Dear Friends and Colleagues,
April is National Autism Awareness Month. For the last few years, many in the autism community have encouraged the broader population to move beyond awareness to acceptance and appreciation of autism. In my opinion, that’s a welcome shift, and I am happy to embrace the designation of April as Autism Acceptance Month.
Since Autism Awareness Month was first established in 1972, we’ve made a great deal of progress in our understanding of autism spectrum disorder, which is now the fastest growing developmental disorder in the country. We’ve learned much about the complex causes of autism and how to support people with autism to lead full and successful lives. We’ve learned about the wonderful contributions that our loved ones, neighbors and co-workers with autism make to our communities. And we continue to learn more all the time. So, this month, as we celebrate all we’ve learned and as we continue to expand our knowledge, I agree that now is the time for us to be more than aware. It’s time to truly celebrate our differences, to get to know one another and genuinely accept and appreciate each person’s individuality. It’s exactly what we strive to do at OPWDD each day.
Toward that end, this month, we’ll be celebrating the people our service system supports and those who support our system. We will be sharing stories about people who have autism spectrum disorder and highlighting the work of those who support people with autism. We will introduce you to some of our psychologists and clinicians who work with people with autism every day and acquaint you with the members and the work of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Advisory Board. We’ll also be sharing with you some of the innovative autism research being done by the talented scientists at our research arm, the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR) on Staten Island. At the same time, I’ll be traveling to visit more of our voluntary providers and meeting the people they support and the staff who provide support firsthand. I hope you’ll watch OPWDD’s social media pages this month and will like and share our posts. Let’s join together and celebrate our differences as we observe this Autism Acceptance Month.