Local resource center spreads awareness on World Autism Day

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) – It’s World Autism Day and in observance, we’re taking a look on how awareness and resources for those on one spectrum and their families have evolved over the years.

Western Mass News spoke with the executive director of Sunshine Village and she told us over the last 15 to 20 years the knowledge and awareness has drastically evolved.

In honor of World Autism Day, Tuesday April 2 Western Mass News caught up with Gina Kos, the executive director of Sunshine Village a local agency that provides services and resources for people with disabilities including those with autism. Kos told us the care and world climate for those on the spectrum has positively evolved over the past few decades.

“I think the journey really has been from awareness to acceptance to appreciation people now know somebody who is on the autism spectrum or maybe 15 or 20 years ago that wasn’t the case and once you know somebody you know somebody and you love somebody and it just increases that appreciation of who they can be an all they can do for us,” explained Kos.

Based on research from Autism Speaks and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2023 1 in 36 children in the United States has autism which is up from the previous rate of 1 in 44 where as 1 in 45 adults have autism and autism prevalence is lower among white children than other racial and ethnic groups.

  • White – 2.4%
  • Black – 2.9%
  • Hispanic – 3.2%
  • Asian or Pacific Islander – 3.3%

According to Autism Speaks and the CDC these changes in statistics reflect an improvement in outreach, screening and de-stigmatization of a autism diagnosis in minority communities.

In honor of World Autism Day, Sunshine Village provided Western Mass News with a video introducing us to one of their members Louis Chevalier.

“I love to spend time with my family and friends and I love to make music,” expressed Chevalier. “I sing, I write, I produce and I make my own beats. Music is such a huge part of my life and I’m proud of what I do and I love going to Sunshine Village.”

We also got a chance to speak with Noel Millan who explained how autism has touched him and his family.

“When my nephew was first diagnosed with autism, it was a little bit challenging,” said Millan. “It really was but with various support we do love and cherish him every day.”

For resources KOs suggests families with younger children look to their school department and then once their child comes out of the high school system there are places like Sunshine Village to lean on, CLICK HERE.

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