Since 1989 the UN has designated 2nd April World Autism Awareness Day, a day where we can address the stigma attached to autism and work for a more inclusive society that supports the talents and potential of all those affected by autism.
I was contacted by a fantastic Liverpool autistic children’s support group who wanted to work with us to mark the day of the 2nd April in a highly visible and dramatic way. Lighting some of our famous buildings blue is just one way of promoting the day and increasing awareness of autism in the city. Representatives of the Liverpool Autistic Children’s Alliance will be on the Radio Merseyside phone-in promoting the day and will be interviewed by local papers. We are organising a National Autistic Society “Onesie Wednesday” event with autistic children at St George’s Hall.
Everton In the Community are going to promote autism awareness at the Arsenal game on 6th April. We will be promoting autism awareness throughout the whole month of April, and very much welcome the efforts of all those who want to make Liverpool an autism friendly city.
There are members of autistic community who have contacted me to say they do not want to light buildings blue on WAAD due to the links this has with an American organisation called Autism Speaks, whose methods and goals they are opposed to. I want to assure everyone that neither I nor the City Council are supporting or condoning the work of Autism Speaks, nor was any offence meant by lighting up city buildings blue on WAAD.
More and more people are being diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in every community in the country. There is a lot that local authorities can do to support individuals and families and we are very keen to work with all representatives and groups to improve the services we can offer. Part of living with autism is about how the public interact with autistic people in the day to day, and there are too many examples of where a lack of awareness and understanding has caused pain, upset and embarrassment to autistic people and their families. By a range of activities and events in the lead up to WAAD, on the day and afterwards, it is my hope that we can make a real and sustained change in people’s lives for the better.