April is Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month. The “Light It Up Blue” campaign was created to support World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in the United States. On Saturday, April 2, 2015, buildings throughout the world will be lit up in blue to highlight Autism Awareness Day.

The campaign is a worldwide effort to help raise awareness so that people will better understand what autism is and what autism is not. The research and awareness organization, Autism Speaks, began this program to highlight the progress and the challenges that face families who have members with autism.

This disability continues to be a growing public health crisis with 1 in 68 children being diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Many unanswered questions still surround this challenging diagnosis.

“The Light it Up Blue” campaign includes such famous buildings and sites as the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House, the Cairo Tower, the Palacio del Belles Artes, the Great Buddha at Hyogo, and the Niagara Falls. It is a wonderful opportunity for people throughout the world to recognize the same concern at the same time. More than 1,000 buildings across the globe have agreed to join together to be a part of Autism Awareness Day’s “Light It Up Blue Campaign.” You too can join the campaign on autism awareness by lighting up your home with a blue light or wearing a blue shirt.

If you have an autism shirt with the puzzle symbol, it is all the better. There are plenty of opportunities to spread the word about what autism is for the next thirty days.

Today more people have become aware of what autism is and what some of the challenges are for these very special individuals. However, there is still a long way to go. Organizations such as Autism Speaks http://www.autismspeaks.org and Autism Society http://wwwautism-society.org have excellent websites on autism and the assistance that is available to individuals, families and friends with ASD.

Brownsville also has a parental support organization called Valley Autism Support Team, VAST. You can contact Lorie Gonzalez at (956) 579-7547 for current VAST information. The group meets monthly usually at Hidden Talents Academy at 824 Palm Blvd. in Brownsville. VAST is also involved in bringing monthly sensory friendly movies to the area with Cinemark Theaters. This organization provides an opportunity for families to come together to discuss new treatments, behavior modification techniques, and sensory activities.

Autism Awareness Month has several activities occurring in our local area. Brownsville will be having its First Annual Autism Festival at Dean Porter Park on Saturday, April 2, 2016. Registration on that day will be between 6:45 a.m.-7:15a.m. for “The One Mile Fun Run/Walk”. The cost to register on the actual day is $15 for kids and $18 for adults including t-shirt. You can contact Hidden Talents Academy directly for more information at 956-621-3268 including for early registration discounts. Groups are also encouraged to participate. Every year, Harlingen, San Benito and Port Isabel School Districts also have wonderful activities for April Autism Awareness Month.

Please contact the school districts directly to see what events are occurring in those communities.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at downpamg@aol.com.