“Light It Up Blue” to Help Solve the Puzzle of Autism
World Autism Day, also called World Autism Awareness Day, has been celebrated on April 2nd since it was designated by the United Nations General Assembly at the end of 2007. However, this year Autism Awareness Day was particularly special because President Barack Obama issued a proclamation that included the following statement: “I do hereby proclaim April 2, 2012, as World Autism Awareness Day. I encourage all Americans to learn more about autism and what they can do to support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families”.While many people think that Autism is a disease, it is actually a broad term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders (“ASD”). ASD are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges and repetitive behaviors. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children has been identified with an ASD. Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism research and advocacy organization, indicates that these statistics represent a 1000 percent increase in the past 40 years, that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
In recent years, disease awareness campaigns have often been associated with a color; for example pink is associated with breast cancer awareness. Thanks to Autism Speaks and their “Light It Up Blue” campaign (now in its 3rd year), the color blue is increasingly associated with autism awareness. Each year on April 2nd, various buildings, locally, nationally and even globally, literally and figuratively shine a (blue) light on autism. According to Suzanne Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, “The celebration of World Autism Awareness Day is an important way to help the world better understand the scope of this health crisis and the need for compassion and acceptance for those living with autism”.
Several well-known buildings and sights light their entire building blue on this day and night,” said Catherine Norton Lams, mother of an autistic child. She said the Empire State Building, New York Stock Exchange, Niagra Falls, “all the way” to places in Hungary, China, Japan, and Austria will be “lighting it up blue.” From a local perspective, according to an article that appeared in the Laredo Sun, there are more than 400 cases of diagnosed Autism within the city of Laredo, Texas. Laredo’s Families for Autism Support and Awareness group held an event on April 2nd where Laredoans gathered together to ”Light It Up Blue” at the Civic Center. Laredo residents were asked to wear blue and use blue lights outside their homes to remind the community of the ongoing struggle faced by children with Autism and their families.
There is still much research to be done and much to be learned about ASD. There are many pieces of the “autism puzzle” that remain to be identified and put into place. The hope is that increased awareness of ASD, combined with continued research, support and advocacy will enable us to address the needs and of all those affected by autism.
To see international monuments shining brightly in recognition of “Light It Up Blue” click here.
For more information on Autism support available in Laredo and surrounding Webb county, click here.
To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder visit autismspeaks.org.