World Autism Awareness Day: Why Nations Are Lighting Up Their Buildings Blue

In case you’re wondering why your local landmark is illuminated with blue light at night on April 2, it’s probably because your city is participating in World Autism Awareness Day 2017.

During the internationally recognized day, citizens from around the world will be wearing blue garments and shining a blue light on iconic buildings on April 2 as a show of support for people suffering from autism.

The Mumbai Mirror reports that “seven continents, 142 countries and 18,602 buildings” will be taking part of the “Light It Up Blue” campaign by non-profit group Autism Speaks.

Famous landmarks, including the Rockefeller Center and Empire State building in New York, the London Eye, the Lady of Lebanon, the Ancient City of Petra in Jordan, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, and the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, will be lit up in blue on Sunday.

The theme of this year’s World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination,” which aims to shed some light on the legal rights of persons with autism, and what institutions, governments, and guardians can do to aid them in living a purposeful life.

This also means recognizing their right to act of their own accord and “enter legal contracts,” per the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The United Nations further explains in its memo, “Legal capacity is instrumental to the recognition of a person as a human being of full personhood, with the right to take decisions and enter into contracts. However, certain abilities have often been seen as necessary qualifications for full personal autonomy, creating a barrier to full societal inclusion for people with autism.”

The WAAD observance, which streamed live earlier, covered policies and approaches that will enable persons with autism to exercise their right to determination. It was organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information and Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Autism Speaks defines autism, or autism spectrum disorder, as a condition associated with difficulties in socializing and communicating with other people, repetitive behaviors, and other symptoms. The organization adds that other disorders co-occur with autism, such as gastrointestinal disorders, sleep problems, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and phobias.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism occurs in one in 68 kids born in the United States; one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls have autism.

Support for children with autism is widely available while they are in school. However, data showed that about 50,000 teens lose access to these services when they transition to adulthood.

A number of famous personalities, including actress Daryl Hannah, Scottish singer Susan Boyle, comedy writer and Community creator Dan Harmon, and Ghostbusters creator and actor Dan Aykroyd, are affected by autism.

Dan Aykroyd At L.A. Premier Of Ghostbusters Remake
[Image by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony/AP Images]

People with milder forms of autism are not exempted by the difficulties common among people with more established forms of autism.

A Norwegian study in 2011 found that people with pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) suffer social and developmental struggles in life in the same magnitude as those with severe forms of the disorder, Spectrum, a leading resource and news site on autism, reports. Spectrum adds that they were “no more likely” to be married or employed.

“The implication of our findings is that the consequences of having an autism spectrum disorder with profound difficulties in communication skills and social impairment can’t be compensated for by either high intellectual level or normal language function,” the study’s lead investigator, Anne Myhre, told Spectrum.

Parents Of Autistic Children At A Texas Rally

Parents of children with autism know the kind of pain their children go through all too well. Raquel Regalado, a former Miami-Dade County school board member, is one of them, and she urges the government to shift their focus to improving the support and resources available to teens and adults with the disorder.

“While we appreciate the social and developmental gains our children have made, the older they get the harder it becomes to find services, programming and opportunities for them because funding and public opinion is fixated on early signs and intervention,” she writes in a guest column on Florida Today.

[Featured Image by Douglas C. Pizac/AP Images]