April is Autism Awareness Month – Light it Up Blue
If you’ve seen a blue puzzle piece logo on Facebook or a post about the Empire State Building going blue, you’ve probably heard the slogan, “Light it Up Blue.” This isn’t just a friendly decoration to ring in spring. Light it Up Blue is the call to action for organizations and individuals around the world to get involved in World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd. Autism is a developmental disorder which interferes with social, behavioral and communication skills. World Autism Awareness Day began six years ago when the United Nations General Assembly unanimously chose that date as an annual day to “highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from the disorder so they can lead fill and meaningful lives.”
According to Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization and the creators of the the concept of “shedding light on Autism” by wearing blue, this display is a unique global initiative that kicks-off Autism Awareness Month and helps raise awareness about autism. On April 2nd, restaurants, small businesses, people and landmarks don the color blue. Autism Speaks began the concept in 2010.
Iconic landmarks that will be blue come Tuesday include: the Empire State Building in New York, Chicago’s Willis Tower, the CN Tower in Toronto and Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia.
Autism is a rapidly growing developmental disorder. Recent estimates put the latest figures at around one in every 50 children. The disorder continues to occur more often in boys than in girls.
Some signs of autism include:
- Lack of smiling at around age six months
- Poor eye-contact or joint attention
- Little to no words by age 16 months
- Fails to respond to his/her name
- Seems to prefer to play alone
- Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
- Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
Promoting the color blue is a key piece to the kick off, but raising awareness and creating an impact on research and resources for Autism is also key. Check out these suggestions (some from Autism Speaks) about how you can get involved:
- Wear blue at home, to the office or out in the community
- Communicate with local businesses who might support the effort and encourage them to reflect the Light it Up Blue Campaign in their window or with their lights
- Volunteer for or get involved in advocacy opportunities in your state where your voice, experience or presence can make a big difference in policy decisions as the state and local level. Not all 50 states currently mandate insurance coverage for autism services. If your state is one of them, and you’re a parent or caregiver for someone with autism, make your story known and communicate to your lawmakers about why these services, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and/or ABA therapy are crucial.
- Get involved in research. Children with autism, siblings of children with autism and parents are always needed for studies involving language, behavior, cognition, medications, therapies and development. You’ll be helping to advance understanding of this complex disorder and might even find immediate benefits for yourself and your child.