Category Archives: World Awareness Day

Autism Awareness Month

autism acceptance monthApril is Autism Awareness Month. The designation of the month to bring awareness to autism is very controversial, as the organizations that participate in this month are rife with ableism. If you are unfamiliar with the term, ableism is the discrimination and social prejudice of society against people with disabilities. Many people with autism would rather the month be focused on acceptance more so than awareness. Autism Speaks, a widely known non-profit, is closely affiliated with Autism Awareness Month. It is disliked by the autistic community for multiple reasons, mainly that it does not accurately represent or serve the majority of autistic people, therefore failing in its purpose as a non-profit. It targets caretakers and parents of autistic people, and as a result treats actual autistic people as unable to contribute to conversations about their disorder. In order to combat some of the misinformation spread during Autism Awareness Month, we have complied information about what autism is, and how to avoid being ableist it your everyday interactions.


What is Autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it effects how a person’s nervous system develops. Because their neurology is different, autistic people experience the world differently, and this is part of the reason many people see being autistic as an indivisible part of who they are. An important part of autism diagnosis is the idea of a “spectrum”, with one side representing a person traditionally considered “low-functioning”, meaning that they have severe trouble communicating, issues with social interaction, and a low IQ (which does not necessarily correlate to intelligence), and the other side representing someone considered “high-functioning”, meaning someone who speaks “acceptably”, can “pass” while socializing, and has a high IQ. Many autistic people have issues with the terminology associated with the spectrum, specifically labeling people as high or low functioning.  It is considered oversimplified, and contributes to stigma around autistic people.

There are many characteristics of autism, however as everyone is different, these characteristics may present differently or not at all. Below we have listed some of the characteristics an autistic person may present with.

  • Problems Understanding Tone/Inflection 
    • People on the spectrum may have trouble picking up nuances in a person’s tone while speaking. This, combined with the tendency to take everything literally, can cause mixed messages to be communicated.
  • Sensory Processing Differences
    • Due to the neurological aspect of autism, autistic people interpret the world differently than someone without autism. This can effect all senses, but most commonly affects sight and sound. Things that may not seem all that loud and bright to a non-autistic person can be very overwhelming to someone with autism due to their neurological differences.
  • Stimming 
    • Stimming, or self-stimulating, is the process of repeating motions or vocalizations in order to self-regulate or self-soothe. There is some discussion as to whether stimming should be trained out of people with controversial therapy methods such as ABA (applied behavioral analysis), but since stimming can be extremely beneficial and is not shown to be harmful, many autistic people see this as an attempt to force people to hide their autism, therefore hiding and being ashamed of a part of themselves.
  • Following a Routine
    • Many people who fall on the spectrum are also diagnosed with anxiety. Maintaining a routine is a way to add order and structure to an otherwise uncontrollable world. Every person’s flexibility with their routine is different, as no two people are identical.
  • Eye Contact
    • Generally, autistic people have trouble making eye contact. It can feel unnatural, uncomfortable, and in some cases aggressive. Many people come up with coping methods to appear as though they are making eye contact, such as looking at someone’s eyebrows. There is debate around forcing autistic people to make eye contact, as it is less about helping the autistic person and more about making them acceptable for society.
  • Navigating Unspoken Rules
    • This falls along the same vein as problems with picking up tone and inflection. There are many unspoken rules about social interaction, such as personal space and acceptable topic conversations, that non-autistic people pick up subconsciously. However, for an autistic person, they may not recognize the rules and unconsciously break them.

Common Myths About Autism

There is a lot of misinformation about autistic people, and what is means to be autistic. Below is a list of common myths about autism.

