April 2nd is noted as World Autism Awareness Day or W.A.A.D where people around the world recognize and encourage others to raise awareness for people with autism throughout the world. This resolution was passed in November of 2007, as an initiative to improve human rights. Since its start, the awareness and research has increased across the globe. World Autism Day is one of only four, health-specific United Nation Days that recognizes Autism in hopes of the world uniting to aid in research, diagnosis and treatment for those affected by the disorder.
“Light It Up Blue” is one of the many proposed initiatives proposed by Autism Speaks, observed on W.A.A.D. dedicated to Autism Awareness. However, there is controversy because the slogan “Light It Up Blue” is from the Autism Speaks foundation; instead of promoting people with the disorder, they promote “ending autism,” yet only a small portion of their large budget goes towards helping autistic people and their families. Their budget primarily goes towards researching for a “cure” and prenatal test for pregnant women. Aside from this, the rest of their money goes towards marketing, which paints autism as something bad. So instead of providing support, they are isolating the Autistic community.
The Light It Up Blue campaign ropes in a lot of media support from ignorant people who do not understand the complexity of autism. Social media is playing a huge role in increasing the stigma around ‘finding the cure’ for autism, instead of supporting their local families and autism organizations. Many people are left unaware that their posts on Facebook will not help anyone; they need to do something.
Like many other issues in this day and age, the Light it up Blue campaign is based on stereotypes. For example, the reason we light everything blue, is based on the gender stereotype that boys like blue, because Autism is more likely in males than females. The diagnosis Autism as well, is based on the typical behaviors of a male child, rather than the behavior of a child of either gender. This often leads to the misdiagnosis of Autistic females, because it is a “boys disorder.”
Ultimately, the W.A.A.D. does not promote the awareness of Autism all year long, rather only promoting awareness for one day. Like many issues, it doesn’t go away the following day when April 2nd ends. Instead of promoting “Light It Up Blue,” we should promote the awareness and acceptance of autistic individuals in our society instead of isolating them. The day of awareness is helpful to the cause, but lighting it up blue does not change things; to change things we need to make a difference. If you really want to help those apart of the Autistic community, you should join the fight for acceptance and opportunities for those affected. You can do more than “Light It Up Blue,” and join the fight for equality for the men and women suffering from Autism.