Hundreds of buildings across the globe will "shine a light on autism" April 2 as part of the Autism Speaks Light it Up Blue campaign and you can participate too, simply by changing a light bulb.
Dawn Lyon, a Smyrna mother of two and Autism Speaks Georgia volunteer, said more than 900 buildings worldwide “lit it up blue” for the 2011 campaign including the Empire State Building and the Sydney Opera House.
“Last year we had the Fox Theatre here in Atlanta light it up blue,” she said. “Marcus Autism Center obviously light it up blue. The Atlanta Marriott Marquis and Douglasville Municipal Court lit it up blue. It’s just a great way to promote awareness. I have blue light bulbs for my house and a lot of my neighbors on my street also.”
The Home Depot will offer specially-marked blue light bulbs and lanterns in their stores beginning March 28 and will donate one dollar from each purchase to Autism Speaks. These lights and lanterns can be used to illuminate homes on April 2 for Light It Up Blue day.
Lyon said awareness efforts like Light It Up Blue are especially important in Georgia where one in 98 children are diagnosed with autism. One of those children was her son Devan.
“We knew that something was not quite right with our son,” she said. “We have a daughter who is 21 months older than him and she’s typically developing. So we knew that some things were getting missed. We couldn’t get answers from our pediatrician so we basically had to gather information ourselves.”
Lyon said Devan’s pediatrician brushed off her family’s concerns and said his developmental delays were normal in boys who tend to hit developmental milestones after their female peers. Lyon and her husband weren't convinced. On Dec. 31, 2009, they got Devan an appointment with a developmental pediatrician in Smyrna. A week later their son was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Lyon said that unfortunately her family’s story is typical.
“There are just so few people out there who can give you a diagnosis for one,” she said. “And for two, with it mostly being boys, girls have it as well, but boys are four times more diagnosed than girls are. Boys typically are behind girls or delayed, whatever you want to call it.”
Lyon said that resources on the Autism Speaks website like the 100 Day Kit were her roadmap after she received Devan’s diagnosis. She even signed her family up to participate in the 2010 Georgia Walk Now For Autism Speaks. Lyon’s involvement with the organization has grown since she and her family participated in their first walk two years ago. She’s now the 2012 walk co-chair.
“I just feel like if I can help one person get to that diagnosis a day sooner than we got to it, I’d be helping somebody,” she said. “I just feel like I’m promoting awareness and just doing what I can, what I have in my control and what I can get out there. It’s my calling right now.”
The 2012 Georgia Walk Now For Autism Speaks is Sunday, May 20 at Atlantic Station.
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