The Sydney Opera House, Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge, the Paris Stock Exchange and the Empire State Building are just a few of the world’s landmarks that will be lit blue in recognition of Autism Awareness Month. April brings more than rain showers; it brings the spotlight to a disorder that affects tens of millions of people across the globe.
“Light It Up Blue” is a global initiative of Autism Speaks to raise awareness of autism, a term used to describe a complex of developmental brain disorders, also known as autism spectrum disorders. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 88 American children is on the autism spectrum (and it occurs more often in boys), a ten-fold increase in prevalence in the last 40 years. According to Autism Speaks, these disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.
Myriad resources exist online for those looking to learn more about Autism and to help draw attention to this disorder during April and beyond.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The CDC dedicates a section of its Web site to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism-related topics include screening and diagnosis, treatment, data and statistics, and research.
- National Autism Center: The National Autism Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) by providing reliable information, promoting best practices, and offering comprehensive resources for families, practitioners, and communities.
- Autism Speaks: Autism Speaks is the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Web site information includes information on diagnosis, symptoms, treatment and family services. A special “100 Day Kit” created specifically for newly diagnosed families helps them make the best possible use of the first 100 days following their child’s diagnosis.
- Autism Society: The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. Website information includes general information about autism, living with autism and research.
- U.S. Department of Education: The Department of Education (ED) has resources to assist with the educational needs of children with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities. The ED’s Special Education Technical Assistance and Dissemination Network links to a variety of websites and online resources that focus on special education issues, such as policy, technology, curriculum, and parent trainings. In addition, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) within the ED has resources for parents and individuals, school districts, and states in the areas of special education, vocational rehabilitation, and research.