Light It Up Blue Day was a worldwide autism awareness event that took place on Monday, April 2. The number of local businesses who participated in the third annual event doubled from last year.

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Monday saw thousands of businesses and organizations locally and worldwide show off their blue side for a universal cause, which recent numbers have shown is a growing concern.

April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day and the third annual Light It Up Blue event, a day to promote awareness about autism and to raise money for research. More than 3,000 buildings took part in lighting up or dressing up in blue for the occasion.

The day came on the waves of new statistics that now put the prevalence of autism as affecting one in 64 children. The number previously was one in 110, said Amy Hummell, the Arizona director of Autism Speaks, the organization that puts on Light It Up Blue Day. The new statistic also stated that one in 40 boys will be identified within the autism spectrum, up from one in 70.

In the study that was funded by Autism Speaks, children were being tested for signs earlier, at 12 months instead of up to 3 years old.

“What is striking is they just announced new prevalence rates,” Hummell said. “A recent study we have funded is about using a screening tool that can identify children with autism spectrum disorders as part of a one-year, well-baby checkup.”

Autism Speaks is the largest autism science and advocacy organization in the country. In Arizona there are several different sites that work on projects related to autism diagnosis and research, including Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, the Arizona Child Study Center, and the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center.

“The mission of Autism Speaks is to help all those who struggle with autism spectrum disorders,” Hummell said. “We do this under a structure of four pillars: scientific research, awareness, advocacy, and family services. The universal goal is to raise awareness.”

She said one of the main parts of autism awareness is “making sure doctors know what to look for and that they are taking the time to look for (signs of autism).”

In October Autism Speaks will be hosting the largest community event dedicated to autism in the Valley. It will take place at Tempe Beach Park.

To find out more, visit www.autismspeaks.org or www.lightitupblue.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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