Rylee Meelan, Staff Writer
One can raise awareness and educate others about autism spectrum disease this April by celebrating Autism Awareness Month.
As more and more people become aware of this month long movement, the more Autism Awareness Ribbons appear. Autism Awareness Month is an effort to promote awareness, acceptance and understanding towards Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD occurs within 1 in 68 children in the United States. In the early 1970’s, the National Autism Society launched a nationwide campaign to educate others about what ASD is, its effects and the potential of those who are diagnosed with the condition.
In 1999, the Autism Awareness Ribbon was adopted. The puzzle pieces represent the complexity of the disorder while the bright colored puzzle pieces and different shapes serve as a reminder of the diversity within the ASD community. Many are supporting the month along with local businesses, and even Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). In celebration of the month, Sesame Street has introduced a new character, Julia, who has autism.
The producers of the show said that it is part of the show’s ongoing efforts to promote inclusion and will help normalize and spread awareness for autism.
According to The Mighty, vice president of children’s programming at PBS Linda Simensky said, “Our PBS KIDS Autism Awareness Month programming is important as we reflect the diversity of our audience through our characters.”
“The more kids can relate to these characters, the more they will learn from them. We feel that including special needs and disabilities into that definition of diversity is vital, and we want to set an example for kids so that they are comfortable interacting and communicating with those who may be a little different from them,” Simensky said.
Aside from the new Sesame Street character, PBS Kids will be kicking off a series of autism related shows in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
Acceptance should continue to grow. Utica Coffee, a local staple, is also trying to help spread awareness. They are offering a limited edition bag of coffee, and for every bag that is purchased they will be donating $2 to the Kelberman Center. The Kelberman Center provides services to more than 1,000 children and adults with ASD throughout Central New York.
Sophomore Paige Mapley has volunteered her time on Saturdays at The Arc, a human service organization in Utica.
“I work Saturday during friends and teen time. We interact with the children. They have a sensory room with ball pits, mats, a swing and a playroom with toys and books,” Mapley said.
Some students are even planning on going into careers that will help spread awareness or help those who have ASD in one way or another.
“In many situations, children who suffer with developmental disorders are mistreated by parents or peers simply because the lack of understanding,” said freshman Joanna Gaertner.
She hopes to become a caseworker in the future.
“I do believe it’s super important to spread awareness and help more people be informed because in many cases, if we do not understand something, we just simply believe it’s wrong so spreading awareness could be super beneficial to not only the children suffering, but for our community,” Gaertner said.