top of page

Lara Schaeffer to Moderate at World Autism Awareness Day 2024

World Autism Awareness Day 2024

Lara Schaeffer will serve as Moderator for the panel from North America and the Caribbean.

Key Takeaways:




April 2nd, 2024


Moving from Surviving to Thriving: Awareness, Acceptance, and Appreciation


Virtual, pre-recorded, 3 hours



Showcasing Autism experiences across six continents


Promote thriving for autistic individuals globally

Moderator (North America)

Lara Schaeffer, Autism Coach at and innovator of Guided Self-Assessment for Autism in Adults

Celebrating and Championing Neurodiversity

World Autism Awareness Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. It is an annual event aimed at raising awareness and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition or neurotype that affects how a person perceives the world and communicates and interacts with others. It aims to celebrate the diversity and achievements of autistic people and promote their full participation and inclusion in society. 

The purpose of World Autism Awareness Day is to recognize the rights and dignity of autistic people, to promote their full participation and inclusion in society, and to highlight their contributions and potential in various fields of human endeavor. The event also aims to increase the understanding and acceptance of autism among the general public and foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for autistic people and their families.

The Theme and Its Significance

This year's theme, "Awareness, Acceptance, and Appreciation: Moving from Surviving to Thriving," reflects the transformative journey of the autistic community. It emphasizes the need for a supportive, inclusive society where autistic individuals can thrive. The three-hour event will highlight the regional perspectives of autistic individuals from six continents.

Lara Schaeffer: A Voice for North America

Lara was chosen from many leaders in the neurodiversity and autism advocacy spaces to serve as the moderator for the North American segment of the event. Lara's personal and professional experiences contribute to her valuable knowledge and insights on the challenges and joys of living with autism across various life stages. 

Lara is the innovator of Guided Self-Assessment for Autism in Adults which she presented to the world in Paris on International Women’s Day 2024. Through her website and coaching services, she empowers individuals diagnosed with ASD to build communication bridges, embrace their authentic selves, and navigate various life aspects [Visit our About page to learn more about Lara's journey:].

Event Overview

The pre-recorded virtual event will span three hours, featuring contributions from each inhabited continent and highlighting the global autistic experience. This format ensures a diverse and inclusive platform for autistic voices to be heard. An organizing team carefully created a panel that reflects a great depth of knowledge and experience within their chosen concentrations. The team hand-picked Lara Schaeffer to serve as moderator of the panel, recognizing her expertise and position of prominence in neurodiversity. This North American and Caribbean segment of World Autism Awareness Day 2024 is thus comprised of:

  1. Lara Schaeffer                 USA (Moderator)

  2. Sydney Elaine Butler       Canada

  3. Alexandria Fisher            Canada

  4. Bridgette Hamstead        USA

  5. Manuel Sánchez Peña    Dominican Republic

  6. Robert Schmus               USA 

A Global Vision: Showcasing Experiences Across Continents

The pre-recorded virtual event will span three hours, with each continent dedicating 20 minutes to share their perspectives. Importantly, each presentation will feature at least five autistic representatives, fostering a sense of shared identity and community.

Diverse Voices, Shared Goals

Beyond geographical representation, the event organizers prioritize diversity within the neurodiversity community. The presentations will feature a mix of established voices, emerging talents, and individuals whose stories are yet to be heard. This approach ensures that a wide range of lived experiences and perspectives are represented, promoting intersectionality and inclusivity.

Lara Schaeffer’s Formative Role in the Design of the North America and Caribbean Panel

Lara does not just serve as moderator for the North America and Caribbean region; she was also an instrumental voice as part of the group of organizers who designed the questions and format for this group of panelists. Along with Lisa L. Catino, Tiffany Jameson, Rachel Estuar, and Lead Organizer Kim Shah, Lara helped the team establish the structures and carry out the logistics necessary to achieve the objectives outlined by the United Nations for their panel’s part in the 3-hour event. 

Lara was honored to work with this great group of leaders and greatly values the team's dynamic and overall openness to and respect for each other. This collective spirit allowed them to work together with a grounded purpose to create an initial group of thoughtful and important questions to be considered. Feedback from the panelists then allowed them to hone their efforts to the best places of focus for the panelists.

The full group, including the organizers, came together for final planning details a few days before the event was recorded. As moderator and lead of these final pre-recording hours together, Lara’s goal was to cultivate a psychologically safe space where individuals felt acknowledged, valued, and supported in their successful journey. Working together, the group was able to harness their collective strengths and produce a panel event that fosters respect and openness at the same time that it educates and inspires. This endeavor is part of a broader goal to establish a neuro-affirming and success-focused environment, one that aspires to a bright and inclusive future for the autistic community worldwide.

