“World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD)” is observed globally on April 2 every year. Sponsored by the UN Department of Global Communications and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, (along with other organizations), the campaign aims to put a spotlight on the hurdles that people living with autism, especially children with autism, face every day. The campaign also hopes to spread worldwide knowledge about autism and deliver information on how important an early diagnosis is. A broad term used to describe a group of neurodevelopment disorders, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects communication and behavior. Although the condition can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” as the symptoms tend to appear early within the first two years of life. Treatment for ASD includes a combination of medications and a host of behavioral, communication and other related therapies. Developmental pediatricians, child neurologists and child psychologists treating autism patients can rely on medical billing companies to report ASD diagnosis and screening accurately.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects both men and women of all races in all countries. As per reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 160 children have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD, 2019 statistics). It is estimated that 1 in 59 children in the United States gets affected by ASD. This is precisely why raising awareness of autism is essential.
The 2021 annual WAAD observance aims to improve the quality of life of people living with ASD so that they can live a meaningful life as an integral part of the society. The exact cause of ASD is unknown. However, certain factors like – genetic mutations, being born to older parents, low birth weight, metabolic imbalances, fragile X syndrome and other genetic disorders can increase the potential risk associated with the condition.
Typically, autism symptoms become evident during early childhood. In certain other cases, symptoms normally develop within the first few months or years of life, but then suddenly go through a period of regression between 18 and 24 months of age. Generally, the symptoms of ASD become completely visible by the age of 2 years. Each child with ASD is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior and level of severity – from low functioning to high functioning. Early symptoms may include a marked delay in language or social development. Other related symptoms include – not pointing at objects to show interest, having trouble relating to others, repeating actions over and over again, having trouble adapting to routine changes, poor eye contact, and lack of facial expression.
Making a correct and accurate diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be quite difficult as the signs and symptoms associated with the condition and their severity vary from person to person. Initial diagnosis may be done by closely examining the child’s social interactions, communication and behavioral skills and evaluating how it has developed over the different stages of their growth. Visual and audio tests will also be performed to rule out any issues with vision and hearing that aren’t related to autism. In addition, DNA testing for genetic diseases and occupational therapy screening will also be done as part of the diagnosis. There is no specific cure or treatment for ASD. Treatment aims to maximize the child’s ability to function by reducing symptoms and supporting development and learning. These generally include – medications, behavior and communication therapies, educational therapies, family therapies and other therapies (like physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapies). The diagnosis and other screening procedures performed by developmental pediatricians or child neurologists/psychologists must be carefully documented using the correct medical codes. Medical billing services ensure this so that claim denials are avoided. The ICD-10 code used for diagnosing ASD is –
- F84.0 – Autistic disorder
The history of WAAD dates back to November 1 2007, when the United Nations (UN) called for one day each year to be observed as “World Autism Day”. The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the day to advocate the need for persons with autism to be able to lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of the society. However, it was on December 18, 2007, the UN General Assembly designated April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. The first WAAD was observed in the year 2008. The day is one of their seven official health-specific UN Days.
The one –day global campaign focuses on a specific theme each year. The 2021 theme for WAAAD is – “Inclusion in the Workplace – Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World”. During this day, many schools, and healthcare and awareness organizations hold a wide range of autism-friendly educational events to increase knowledge, understanding and acceptance of people with autism, foster worldwide support and inspire a kinder, more inclusive world. These events include – panel discussions with autism experts, politicians and non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, informational events for parents of children with autism, conferences and workshops for professionals working with people with autism, sharing information online to spread awareness in your online communities, display of posters and banners to increase public awareness of autism, donating to autism organizations, getting involved in events run by autism communities and engaging in discussions with children so that they become aware and accept their similarities and differences.
Another campaign named “Light It Up Blue” will also be observed on April 2 in recognition of people with autism and those who love and support them. “Light It Up Blue” is a campaign dedicated to raising awareness of autism and was launched in 2010 by Autism Speaks – the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. This initiative is intended to raise international awareness of autism as a growing public health crisis in support of World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in the United States. As part of campaign, hundreds of thousands of iconic landmarks, skyscrapers, schools, buildings, homes and communities around the world unite on April 2 by shining blue lights and honoring people affected by autism. People around the globe will also wear blue on this day.
Take part in WAAD campaign on April 2 and spread awareness about this neurodevelopment disorder.