The twin island nation has planned an entire month of activities to raise awareness of Autism in Antigua and Barbuda
April 2 marks the 16th annual World Autism Awareness Day—a day to recognize people living with autism.
This International Day of Recognition for autism is being recognized under the theme: “Transformation: Toward a Neuro-Inclusive World for All”, which signals the need for us all to take action on behalf of, and alongside, those with autism.
Chair of the Pediatric Department at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Center Dr. Shivon Belle-Jarvis is encouraging everyone to take this day to commit to reaching out to those around them who have “differences, unique perspectives or life pathways, or who need a helping, encouraging hand”.
She said “Those of us with our differences can speak up to offer our unique voices to the conversation. If we can expand our horizons in our own lives, we will do a better job of making room for everyone, every day, including those with autism.”
She added; “we owe it to our fellow Antiguans and Barbudans to do everything we can to address the disparities they face and to support autistic people with tools that facilitate clearer communication, increased productivity, and greater independence.”
On Tuesday, a speech and language clinic will be held at the hospital as part of the awareness activities. “This is a community outreach project. We will be seeing going through any language concern and giving parents the necessary tools to improve the skills of their children”, she added.
A seminar for teachers working in Early Childhood Education will also be held to allow them to refer very early, children who may have signs of autism.
General awareness includes wearing blue on Fridays. And on Friday, April 21, persons are asked to wear blue on that day.
The Rotary Club will also hold an Autism Awareness Walk on April 22 starting at 4:45 a.m. at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects 1 in 100 young people.
It can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development, from challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
Characteristics may be detected in early childhood, but autism is often not diagnosed until much later.
World Autism Awareness Day also serves to launch April as Autism Awareness Month.