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Calls to Action

Autism Speaks Special Report, Interactive Story Mosaic Create Fuller Picture of Autism’s Diversity

-Thousands of people with autism and their supporters tell their stories in words and pictures

-More than half of survey respondents say they have someone with autism in their lives

- Special Report is released on World Autism Awareness Day, April 2

 to begin World Autism Month

NEW YORK (April 2, 2018) –  How much do most people know about autism? Autism Speaks commissioned a national survey on myths, misconceptions and attitudes about autism spectrum disorder. The findings are compiled in the 2018 Autism Speaks Special Report, issued today to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day and the start of World Autism Month. To round out the picture, more than 2,000 people affected by autism shared their stories in a new interactive Story Mosaic. Together, the stories, photos, videos and survey create a fuller picture of the diverse autism spectrum.

The research firm Abt Associates surveyed approximately 1,200 people across the country in March 2018 about their understanding and perceptions of autism spectrum disorder. The survey found that 55 percent of respondents said that they or an immediate family member has autism, or that they know someone who does. Those who know someone on the spectrum had a more accurate understanding of the ways in which autism may affect different individuals.

“We’re pleased to see an increase in awareness of autism,” said Angela Geiger, Autism Speaks president and CEO. “But we know that we need to increase the understanding and acceptance of people with autism, and provide additional solutions that enable children and adults on the spectrum to live their best possible lives.”

The survey highlights some areas where resources and opportunities are lacking. For example, the survey found broad public support for independent living and employment opportunities for people on the spectrum; however, the vast majority are unemployed or underemployed.

Even though most people know someone with autism, certain misconceptions persist. The survey found that familiarity with someone on the autism spectrum is associated with fewer misperceptions and more positive insights.

The Autism Speaks Special Report reveals common beliefs about autism, and provides information to dispel the myths and explain the facts. This report and its companion, a new Autism Speaks Quiz on myths and misconceptions, are available at AutismSpeaks.org/WAM.

Other key findings:

  • Almost three-quarters of those surveyed agreed that children with autism are more likely than other children to be bullied.
  • Misconceptions exist in some communities about whether people with autism commit crimes at a higher rate than the general population. In fact, research dispels that notion and shows that those with autism are more likely than average to be the victims of crime.
  • There is still a lack of understanding among some people about autism’s effect on daily life, including driving, relationships and humor.

Aimed at increasing understanding and acceptance, World Autism Awareness Day, sanctioned by the United Nations, is Monday, April 2. It begins World Autism Month, with activities around the globe. There are several ways to get involved:

  • The Autism Speaks Story Mosaic: Thousands of people affected by autism – children, adults, families and supporters -- are sharing their own stories and pictures in an interactive globe. The diverse stories submitted so far include people ages 4 to 59, in more than 50 countries. Explore these stories – or share one – at autismmosaic.org/WAM.
  • Get the Full Picture public service campaign: Autism affects each person differently. “Get the Full Picture,” Autism Speaks’ new public service campaign, creates a diverse picture of what autism is, through the eyes of children and adults on the vast spectrum. Created pro bono by the New York creative agency JWalk, the campaign features six people with different challenges and strengths. The campaign launches nationally today, along with six video profiles that can be viewed at AutismSpeaks.org/WAM. Share your story on social media, using #AutismIs and #LightItUpBlue.
  • Light It Up Blue: Join the annual Autism Speaks campaign for understanding and acceptance. In 150 countries, iconic landmarks as well as businesses, schools and homes will be lit in blue at dusk. Landmarks include the Empire State Building; Sichuan Tower of China; Tokyo Tower; the ancient city of Petra, Jordan; Niagara Falls; the Sagrada Familia in Spain; Prince’s Palace of Monaco; Panama Canal; and Sydney Opera House in Australia, among others. Learn how to Light It Up Blue at AutismSpeaks.org/LIUB. Photos available here.
  • Wear Blue on World Autism Awareness Day: Share photos of yourself, family, friends and co-workers wearing blue on April 2 and throughout the month via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, using #LightItUpBlue.

About Autism

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. We now know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, and each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges. Most are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences, and many are accompanied by medical issues such as GI disorders, seizures and sleep disturbances. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum.

About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. We empower people with autism and their families with resources, online tools and information covering the life span. Go to AutismSpeaks.org to learn more, donate or join a fundraising walk.

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