The Theme and Activities of World Autism Awareness Day 2024

The theme of World Autism Awareness Day 2024 is "Moving from Surviving to Thriving: Awareness, Acceptance, Appreciation". The theme underscores the importance of creating a world where autistic people are not only recognized but also supported and appreciated.

This year's WAAD promises to be a global spectacle, featuring a unique virtual event showcasing the diverse experiences of autistic individuals across six continents/regions: Africa, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America. Each continent will present a 20-minute segment on the event's theme, highlighting their journeys toward acceptance, and appreciation, and creating opportunities for individuals with ASD to thrive.

A Look at the Agenda:

The event agenda outlines a clear structure, starting with a welcome address and introductions, followed by individual presentations from each continent. Lara Schaeffer will moderate the North American segment. The event concludes with a round-up and closing remarks.

Moving Beyond Awareness: Towards Acceptance, Appreciation, and Thriving

While raising awareness remains crucial, WAAD 2024 aims to go beyond simply acknowledging the existence of autism. Each continent will address the specific needs and challenges faced by their autistic communities, identifying relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that can be leveraged to support individuals with ASD and create pathways for them to thrive. This shift in focus signifies a crucial step towards a future where thriving is the norm for autistic individuals globally.

Beyond Awareness: The Importance of Thriving

While raising awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) remains a vital ongoing effort, the theme of WAAD 2024, "Moving from Surviving to Thriving," emphasizes a critical shift in focus. By delving deeper than simply acknowledging the existence of autism, the event aims to explore and implement sustainable solutions for creating a world where individuals with ASD can not only exist but flourish.

Each participating continent will address the specific needs and challenges faced by their autistic communities within the framework of the event's theme. This includes identifying relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that can be leveraged to support individuals with ASD and create pathways for them to thrive.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Autism:

The UN SDGs are a collection of 17 interconnected goals adopted in 2015 by the international community as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. While all 17 goals are relevant to creating an inclusive and equitable world for individuals with ASD, the goals that the North America and Caribbean panel chose to focus on hold particular significance:

  • SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being: Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for individuals with ASD.

  • SDG 5: Gender Equality: Empowering all women and girls, including those with ASD.

  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all, including individuals with ASD.

Lara's Experience and Advice on Living as an Autistic Person

Lara Schaeffer is an autism coach and a moderator for World Autism Awareness Day 2024. She is also the owner of, a website that offers various services and programs for autistic people and their families. But before she became an autism coach and a moderator, she was an unidentified autistic individual. She was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 47, after years of struggling with social, emotional, and sensory challenges that she did not understand.

Lara has a wealth of experience and advice on living as an autistic person in different domains of life, such as school, work, and relationships. She has gone through these domains herself and learned a lot from her successes and failures. She has also helped many other autistic people and their families navigate these domains and overcome the challenges and barriers that they face. Lara is also the innovator of Guided Self-Assessment for Autism in Adults.  

Lara's journey of discovering and embracing her autism has been a challenging but rewarding one. She has gained a new sense of identity, belonging, and purpose, and she has also made a positive impact on the lives of many other autistic people and their families. She is a proud and happy autistic person, ready to face the future with confidence and optimism,

and she is fully dedicated to helping other autistic people be and do the same. 

In Conclusion

World Autism Awareness Day 2024 is an annual event that celebrates the diversity and inclusion of autistic people and raises awareness and acceptance of autism and the future of work. Many online events and activities are associated with the event, such as webinars, workshops, podcasts, and social media campaigns. Together with the United Nations' World Autism Awareness Day 3-hour program, they showcase the perspectives and experiences of autistic workers and employers and highlight the best practices and innovations that foster a more inclusive and diverse work culture. The United Nations' program features several panels that discuss the current trends and issues related to autism and the future of work, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of technology and artificial intelligence, the importance of education and training, and the potential of entrepreneurship and social innovation.

You can participate in and support World Autism Awareness Day 2024 by joining the online events and activities that interest you and learning more about autism and the future of work. You can also wear blue on April 2, 2024, symbolizing autism awareness and solidarity, and share your photos and messages on social media. 

If you would like to learn more about Lara Schaeffer and her work at Autism Discovery, check out the rest of this website or consider reaching out to her through the Appointments tab on the site or at 


bottom of page