Light It Up Blue
The power of love and social media has propelled family members of 2-year-old Tyler King into a spotlight for which they weren’t quite sure they were ready.
That spotlight is blue, and it shines on autism during Autism Awareness month in April.
Tyler’s 10-year-old brother, Cole Reedy, made a simple video for Facebook telling everyone how much he loved his brother, who had just been diagnosed in January with autism and 10 other disorders commonly associated with autism. Cole also asked people to display blue porch lights being sold by the national Autism Speaks “Light it Up Blue” campaign to support families dealing with autism.
“The outpouring of the community has been above and beyond belief,” said Tyler’s dad, Seth King.
King said the family has received responses from over 15 states, and Cole’s video has been shared by hundreds of people.
Cole says he was just trying to let others know that his little brother is “awesome” just the way he is.
“It’s nice that people know what it’s like and there are other kids with it too,” he said.
Tyler’s mom, Hannah King, who is a first-grade teacher at Villa Grove Elementary, said the family wasn’t quite expecting to “come out” in such a big way, after running the gamut of emotions through Tyler’s testing and diagnosis.
“We’ve learned to embrace the challenge instead of hide from it,” she said. “We’ve all come along way.”
The King family hopes to keep the momentum going Friday in their hometown of Villa Grove by hosting a Blue’s Cruise fundraising event. Families are asked to meet at about 7 p.m. at The Scoop ice cream stand on the south end of Main Street for a car cruise to view and count the dozens of blue porch lights that are displayed at homes and businesses around town.
For extra fun, cruisers can count the number of lights they see along the route, and the official number will be posted back at The Scoop.
The cruise is a free event, but 10 percent of the days’ proceeds at The Scoop will benefit Autism Speaks — plus money from sales of T-shirts and a special “Blue” music CD for the event.
Cassandra Gunter, owner of The Scoop, is helping to organize the activities and also sold blue lights from her shop.
“The Kings have embraced this diagnosis and have shared their talents and leadership qualities to encourage us to unite as a community and support families on their journey with autism,” she said.
The kids in the community will also get involved Friday by visiting The Scoop for special blue ice cream cones throughout the school day. Hannah King has organized field trips for the elementary students as a character building activity to demonstrate ways to support others and the community.
“I think it’s great that the kids are learning about it too, so they know we aren’t all the same and that’s okay,” Gunter said. “It’s definitely heightened awareness in this community.”
To finish out the month, Hannah King is working with a local fitness group, Chix in Training, to sponsor a family-friendly run through town. It will be at dusk and runners will carry glow sticks with them. Details are still being worked out for an evening in late April.
She says the best part of the experience has been connecting with other families with autistic children and sharing feelings and ideas about their experiences.
“We learn from other families and they learn from us, and that’s been the tremendous part of it,” Hannah King said.
If you go
What: Blue’s Cruise autism awareness fundraiser
When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 19
Where: The Scoop in Villa Grove
Cost: Participation is free; donations to Autism Speaks may be made at the Villa Grove State Bank to the Tyler King for Autism Awareness fund (all money will be donated to Autism Speaks)
- The 12 Myths Of Autism (beyondautismawareness.wordpress.com)
- The Faces of the Autism Spectrum: Meet Hannah! (mypicturedmoments.com)
Yesterday too, was the start of Autism Awareness Month, wherein we get to deluge our friends and neighbors with urgings to ‘Light It Up Blue‘,
To families on the Spectrum, today holds no special meaning; no more than yesterday, and no more than tomorrow. We will love and care for our children, all our children, the same: inequivocably and without end. I did not love my wife and sons any more, or any less yesterday than I will tomorrow. My pride in their accomplishments, their sacrifices and their growth is the same today as it was yesterday, and will be the same tomorrow: boundless.
Families on the Spectrum live with, and live through Autism everyday; one day blurs into the next.
There is a saying: “Once you have met one Autistic child, you have met one Autistic child.” Unfortunately, you will undoubtably meet more, all unique unto themselves: Earth-bound snowflakes all. World Autism Awareness Day is designed to focus everyone’s attention on a disorder that is not going away; it is a hallmark, intended to shine the brightest of beacons onto those unaware, and those with the power to do more.
So, is today any different? Not to those affected everyday by Autism.
Everyday is Autism Awareness Day.
Autism Speaks, Online and Tech Leaders Team Up with Innovative Autism Awareness Month Initiatives
NEW YORK, NY – Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced a series of digital, mobile and technology initiatives involving a range of corporate and philanthropic partners that will take place throughout Autism Awareness Month in April as part of its global Light It Up Blue awareness campaign.
