By David Greuner
The 12th annual World Autism Awareness Day occurred on April 2, kicking off Autism Awareness Month, an entire month dedicated to spreading awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to www.autismspeaks.org, ASD “refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.” Presently, autism affects approximately 1 in 59 children in the United States alone. Early diagnosis and early intervention are crucial in helping those with autism reach their full potential, and support services are necessary throughout their entire lifespans.
You can show your support in so many ways: spend some quality time with someone you know who has autism, pledge to “go blue” to increase global understanding and acceptance of people with autism, participate in one of hundreds of walks scheduled during the month of April, or contribute your time and/or money to a deserving charity that works with those affected by autism. Here are five of many charities (in no particular order) that you can donate to this Autism Awareness Month:
1. AANE (Asperger/Autism Network)
AANE works with individuals, families and professionals to help people with Asperger Syndrome or similar autism spectrum profiles build meaningful, connected lives. They provide “information, education, community, support, and advocacy—all in an atmosphere of validation and respect.” This organization is one of the first Asperger-focused organizations in the United States. Visit www.aane.org for more information.
2. OAR (Organization for Autism Research)
Eighty-seven percent of funds raised by OAR go directly to research and services. The Organization for Autism Research strives to make a difference in the daily lives of persons with autism and their families. OAR publishes a series of guidebooks, maintains supportive websites, offers scholarship opportunities for undergraduate students and provides resources specifically for military families impacted by autism. Visit www.researchautism.org for more.
3. Autism Society of America
For more than 50 years, the Autism Society of America “envisions a world where individuals and families living with autism are able to maximize their quality of life, are treated with the highest level of dignity, and live in a society in which their talents and skills are appreciated and valued.” They provide education, advocacy, information, support, and community at national, state and local levels through their strong nationwide network of affiliates. They are one of the few organizations to have members on the autism spectrum serving as active members of their board directors and in other leadership positions. Visit www.autism-society.org for more information.
4. Autism Speaks
Grandparents of a child with autism founded Autism Speaks in 2005. According to their website, Autism Speaks is “dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. Autism Speaks enhances lives today and is accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.” Visit www.autismspeaks.org for information.
5. Autism Science Foundation
Founded in 2009, the Autism Science Foundation is a nonprofit corporation organized for charitable and educational purposes. Their mission is “to support autism research by providing funding and other assistance to scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, publicizing and disseminating autism research.” In addition, the Autism Science Foundation “provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism.” They believe that outstanding research is the best gift that they can offer their families. Visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org for more information.
Go blue this April and show your support of those affected by autism.
Dr. David Greuner is the cofounder and head doctor of NYC Surgical Associates.