What did the color blue ever do for me? Actually, my family would laugh at this because blue is my favorite color. I wear mostly blue and decorate almost exclusively in blue. Once, my older sister had an intervention of sorts for me. I asked her opinion on the counter top I was looking at when remodeling my kitchen. I was leaning toward blue. She looked around and said, “No more blue! Your carpet is blue. Your walls are blue. Choose a different color for your counter top.” Ha! I chose a light green with a splash of blue in it.
Why do mothers of children with autism ask their friends and family to wear blue one day a year? It has nothing to do with the color itself. What can the color blue do for us? The answer is fairly simple for me. The color blue cannot perform some kind of therapy for our children. It cannot help with their social skills, their communication skills, or their motor skills. It cannot calm them, lessen their quirkiness, or ease their anxieties. By wearing the color blue on World Autism Awareness Day, you let me know you care. You let me know you are “aware” of our walk. My family does not want your pity or your condolences. We would like your empathy though. We would like to know that you know that we are struggling and that you understand just a little bit. THAT is what the color blue did for me today. When I knew that Tate’s school had made an announcement yesterday to let the students know that today was Autism Awareness Day and people were wearing blue in support of awareness, it let me know that the administrators care.
Tate with his two amazing teachers
On a much bigger scale, the campaign to wear blue for autism awareness is exactly what it sounds like. It is about educating the public. People today know so much more about what autism is than just a few years ago. It is partially because of campaigns like this. The Centers for Disease Control announced last week that the numbers are now 1:68. You would have to live virtually in isolation to avoid knowing people with autism in this day and age. The education and consciousness takes away the fear of the unknown. It diminishes the bullying of people with autism. Our education about autism causes people with autism to become so much more approachable. Awareness makes it easier for them to attend school, easier for them to find employment, easier for them to fit-in in their communities, and easier for their peers to befriend them. Even the word itself, “autism,” is becoming a word used in everyday conversations. Raising awareness if very important to us in the autism community. Awareness of what autism is will keep our children safer and cause their futures to be so much brighter.
Educating the public also means that children with autism may receive a diagnosis earlier and receive the early intervention they need. I am confident that every dollar spent on early intervention saves many dollars in the long run. So many of the children who receive intensive early intervention become successful in ways they could not have otherwise. They may need a lot less support as adults. The younger the intervention, the better the results. The brain is much more malleable when it is young. Education and awareness are so important. So next year, on April 2, “light it up blue” for autism awareness.