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Detroit businesses go blue in support of autism awareness

Go blue took on a whole new meaning on April 2 when many Detroit area businesses joined the Light It Up Blue campaign and lit their buildings blue in support of autism awareness.

The blue lights burned brightly that night at the Compuware Building, DTE Energy headquarters, GM Renaissance Center, Ilitch’s Fox Tower, Cobo Center, MGM Grand, Motor City Casino, the Penobscot Building and Wayne State’s Old Main along with the Mackinac Bridge and other businesses in Michigan and across the world.

It was part of an international movement in honor of autism awareness with buildings like the Empire State in New York, the Paris Stock Exchange and the Cairo Tower in Egypt lighting up in solidarity for autism. Click here to see pictures.

The campaign for autism awareness will continue in Michigan throughout April. Michigan has the fourth largest autistic population in the country and numbers on the rise.  There are more than 15,000 children with autism in our state … that’s an increase of more than 100% since 2001.

Spreading awareness about this often misunderstood diagnosis is one step, but there is more work to be done. Corner Pieces, a small Michigan charity, is partnering with the Light it Up Blue campaign to raise awareness and money to provide children with autism the tools they need to improve their learning ability.

The organization was started by Ben and Tiffany Duff, whose son was diagnosed with autism. They found some of the educational tools that best helped their son were available on some of the most wide-spread devices around. So they made it their mission to provide iPad and iPod touches to children who suffer from autism or other communication struggles. They work with speech-language pathologists who are now using applications designed to foster communication and learning for autistic children. They plan to giveaway iPads to children from Michigan’s four regions this month.

Another part of the equation in autism advocacy is in the political sphere. The Autism Society of Michigan worked for insurance coverage for autistic people through the course of their lives. At the opening ceremony for the month’s celebrations, autism advocate Lt. Governor Brian Calley, whose daughter is autistic, was the keynote speaker.

“For me, it’s like there are two parts to my life: before my daughter had access to treatment, and after,” Calley tells MLive. His daughter was diagnosed as a toddler. Without the autism mandates, he says, “The average person has no chance to give their autistic children a chance at a decent, productive and independent life.”

Autism coverage reform was passed in Michigan on March 29 and therapy services for autism will soon be covered through private insurance.

“When April 2 was designated Autism Awareness Day and the Bridge Authority agreed to participate, we had no idea it would be so well-coordinated with other programs and insurance reform efforts,” says Calley.

There are a myriad of ways you can get involved with autism advocacy this month. It can start simply with changing your Facebook profile picture. If you’re more of a Twitter fan, tweeting using the hashtags #autism, #CornerPieces and #LightItBlueMichigan, can all help spread with word about autism advocacy.

There are also volunteer opportunities through the Autism Society of Michigan.


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