To mark autism awareness month, which is celebrated each year in April, the Naked Heart Foundation has launched an informational campaign entitled “Autism. Recognise and Accept” with a view to beating the stigma attached to people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families, and to raise awareness about special needs in general.
2 April is World Autism Awareness Day. This initiative was launched by the United Nations in 2007 to draw attention to the need to enhance quality of life for people with autism.
One in every 59 children worldwide is born with an ASD*. To raise awareness about related issues, autism awareness month is held every April. Every year, the number of organisations supporting the initiative around the world increases significantly, reflecting the high demand for such projects and, most importantly, their effectiveness in changing attitudes towards people with special needs.
Through its campaign “Autism. Recognise and Accept” , the Naked Heart Foundation aims to debunk common myths about autism and thereby support the families of children with ASD, who often experience judgment and misunderstanding on the part of others.
is to make people aware that things are not always what they seem, and that children who display challenging behaviour in public could have autism and might struggle with communication and social interaction or have sensory disorders. This does not mean that people with autism have no desire to make friends and interact with others – it just means that those around them must be patient and understanding.
For our society to become inclusive in the future, parents need to explain to their children that, while all people are different, they all have equal rights and the capacity to participate fully in society, regardless of their mental or physical abilities.
Together, our voices can be heard louder.
Yandex will be partnering with the Foundation during this year’s April campaign. A photographic exhibition entitled “A day in the life of a family raising a child with autism” will be shown on Yandex.Collections
. The story follows a four-year-old Volodya Kovalevsky, who attends the Naked Heart Family Support Centre.
The exhibition will present both the difficulties faced by Volodya and his achievements, and will highlight the fact that we have more in common than that which divides us. Indeed, autism should not be an obstacle to learning, working, making friends and enjoying life. The collection of photographs will present one day in Volodya’s life, from play at home and in the playground to taking a walk around town and going shopping.
Frequently asked questions about autism will be answered by our Naked Heart experts on Yandex.q. Parents raising children with autism and professionals working with these children desperately need up-to-date knowledge about appropriate support programmes. However, finding reliable information is not easy. Specialists and parents in Russia are essentially in an information vacuum and know very little about effective approaches to education and rehabilitation. With the help of our experts, they will be guided through the most up-to-date knowledge relating to developmental disabilities.
Zenit Football Club and the “Anton’s Right Here” Centre will also be taking part in the April campaign. On 2 April, iconic landmarks will be illuminated with blue light all over the world. Zenit FC will be participating in the global “Light it up blue” initiative by changing its website and social media backlighting to blue, the colour that has been selected to raise awareness about autism. Naked Heart founder Natalia Vodianova will talk to fans about the importance of understanding and accepting people with developmental disabilities, including autism, and the team’s star players will support the campaign on social media.
In addition, fans will be able to visit the club’s official website and learn about myths surrounding autism and the vital nature of sport not only for typically developing children, but also for kids with autism.
The city council of Nizhny Novgorod, where the very first Naked Heart Family Support Centre was established, will also be supporting the Naked Heart campaign, broadcasting a Naked Heart video about autism on hundreds of electronic billboards, “smart bus stops” and screens in public transport and bus stations around the city. At 7 p.m. on 2 April, Nizhny Novgorod will take part in the global “Light it up blue” campaign*, illuminating the city’s main landmarks as a sign of solidarity with people with autism.
The Foundation’s video on myths surrounding autism will also be posted on its website and on the social media of Spartak Kids foundation, Spartak-Moscow Football Club and the Uchi.ru platform.
As stated by Asya Zalogina, President of the Naked Heart Foundation, "We hope that the campaign “Autism: Understanding and Accepting” will help our society to become more inclusive, because inclusion is not simply about the absence of physical barriers, but also the absence of prejudice towards people with developmental disabilities. To achieve this, it is important for us all to realise how different we are, but also how similar we are in our desire to make friends, interact and be accepted. The more mindful we are of this, the easier it will be for people with disabilities and their families to live in our society”.