Randolph, Mass. – What does autism look like? Millions of commuters in Massachusetts will find out during April – National Autism Awareness Month – thanks to the return of a powerful public awareness campaign that puts a human face on the disorder. It does so through beautiful photographs, compelling stories of children and adolescents with autism, and critical facts about the disorder.
The campaign – “What Does Autism Look Like?” – was created by May Institute, a national nonprofit organization that serves individuals with autism and other special needs, and its center for the promotion of evidence-based practice, the National Autism Center. This year’s campaign includes 1,000 informational pieces displayed in subway stations and on subway cars, buses, and commuter trains across the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system.
“May Institute is committed to increasing public awareness about autism and to educating the community with relevant facts.” said CEO Lauren C. Solotar, Ph.D., ABPP. “Given the latest statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the significant increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism, spreading the word about the importance of early diagnosis and treatment is more critical than ever.”
This year the campaign showcases new faces among the eight children, adolescents, and young adults featured. They range in age from five to 21 and are from communities across Massachusetts. They are representative of the diversity of autism, which occurs in all races, ethnicities, and social groups.
“Each year that we’ve done this campaign – and this is our fourth year – we have had an outpouring of response from the public,” said Eileen Pollack, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations at May Institute. “These children’s photos, and their personal messages, really resonate for people. We are so grateful to these families for allowing us to share glimpses into their children’s lives. They are helping to broaden the public’s understanding of autism.”
For Jill Gichuhi, the mother of 10-year-old Josephat, the campaign provides her family with an important opportunity. “There are differences between children with autism and their typical peers, but they are still first and foremost children. Our hope is that the campaign on the MBTA helps people understand that,” said Jill. “And, we want what every parent wants – to have our child be able to live, play, go to school, and become a successful adult. The difference? We need the supports and services to help us make that possible.”
Autism is a developmental disability that occurs in one in every 88 children. It is a neurological disorder that affects the development of the brain, causing difficulty with communication, learning and social interaction. Autism is one of several autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that include Asperger’s Syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). In Massachusetts, more than 13,000 school-aged children have been diagnosed with autism.
About May Institute
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral healthcare services to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities, brain injury, mental illness, and other behavioral health needs. Since its founding more than 55 years ago, May Institute has evolved into an award-winning national network that serves thousands of individuals and their families annually. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit www.mayinstitute.org.
About the National Autism Center
The National Autism Center is May Institute’s Center for the Promotion of Evidence-based Practice. It is dedicated to serving children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by providing reliable information, promoting best practices, and offering comprehensive resources for families, practitioners, and communities.
For more information, please call 877.313.3833 or visit www.nationalautismcenter.org.