Liverpool will mark United Nations Autism Awareness Day on Wednesday 2 April with a special event on the steps of St George’s Hall.
At 7pm, Liverpool Signing Choir will perform a number of songs and will be joined by parents, carers and young people with autism who will be holding glowsticks.
As dusk falls, both St George’s Hall and Liverpool Town Hall will be bathed in purple light to symbolise the day.
The idea came from Julie Simpson, a mum from Speke who is a member of Liverpool Autistic Children’s Alliance which supports parents, carers and young people with the condition. Her son, Joe, has autism and Julie is a passionate campaigner for greater understanding of the condition.
Cabinet member for Education and Children’s Services, Councillor Jane Corbett, said: “This is a great way to raise awareness of autism.
“The best way to overcome ignorance around this lifelong condition is to educate people, as well as support the parents, carers and the children who have the condition to get their voices heard.
“Congratulations to Julie and the other members of the Liverpool Autistic Children’s Alliance on this initiative.”
There are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism – more than 1 in 100 of the population.
Julie Simpson said: “I feel very strongly about raising awareness of autism to try and make people understand how it affects children. As it is not a physical condition, people just assume young people with autism are being naughty.
“It is only by explaining to people about the condition that my child and others like him stand any chance of living a life like any other person rather than being judged or ridiculed by others.”
John Sorenson from Liverpool Autistic Children’s Alliance said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that the city council is supporting World Autism Awareness Day.
“Raising awareness of autism enables campaigners and supporters to obtain the best interventions for autistic children during their crucial early childhood development years – many children never obtain this essential help, support and understanding.
“We hope as many people as possible will support this wonderful event and help our city to shine a light on autism and become a beacon of hope, support, inspiration and understanding for autistic children and their families.”
The National Autistic Society – the UK’s leading charity for people affected by autism – is backing the initiative, and those attending the event at St George’s Hall are being urged to dress in a onesie to mark their ‘Onesie Wednesday’ initiative.
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society, said: “We are really pleased to see Liverpool City Council marking World Autism Awareness Day so spectacularly and helping to raise public awareness about this lifelong developmental disability.
“Autism affects how a person communicates with, and relates to other people. Although some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives, others may need a lifetime of specialist support.”
Separately, Everton Football Club are raising awareness of autism at their match at Goodison Park against Arsenal on April 6, including the distribution of flyers and collection buckets to raise money for the National Autistic Society in the fan zone.
In recent years, there has been a 25 percent increase in pupils diagnosed with autism in Liverpool due to improved assessment at an early age. In response, the city council is expanding the number of special school places. A new £6 million home for Millstead Primary School is being built in Everton, Abbot’s Lea Special School which specialises in educating young people with autism is getting an extra six classrooms and Palmerston Special School has also been extended.