April is Autism Awareness Month

Creating Communities of Belonging for Individuals with ASD and Their Families

Whether we can believe it or not, April is here! Worldwide, the month of April is recognized as a time to shine a light on autism. Many terms are used to define this Autism Month.
Awareness, acceptance, appreciation, and belonging are all terms that shape this conversation. No matter how you define it, it is still important to recognize what autism means to each individual and family. Awareness of the fact that every person and every family experiences autism differently is the foundation for greater understanding. For some individuals, autism is a strength and can be an asset. For others, who have more significant challenges and support needs, autism can be very difficult for the person with autism and their family and caregivers to navigate. Awareness is just the start.   Awareness can be the first step leading to acceptance, appreciation and creating a place of belonging for individuals and families living with ASD.
Let us also use this time as a call to action. We need to foster communities of belonging for all individuals with ASD and their families...no matter where they are on the spectrum or on their journey living with autism. This applies in settings such as our own homes, schools, public and private organizations, and our communities. The work that needs to be done will vary from person to person, and that is ok! The spectrum of themes and issues related to autism is quite broad. There may be areas related to autism in which you consider yourself an expert, and other areas where you may be a novice.  April is a great time to explore new areas to help strengthen your own understanding and appreciation so you can help create communities for belonging for all people with autism and their families.

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On December 18, 2007, the United Nations adopted a resolution that designated April 2 each year as World Autism Awareness Day.

Read more about the UN's 2021 focus on inclusion in the workplace 



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1 in 54 Children

Boys 4 times more likely than girls 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the prevalence of ASD among children aged 8 years was 1 in 54 in the U.S. (Baio et al., 2018).  The CDC continues to work to find out how many children have ASD, discover the risk factors, and raise awareness of the signs (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html)

Currently, we do not know how many Oklahomans have ASD.  Our best guess is based on information the Oklahoma State Department of Education gathers about children receiving special education services through their annual child count.  Through the annual child count, children are identified in one of 13 categories, including Autism.  In 2017, 6,647 (5.9% of all children receiving special education) children aged 3-21 years were identified under the autism category.  This number does not include children with ASD who are served under another category, children with ASD who are not receiving special education services through the local public school, or those under age 3 or over age 21.


Children served under Autism Category in Oklahoma
Child Count by Age Group
  98-99 13-14 14-15 15-16 16-17 17-18 Percent Change
Age 3-5  220 263 333 360 405 4,400
Age 6-11  305 1,899 1,997 2,194 2,328 2,536 731
Age 12-17  135 2,067 2,417 2,761 3,006 3,391 2,412
Age 18-21  14 203 208 247 298 315 2,150
TOTAL (Age 3-21) 454 4,389 4,885 5,535 5,992 6,647 1,364

 * not reported


One of the best ways to better understand autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is to learn directly from autistic individuals.  Below we share the perspective of several autistic individuals about moving beyond awareness, and living with autism.  

Autism Level Up

Autism Level Up is a partnership between Dr. Amy Laurent, psychologist, researcher, and ed. consultant and Dr. Jacquelyn Fede, an autistic researcher and program evaluator.  They challenge us all to move beyond awareness to acceptance, appreciation, empowerment, and advocacy.  Read Dr. Laurent and Dr. Fede's recent article about how we can all Level Up!  

You can also find Autism Level Up on facebook.

Alex Manners

Alex Manners is a young adult with Asperger's who lives in the UK.  He has created a very positive video blog about living with Asperger's during the COVID-19 lockdown.  His daily blog includes some ideas for managing day to day life under our current world circumstances.  

Dr. Temple Grandin

One of the most famous autistic individuals is Dr. Temple Grandin.  Over the years Dr. Grandin has written many books on what it is like to have autism, and on what works best for autistic individuals.   You can find her books online.  You can also watch the movie "Temple Grandin" to gain insight into what it is like to have autism.  Another great way to fill some time while we are all home this month!


In 2002, the Individuals with Autism and Their Families, Oklahoma Plan outlined a plan for moving the state forward in research, services, and supports for people with autism and their family.  The Oklahoma Family and Interagency Autism Council continue to oversee implementation and updates to the plan.   Awareness and knowledge of autism and availability of services, supports, and community based programs has increased since that time.  Progress has been made, but we still have much work to do to better support the growing number of individuals with autism and their families in Oklahoma.

April is a great time to come together to make forward progress related to supporting individuals with autism and their families in our state.  You can participate in a variety of ways in your local community.   If you are a person with autism or a family member of someone with autism, share your story with friends when you speak with them or on social media.   If you are an extended family member or professional, share what you know about autism with your friends, family, place of employment, or other community organizations.  Increasing awareness is the first step, then we move forward from there to acceptance, appreciation, empowerment, and advocacy (see Autism Level Ups article above) with the ultimate goal of creating more opportunities for individuals with autism and their families in Oklahoma.  




Visit with Your Legislators - Autism Awareness at the State Capitol

The 5th Annual Autism Advocacy Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol is set for April 6th from 9 AM to Noon. “Many Pieces, One Voice”, a virtual celebration and autism educational experience, is available to all who want to learn about autism policy and advocacy opportunities. A panel discussion with state lawmakers about the issues that matter most to individuals with autism and their families is slated. The panel includes Senator Carri Hicks, Senator Julia Kirt, Representative Jacob Rosecrants, Representative Randy Randleman, and Representative Collin Walke. 

Other agenda items include the reading of proclamations, local and national legislation updates, and information on the state of autism early identification and intervention, transition from high school to post-secondary education and employment, and adulthood in Oklahoma.

This event is hosted by the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, AutismOklahoma.org, Oklahoma Autism Center, Oklahoma Autism Network, Oklahoma Family Network, Arc of Oklahoma, Autistic Adults of Oklahoma, and Pervasive Parenting Center. Several state agencies, nonprofits, and service providers will share information, engage families, and educate lawmakers on the needs of Oklahoma’s autism community. Participants can register for virtual access at www.AutismAdvocacyDayOK.EventBrite.com.

Another way to raise awareness is to contact your legislators and in a positive way share your story.  Legislators appreciate hearing from their constituents and learning more about how autism has touched your family.  Take a few minutes to call, email or visit your legislators.   Share your child and family story, along with needs related to your child's education or care.






Autism Awareness Tag




Order an Oklahoma Autism Awareness License Plate

To order yours, visit the 

Oklahoma Tax Commission

If you have an activity you would like to add, email us at okautism@ouhsc.edu