Raising awareness and embracing the unique talents of individuals with Autism

Mike Nixon, MLA for Porter Creek South As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 10th, 2015
by Mike Nixon, Minister of Health & Social Services

On April 2nd, I rose in the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to World Autism Awareness Day, which was declared by the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. This demonstrates the significance of the effort to bring the world’s attention to Autism.

It’s also important to note that the World Autism Awareness Day resolution encourages all member states to take action to educate their citizens about Autism and to encourage early diagnosis and early intervention. Through personal experience, I know that both early diagnosis and early intervention make a world of difference.

Autism affects children in many countries irrespective of gender or socio-economic status. This condition is characterized by impairments in social interaction, problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted, repetitive behaviour, interests and activities.

There are consequent challenges to long-term health care, education, training and intervention programmes undertaken by governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, as well as a tremendous impact on children, their families, communities and societies.

When my son was diagnosed more than ten years ago, the statistics showed that 1 in more than 300 children was being diagnosed with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Recent reports are indicating that one child in 69 is now being diagnosed with some degree of Autism.

Boys are approximately five times as likely as girls to receive such a diagnosis. This year, it is reported that one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls are diagnosed with some degree of Autism.

The UN resolution from 2007 notes the high rate of Autism around the world and the consequent developmental challenges associated with children with Autism. World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd is meant to draw awareness to Autism as a growing global health issue. Activities take place in communities around the world to help increase and develop knowledge of Autism.

World Autism Awareness Day is also an opportunity to celebrate unique talents and skills of persons with Autism. It is a day when individuals with Autism are warmly welcomed and embraced in community events around the globe, with the hope that someday, each and every day going forward, the same warmth, inclusion and acceptance will be the norm for individuals with ASD.

It is also the hope that Autism organizations all around the world, including our own Autism Yukon, will give a voice to the millions of individuals worldwide who are undiagnosed, misunderstood and looking for help and support.

As a parent of a child with Autism, and on behalf of the Yukon government and my caucus colleagues, I would like to recognize the parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family members and the many caregivers and professionals who have worked so incredibly hard in Yukon to ensure that supports and services are available to families and children. This government is pleased to support the valuable work of Autism Yukon and other non-profit organizations in providing support to people with Autism, and in raising awareness. We stand by them in their efforts to make positive changes for individuals with Autism and their families.