Autism Speaks is also leveraging its online community of more than 3 million Facebook fans, Twitter followers and e-mail subscribers to create a groundswell of activity on its flagship Light It Up Blue website, www.lightitupblue.org. The website features an interactive photo gallery, personal fundraising pages and mobile applications for both the iOS and Android platforms.
An Autism Speaks text messaging service will support the online Light It Up Blue campaign. By texting “LIUB” to 30644, users can get access to additional content, information and news. Autism Speaks has also launched a video blog, hosted by a young man on the autism spectrum, Kerry Magro. The Kerry’s Korner video blog features music by Kyle Cousins, a musician who is also on the autism spectrum.
“We are excited to announce the online component of our Light It Up Blue campaign and grateful to all of our tech and digital partners for participating throughout Autism Awareness Month,” said Marc Sirkin, vice president of social marketing and online fundraising, Autism Speaks. “Thanks to their support, our online presence will continue to grow and reach new audiences with our message of compassion and the importance of early screening for autism.”
In addition to participating in the Light It Up Blue campaign, several of Autism Speaks’ online and technology partnerships feature new resources and tools for families affected by autism. “The tech community has demonstrated a genuine commitment to addressing this growing health crisis through the development of innovative software and applications for families and individuals affected by autism,” added Sirkin. Online and technology partners include:
- Microsoft has released a series of free office templates based on the Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit for families of individuals with autism. These templates can be found on the Autism Speaks partner page on Office.com. Templates include a contact form, request for information on Special Education Letter, a phone log and several other forms.
- Twitter has donated an online advertising campaign to encourage the world to Tweet about Light It Up Blue via the hashtag #LIUB.
- Google is participating in Light It Up Blue by lighting six of its buildings blue — including buildings in Seoul, Los Angeles and San Francisco — on April 2 to bring awareness to autism.
- AOL is highlighting both the organization and World Autism Awareness Day by featuring Autism Speaks on AOL.com April 2nd, providing a free placement on the AOL Mail Log-in screen for a day, and spotlighting Autism Speaks on the AOL Impact site, encouraging consumers to Light It Up Blue in support of Autism Awareness.
- Barnes & Noble will Light It Up Blue online by creating a special landing page at www.bn.com/autism and will provide an opportunity for its customers to join the campaign. The BN.com landing page will feature curated items that relate to autism.
- Technology provider Blackbaud will light the fountain outside its corporate headquarters blue and will focus on autism awareness among its employees throughout the month.
- Outfit7, creator of the popular Talking Friends characters and apps, will be participating in the campaign by providing free in-app Light It Up Blue virtual t-shirts for Talking Tom on both iOS and Android. Outfit7 will also donate advertising on its digital network.
- CareZone, a completely private place to organize and care for loved ones, is donating FREE accounts ($180 value) to those challenged with autism. Parents can claim their accounts at carezone.com/autism, and share access to them on any device.
- Careverge, an Audax Health digital health platform which inspires and engages consumers to be healthy with personalized tools and community, will light its homepage blue on April 2. Careverge invites members and caregivers to learn more about autism, and share support in its online autism community.
- HandHold Adaptive, which makes iPrompts and AutismTrack, premier apps for autism on mobile devices, will offer its AutismTrack app for free on April 2. AutismTrack is a powerful, handheld data collection app that helps parents track medicines, diets, therapies and behaviors, and report on progress to doctors.
- Lamar Digital Advertising has donated all available digital billboard space to Autism Speaks for three months, including April, to help increase participation in Light It Up Blue and the organization’s Autism Awareness Month initiatives. Digital billboards supporting Autism Speaks initiatives began running nationwide in mid-March and will continue through May 31, 2011.
- The Social Express™ is an engaging, interactive software application designed for children with autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD. Its software teaches children how to think about and manage social situations through video modeling, thus enabling them to build social-emotional skills and develop the meaningful relationships they need to navigate life. The Social Express will offer a special 75% discount on April 2.
- In collaboration with production company Bodega Studios, advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners will be releasing a documentary, I Want to Say, that chronicles the lives of real young people with autism, in particular, their challenges and breakthroughs through the use of touch technology. The film brings awareness to the vast improvements that touch technology has made for nonverbal members of the autism community. Hacking Autism, an initiative recently adopted by Autism Speaks, aims to bring this same attention to an online community devoted to people sharing their stories of hope through emerging technologies.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It 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. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed over $173 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 95 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org