World Autism Awareness Day was established 10 years ago. I am happy when I see blue balloons on that day. But I am also happy when I see red and green ones. Whatever they are, it means one thing - we reached people, we succeeded!
April 2, 2008. - on this day World Autism Awareness Day, established by the United Nations, was celebrated for the first time. On that day, people on the autism spectrum, their families, friends and allies began working to raise public awareness. That same year, autistic boy Emil Jensen Perez had a dream. He wanted the Empire State Building to light up blue. He asked the authorities in New York, and they agreed! Since then, blue has become a symbol of autism in many countries around the world, and many famous buildings are lit up blue on April 2.
Also in our country, where we at the JiM Foundation have started the Poland in Blue campaign. Where also many other organizations are building public awareness of autism.
What has changed over the years? Today it's hard to believe, but in the beginning we fought for the presence of the word autism in public space. I will never forget the emotion of parents and their children when, during the first campaign, we displayed the slogan "Autism Help" on the building of Lodz's Manufaktura. At the time, although it was less than 10 years ago, the word "autism" in such a place seemed to them something unimaginable. Parents were stifled - and often still are - by institutions, and the diagnosis they sought was often called "an invention."
In subsequent years, our message was simple - Autism. 1 person in 100 - and yet we met resistance. There were those who said - you are exaggerating. Although the percentage we gave is a conservative estimate in line with global research, in line with what Autism-Europe says. Nevertheless, there were institutions that challenged it.
Therefore, it was with sad satisfaction that I read the latest CBOS survey. Where it said: "One in 100 respondents (1%) declared that their child has autism."
In later years we learned. Whatever we do not say - if only the campaign is successful - there will be those who will question it. That's why when we launched this year's campaign and the criticism of some parents that "such people with autism should not be shown" rang out. I wasn't worried. I am happy when I see blue balloons. But I'm also happy when someone wears red or green for various reasons.
When we recalled our video last year showing autistic people speaking on their own behalf, it was met with feedback from some parents: "illusion", "autism doesn't look like that". Although these are sad and untrue opinions. I was not very worried.
For me, this means one thing. We have reached the people, we have succeeded!
This year we reached 5 million Poleswith the Poland in Blue campaign! As many as 5 million heard what autism is, got to know the stories of our heroes, learned about the campaign. And finally - nearly 50,000 thousand Poles changed their profile picture on April 2 to show that they are with people with autism.
I am very happy. We did it!
president of the JiM Foundation