April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day as declared by the UN General Assembly. It is also the day that Autism Speaks asks for residences, businesses and buildings to change their exterior light bulbs from white to blue in an effort to kick off Autism Awareness Month and raise awareness via a promotion called Light It Up Blue.
Before we are even there I have already read my fair share of posts and comments criticizing the event. I have seen attacks on everything from the event actually doing nothing to help autistic people, to wondering just who it was that chose blue to represent the autism community in the first place.
If you are relatively new to the autism community… get used to it. It seems that no organization or individual can do much of anything without somebody thinking they are going about it all wrong. Stay positive though. Just go with what you feel like is the best way to honor your autistic loved one or if you are autistic, whatever makes you feel proud. For my family, we enjoy participating in Light It Up Blue.
|Yeah... we wiped 'em out.|
We wore our Walk Now team t-shirts and loaded up the wagon then off we went handing out the bags and talking to neighbors. Some of our neighbors knew of Bianca’s diagnosis others did not. We talked about it openly and honestly and we voiced our pride in our daughter for how far she had come and how BRILLIANT she is. The neighbors that weren't home, we left the bag in their door. I saw several of them later in the week and they were so warm and receptive not just to Bianca but to our family as a whole.
|The family making the rounds. (Not my car folks)|
An even bigger surprise was that the cul-de-sac behind our house was ALSO lit up blue as was the one across the street from that. After a little investigating, we discovered that there was an autistic young man that lived a block away and his family had ALSO decided to hand out blue bulbs to the neighbors.
So when I get asked how Light It Up Blue raises awareness, or how a blue light bulb is supposed to help, I usually tell people about my experience last year. It opened up a conversation with my neighbors, it delivered compassion and not pity, it educated people, it got people to donate to a charity, it got neighbors talking and got our family talking. The more people that are aware of the situation at hand, the easier it will become to fight against discrimination, hate and bullying. The more people that know about the uphill battle families face for basic services and assistance, the greater our chances of getting help to little ones when that help is most vital, the more people are aware that autistic people are not only worthy of but DESERVING of our love, that they are not to be feared or shunned, that they are pure potential… the better for my daughter.
Have a little perspective folks. This is about raising a little awareness. Observe the day, don’t observe the day. Light It Up Blue, light it up some other color, don’t light it up at all. Do whatever works for you and try not to tear other people down. I just hope that you do SOMETHING to shine a light on autism that day.