You might notice your social feeds are a little bluer than usual. That’s because April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, which seeks to educate people about autism and how important it is to detect symptoms of the developmental disorder early. In an effort to increase awareness, the nonprofit Autism Speaks is hosting its annual event, Light It Up Blue.
The organization encourages people to wear blue t-shirts and ribbons and change their social media profile photos to blue-hued thumbnails with the hashtag #LightItUpBlue. The campaign is also encouraging people to share photos of their loved ones with autism.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in 68 kids has Autism Spectrum Disorder.
This is my light it up blue for World Autism Awareness Day. Thank you Evan for being a warrior for so many. pic.twitter.com/lJnN2xgXAH— Jenny McC-Wahlberg (@JennyMcCarthy) April 2, 2015
This year, the United Nations designated the theme of World Autism Awareness Day “Employment: The Autism Advantage.” More than 80 percent of adults with autism don’t have jobs, according to the UN, and the group says potential employers are “missing out” on the talents of autistic applicants.
Research suggests that employers are missing out on abilities that that people on the autism spectrum have in greater abundance than “neurotypical” workers do – such as, heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail.
The hurdles that need to be overcome to unleash this potential include: a shortage of vocational training, inadequate support with job placement, and pervasive discrimination.
The #LightItUpBlue campaign is trending on Facebook and it’s raising both awareness and funding for autism research. But it’s not without its detractors. Kim Stagliano, a mother to three daughters with autism, says she despises the campaign and the entire month of April because of Autism Awareness Month.
In an editorial in the Washington Post, Stagliano describes World Autism Awareness Day as more of a marketing campaign than a commitment to educating the world about autism.
But illuminating the Eiffel Tower in blue does more to promote an organization than to improve the lives of autistic people and their caretakers. Celebrating talents does little to educate the public on the intense challenges of the diagnosis and the tough aspects of living with the disability. What the autism community needs isn’t a party, but a sense of urgency and true crisis.
But even if #LightItUpBlue is just a marketing campaign, it’s for a good cause—one that advocates hope will get people talking about autism issues for more than just one day of the year.
Photo via Autism Speaks/YouTube