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Home » Advocacy » Light it Up with Kindness This World Autism Month

April is World Autism Month, an annual opportunity for a dedicated conversation about autism spectrum disorder. Autism touches more than 70 million people globally, and approximately 1 in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in Canada. Autism doesn’t discriminate and can be found in people of every race, ethnicity, nationality, and socioeconomic status.

Inspired by the vast and diverse autism community, Autism Speaks Canada is committed to telling authentic stories of people with autism and their unique strengths, challenges, dreams, and goals.

Increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social challenges, repetitive behaviours, speech challenges, and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. People with autism see the world differently. There is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

Nicole was diagnosed with autism as an adult, at 23 years old. As an Autism Speaks Canada Ambassador, she has an important message to share. Despite the odds stacked against her, Nicole feels optimistic about the future. She doesn’t want to lose hope or give up when faced with challenges at any stage of life.

“I get anxious about social situations,” says Nicole. “It’s hard to explain how I feel. School was hard.” Despite these challenges, Nicole is adventurous, outdoorsy, and funny. She loves nature and animals, and dreams of working at a wildlife sanctuary.

Promoting inclusivity and diversity within the autism community

Autism Speaks Canada is deeply committed to inclusivity, and recently appointed its first BIPOC (Black Indigenous Person of Colour) ambassador to the Autism Speaks Canada Walk on Wheels Parade in Orangeville. The new ambassador, Emma, is just four years old but is already a strong advocate and voice for both the BIPOC and autism communities.

Emma is excited about her new role to promote a message of inclusivity and self-love, “Love who you are and embrace every minute of it. Use your voice and empower your individuality,” she says. “Emma knows the power she holds within her,” says Patti, Emma’s mom. “She has learned to use her voice for things that mean so much to her and I believe this will carry her far in life.”

Discovering the unique skills and strengths of people with autism

Autism is a spectrum disorder, and so each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think, and problem-solve can range from highly-skilled to severely challenged. Some people with autism may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.

“Being autistic has helped me be very artistic,” says Sarah, a talented young artist and author. “I have ideas in my mind, and I love making them come alive when I do my art.”

Diagnosed with autism at the age of nine, Sarah grew up feeling different from her peers. After her diagnosis, she discovered and embraced her unique strengths.

“Autism doesn’t mean there’s something ‘wrong’ with you. It just means you have a different way of interacting with the world around you,” she says. “You may not do things the way everyone does but that’s okay.”

Sharing authentic stories for autistic Canadians to inspire others

Autism Speaks Canada is committed to telling authentic stories of people with autism across all provinces and territories. By shining a light on their strengths, dreams, and struggles, it hopes to inspire others on the spectrum and to create a more inclusive Canada.

“My children are unique and special little people, who, although non-verbal, have so much to communicate to us,” says Charlotte, mother of Ariana and Thomas. Both were diagnosed with autism at age two-and-a-half. 

Although the young siblings share this diagnosis, they’re very different. Seven-year-old Thomas loves animals and being outside, while five-year-old Ariana loves playing with her dolls and crafting. 

“Our difficulties have given me strength, growth, hope, and understanding, as well as a deep need to help other families like mine,” says Charlotte.

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