By Scott Badesch, Autism Society President and CEO
Today is world autism awareness day. Today, throughout the world, individuals will come together highlighting the needs and dreams of people living with autism. Today, all of us at the Autism Society honor and respect each individual living with autism for whom they are. We celebrate and honor parents, siblings, grandparents, teachers, and other professionals who provide support and love to those living on the autism spectrum. We celebrate those who, years ago, did not accept what they were told they couldn’t do and today have shown what they are capable of. We celebrate those elected officials, business and religious leaders who value the beauty of a person with autism.
But today, we also must realize that autism, in growing numbers, exists each day of the year. We also must remember that while we aim to increase awareness of autism, the larger societal need extends way beyond awareness. Our nation still lacks a strong commitment to assuring that each person living with autism is provided an opportunity to realize a quality of life so many are still denied. Our nation must stop talking about autism and do more than talk. Today, most people living with autism are discriminated against in employment and access to a quality public education. Parents regularly must battle with their child’s school to ensure their child receives the required and legally mandated opportunities to succeed. We are all aware of the issues people with autism still face today. Let’s use today to focus the conversation on making meaningful change.
Today promotes the need for awareness and the Autism Society joins in that effort. It is not enough. The real question that must be asked is will we as a nation on each day of the year really commit to allow each person living with autism to advance on a successful path, free of unnecessary obstacles to maximize his or her quality of life. When that is the reality, we can then celebrate as a nation that we did something right. Autism impacts 1 in 88 individuals. It is time to allow each “one” on the autism spectrum a life of success and opportunity.