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Autism Awareness Month aims to celebrate and encourage kindness

All of April is aimed at educating yourself on and celebrating the autistic community.
Credit: TEGNA

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — April is Autism Awareness Month and families are encouraging people to learn more about the disorder and to show kindness towards the community of people with it.

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also note that around 1 percent of people have a form of autism in the United States.

For the past 14 years, people around the world have kicked off the month by celebrating World Autism Day. It is held on April 2.

For many people, autism is only something that comes up once a year. However, Jodie McIntyre gets to see the magic in her 23-year-old son, Michael, on a daily basis.

"I can't even imagine life without my son," McIntyre said.

He has autism and helps run the family frozen yogurt shop in Bearden. The shop is named Emmy's, after Michael. Emmy is his nickname.

"You know, I'd stand on top of a mountain and scream about my son and how amazing and wonderful he is and everything he has done for our family by just being him," McIntyre said.

Kendrise Colebrooke, the Executive Director at Autism Breakthrough Knoxville, explained that people can show support and raise awareness of autism by wearing royal blue.

"This entire month, we celebrate the individuality of people on the autism spectrum. We celebrate their achievements," Colebrooke said.

The day is all about educating yourself and accepting people, no matter how they may look or act.

"They're people just like you," Colebrook said. "They are human, they have feelings, they have emotions."

 McIntyre said that is especially true for her son, who was diagnosed in 1999.

"He's an interesting young man with autism, because he really does want to please, and he has deep feelings," McIntyre said. "There's this misconception of people with autism that they don't have feelings."

McIntyre said she encourages people to get educated and to ask questions about living with autism. She said there is something special about everyone, and that awareness should be celebrated.