“Light it Up Blue” is a slogan you may hear during the month of April. This campaign encourages people to light up their homes and communities with blue lights, in order to promote awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). ASD is a developmental disorder that currently affects 1 of every 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The term “spectrum” refers to the broad range of characteristics that can be manifest among people with an ASD. Individuals with ASD may experience challenges associated with social skills, repetitive behavior, speech and nonverbal communication. Every individual with autism also has unique strengths and abilities. ASD is typically diagnosed between the ages of two to six, and early screening, diagnosis and interventions are essential. If a parent has concerns about their child’s development, they can talk with their local Early Intervention program, the child’s teacher, or doctor. Developmental screenings can be done by a number of professionals in health care, community, and school settings.

Because everyone with autism is unique, it’s likely that you know someone with autism, even if you do not realize it. Currently, there are more than 1,200 dependent family members, with autism, enrolled in the Marine Corps Exceptional Family Member Program. Let’s increase awareness of autism and be supportive of individuals in our community who have autism, or who or are caring for an individual with autism.

  • If you’re in the public place and see a child screaming and covering their ears, don’t just assume this is a tantrum – she may have autism. This child may be overwhelmed by the sensory experience. Smile and be encouraging.
  • If a teenager in front of you in line, bouncing up and down, waiting for their turn to ride the next roller coaster, bumps into you, don’t be annoyed – he may have autism. Appreciate that he is so excited with life at that moment he cannot possibly stay still. Smile and be encouraging.
  • If you are checking out at a store and the clerk does not make eye contact or doesn’t seem to display expected social skills, don’t just assume she is rude – she may have autism. Smile and be encouraging.
  • If you are riding public transportation and notice an adult humming loudly and rocking back and forth, don’t shuffle away and stare – he may have autism. When feeling overwhelmed or anxious, self-soothing behavior is not unusual. Smile and be encouraging.

Help to spread awareness of autism this month when you “Light it up Blue,” Replace your white light bulbs with blue, wear a blue t-shirt, join a local autism walk, wear an autism pin or bracelet, smile and be encouraging. For more information about autism, or to find ways to get involved and support your community, contact your local EFMP office.