Millions of people across the globe are wearing blue today to help shine a light on Autism Awareness-- from something as simple as a blue shirt to something as massive as blue lights on the Empire State Building tonight, everyone is "lighting it up blue" for Autism. 

In America, one in 88 children is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. What is Autism and ASD? Autism Speaks describes it as "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. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome [...] ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art."

There is no definitive cause of Autism or ASD. Research has advanced significantly in the passing years; however, there is still no known "cure" for Autism or ASD either. World Autism Day is dedicated to raising awareness of these facts and encouraging everyone to learn more about Autism and ASD.

Children with Autism or ASD can have a hard time in social situations. Many fixate on a special routine, schedule, or item, and a deviation from it can cause extreme stress. Have you ever been in a store and seen a child crying and immediately thought that child must simply be a spoiled brat? Did you ever stop to consider that that child may have been diagnosed with an ASD? Did you think of how frightened that child might be or how scared and embarrassed her parents are, knowing every eye in the store is on them and judging them unfairly?

Autism and ASD affect us all. Even me. I have a young cousin who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. He is, without question, the smartest little boy I know. When other three-year-olds were watching cartoons, he was using his Thomas the Tank Engine train set to build ridiculously intricate track systems for his trains and toys. He is bright, generous, and kind. My heart aches for his parents who have remained strong through countless doctor visits, referrals, and occupational therapy sessions--my heart aches for them not because they have a son diagnosed with Asperger's, but because they have to spend the rest of their lives dealing with people who don't understand ASD.

So many people think of Autism and ASD as a disease--that having an ASD means something is wrong with a child. There is nothing wrong with my cousin. He is unbelievably intelligent, so hearing someone say something ignorant about Autism or ASD infuriates me. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for his parents.

People diagnosed with ASD or Autism aren't diseased, sick, or damaged. They are brilliant, wonderful, different people--people just like you and me.

Take a moment today to learn more about Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Find out more about Light it Up Blue by clicking HERE.