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Why we celebrate World Autism Awareness Day each year

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is a special day on the global calendar where the world unites to spotlight the hurdles facing people living with autism. WAAD hasn't been around a long time. It's only been observed since 2008. There are many activities planned every year to raise awareness of children and adults with ASD and remove the stigma associated with it.

As an NDIS provider Melbourne and across Victoria, Melba Support shares a bit more about understanding autism and the positive impact autism in the workplace can have on an organisation.

In this article, we'll look at:

  1. What is autism?

  2. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect people with autism?

  3. Celebrities with autism

  4. Autism in the workplace

  5. Baristas with autism

After reading this, you'll be a little better informed about what autism is and how you can do your part to help people with autism live a fabulous life.

What is Autism?

The term was coined by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1911. It's derived from the Greek word autos which means 'self'. To put it simply, if that's at all possible, autism is a neurobiological disorder.

There are several disorders that are autism-like and have become known as a group of conditions called autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs. These conditions include: classic autism, asperger syndrome, and atypical autism.

The conditions can begin in early childhood, and can cause the impairment of: language acquisition, communication, and motor function. It can also affect a person's behaviours, interests, and activities.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect people with Autism?

To answer this question, we need to look briefly at the theme for this year's World Autism Awareness Day. In 2022, it is: Inclusive Quality Education for All.

Here's why.

Over the past decade, major progress has been made towards increasing access to education for people with autism. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, countries announced the temporary closure of schools. This is said to have impacted more than 90 per cent of students worldwide.

The disruption in learning reversed years of progress and exacerbated inequalities in education. Many students with autism were especially hit hard and studies show that they have been disproportionately affected by disruptions to routines, as well as services and supports that they rely on. This is one of the main reasons why the theme for WAAD 2022 is: Inclusive Quality Education for All.

Celebrities with autism spectrum disorder

More and more people with ASD are standing up and sharing their life experiences. When celebrities do this on WAAD, this awareness increases considerably.

Here are just some of those people:

Dan Akroyd from the original Ghostbusters movie and Blues Brothers said, “I also have Asperger's but I can manage it. It wasn't diagnosed until the early Eighties when my wife persuaded me to see a doctor. One of my symptoms included my obsession with ghosts and law enforcement. I carry around a police badge with me, for example.”

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist challenging world leaders to take action on climate change. She also has Asperger’s Syndrome. Thunberg says: “I have Asperger's and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. Given the right circumstances, being different is a superpower.”

Steve Biddulph is an Australian psychologist, author and activist who lives with Asperger’s. He’s regarded as one of the world’s leading parent educators. His books, especially Raising Boys, have sold millions and his lectures are renowned for being emotional, fun and impactful.

People in the workplace with autism

Dave Glazebrook from Melba Support, an NDIS provider Melbourne and across Victoria, shares the positive impact people with autism bring to the workforce.

“Several years ago, a disability agency I ran received a grant to run a series of sessions on 'How to implement quality systems.' One of the people attending came from an autism agency. He was their quality manager and he had autism.

"He asked me to come and do the presentation for his own staff as he would Iike them to understand the quality process from my perspective. So I did. During this time, I witnessed the relationship he had with his staff. It was fantastic to see was how much he was loved, respected and valued by them. Everyone embraced him and saw his autism as a strength for the agency. He had the skills to do that job well, skills I will never have.”

Super baristas with Autism

Sam Eastern-Cavanaugh from Melba's P&C team shares her experience with some baristas with autism.

“At my last workplace, we arranged for Busy Beans to make coffees for the employees in our office. The Busy Bean team were people with autism who were gaining experience as baristas.

"The overwhelming feedback from our employees was that they couldn’t believe the coffee was being made from the same machine, they were that much better.

"It was a wonderful program, not only supporting people in their chosen careers, but educating our employees on the importance of understanding autism. Some shared their own stories of family members with autism, and they felt that what we had done as an employer really helped to create awareness. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference.”

Melba Support is a registered NDIS provider Victoria

Melba Support is big on human rights, inclusivity and gender equality. Melba's priority is assisting supporting people with disability to live a fabulous life.

Watch the short video 'Who we are at Melba.'

Being an NDIS provider Melbourne and across Victoria, Melba offers a broad range of services and supports, including:

  • Helping you access the NDIS

  • Core supports

  • Support coordination

  • Respite for children and adults

  • Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA)

  • Supported Independent Living (SIL)

  • Individualised Support Arrangements (ISA)

  • and more

With all of these great supports and services, people with disability can live a fabulous life.

For more information, contact Melba today.


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