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Inclusion NOT Awareness – World Autism Inclusion Day

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My son Richard has autism so I know first hand the pain that comes with loneliness; of not feeling included in school. Richard went right through school not having a single friend. One afternoon, he arrived home smiling from ear to ear, he shared that for once at lunchtime, he did not spend it alone. His ‘friends’ called him by name and then threw a pear at his head and laughed.

Could it be that a negative interaction is better than no interaction?

As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I would like to thank the United Nations for adopting the resolution of designating April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. The awareness of Autism has certainly increased over the years since the 2008 adoption of World Autism Awareness Day, but it’s now time to take this to the next level. Enough talk about awareness, enough lip service, it’s not enough to just be aware; it’s time for positive action, to talk about and foster inclusion.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability; our children and adults on the spectrum experience loneliness and exclusion on so many levels: at school, in their communities and in the workforce. You may ask why I am agitating for the United Nations to amend their resolution, is this not just a case of semantics?

My reasons are many but here are some: Richard went right through school without having made even one friend, not one! He does not belong to a friendship group; can you even begin to imagine how lonely that must feel? Schools and communities need to actively encourage inclusion, not just talk about awareness. What about work now that he is finished school? He is participating in a transition to work programme, but we have to hold our breath and hope someone will be ‘kind enough’ to employ him. When someone with autism is employed it makes the Ellen Show or the news as a feel good story! Can you even begin to imagine how it would feel to not have a job and to feel as if you have no purpose? 

On April 2nd, the iconic buildings of the world will be lit blue, how wonderful, how pretty, even newsworthy, we’ll all feel good for a few moments as we see the buildings being lit blue, but what will that mean for the inclusion of our children? Yes, in asking for a change in the wording from Autism Awareness Day to Autism Inclusion Day, we are talking about words, but words are powerful. Words inspire action; awareness is about talk, inclusion is about enacting, applying - actually doing something. Our children need to be included. Awareness was the start; Inclusion is the next step. Let’s change the wording; it’s time for World Autism Inclusion Day.  

The Details of the Resolution as it currently stands:

Resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 2007

1. Decides to designate 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day, to be observed every year beginning in 2008;

2. Invites all Member States, relevant organizations of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, to observe World Autism (Awareness) Inclusion Day in an appropriate manner, in order to raise public awareness inclusion of autism;

3. Encourages Member States to take measures to raise (awareness) inclusion throughout society, including at the family level, regarding children with autism. 

4. Requests the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of all Member States and United Nations organizations. 76th plenary meeting 18 December 2007

Imagine the shift that will occur if one word is changed, it's time for INCLUSION!



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