Did you know April is Autism Awareness month? And that Tuesday, April 2nd, was World Autism Awareness day? Organisations all over the world held various fundraisers and events to help spread the word and raise money to help fund research and support groups. “Light it up blue” is the signature campaign of Autism speaks, an organisation dedicated to finding solutions for individuals on the spectrum and their families through advocacy and support and individuals dressed head to toe in blue to do their part to raise awareness. And while the fundraising events are often high energy and fun, it is important to remember the reason for holding them, and the sobering reality of living with autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is thought to affect as many as 1 in 68 children in the US. As suggested by the name, it refers to a range of conditions generally characterised by poor social skills, repetitive behaviours and speech and behavioural impairments, which are often accompanied by other medical challenges. It is most often first seen in young children who initially develop slower than average in their ability to. Their inability to interpret or show emotions conventionally often leaves them to be misunderstood but more and more research is helping us to understand how they see the world and how we can help them best.
On the high functioning end of the spectrum, individuals can manage alone or with minimal help on a day-to-day basis, although understanding social norms and interactions can be a far more daunting challenge for them. Low functioning individuals however will need constant care and monitoring. This care will usually come from their parents, which can be a big time and financial burden, especially if they are unable to find supportive schools and services. Therapy and specialised education is essential, however 50,000 teens with autism will lose their school based autism services each year as they grow to be adults. It is a lot harder to find accommodating services as adults.
Understanding of the causes and development of ASD is limited. Some individuals grow out of the disorder and significantly improve while others don’t and it is unclear why. The chances seem to be higher for those who are diagnosed early and so it is so important for people to be able to recognise the signs. In order to improve the prognosis and development of the disorder, it is imperative to further our understanding of the genetic/environmental basis through research.
And for this reason, we need to make sure we continue to fundraise and hold events to raise awareness. Every little bit counts! So tell your friends and family about autism awareness month, hold a bake sale, or even donate through the autism speaks website. Do your bit and make a difference.
For more information on ASD and how you can get involved, visit the autism speaks website at https://www.autismspeaks.org
Harvard's Undergraduate Global Health Forum (HUGHF) will host the "Global Health Challenge: Consequences of Climate Change" case study competition for high school students this Saturday. Working in groups, students will analyze a Boston-specific impact of climate change on public health and will propose a solution to a panel of judges.
HUGHF conference co-direct Do Hyun Kim '19 said he looks forward to working with high school students to address pressing challenges at the intersection between global health and climate change that affect life in Boston.
"By offering these kinds of opportunities, we're able to expose [high school students] to serious concerns our world is facing and help them understand that only with their passion and with their cooperation will our world be able to change," Kim said.
Participating students will work with collegiate HUGHF members and graduate students at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health to develop their proposals.
"We want to foster an environment where people can communicate freely between high school students, college students, and graduate students and to help prepare these high school students to make a difference in their communities," Kim said.
Students will also hear from keynote speaker and head judge Dr. Ramon Guinto, whose public advocacy work focuses on the role public health experts can play in improving planetary health.
The event will take place Sat. April 15 in Harvard Hall 201 from 9am-5:30pm. Students are encouraged to register here in advance but are also permitted to join the morning of the event. Visit our website for more information. Please email co-conference directors Do Hyun Kim '19 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Cameron Comrie '19 (email@example.com) with any questions.