(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt is leading educators across Kentucky in recognizing World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 in support of children and families who experience autism on a daily basis.

The United Nations adopted World Autism Awareness Day in 2007 to raise awareness of the disorder. Autism is characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Autism may be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. However, some people with autism excel in visual skills, music, mathematics and art, among other areas. Autism affects one in 68 children, and autism prevalence figures are growing.

“I’m pleased to lend my voice and my support to autism awareness in Kentucky,” Pruitt said. “Students with autism, just like all students in Kentucky, deserve the very best education we can give them. We should do all we can to support their learning and help them excel.”

World Autism Awareness Day, which is April 2 each year, kicks off Autism Awareness Month in April. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique awareness-raising and fundraising events. In the annual Light It Up Blue movement, thousands of iconic landmarks and buildings join hundreds of thousands of homes and communities around the world to “light blue” in support of people living with autism.

“The education community can show its support for students with autism by recognizing the challenges these students and their families face, as well as the extraordinary perspectives, contributions and achievements these students bring to our schools and classrooms,” Pruitt said.

The Kentucky Autism Training Center (KATC) at the University of Louisville promotes autism awareness throughout the year and is committed to improving the quality of life for those affected by autism. Its mission is to strengthen Kentucky’s systems of support for people affected by autism by bridging research to practice and by providing training and resources to families and professionals.

KATC works in each of Kentucky’s eight special education cooperatives through a project in which it aims to increase schools’ capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies. Under the guidance of the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum, KATC’s work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support local educational teams in planning, implementing and evaluating instruction. It also works with school teams to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students and for classrooms.

For more information on autism or ideas on promoting autism awareness, visit KATC’s website.