Download printable here: 2021 Special Needs Awareness Observance CalendarDid you know that 1 in 6 or 15% of children aged 3 through 17 have one or more developmental disabilities? Or that according to the World Health Organization (WHO) that over a billion people live with some form of disability? This means that nearly 1 in 7 people on Earth have some form of a disability. For this reason, disability awareness and acceptance is more important now than ever before.
What is the Purpose of Disability Awareness?
Disability awareness serves many purposes including informing and educating people on a certain cause. In some cases organizations and agencies use it as part of their annual campaign in an effort to bring awareness and raise money for their cause. Employers often conduct trainings on disability awareness as an effort to educate employees and to decrease bullying in the workplace. Disability awareness also can be used to address myths, misconceptions and the realities of having a disability. Ribbons are also used that are specific to awareness activities. Through disability awareness campaigns it is hoped that people learn and develop a greater understanding of those with a disability. Annual awareness observances are sponsored by federal, health and non-profit organizations. In some cases observances are worldwide including World Autism Awareness Day or World Cerebral Palsy Day.
Types of Awareness Campaigns
Awareness campaigns fall under three categories:
Day- this is often held on the same day each year regardless of the day it falls under. There are cases where an awareness day falls on a specific day such as the last Thursday of a month.
Week – The dates dates change and vary based on the week. In some cases, awareness activities are held on the first week of the month to the fourth week of the month
Month- activities and awareness celebrations are held throughout the month.
The 2021 calendar includes major special needs awareness days, weeks, and months. Most websites include awareness toolkits, promotional material and fact sheets. This page focuses on awareness activities that impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Click on the month below to go to a specific month.
Awareness ribbons in recent history began when Penney Laingen used the ribbon as a symbol of vigilance ( from the song, Tie a Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree) when she tied a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in her front yard when her husband, Bruce Laingen. a top-ranking U.S. diplomat was a hostage during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. This was followed by the red ribbon during the AIDS epidemic and the pink ribbon bringing awareness to breast cancer.
Ribbons have long been used as a way to bring awareness and raise consciousness for a cause. Ribbons and disability awareness have evolved from bringing awareness to various disability topics such as sensitivity, inclusion and advocacy to including various formats. People are using social media as a means to promote awareness including using hashtags and setting up Facebook pages specifically for disability awareness.
Disability awareness and acceptance is being done through the use of awareness ribbons.
The Ribbons below focus on ribbons that bring awareness to developmental disability and special needs issues. including individuals with neurodevelopmental and intellectual disabilities. Awareness is only a part of educating and training people on disability awareness. Training activities should also include acceptance and understanding.
Autism Spectrum Disorder- The Autism ribbon continues to evolve overtime. The puzzle piece was first used in 1963 by a parent and board member of the National Autistic Society in London indicating the puzzling, confusing nature of autism. In 1999, the puzzle piece ribbon was adopted as the universal sign of autism awareness by the Autism Society reflecting the complexity of the autism spectrum. Overtime, the both the puzzle and ribbon have become a symbol for seeing autism as something that is puzzling an needs to be fixed rather than acceptance. A more positive symbol includes the infinity loop used as a symbol for acceptance rather than awareness.