  • Autistic People Have No Empathy
    • This is a multifaceted accusation, and does not look at all sides of what it means to be autistic. First of all, empathy is not the ability to care about people. Simply, empathy is the ability to “step in someone else’s shoes” and understand what they are feeling. The inability of an autistic person to do this harks back to their struggle to accurately look at a person and understand what they are thinking or feeling through body language or tone of voice. In fact, newer theories speculate that autistic people are overly empathetic, meaning that the issue they have is not relating to others, but instead being unable to place exactly what a person is feeling through body language and tone of voice. Like everyone, empathy levels vary regardless of a person’s placement on the spectrum, making their inability to feel empathy a myth.
  • Autistic People are Violent
    • Very simply, there is no evidence to suggest that an autistic person is more prone to premeditated violence that anyone else. In fact, autistic people are far more likely to be the victim of bullying and emotional/ physical abuse by parents or caregivers than other children.
  • There is an Autism Epidemic
    • While there is an increase in the amount of people being diagnosed, this is considered a result of an improvement in diagnosis as opposed to an increase in the autistic population. The term autism has only been around for a short time, and for the majority of its existence, the criteria for being diagnosed was very strict. As you have learned from this post, no two people present the characteristics of autism in the same way, making many autistic people fall outside of the antiquated criteria for diagnosis. In addition, when looking at the overall population of autistic people, there is around the same number of autistic adults as there are children, meaning there has not been an increase in the overall rate of autism, just improved diagnosis.
  • Vaccines Cause Autism
    • This is a very controversial issue, not just in the autism community but in mainstream media as well. It is an issue that many parents (not so much autistic adults or medical professionals) in the autism community are very passionate about. However, it is not true. Vaccines do not cause autism, and not vaccinating your child can leave them susceptible to many dangerous diseases.
  • All Autistic People Want to be Cured
    • This is incorrect, and a highly offensive statement to many members of the autistic community. As their most basic neurodevelopment is different than a non-autistic person’s, people with autism often see their disorder as being an indivisible part of themselves, and not something that needs curing or fixing.

How to Avoid Being Ableist

If you are someone who is unfamiliar with the autism community, or generally uneducated on autism or other disorders and disabilities, you may be participating in ableist language. We have included some common phrases people say to autistic or disabled people, and why they are ableist.

  • “You’re so Inspirational”
    • This implies to autistic and disabled people they are inspiring for living, as if being disabled or autistic is so bad it is a miracle they can continue to go on with their lives. This sends really negative messages about what you think of their lives.
  • “You Don’t Look Disabled/Autistic”
    • This is often said to people with “invisible disabilities”, such as neurological differences or chronic pain. This invalidates the person’s experience, and insinuates that the only real disabilities are ones you can see.
  • “Stop Complaining, Other People Have It Worse”
    • Just because there are things that are worse doesn’t mean that what someone is going through isn’t bad, painful, or hard. One person’s pain does not invalidate someone else’s. This is like saying “Stop being happy, other people have it better”. Just because other people are happy doesn’t mean someone else can’t be as well.
  • If You Just Tried Harder, You’d Get Better”
    • First of all, autism isn’t something to “get better” from. It is apart of someone, and not something that needs to be cured or fixed. Secondly, there is not a magic cure for things like depression or anxiety, two common comorbid disorders. It is incredibly insulting to insinuate that what someone is going through is completely in their control, and that they are not trying hard enough to get better.
  • “Try To Act More Normal”
    • This implies that there is something wrong with the way an autistic or disabled person is. Some things autistic people do may make others uncomfortable, like stimming in public or needing to wear earplugs or sunglasses inside, but there is nothing wrong about it, and there is no reason to need to change to act mo9re “normal”
  • “You’re Not a Disabled Person, You’re a Person With a Disability”
    • There are a few things wrong with this statement. First of all, telling somewhat how to identify is called tone-policing. It is not for anyone other that the person themselves to decide what they are or are not. Many people prefer identity-first language such as “autistic person”, as they feel it conveys that being autistic is an important part of who they are and their identity . The other option, which is still widely used, is called person-first language, and signals that the person and the disability or disorder are separate.

Sources Used

Below are a list of sources used to write this post. This blog is only the tip of the iceberg, and if you feel the desire to learn more about autism and ableism feel free to check out the links below. A special thank you to sisters Caley and Creigh of Autism Spectrum Explained. This website is a great resource to educate yourself about multiple facets of autism and the community.

Links

http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/resources/101-3/ways-of-thinking-about-disability-2/disability-rights/ableism/

https://adayinourshoes.com/ableist-ableism/

https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/03/ableist-phrases-to-eliminate/

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/7-reasons-not-support-autism-speaks

http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/what-is-autism/

https://www.identityfirstautistic.org/what-is-ableism-

https://www.cnn.com/2012/12/17/health/connecticut-shooting-autism/index.html

http://www.autistichoya.com/2012/07/georgetown-say-no-to-autism-speaks.html

https://www.autismspectrumexplained.com/our-blog/vaccines-and-autism

https://www.autismspectrumexplained.com

https://thecaffeinatedautistic.wordpress.com/new-autism-speaks-masterpost-updated-62014/

http://nationalautismassociation.org/pdf/MedicalComorbiditiesinASD2013.pdf

https://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/04/speaking-out-against-autism-speaks-even-if-it-means-no-ice-cream/

http://neurowonderful.tumblr.com/autismmasterpost

http://autisticadvocacy.org/

 

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Make Every Day World No Tobacco Day!

