National Autism Awareness Month brings out puzzle ribbons

APRIL 2013: If you’re seeing more of the distinctive multicolored puzzle ribbons this month, that’s because April is National Autism Awareness Month as marked for many years by groups including The Autism Society. If you’re seeing blue lights, that’s another branch of the campaign promoted by Autism Speaks. That effort uses a blue light-bulb logo with a puzzle piece inside the bulb and recently convinced the staff of the Empire State Building to shine blue lights.

And that’s not all! If you enjoy spring baseball, you might have seen a special program focused on autism, especially welcoming children and families in April. (Here’s the Major League Baseball web page with information on discounted tickets related to National Autism Awareness Month.)

Every year as National Autism Awareness Month comes around, the terms and definitions are likely to change a bit. Many groups and individuals have their own definitions of autism, since scientific understanding of the condition is changing—and since many men and women with autism are actively engaging in the public discussion these days. That ongoing national conversation will continue to make headlines through the rest of this year.

A personal perspective: Today, ReadTheSpirit welcomes writer Tyler Stocks, who grew up with Asperger’s Syndrome, part of the autism spectrum. Tyler’s inspirational column tells why a welcoming attitude is one of the most important ways we all can help families touched by autism.

What is “autism”? Here is a summary from The Autism Society: Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.

Wikipedia also has an extensive article, which draws upon many other books and articles on the issue.

Nationwide, local groups are unfolding variations on this month’s supportive theme. The New York Daily News reports on a campaign at White Castle to sell unique candles in a distinctive slider-box shape to raise money for Autism Speaks. Awareness campaigns also are unfolding on many college and university campuses, including the University of Virginia where an Autism Speaks college-age network is displaying flags and blue lights this month.

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