Communities are “going blue” this month as Autism Awareness Month follows its eighth global Autism Awareness Day, held April 2. “Light It Up Blue,” a global initiative in its third year, encouraged the public to shine blue lights atop their buildings, or to wear blue as a representation of support for individuals having or being impacted by Autism.
Iconic monuments across the world participated in the lighting ceremonies, including the Sphinx and Great Pyramid of Giza, the Empire State Building, the Himeji Castle and La Basilica de la Salagrada Familia. On a smaller scale, community members were observed donning blue clothing or wearing Autism Awareness ribbons.
According to Autism-Society.org, the puzzle piece ribbon has been in use since 1999, placed as the universal symbol for Autism awareness. Honoring the spectrum of sub-categories within Autism, the puzzle pieces honor the challenges, complexity and those who face the disorder daily.
Three of the main areas of development affected include communication, social skills and personal behaviors and interests. Symptoms vary on a case-by-case basis, but commonly include a delay in development within children. Normal behaviors can take place and often result in a sudden loss of social interaction or communication with others.
Individuals with Autism vary in their personal levels of functionality, ranging from low functionality (high severity) to high functionality (lower severity). While severity differs per person, the headlining category of Autism varies as well. These include, but are not limited to, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autistic Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).
There are difficulties faced by people with Autism, and also by their families and friends helping to cope with such health issues. Millersville University Junior Nikki Jeck has personal experience with the challenges of Autism through her brother Evan, diagnosed with PDD as a young child.
“One of the biggest challenges has been me growing up and him not growing with me,” Jeck says. “We used to play all of the time when we were little kids, and eventually I matured and he just didn’t. Its hard to relate to him and talk about things now.”
Some of the accommodations used to help Jeck’s brother include special education classes, having an Individualized Education Program and being in part of social groups with other autistic individuals. Another problem common with affected individuals is a lack of ability to follow social cues as others would be able to.
“Every now and then he says something quirky that no one else would say,” said Jeck. “There’s sort of an innocence about him and a way of him misconstruing the world around him. He can almost relate but doesn’t have the frame of reference to understand things.”
Millersville University offers assistance through learning services and counseling groups, but it is also important to acknowledge that as students, we are all here to learn and obtain an education. When keeping this in mind, not only does our community come together, but so does our understanding of working towards goals for the future, regardless of any developmental challenges which may be present. Make sure to wear blue and Light It Up this month!