In 2011 and 2012 nearly 2% of American children were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, a 72% increase from previous years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1. April 2nd was commemorated as World Autism Awareness Day and served as a kick off to start National Autism Awareness Month.  This year a major campaign began across social media sites like Facebook and Twitter calling for users to “Light it Up Blue.” The goal was to jumpstart Autism Awareness month by “turning the internet blue” for a day by posting pre-made Banners and Logos created by Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue2. Approximately 55,000 people joined Autism Speaks to help shine a light on autism. This simple action of sharing a post created a buzz across the social networking world. Light It Up Blue was the perfect way to kick off Autism Awareness Month and help raise awareness about Autism on a global level.

What is autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social and cognitive impairments, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors3.  Autism falls on a spectrum of very mild to very severe and is often evident in children around the age of 1 or 2. Autism is often recognized by a sudden delay or regression in the child’s development, i.e. loss of language skills or lacking social skills3.  For a list of early signs and symptoms of autism, visit the National Autism Association3.

Why is it important to raise awareness about autism?

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of Autism Disorder early in development because of the deficits that ensue, including suffering from other co-morbid medical conditions that may include allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, feeding disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, and more2.   Early intervention for autism disorder is important and is crucial in improving children’s abilities to learn, communicate, and socially interact with peers.

How can you help raise autism awareness this April?

There are many ways you can help raise autism awareness this month, the simplest is by sharing Light It Up Blue banners and logos on any social media network you belong to whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or WordPress. It’s simple, fast and encourages donations to Autism Speaks for autism research.  You can also sign up for Walk Now for Autism Speaks4, which is held throughout the year in various locations, giving you the opportunity to create a fundraising page for autism research and awareness. Most importantly, the best way to increase awareness about autism is by speaking about it and understanding the signs and symptoms an individual may experience with the disorder.

Josephine Di Laura