On April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, millions of people participated in Light It Up Blue, an international, grassroots movement to raise awareness and drive action for the global autism community.
However, we still have work to do as raising awareness is meaningless without taking action every single day.
There are no known causes of autism. Families struggle to access affordable treatments and therapies for loved ones, and too many adults with autism are denied the appropriate residential and employment services needed to lead fulfilling lives.
Autism Speaks launched Light It Up Blue six years ago to honor the awareness day and celebrate the start of April’s Autism Awareness Month. That first year, the condition affected one in 110 children. Today, an estimated one in 68 children in the US and millions more worldwide are on the autism spectrum.
As autism prevalence continues to rise, so do our awareness efforts. During our initial campaign, 500 events took place in 16 countries. On April 2, events were organized by private and public groups all over the world and more than 58,400 people in 142 countries participated.
China Women’s Development Foundation organized events in 50 cities throughout China, and autism organizations in Peru partnered with BBDO for a nationwide campaign. In New York, we signaled the start of the effort during a ceremony at the Empire State Building, where Brooklyn Nets star and autism advocate Deron Williams joined organization cofounders Bob and Suzanne Wright to light the building blue.
Corporate partners during the month included White Castle, Joe’s Crab Shack, and Dollar General and blue lightbulbs were available at The Home Depot, with a portion of proceeds going to Autism Speaks. We also partner with MLB as each team will host an autism awareness game.
We expect to raise about $10 million from our efforts in April. We had 683,000 page views on autismspeaks.org, and 955,000 on all our sites on April 2. On social media, Light It Up Blue was among the top Twitter and Facebook trends on April 2, and more than 1,400 stories ran in traditional media titles.
Behind every event, social media post, and press clipping, there is a person touched by autism who made it their mission to spread a message of hope and understanding. Thanks to their efforts, we captured the world’s attention. Now we must act on it.
Liz Feld is president of Autism Speaks.