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Every year on May 31st, the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsors World No Tobacco Day. The purpose is to spread awareness about the dangers of tobacco. Tobacco is the largest preventable cause of death in the United States. Around the world it is the cause of death for almost 7 million people. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, COPD, and lung disease are just a few health conditions that can be a result of tobacco use. Read the following facts to get an idea of how serious tobacco use is.

  • In the United States, 480,000 deaths per year are caused by smoking. 41,000 of those deaths are victims of secondhand smoke.
  • In the world, 890,000 of the 7 million deaths per year caused my tobacco are victims of second hand smoke.
  • Smokers die about 10 years earlier than those who do not smoke.
  • At the current smoking rate for American’s younger than 18, one in thirteen are expected to die prematurely.

Preventing tobacco use in middle school and high school students is an important part of stopping tobacco use. They are more at risk for nicotine addiction and are more likely to smoke into adulthood. Cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookahs, and electronic cigarettes are just a few of the tobacco products common in this generation.

What is happening to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco? Ideally, everyone who uses tobacco would quit, but that is a tedious process. One thing that has taken a step toward ending tobacco use is taxes. Higher taxes are used to discourage smokers from buying tobacco as many tobacco users are in low-income communities. Another tactic is the use of anti-smoking commercials. Have you ever seen those commercials where individuals with a stoma are interviewed? How about the ones where tobacco users have to pay for their tobacco products with some of their skin? There are many more, but the intent of these commercials is to encourage people to say no to tobacco. Laws are another tactic used to avoid smoking in public places. These laws are used to prevent harmful effects of secondhand smoking unto those who choose not to smoke.

Do you or someone you know use tobacco? Become educated about all of the health risks associated with tobacco whether you do or do not use it. There are places to go for help to quit smoking. Becoming educated about all of the benefits from quitting tobacco will amaze you. Our bodies start to heal almost immediately after quitting. Tobacco affects everyone and the best way to prevent those affects is to eliminate tobacco use all together. The benefits of quitting can begin to happen in as little as 20 minutes and continue throughout life. Encourage your friends and family to be tobacco free!

 

Sources:

https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/world-no-tobacco-day.html

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/

 

International Nurses Day May 12th, National Nurse Week May 6th-12th

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Florence Nightingale is an important figure in the world of nursing and healthcare. She was born in May of 1820 and  belonged to a prosperous British family. From a young age, she believed her purpose was to become a nurse, administering aid to the poor and the ill. Her parents were unsupportive of her career decision and were disgruntled by her refusal to settle down and marry a man of social affluence. Florence wasn’t distracted from her goal and received her nursing degree at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserwerth, Germany.

Florence worked as a nurse in a hospital at Constantinople during the Crimean war in 1853 and worked to improve on the unsanitary and inhumane living conditions of the wounded soldiers there. She tended to their wounds and illnesses during every time of the day, earning her the nickname “the Lady with the Lamp.” Once the war was over, Florence returned home to the praise of the public, earning awards and monetary prizes from the Queen and the British government. Throughout the rest of her life, she campaigned for the improvement of health standards and hospital designs, as well as for the reform of professional training for nurses. Florence remains a notary figure today whom many people still consider to be an important role model.

Florence Nightingale survives in our history as an inspired nurse and a compassionate statistician.  She changed the world of nursing and will always be remembered as an important figure in healthcare and nursing.

International Nurses Day is celebrated worldwide every May 12, on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. It is celebrated to recognize the life-changing contributions nurses make to society. Though mainly commemorated around May 12 each year, IND activities are carried on throughout much of the year by nurses and others.  In addition to International Nurses Day, the United States also celebrates National Nurses Week. The first time the suggestion to create this week was in 1953. It failed. It was suggested again in 1954. It failed again. The next time it was suggested to the president was 2 decades later in 1972 when it finally passed. The American government also decided to honor Nightingale by finishing off a week of awareness on her birthday.

