The seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2, and autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events. It’s the kickoff of a month long effort to raise awareness about a disorder which affects millions of individuals and families with a series of events and initiatives.
According to the Autism Society, “Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.” Today 1 in 88 U.S. children has autism. The numbers are higher in New Jersey, with 1 in 49 children in New Jersey, according to Autism NJ.org.
Many prominent buildings will highlight the day too, as part of Light it Up Blue. The Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and The Intrepid are just a few participating in NYC.
Locally people are raising awareness as well:
- WORDS Bookstore in Maplewood will hold a Light it Up Blue ceremony on April 2 at 5 pm.Owners Ellen and Jonah Zimiles will donate a percentage of sales during their Light it up Blue hours to Autism Speaks.
- Two years ago, local author Gregory G. Allen wrote a picture book inspired by his godson Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero With Autism. This month, Allen releases the sequel Chicken Boy: A Super Hero With Autism Deals with Doctors & Dentists.
- AMC Theatres offers its Sensory-friendly film screening of Rio 2 on Saturday, April 19 at 10 am.
- The Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health (CAECMH) at MSU will host a screening of “A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism” on Wednesday, April 23 at 2:30 pm. Following the video there will be a lecture and discussion about the new diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder and what we are learning about communication, sensory processing and self-regulation. They will also host a discussion for parents and educators called “Shifting Our Awareness” on Thursday, April 24 at 6:30 pm. See flier for all the details.
- On Saturday, April 5, Tasti D Lite and Planet Smoothie of Montclair (349 Bloomfield Avenue) will host a fundraiser for the North Star Foundation. A portion of the day’s revenue will be donated to North Star to further their work with breeding and training assistance dogs for children on the autism spectrum and those who face other challenges. Patty Dobbs Gross, Executive Director of the North Star Foundation will be present at 12 Noon to answer questions and provide information about the North Star Foundation. North Star dog, Nahly, a golden retriever, will also be present. Jason Didner of Jungle Gym Jam will be performing acoustic classic rock songs from 5 -7 pm and Jonah and Ellen Zimiles, the owners of WORDS Bookstore in Maplewood, will share the presence of their North Star dog, Daisy, a yellow labrador, at the fundraiser.
- Autism Awareness Day with the Mets takes place on Saturday, April 27.
- Over 420 Build-a-Bear stores are supporting autism awareness with a cuddly blue bear. Build-a-Bear is donating $1 from each blue bear sold plus 50 cents per branded Tiny Tee sold to Autism Speaks. Click here to check out the bear and to find a store near you!
- Millburn-Short Hills Special Education Committee kicks off National Autism Awareness Month with a viewing of Alexandra Jackman’s acclaimed video “A Teen’s Guide to Understanding & Communicating with People with Autism“, aimed to encourage teens to understand and accept those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on Thursday, April 3 at 7 pm. Register here.
- Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, NJ is holding a “Chalk My Autism” campaign
- If you haven’t purchased family musician Brady Rymer’s “Love Me For Who I Am” CD yet, you really should. Here’s a great video telling how the project came to be: