With the arrival of April and Autism Awareness Month, Saint Peter's University Hospital veiled itself in blue light on Monday for Autism Speaks' "Light it up Blue."
The Light It Up Blue event is now in its third year. The global initiative helps raise awareness about the growing public health concern of autism. Iconic landmarks around the world observed Light It Up Blue to show their support. World Autism Awareness Day activities are intended to help increase and develop world knowledge about the epidemic and to pass on the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for complex disorders that affect the development of the brain. The disorders typically manifest between the ages of 2-years-old and 3-years-old, according to Autism Speaks.org. The disorders can be characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulty with social interaction, difficulty with both verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Those with autism may suffer from intellectual disability and difficulty with motor coordination, in addition to attention and physical health issues, according to Autism Speaks.
Cases of autism increased a staggering 600 percent over the last two decades, and now affects one in 88 children, including one in 54 boys, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
An estimated one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, which makes it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined, according to Autism Speaks. The group also estimates that 1.5 million people in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism, as government statistics indicate the prevalence rate of autism is increasing by 10 to 17 percent annually. About 80 percent of those living with autism are estimated to be under the age of 21-years-old.
According to the CDC, New Jersey has a one-in-94 autism prevalence rate, which is one of the highest in the nation. There's an estimated 25,000 New Jersey residents living on the autism spectrum, most of them children, according to Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks is the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization. Founded in 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, who are the grandparents of a child with autism, the group has committed over $173 million to research and developing innovative resources for families.
The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.