Light It Up Blue! to support Autism awareness

Today, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day.  In an effort to raise awareness of this growing public health concern, Autism Speaks is asking all of us to “Light It Up Blue”.  The Empire State Building will shine blue lights around its top, the Great Buddha at Hyogo in Kobe, Japan will be lit up blue and the Sydney Opera House, among many other global landmarks, will shine blue. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) just recently updated its estimate for autism prevalence to 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls).  That is a 78% increase in 6 years (2002-2008).  The president of Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, is now calling autism an epidemic in the US and calling our nation to action.

Autism, also termed Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), on the Autism Speaks website is described as “…a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.”  

Symptoms of autism typically emerge between the ages of 2 and 3.  Some “red flags” to look for are:

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age

Your pediatrician can help you identify these behaviors in your child and refer you to a specialist.  But it is also important that you, as a parent, be aware of the signs and symptoms and express any concerns to your pediatrician should you suspect that your child is at risk.  Awareness of typical development between the ages of 2 and 3 is critical so that you can identify any delays in your child.  1-2-3 Just Play With Me can provide you with a guide to follow, tracking your child’s development in not only language and social skills, but motor, cognitive and self-help skills as well.  Let’s face it, our pediatricians are busy people and care for our children in so many ways.  Unless we express concerns to them specific to autism, your doctor may miss some signs that you could help them identify.  Early detection, intervention and proven behavior therapies improve the prognosis for children with autism.  Know the signs, familiarize yourself with typical child development and be ready to advocate for your child should you need to.  For more information on Autism visit

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