Today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day. It is a campaign partnered with Autism Speaks and the United Nations to bring social and financial support for autism and related disorders. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
A single puzzle piece has been the symbol for autism for several years, reflecting the mystery and complexity of autism spectrum disorders. Since every piece in different in some way, a puzzle piece accurately represents the diversity of the individuals affected.
Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicate that 1 in 88 American children are on the “autism spectrum.” An estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. Autism spectrum disorder can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues (such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances). Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S., and there is no definitive medical detection or cure for autism.
The theme for World Autism Awareness Day is “Light It Up Blue.” Supporters are encouraged to change white lightbulbs in their home to blue bulbs, but the campaign isn’t just limited to individuals. Schools, businesses, libraries, restaurants, government buildings, and other structures around the world will add blue lighting filters and lightbulbs to participate.
The Empire State Building in New York City will be holding a special lighting this evening where the top of the building will illuminate blue. In 2012, over 300 iconic landmarks around the world, such as the Sydney Opera House and Niagara Falls, participated by turning their lights blue. This year, over 7000 are slated to participate.
If you would like to participate in autism awareness today, there are many ways to be involved. You can wear blue clothing, change lightbulbs to blue in your home or office, and spread the word through social media.