What is World Autism Awareness Day?

World Autism Awareness DayBetween National Ice Cream Day and Don’t Step on a Bee Day—it seems as if there is a special day for almost anything. While ice cream should most definitely be celebrated and light needs to be shone on the plight of the bees, other days of importance need to be made aware of. 

World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is one of these days of great importance. Although some of us who are parents with children diagnosed with autism, teachers of students with autism, or are doctors/specialists who work with individuals with autism every day—WAAD may seem like just an average day; however, April 2nd of every year is still a meaningful and significant day that should be shared with others to bring awareness to autism. 

The Interesting History Behind World Autism Awareness Day

In 2008, the United Nations met and declared April 2nd World Autism Awareness Day. 

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“…the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force, reaffirming the fundamental principle of universal human rights for all. Its purpose is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. It is a vital tool to foster an inclusive and caring society for all and to ensure that all children and adults with autism can lead full and meaningful lives.”

Thirteen years later and the special day is still going strong. 

The organization, Autism Speaks, gives a snippet on their site explaining what this special day is all about. 

“Joined by the international community, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world come together on April 2, Autism Awareness Day, to Light It Up Blue in recognition of people with autism and those who love and support them. Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month, aiming to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, foster worldwide support and inspire a kinder, more inclusive world.”

See Also: What are the 10 Most Common Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Every Year Has a Theme 

Every year since 2012, there has been a theme to WAAD, which is determined by the United Nations. Setting a theme each year is a great way to focus on something specific that affects those with autism. 

The theme for 2020 is “The Transition to Adulthood.” 

“The 2020 United Nations observance of the Day draws attention to issues of concern related to the transition to adulthood, such as the importance of participation in youth culture and the community self-determination and decision-making, access to post-secondary education and employment, and independent living,” (UN). 

Below are the themes from 2012 until 2020. 

2012: Launch of Official UN “Awareness Raising” Stamp”

2013: “Celebrating the ability within the disability of autism”

2014: “Opening Doors to Inclusive Education”

2015: “Employment: The Autism Advantage”

2016: “Autism and the 2030 Agenda: Inclusion and Neurodiversity”

2017: “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination”

2018: “Empowering Women and Girls with Autism”

2019: “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”

2020: “The Transition to Adulthood”

Aren’t we already aware?

You may ask yourself…aren’t people already aware of autism? 

Yes, most people are; however, most are only aware of the basics. Here are a few reasons why it benefits people to be reminded of WAAD each year:

● Many people still have misunderstandings and misconceptions. 

● Individuals with autism deserved to be celebrated every year. 

● Some parents may not be aware of the early signs of autism.

● New teachers can be prompted to learn more about autism. 

● Available services can be promoted.

● Families can be taught/reminded of advice, tips, activities, etc. from professionals.

Here are a few interesting autism facts!

● The color worn for World Autism Awareness Day is blue.

● The symbol for autism is a red, yellow, and blue puzzle piece.

● The puzzle ribbon was adopted in 1999 as the universal sign of autism awareness.

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● If one identical twin has autism spectrum disorder, there is a 60-96% chance the other twin will have some form of ASD.

● It is widely speculated that Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Andy Warhol and Bill Gates are on the autism spectrum.

● Gender differences in symptoms have been found within the areas of social understanding, social communication, and social imagination.

● Autism spectrum disorder costs a family $60,000 a year on average. The cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention.

Autism Awareness Organizations

There are so very many organizations out there that make a difference in the world of autism. Below are ten that go above and beyond to bring awareness. 

  1. Autism Now
  2. Autism Research Institute
  3. Autism Science Foundation 
  4. Autistic Self Advocacy Network  
  5. Autism Society of America
  6. Autism Speaks
  7. National Autistic Society
  8. Organization for Autism Research  
  9. The Art of Autism
  10. The Color of Autism Foundation 

Click on each organization’s site to learn more about how they impact the autism community and bring awareness. 


If you prefer to stay updated and/or connected with others in the autism community via social media, here are the most liked autism-related Instagram hashtags. Follow them! 

#autismjourney #neurodiversity #autismcommunity #lightitupblue #autismwarrior #specialeducation #mentalhealth #disabilityawareness #autismworld #autismawarenessday #anxiety #ilovesomeonewithautism #autismproud #autismstars #autisme #spd #autismmemes #nonverbal #autismstrong #aba #family #stimming #autistickids #sensory #autismmoms #redinstead #abatherapy #specialneedsmom #awareness #specialneedskids

Whether it is within your own family or school, on social media, or on a community, national, or even international level, bringing awareness to autism is something every individual can do. You do not have to be a part of a large organization to celebrate and promote World Autism Awareness Day. 

You don’t even have to have autism to celebrate! 

When April 2nd, 2021 comes around, look into your local and national organizations for ideas on how you can get involved. 

Brittany Wilson

Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University

Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University

June 2020

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