Autism is considered to have reached epidemic proportions and as a result, World Autism Awareness Day is one of only three “disease specific” days ever declared by the United Nations.
Autism is a lifelong, complex condition that internationally is considered to affect 1 in every 150 children born. If one considers South Africa’s population and birth rate, this means that each day, 14 of the children born in our country will develop autism; over 5000 new cases per year in South Africa.
Despite work being undertaken to enhance the awareness and understanding of autism, there appears still to be poor understanding amongst the public as regards autism; a condition that has a genetic predisposition and appears to be triggered by environmental factors, affecting brain development, structure and biochemical functioning.
Thus the main aim of World Autism Awareness Day is to radically improve public knowledge on and understanding of the far-reaching ramifications of autism. - Autism South Africa, April 2009