In 1990, 1 in 10,000 children was affected by autism. Today, it is 1 in every 110. That's a 600 percent increase in just two decades!
If this is the first time you're learning about these startling numbers, I know exactly how you feel.
When I joined BBDO New York back in 2010, I heard those statistics for the first time. I was floored. And then I felt a tremendous sense of guilt because of my ignorance. Thankfully, I was invited to lead the agency's creative assignment for The Ad Council's Autism Speaks public awareness campaign.
Working on Autism Speaks, it was amazing to learn how many prominent people have been affected by this condition first-hand. For example, we have just launched a new installment of PSAs featuring Tommy Hilfiger and Jamie McMurray. Both overcame incredible odds on their paths to their successful careers, both affected by the 1 in 110 odds of having a loved one diagnosed with autism.
Serving this noble cause has been one of the most enriching experiences for both me and my creative teammates. With every campaign, there is inspiration to be found in the words of those directly affected by autism. Their hopes and aspirations virtually write the work we create. Spend a few minutes on the Autism Speaks Facebook page and you'll see what I mean.
Here are just a few comments off the page:
"I love being a part of this life called autism. It has made me want to learn all over again. Being a part of a very special child is more than any human words can be expressed." R. S.
"Thanks for sharing your story. Sometimes it is hard for someone with autism to see how special they are and how much they teach us neurotypicals." R.S.
"I finished! My name is Jonathan Brunot and I am severely autistic. With the help of my friends, family and Autism Speaks, I was able to finish the NYC Marathon this Sunday! 4 hours 22 minutes... and my whole family was at the Finish Line to cheers (sic) me on so loudly." J.B.
"OMG! I could hardly see the screen, I was crying so bad! This is an amazing display of compassion and respect for a human being who was given a chance to participate in a sport that he loved. I applaud the coach, the team and the entire student body for making this young man feel so special. Just goes to show that just because you have a disability such as autism, doesn't mean you can't be a functioning part of society. All this population needs is a chance!" W.D.
With awareness comes knowledge. And with knowledge, understanding and empathy. Prevalence rates have increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. And early diagnosis with proven behavioral therapies -- as early as 12 months of age -- can make a lifetime of difference. Now, I urge you to please click 'Like' on the Autism Speaks Facebook page and help spread the word.
The Hilfiger and McMurray campaign is part of an ongoing partnership between Autism Speaks, the Advertising Council and BBDO. It builds on the success of the award-winning"Learn the Signs" Autism Awareness campaign that has already received over $300 million in donated media. Furthermore, since the campaign initially launched in 2006, the percentage of parents of young children who have spoken with their doctor about autism has increased from 8 percent to 17 percent.