Outside it was a gray, dreary Friday morning, but inside MacArthur High School everything was sky blue.
In an impressive effort to raise Autism Awareness, students filled the cafeteria before 7:30 a.m. decked in light blue to support the "Light It Up Blue" campaign, a world-wide effort by Autism Speaks, the nation's largest Autism science and advocacy organization.
An estimated 1.5 million people in the United States are affected by Autism, and the prevalence rate is currently increasing by 10 to 17 percent each year, according to Autism Speaks.
Autism is a term used to describe a group of developmental brain disorders called Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), and the cause hits close to home at MacArthur, especially for Vin Causeman and Resti Ioanna.
Causeman, a social studies teacher at MacArthur, and Ioanna, a special education teacher, both have family members who are affected by the disorder.
It was their effort that inspired MacArthur students and staff to not only wear light blue, but to spend the day honoring Autism Awareness. Special "Light It Up Blue" t-shirts were sold, while some students made their own unique Autism Awareness gear. Cupcakes with the signature puzzle piece logo are being distributed throughout the school and a showcase was prepared with information for passersby. Teachers are also taking time out of their classes to discuss the topic with their students.
"The most important thing is to help educate people, to help them understand how fast Autism is spreading and how many people are affected by it," said Causeman. "We need to help them better understand why children with Autism act the way they do."
People all over the world are asked to "Light It Up Blue" April 1 and 2 in honor of Autism Awareness Day on Saturday. To take the pledge, click here. To find other ways to participate, click here.
Looking to start by helping the cause in your own community? The ELIJA School, a small local school that provides a unique educational opportunity for children with Autism, is looking for volunteers for five events next week.