World Autism Awareness Day April 2

There is no shortage of challenges in this world and many of them have no borders. One of these challenges is as complicated as the diagnosis itself: autism.  As a long-time UN staff member and more importantly a proud mom to a son with autism, I was so heartened to see the UN shine a light on this important issue that resonates here in the U.S. and is so near and dear to my heart.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which covers conditions such as autism and Asperger syndrome, are characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication and a restricted and repetitive repertoire of interests and activities.

More basic FAQ’s can be found on the World Health Organization’s website.

It has been 10 years since United Nations member nations unanimously adopted General Assembly resolution designating April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) in 2008.  The resolution highlights the need to help improve the quality of life of those with autism, to reduce stigmatization and discrimination associated with neurological differences and to recognize their rights as citizens like everyone else.

Here in the United States, it’s probable that you have heard about autism or maybe even watched a TV show with an autistic character in it (my personal favorite at the moment: The Good Doctor!).  It is also likely that you personally know someone with autism (or know someone who knows someone) or even interacted with someone “on the spectrum.”

And for those who haven’t yet, it’s just a matter of time before you will.  Embrace it.  These individuals are special, not because of their disability but because of their ABILITY.   If you take the time to get to know them, they could quite possibly change your world and ours!

“When they enjoy equal opportunity for self-determination and autonomy, persons with autism will be empowered to make an even stronger positive impact on our shared future.”  – UN Secretary-General António Guterres

My son Scott and me outside the South African Embassy on Mandela Day.

My son Scott and me outside the South African Embassy on Mandela Day.

According to U.S. Government statistics roughly 1 in 68 people in the U.S. are on the spectrum. This number is rising and so is the need to raise awareness about what autism is and is not.

If you do nothing else in support of autism awareness, please just learn more about it.  Take a moment to review some of the most common myths surrounding autism.  If you are on Pinterest there are so many great pins there.

But another super quick and easy way to think globally and act locally in support of World Autism Awareness Day: LIGHT IT UP BLUE!

  • Wear your favorite (UN) blue shirt on April 2 (and throughout the month). There are also a lot of great Autism Awareness related t-shirts available.
  • Light Up your porch with a blue lightbulb (if you don’t have one, you can go online or to Home Depot).
  • With the help of Autism Speaks, you can Light Up your social media blue: . For those with a loved on the spectrum, take a moment to “share your story” on Autism Speaks’ website.


Karen Smyth

Senior Congressional Liaison Assistant

United Nations Information Center