April is autism awareness month, and thanks to Autism Speaks and the international autism community, which hosts a Light It Up Blue campaign, worldwide awareness is heightened and money is raised. To date, 28,195 actions have been taken that will shine a light on autism come April 2, 2014.
Following a recent report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism awareness is more important than ever. The report cites that autism rates have increased by 30 percent since the CDC’s last estimation in 2012. At that time, one in every 88 children in the United States suffered from the condition. Now, the CDC estimates that one in every 68 children in the United States are suffering from autism, which equals approximately 1.2 million Americans under the age of 21. Those numbers are nothing short of staggering and they help show why it is so important to participate in the Light It Up Blue campaign to heighten autism awareness.
No tests are available to definitively diagnose autism. Instead, physicians simply make a judgment call based on a child’s behavior. In addition, the cause of the disease remains unknown; however, researchers suggest they are getting closer to uncovering the true origin of the condition. A recent study was conducted on brain tissue obtained from the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The brain tissue, in the form of frozen cubes, was taken from children who had died between the ages of two and 15-years-old.
Three different areas of the brain, the posterior superior temporal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and the occipital cortex, which are responsible for cognition and reasoning, were studied in 11 children who had autism and 11 children of typical development. Gene markers were used to determine if the brain tissue samples had developed into six different layers.
In all but one of the samples taken from children known to have had autism, researchers found patches of tissue that was missing layers. Researchers say this new information suggests that autism actually starts in utero. Ed Lien with the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle said the data gathered was consistent with “an early prenatal origin of autism.”
As scientists continue to search for a cause, more awareness is needed. Around the world, hundreds of thousands of people participate in the Light It Up Blue campaign in an effort to heighten autism awareness.
How can people get involved? To light it up blue on April 2, Autism Speaks suggest that people wear the color blue, distribute information about autism, light up your home and office using the color blue, and change the theme on your website. People can also register with Autism Speaks and host a fundraiser or simply donate to the cause. In addition, teachers can get their students involved. For example, they could sponsor a light it up blue day by having a bake sale and then donate the proceeds to Autism Speaks.
The possibilities are endless and no matter what you do to light it up blue, the important thing is to just get involved and support the cause so that autism awareness can he heightened.
Opinion By Donna W. Martin