APRIL is World Autism Awareness Month, and as usual countries are being urged to ‘Light It Up Blue’ to raise awareness of autism.
The United Nations is celebrating the month under the theme: “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination”. According to the UN website, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognises the right of persons with disabilities to independence of person and to individual autonomy (article 3). Moreover, the CRPD highlights the right of persons with disabilities to “legal capacity on an equal basis with others and in all aspects of life” (article 12).
The website further states that legal capacity is instrumental to the recognition of a person as a human being of full personhood, with the right to take decisions and enter into contracts. However, certain abilities have often been seen as necessary qualifications for full personal autonomy, creating a barrier to full societal inclusion for people with autism.
This year the focus will also discuss policies and approaches being implemented with regard to guardianship and the path to self-determination and legal capacity of persons with autism.
According to Autism Speaks, an international group dedicated to advancing research into causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions, both through direct funding and collaboration, autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.
The group also explained that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences. The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.
Moreso, autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between two and three years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier.
Locally the month is being observed through the Jamaica Autism Support Association, which on Saturday had a fund-raiser — Spectrum of Hope 2.0 — and yesterday celebrated World Autism Day and had a church service.
On Wednesday the association will host Light It up BLUE: Autism Awareness Presentation at the UWI Mona Undercroft. Celebrations will end on April 22 with an Annual Autism Awareness Concert at Emancipation Park.