World Autism Awareness Day is right around the corner and people are coming up with different ways to "light it up blue." Though different, all efforts will go towards promoting awareness for a condition that affects millions of Americans.

Autism Speaks started the campaign of lighting it up blue to show support for autism awareness. While bathing landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Empire State Building in blue offers maximum impact, smaller establishments doing their part to raise awareness also contribute by reaching those in their communities better.

Take for example a convenience store in Yankton, South Dakota. Judy Lane will be hanging up a welded puzzle piece at the gas station, lighting it up blue to signify their participation in the World Autism Awareness Day. According to her, the puzzle piece is a symbol of the disease because it is a puzzling condition.

"Everybody is different in the spectrum because no two cases are the same. It is the perfect symbol for the disease," explained Lane.

Schools will also be lighting it up blue on April 2, as well as fire stations, parks and local clinics.

Some authors are joining the fight to raise awareness by including autistic characters in their stories. And while these help identify what makes those with autism different, they also highlight how they can be just like anybody, eager to love and be loved.

Autism and autism spectrum disorder are both used as general terms to refer to a number of complex disorders involving brain development. These disorders manifest repetitive behaviors and difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction in varying degrees. In 2013, all autism disorders were grouped into one under the ASD umbrella. Previously, disorders were seen as distinct subtypes of autism.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 68 children in U.S. suffers from autism spectrum disorder. This number shows an increase in prevalence 10 times higher than what has been recorded over the last 40 years and has been partly attributed to better diagnosis and improved awareness for the condition. Additionally, autism appears to be more common in boys than girls, with one out of 42 boys being diagnosed with the condition. In girls, one out of 189 has autism in the U.S.

In the U.S. alone, ASD is present in more than 3 million individuals. Not one cause has been attributed to the condition but research has associated autism with rare gene mutations.

Photo: Becky Wetherington | Flickr

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