Autism awareness month
In April 1970, the Autism Society celebrated the first Autism Awareness Month. During this month, the American public is encouraged to further educate themselves on autism, how to recognize the early warning signs, and support research efforts. Events are held nationwide and range from celebrations of the diversity of people with autism to public education seminars.
In addition, many landmarks around the world are illuminated in blue on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day. While there are conflicting points of view on whether Autism Awareness Month should celebrate those with autism or serve as a time for recognizing what some call a global crisis, there is a consensus that the autistic community is best served by this month being a time for education, acceptance, and further research into the causes of and best therapies for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The Autism Ribbon
Perhaps the most common symbol of the month is the puzzle piece ribbon often displaced as a pin, bumper sticker, or on T-shirts. The ribbon was developed in 1999 by the Autism Society and is now the universal symbol for autism awareness. According to the Autism Society,
“The puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope — hope that through increased awareness of autism, and through early intervention and access to appropriate services/supports, people with autism will lead full lives able to interact with the world on the own terms.”
People often display the ribbon in hopes of sparking conversation about how autism affects them or a loved one. Many people are happy to answer questions about autism and help people gain a better understanding of what it is like to live with ASD.
Autism awareness merchandise
Throughout the year, we buy gifts for family and friends: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and more. Why not use this opportunity to purchase gifts that will spark discussion while supporting autism awareness? The autism ribbon or puzzle piece can be found on a variety of products ranging from wearables like jewelry or T-shirts to bumper stickers and gifts. Amazon carries a wide variety of autism awareness products and allows shoppers to select their favorite autism awareness non-for-profit to receive donations as you shop through AmazonSmile all year round.
Autism awareness jewelry
This autism ribbon necklace and earring set by Pammy J. Silvertone is perfect for spreading awareness year round. The pendants feature the brightly colored autism awareness ribbon and can be worn as a set or separately. The items come in a gift box and are a perfect gift for someone affected by autism.
This autism awareness pin features the multicolored puzzle pieces as well as the text “Autism.” Its small 1” size is perfect for a lapel, cap, or lanyard. It is available as a single item or for bulk orders to give out to people in your life who are just as excited as you to spread autism awareness.
Anyone affected by autism knows the importance of recognizing someone on the spectrum is different not less. This sleek autism awareness bracelet is fashionable and a daily reminder of just that. It features the text “different not less” and a small puzzle piece charm. The bracelet is adjustable, comes in silver, and is nickel free.
These autism awareness hair ties are not only functional but also excellent for those who find traditional elastics uncomfortable. They are no-tug and “ouchless” and will not crease the hair. Each pack comes with three puzzle piece elastics, a light blue, a dark blue, and a red.
Silicone wristbands have been a popular option for creating awareness for many causes since the early 2000s. These bright blue bands feature puzzle pieces and read “autism awareness.” They are available in bulk to hand out at events this April or to your child’s classmates.
Autism awareness T-shirts
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Dr. Seuss meets autism awareness with this T-shirt featuring Cat in the Hat and the blue autism puzzle piece. It comes in multiple colors and in men’s, women’s, and youth sizes. It is 100% cotton and machine washable.
This unisex long-sleeved tee featuring an owl with the autism puzzle pieces read “Give a Hoot! Autism Awareness.” The whimsical design and bright colors send the T-shirt’s message loud and clear. It is 100% cotton, comes in four colors, and is machine washable.
The official shirt for Autism Awareness Month 2018 is here! This year’s long sleeved design reads “Light it up blue Autism Awareness Accept, Understand, Love.” The shirt is unisex, comes in four colors, and is 100% cotton and machine washable. It is the perfect shirt to wear for any autism awareness event you may be attending in April.
This simple vintage tee features four puzzle pieces in red, yellow, light blue, and dark blue. It is an understated way to show your support for autism awareness, but those who are familiar with the puzzle pieces will surely know what your shirt represents. The shirts come in five colors, is available in men’s, women’s, and youth sizes. It is 100% cotton and machine washable.
Even the littlest member of your family can help promote autism awareness this April. These sweet onesies featuring the autism ribbon and the text “Autism Awareness” come in four colors and sizes 0-3 months to 18-24 months. They are 100% cotton jersey and machine washable.
Autism awareness gifts
Families affected by autism know that the right teacher can make a world of difference in a child’s life. This stylish handmade necklace is the perfect gift for a teacher who has impacted your family’s life. The pendant is copper and stainless steel and will not tarnish. The necklace ships in a gift box.
This badge holder is an excellent gift for a professional seeking to spread autism awareness at work. The badge features an eye-catching design and text that reads “I love someone with autism.” The cord is 24” long and customers can choose their preferred clip style.
This fragrance diffuser allows you to bring the calming effects of aromatherapy to your car. The diffuser features a blue puzzle piece that filters essential oils on the go. It clips onto your car’s air vent and requires no batteries or power.
Many children with ASD work with a team of specialists who help them and their families live their lives to the fullest. These doctors and professionals deserve to be recognized during Autism Awareness Month. This print reads “Thank you for being one of the pieces in my awesome child’s life.” It is available framed or unframed.
This “Mama Bear” mug featuring a bear filled in with puzzle pieces is the perfect gift for the fiercely loving mama in your family. The trendy mug is dishwasher and microwave safe and is made in the USA.
How to raise awareness in your community
Raising awareness for autism can be a daunting task. Many people don’t know where to begin or the most effective ways to make their message heard. Often times, intimate settings and meaningful conversations are the way to go. Other times, taking part in an event to raise money for research or contacting your national and local representatives can be effective.
Having a conversation about autism awareness
Having a conversation about autism and how it affects you or your family can be an intimidating task. This conversation may come up as a response to a negative interaction or a misunderstanding surrounding ASD, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. You may choose to invite a small group of people to your home to host an informal Q&A about autism. This can be an excellent opportunity for people to ask questions they may not have been previously comfortable asking. It can also be a time for you to explain person first language and the many ways to be inclusive of someone with ASD.
Join a community event
Many not-for-profits will be hosting events for Autism Awareness Month such as walks, sensory friendly films, donation drives, or seminars held at universities. Not only can these events provide a sense of community, they can bring awareness to resources available locally. Becoming involved can be as easy as showing up the day of, but some families choose to help organize the events, volunteer as guest speakers, man booths, or donate supplies. Before you chose to donate, be sure the not-for-profit aligns with your goals for autism awareness and is fiscally transparent. Charity Navigator is an excellent resource for scoping out the not-for-profits most worthy of your support.
Contacting your representatives
Your local and national representatives are elected to make sure your voice is heard. Calling, emailing, or taking a meeting with your representative can be a highly effective way of ensuring they know autism awareness matters. It can be nerve-wracking to speak to an elected official. To make sure you make the most of your conversation, have a plan. Be clear on what you want from your representative. Do you want them to support a potential law being discussed? Do you want them to write or sponsor a bill? Do you want them to become more informed about autism? If possible, include your child in the conversation.
Your voice matters
No matter how you support autism awareness this April, your voice is important. Whether you choose to sport autism awareness merchandise or take a meeting with your representative, this month is the time to rally together to bring awareness to autism.
Katherine G. Hobbs is a freelance journalist and university student studying English, with an emphasis on journalism, and psychology. She is interested in the impact of having a special needs child on the family dynamic. Katherine is dedicated to bringing awareness of resources to families and providing help to those who love their autistic children. You can find her online at katherineghobbs.com.