Shine blue lights to sup­port autism aware­ness

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Through­out this whole month, just as in Aprils past, you may no­tice var­i­ous homes, busi­nesses and land­marks in Charles County dec­o­rated in blue lights. It’s not be­cause they’re feel­ing par­tic­u­larly festive this time of year, but be­cause they’re hon­or­ing a tra­di­tion started by ad­vo­cates to raise aware­ness of autism.

Ac­cord­ing to the non­profit group Autism Speaks, autism — or autism spec­trum dis­or­der — can in­clude a range of con­di­tions re­lated to chal­lenges with so­cial skills, repet­i­tive be­hav­iors, speech and non­ver­bal communication and unique strengths and dif­fer­ences. The spec­trum comes into play in that it isn’t a one-siz­e­fits-all di­ag­no­sis. There are vary­ing de­grees of sever­ity, and one in­di­vid­ual with autism’s most chal­leng­ing ob­sta­cle may be an­other in­di­vid­ual’s most revered strength.

Be­cause of this wide range of dif­fer­ences, schools can of­ten find it hard to cater to in­di­vid­ual stu­dents on the autism spec­trum, and law en­force­ment of­ten doesn’t know how best to han­dle calls in­volv­ing some­one with autism. That is im­prov­ing through aware­ness and sen­si­tiv­ity.

But not all mem­bers of the com­mu­nity are knowl­edge­able about autism. And that’s the ba­sis be­hind the Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue cam­paign, a por­tion of the com­mem­o­ra­tion of Autism Aware­ness Month.

This month, the South­ern Mary­land com­mu­nity is cel­e­brat­ing aware­ness of autism in a num­ber of ways that al­low the pub­lic to take part.

On Fri­day, April 7, Calvert High School’s boys lacrosse team in­vites the com­mu­nity to break out their blue and at­tend the ju­nior var­sity and var­sity “Blue Out” games at 4:30 and 6 p.m. The idea is to fill the stands with blue for Autism Aware­ness Month, and there will also be a raf­fle at the gate to sup­port the school’s Best Bud­dies pro­gram, which pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents with spe­cial needs to form friend­ships with their peers. Raf­fled items in­clude Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als and Bal­ti­more Ori­oles tick­ets, lo­cal con­cert tick­ets and spa do­na­tions. For more, go to www.face­book.com/ events/1894500984142000.

The fol­low­ing day, April 8, the Autism Spec­trum Sup­port Group of South­ern Mary­land will host “Rais­ing Aware­ness Day & Knight” from noon to 5 p.m. at Bol­ly­wood Masala Tap­house in Cal­i­for­nia, across from Wilde­wood Cen­ter. The “noble knights” and “fair ladies” of Per­son­al­ized Ther­apy LLC in­vite fam­i­lies to en­joy games, crafts, bounce houses, a silent auc­tion and dessert auc­tion, ven­dors and ser­vice providers, a buf­fet and more. Area or­ga­ni­za­tions will pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and re­sources about autism spec­trum disor­ders and re­lated sup­port. Event pro­ceeds go to lo­cal non­prof­its that work with in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies im­pacted by autism.

Then later this month, the pub­lic is wel­come to “Rock Out for Autism” from noon to 10 p.m. Satur­day, April 22, at Olde Town Pub in Leonard­town. A por­tion of food and drink sales from this an­nual event, which fea­tures lo­cal and re­gional bands, will be do­nated to non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions in the area that sup­port those with autism and their fam­i­lies.

To get more in­for­ma­tion on ei­ther of the events, go to autism-sup­port-somd.org.

In ad­di­tion, the Charles County Autism Sup­port Group Autism/ADHD Sup­port Group of Charles County meets on the sec­ond Fri­day of ev­ery month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Panera Bread in La Plata.

So if you see blue lights this month, do whatever you can to help the cause of autism aware­ness and sup­port.

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