By K. David Weidner, Ph.D., Executive Director
Nearly 50 years ago, the Autism Society created National Autistic Children’s Week, which would become Autism Awareness Month. Now, it’s being referred to as Autism Acceptance Month (AAM), a recent change proposed to cultivate greater inclusivity. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only aspect of autism that has evolved. According to the Autism Society, instances in the United States have risen from 1 in 125 children in 2010 to 1 in 54 in 2020. This is a shocking statistic that causes us to react.
Throughout April, you’re sure to see efforts aimed at spreading awareness, acceptance and positive change. If you’re near Provincetown, you can view a powerful reminder simply by looking up at the night sky.
For the third year in a row, the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (PMPM) is participating in “Light It Up Blue.” By turning the Monument into a beacon, we’ll be joining iconic landmarks worldwide to shed light on autism and bring greater support to the people and families it affects.
Autism can cause issues related to social skills, behavior, speech and nonverbal communication. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are nearly 5.5 million adults alone that have autism.
Our inspiration for joining in “Light It Up Blue” came from Truro neighbor, Amy Rogers, whose 17 year old daughter has autism. What began with lighting a lamp post outside her home grew to illuminating entire buildings such as the Truro Police Station and Town Library. Amy initially proposed the Monument lighting project and with the help of her husband Michael Rogers and local lighting-tech consultant, Chris Racine, the Monument “went blue.”
When it comes to spreading awareness about autism, we’re still chasing Amy. If you’d like to keep up, check out her Facebook page, Light Up Blue Truro.
As noted earlier, Autism Acceptance Month has moved away from Autism Awareness Month, a proposed realignment led by the Autism Society of America and other leading advocates. The goal of the new terminology is to foster acceptance in hopes of bringing about better support and opportunities in education, employment, accessible housing, affordable health care and other critical services.
Which fits perfectly with PMPM’s mission.
Provincetown is built on acceptance; it’s why people live here, start businesses and visit over and over again. In recent years, acceptance and inclusiveness have been challenged. If we can use this symbol of our town to shed light on specific issues – send a more welcoming message, drum up greater support that’ll benefit residents, neighbors and guests – then it’s being put to good use.
Click here to learn more about autism and ways you can help during Autism Acceptance Month.