Some of the goals of these two events are to improve the image of nurses while also influencing healthcare policies around the world.  One of the easiest ways to show your respect and to help these goals is to say thank you to a nurse you know or meet.

Photo: http://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk

Sources:

ICN

ANA

http://www.biography.com/people/florence-nightingale-9423539?page=2

http://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk/the-collection/biography.html

http://nursing.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/Empowering-Nurses-with-Data.aspx

http://plus.maths.org/content/florence-nightingale-compassionate-statistician

Calling All Users of Science

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This Saturday there is going to be a series of marches and protests occurring in 358 cities in the United States and over 500 world wide. The March for Science is the first event of it’s kind. It is a call for support from all students, science-based careers and anyone who benefits from scientific advances (psst that’s everyone). It’s a nonpartisan even that is urging policy makers to look at evidence based practices and scientific data to influence their policies and ruling instead of money.

You can find a city near you here that is holding a march. The Fargo/Moorhead area is holding a large one that is expecting several thousand visitors. Here are some of the missions or goals that the March for Science hopes to achieve.

  • Evidence-based policy and regulations in the public interest. They wish for policy makers to make decisions not altered by other agendas.
  • Cutting-edge science education. They believe that a science background isn’t only for a select few, the entire  majority of the population should be able to interpret scientific literature.
  • Diversity and Inclusion in STEM. This comes into play with the previous mission, they wish to have an outreach in education.
  • Open, honest science and inclusive public outreach. Several policies that have been passed recently have banned or limited the exchange of scientific literature and dialogue. By restricting access to the newest information, the governmental body is harming it’s people.
  • Funding for scientific research and its applications. Under the proposed 2018 budget, all scientific bodies with federal funding will see a cut from 10% to 31%. They wish to change so that we are capable of producing more advancements.

In the few months that this has been planned, they have partnered with over 300 different scientific agencies and centers. Here is their page for the MN marches specifically.  They have several social media accounts; check them out on Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram.

 

Care for the Earth, and it’ll care for you Earth Day 22nd 2017

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Take a deep breath, now let it out. The air you just breathed in was probably refreshing at best, tolerable at worst. You might have noticed the onion or tuna you ate, but that was the worst of it. The next time you drink water, look at it. Is it clear? Probably. Is it colorless? Again, most likely. Is there water in your cup? Well duh.

Never before have these two things been at risk before, drinking and breathing, in the human existence time frame. With the help of globalization and a population boom, humans are having a profound effect on the world. We haven’t had to come to terms that it won’t last forever, because we’ve never had to worry about that in the past.

For the first time in human existence, carbon levels have risen above a threshold it has never crossed before. It didn’t just stop there; the current levels of carbon are sitting at 133% of that threshold. This rise in carbon is having an increased effect, often called the Greenhouse Effect. Due to this warming, there are many changes that are taking place in the world.

Professor Wallace recently gave a seminar on climate change here on campus and the effects that it has on human health. In her presentation she introduced us to some interesting points. A warmer world, even by 2 or 3 degrees Celsius shifts the mosquito habitat. More people will be exposed to mosquito borne disease and for longer times; Zika, Yellow Fever, Dengue, West Nile and the list goes on. Currently 3.6 billion are at risk for these diseases. With a temperature increase that number could rise up to 5 billion. Allergies will worsen as their window widens also. Flooding will increase, as will hurricanes and tornadoes.

Some cities have to issue warnings over smog exposure. It is estimated that of the 10 million deaths every year in China, 1 million is caused by pollutants. Exposure to all these new chemicals is wreaking havoc on our bodies and the environment. In addition to this smog exposure, there is an increasing amount of people with other respiratory problems such as asthma. In 2001, 1 in 14 people had asthma. In 2009, 1 in 12 people. That is the most recent number, although the CDC projects that as many as 1 in 10 people have asthma today.

The goal of Earth Day is to bring awareness to all these issues. It is trying to create scientifically literate people who will in turn be scientifically literate voters on environmental policies. They aim to change the direction of the world towards more green energy, jobs and technology. They hope that by 2020 a majority of the population will be able to understand the scientific literature that affects their lives and environments.

The first Earth Day was held in 1970, and attendance was well above what anyone was expecting. 20 million people, roughly 10% of the population, joined the rallies and marches. It has been one of the most effective awareness days because it is bipartisan for the most part. After that first celebration, the government felt pressured into creating the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water and the Endangered Species Act were also created.

