The latest statistics collected from parents show that 1 in 50 children has a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder. But while the condition is common, it's often misunderstood.
Autism Shines, a project that aims to debunk negative myths about ASDs, collects photos and stories to show the world that when we talk about children with autism, we are talking about real kids. Aiden's favorite song is "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Lily loves to dance and she's afraid of thunder. Callum flaps for the joy of just being himself.
"As parents, we wanted to show how amazing our kids are and that they are so much more than a label. We also wanted other people with autism to know they are loved and accepted just the way they are," Jessica Watson, who blogs at Four Plus an Angel and is one of the founders of Autism Shines, told HuffPost in an email.
Advocates originally set up the Autism Shines Facebook page in response to misinformation about ASDs following the Sandy Hook tragedy. Amid reports that shooter Adam Lanza may have had Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, some speculated about whether the condition played a role in his violent behavior. "We wanted to do something to change the world for the people we love, particularly because it felt more and more unsafe for them in the wake of this massacre and the media stories," organizer Tim Tucker told Babble.
For Autism Awareness Month, we've compiled a selection of photos from Autism Shines below. And if you have a child with autism, we invite you to add your own photos to the slideshow by clicking "Add a slide" or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo and note about your child.