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Light It Up Blue highlights autism awareness

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Brooke Grasso
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne hosted the annual Autism Speaks: Light It Up Blue event from April 2 to April 4 to help spread autism awareness through crafts, performances and information booths on campus.

Light it Up Blue is an international campaign brought to the University by Dawn Witt, assistant professor of special education, to inform the public of better ways to interact with those with autism.

“Anytime we can promote diversity and raise awareness is a good thing,” Witt said.

According to Witt one in 50 high school or college students have autism.

In 2000 only one in 150 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, making it now three times more prevalent.

The event attracted over 100 people and featured an information booth from Board Certified Behavioral Analyst Services offering professional assistance and possible job opportunities for students looking to become applied behavioral analysts.

BCBA Services provides behavioral analysts, who teach children in their homes to help decrease their maladaptive behavior and learn new everyday skills.

“So many more kids are being diagnosed that people need to be aware,” said Lisa Pirtle, an ABA therapist from Claremont.

“So many people are not understanding,” she said.

The event also had various craft booths such as cookie decorating, a station to decorate blue lights and a booth where guests could write a positive quality on a puzzle piece and then attach it to puzzle pieces of other guests.

Another activity booth was titled “Sensory Play” and had Play-Doh, rice, sand and other interesting things for the children to touch and play with.

“We use sensory play as a motivator for the kids,” Katie Cook, founder of BCBA Services said.

“Everyone enjoys sensory stimulation, but children with autism enjoy it a little more,” she said.

A show choir of nearly 50 kids from Solario Elementary School performed during the event.

The group was comprised of third through fifth grade students, who sang and danced through three full songs.

After their performance the children engaged in student Cindy Smith’s “brain dance.”

Smith said the dance wakes up the brain, energizes the mind and opens up the pathways in the brain.

While Smith instructed the audience on how to do the brain dance, children and their parents participated throughout the event.

The dance included pretending to be at the beach and replicating movements such as swiping off sand or swimming out into the ocean.

There was also a Light It Up Blue Dinner on April 2 in Davenport Dining Hall with live music.

Comedian Shang Forbes performed a show on April 3. The audience was encouraged to wear blue as well.

The Light it Up Blue campaign is predominantly known for buildings boasting blue lights throughout April.

Landmarks across the world have participated in the campaign. Places such as the Empire State Building, The Great Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Giza are lit up with blue lights to spread awareness of autism.

The University is now taking part in the campaign by turning on blue lights outside Founders Hall every evening throughout April to bring autism awareness to the campus.

“The community can spread awareness by holding more events and inviting more people,” Witt said. “Keep lighting it up.”

Brooke Grasso can be reached at brooke.grasso@laverne.edu.

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