Here are some more facts about Earth Day and our environment.

  • There is roughly 155 billion pounds of plastic in the ocean and roughly 9 billion is added every year
  • We will only be able to fill 60% of the world’s water needs by 2030 without better management
  • The Montreal Protocol signed in 1987 banned many chemicals that were ripping a hole in the ozone. Thanks to that act, the ozone is now healing and the hole is closing.
  • A convention was held in 1997, the Convention on Biological Diversity. Here many countries around the world pledged that they would work to sustain a diverse biosphere starting in their own countries.
  • The Renewable Portfolio Standard is an aggressive self- proposed bill in California that says that the state has to get half their energy from renewable sources by 2030. Many states followed, but theirs is the most ambitious.
  • In 2012 the Earth Day Network planted 1 billion trees to try and bring back forested areas.

https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/asthma/

http://www.earthday.org/wp-content/uploads/Earth-Day-Action-Toolkit-2017.pdf

http://mashable.com/2015/04/22/earth-day-facts/#ugyWvQqJIaqB

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-earth-day-46-facts-environment/

 

World Health Day April 7th 2017

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Every year on April 7th we celebrate World Health Day to remember the day that the World Health Organization was formed. (W.H.O.) Every year this day has a theme, and this year it’s Depression. Their slogan “Depression: Let’s Talk”  is trying to get people to open up about their disorder and get the help they may need. They have several goals about what they want to see happen:

  • the general public is better informed about depression, its causes and possible consequences, including suicide, and what help is or can be available for prevention and treatment
  • people with depression seek help
  • family, friends and colleagues of people living with depression are able to provide support

WHO defines a case of depression when a person has gone at least 2 weeks with persistent sadness and they don’t enjoy doing any of their normal activities, which prevents them from carrying out every day activities. There are a few more symptoms that people who are afflicted by depression may have:

  • a loss of energy
  • a change in appetite
  • sleeping more or less
  • anxiety
  • reduced concentration
  • indecisiveness
  • restlessness
  • feelings of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness
  • thoughts of self-harm or suicide

The number of people that have being diagnosed every year with depression has seen an 18% increase in the last decade. The low estimates have depression affecting 322 million people worldwide, about 4.4% of the population.

Depression can be effectively prevented and treated. Treatment usually involves either a talking therapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of these. Overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.

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http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/world-health-day/en/

http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2017/en/

World Down Syndrome Awareness Day March 21st 2017

Today was chosen as a symbolic day to represent the Down Syndrome. Taking place on the 21st day of the 3rd month, it represents the triplication of the 21st chromosome. Today was meant as a day for people all around the world to learn about this connecting disorder. Down syndrome has been present in all cultures and societies around the world for millennia.

The goal of having this awareness day every year is to bring about a change be fully and equally included in society for everyone that is affected by Down Syndrome. Not all governmental bodies recognize the needs or help that those affected may need. Several key areas that people around the world are trying to change through advocacy are “health, education, work and employment, standard and choice of living accommodation, participation in political, public and cultural life and access to justice and recognition before the law.”

It is estimation of incidence is about 1 in every 700 births world wide. Approximately 6,000 babies are born that are affected by this chromosome disorder in the United States. About a quarter of a million families in the US that are affected by Down Syndrome.

The CDC and WHO have recognized that are several illnesses or health problems that are more likely to occur in someone that has Down Syndrome.

  • Hearing loss (up to 75% of people with Down syndrome may be affected)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, which is a condition where the person’s breathing temporarily stops while asleep (between 50 -75%)
  • Ear infections (between 50 -70%)
  • Eye diseases (up to 60%), like cataracts and eye issues requiring glasses
  • Heart defects present at birth (50%)

There are several tests that are available to detect if a child has Down syndrome before birth and directly after birth. While there is no treatment available, there are certain therapies and groups that work towards helping affected people move to their full intellectual and physical capabilities.

https://worlddownsyndromeday.org/united-nations-resolution-world-down-syndrome-day

http://www.un.org/en/events/downsyndromeday/background.shtml

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/downsyndrome.html

http://www.downsyndrome.org.za/images/wdsd-logo-large (2).jpg

https://worlddownsyndromeday.org/sites/default/files/WDSD%202017%20Campaign%20Toolkit.pdf

https://worlddownsyndromeday.org/wdsd-2017

 

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