National Autism Awareness Month asks you to 'Light It Up Blue'

Autism has risen in awareness and public profile in recent years. As more information becomes known about the disorder and efforts to recognize it are sharpened, autism has sparked a national conversation with myriad celebrity advocates and campaigns aimed at reducing the stigma those on the spectrum may feel.

Just as any other medical condition, autism can be a difficult subject to broach, but it's increasingly important that Americans do so. That's why National Autism Awareness Month began a half century ago: to offer support to individuals and families affected by autism and to bring greater awareness to the cause. 

Observed every April, Autism Awareness Month is a time to show support for those living with autism and help educate your own community about it.

Early screening may be lacking

"Light It Up Blue 2017 attracted 170 international participants."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 1 in 68 school-aged children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), using the latest data from 2015. While the agency noted there was no change in prevalence of ASD seen in American schoolchildren, it did warn that not enough was being done to help find resources and support for those affected as early as possible. Fewer than half (43 percent) of children with ASD had a developmental evaluation by the age of 3.

"The most powerful tool we have right now to make a difference in the lives of children with ASD is early identification," said said Dr. Stuart Shapira, chief medical officer for CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "Parents, childcare professionals and doctors can monitor each child's development and act right away on any developmental concerns. It's important to remember that children can be connected to services even before an official diagnosis is made."

Taking this proactive approach is part of what inspires Autism Awareness Month, as elevating access and availability of resource for children with ASD is a big step forward.

Advocates show support with color blue

One of the premier ways that advocates around the world are able to show their support during Autism Awareness Month is by participating in the "Light It Up Blue" event. Headed by the Autism Speaks organization, Light It Up Blue sees landmarks, homes and buildings all over use blue lights to raise awareness of Autism Awareness Day, which falls on April 2 this year. The show of unity resonates across the nation, as well as the globe, Autism Speaks said in 2017 that there were participants from 170 countries and from all seven continents.

Another way to raise awareness is by sharing the puzzle ribbon. Like most causes, autism awareness has a specific ribbon, which features a puzzle pattern design. Displaying the ribbon pin or other media (like a sticker or social media profile picture filter) allows advocates to promote the cause directly and encourage others interested in learning more to seek out resources.

Autism awareness has an increasing role in the public health discussion, and supporting causes like Autism Awareness Month can help stakeholders find solutions for the future.