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Aril 23, 2014: ‘Light it up blue’. THOMAS M. THORNBURGH

What is autism? According to www.autismsocietyofamerica.org, “autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a ‘spectrum disorder’ that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism.”

Around the world today, countries are reporting a rise in the number of kids with autism. China, Britain, Australia, France, Japan, Serbia, and many other countries besides America are seeing this rise. It is considered by some accounts a worldwide epidemic.

One way that the world is bringing attention to autism is by lighting up places with blue lights on World Autism Day, April 2, every year and throughout April Autism Awareness Month in the U.S. and the CNMI. Places like the Empire State building in New York City, the Eiffel Tower in France, the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai to name a few. You can check out http://liub.autismspeaks.org/buildings for more. When people ask why “Light it up blue,” a discussion can then ensue about autism. Just talking about autism brings awareness.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control released prior to April 2014 new figures that state, “one out of every 68 kids in America has a form of autism spectrum disorder.”

In the CNMI, NMPASI has put out blue bulbs at our Gualo Rai office and we have them shining in the day and throughout the night. When people ask, we give them a brochure and begin a discussion on autism.

Autism does not discriminate. It does not care about your economic situation, nor does it affect a specific race or color. We in the CNMI must learn more about autism so that we can effectively include our people in all aspects of our society. Remember that we are all people, and as such we must treat each other with dignity and respect. People with autism have dreams like everyone else. They may not be able to communicate them so effectively, but they are still nonetheless our friends and family and must be included if we are to rise above discrimination in our beautiful Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.

For more on autism, please contact NMPASI at 235-7273, 7274, TTY at 7278, and fax at 7275 or online at www.nmpasi.org. (Thomas M. Thornburgh)
Thomas M. Thornburgh is a projects specialist of the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems.