Families across North Bay are getting ready to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day today.
The day is part of an annual campaign spanning the month of April which intends focus to people and families affected by autism.
One in 66 Canadians is born with the condition, which is a spectrum of developmental differences that may influence communication and behavior.
2020's celebration of World Autism Awareness Day, like many events around the world, looks and feels a bit different due to quarantine practices necessary to safeguard participants from COVID-19. In the past, residents of North Bay have celebrated autism awareness at City Hall's "Light It Up Blue" event, sharing refreshments and entertainment as the building is bathed in bright blue. This year, families determined to keep the spirit of World Autism Awareness Day and Month alive are turning to virtual celebrations for inspiration and fellowship.
One such event inviting the participation of those with autism and their family members, caretakers, and doctors is the ”Giant Autism Billboard”, hosted on the We The Parents website.
The project focuses on a central consideration of autism awareness, which is a belief that the best way to honestly facilitate an understanding of the lived experience of those with autism is to amplify the voices of those who've experienced the condition themselves or alongside an affected loved one.
Participants in the Giant Autism Billboard are asked to condense their experience with autism into one piece of advice or wisdom they'd most like the world to know. The result is an ongoing collaborative project that reflects both the strengths and challenges adjacent to neurodiversity which has drawn responses from noted bloggers, influencers, and clinicians in the world of autism. The project will be ongoing throughout the month of April.
Around the world, inspired participants are organizing events with social distancing as a key focus, such as the Bikes & Beers Social Distancing Virtual Ride to support Autism Speaks. Participants buy entry into the event, and can ride a real or stationary bike at the start and end time of their choosing during the month of April. They'll have the opportunity to raise funds for Autism Speaks through their own dedicated fundraising site, and all funds raised will go directly to the charity. Participants will also receive a fun swag pack which includes a discount on a future ride and two beer tickets for participating breweries upon reopening.
World Autism Awareness Month extends through April 30.