. Readers are provided with narrative examples illustrating the application of key concepts introduced in the text. These case examples address issues that range across the life cycle, from families with young children to ones with teens who are emerging as adults. Using the techniques learned in this book, clinicians will be able to guide families towards their positive autism narrative.

This book also features a visual framework to organise the compelling narrative of each person’s autism spectrum pattern of developmental differences or brain style. Using this visual framework and the corresponding descriptive language, clinicians and families can work together to create their “autism conversations.” The conversations lead to the transformative experiences of developing competencies, resiliency, and advocacy for individuals and their families. The conversations also lead individuals with spectrum differences to use empowering language, supporting their ability to develop self-advocacy and self-determination skills.

Can Questionnaires Guide Decisions to Refer Adults in Mental Health Services to Autism Diagnostic Services?

Research Paper Title

Testing adults by questionnaire for social and communication disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, in an adult mental health service population.

Background

Autism is difficult to identify in adults due to lack of validated self-report questionnaires.

The researchers compared the effectiveness of the autism-spectrum quotient (AQ) and the Ritvo autism-Asperger’s diagnostic scale-revised (RAADS-R) questionnaires in adult mental health services in two English counties.

Methods

A subsample of adults who completed the AQ and RAADS-R were invited to take part in an autism diagnostic observation schedule (ADOS Module 4) assessment with probability of selection weighted by scores on the questionnaires.

Results

There were 364 men and 374 women who consented to take part.

Recorded diagnoses were most commonly mood disorders (44%) and mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol/substance misuse (19%), and 4.8% (95% CI [2.9, 7.5]) were identified with autism (ADOS Module 4 10+).

One had a pre-existing diagnosis of autism; five (26%) had borderline personality disorders (all female) and three (17%) had mood disorders.

The AQ and RAADS-R had fair test accuracy (area under receiver operating characteristic [ROC] curve 0.77 and 0.79, respectively).

AQ sensitivity was 0.79 (95% CI [0.54, 0.94]) and specificity was 0.77 (95% CI [0.65, 0.86]); RAADS-R sensitivity was 0.75 (95% CI [0.48, 0.93]) and specificity was 0.71 (95% CI [0.60, 0.81]).

Conclusions

The AQ and RAADS-R can guide decisions to refer adults in mental health services to autism diagnostic services.

Reference

Brugha, T., Tyrer, F., Leaver, A., Lewis, S., Seaton, S., Morgan, Z., Tromans, S. & van Rensburg, K. (2020) Testing adults by questionnaire for social and communication disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, in an adult mental health service population. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research. 29(1):e1814. doi: 10.1002/mpr.1814. Epub 2020 Jan 10.

Can Testing by Questionnaire Guide Decisions to Refer Adults in Mental Health Services to Autism Diagnostic Services?

Research Paper Title

Testing adults by questionnaire for social and communication disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, in an adult mental health service population.

Background

Autism is difficult to identify in adults due to lack of validated self-report questionnaires.

The researchers compared the effectiveness of the autism-spectrum quotient (AQ) and the Ritvo autism-Asperger’s diagnostic scale-revised (RAADS-R) questionnaires in adult mental health services in two English counties.

Methods

A sub-sample of adults who completed the AQ and RAADS-R were invited to take part in an autism diagnostic observation schedule (ADOS Module 4) assessment with probability of selection weighted by scores on the questionnaires.

Results

There were 364 men and 374 women who consented to take part. Recorded diagnoses were most commonly mood disorders (44%) and mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol/substance misuse (19%), and 4.8% (95% CI [2.9, 7.5]) were identified with autism (ADOS Module 4 10+).

One had a pre-existing diagnosis of autism; five (26%) had borderline personality disorders (all female) and three (17%) had mood disorders.

The AQ and RAADS-R had fair test accuracy (area under receiver operating characteristic [ROC] curve 0.77 and 0.79, respectively).

AQ sensitivity was 0.79 (95% CI [0.54, 0.94]) and specificity was 0.77 (95% CI [0.65, 0.86]); RAADS-R sensitivity was 0.75 (95% CI [0.48, 0.93]) and specificity was 0.71 (95% CI [0.60, 0.81]).

Conclusions

The AQ and RAADS-R can guide decisions to refer adults in mental health services to autism diagnostic services.

Reference

Brugha, T., Tyrer, F., Leaver, A., Lewis, S., Seaton, S., Morgan, Z., Tromans, S. & van Rensburg, K. (2020) Testing adults by questionnaire for social and communication disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, in an adult mental health service population. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research. 29(1):e1814. doi: 10.1002/mpr.1814. Epub 2020 Jan 10.