On Tuesday, April 2, the Augusta Levy Learning Center is challenging Ohio Valley homes and businesses to “Light It Up Blue” for World Autism Awareness Day.

Wear blue, string blue lights, change your light bulbs to blue, display blue balloons, or even invent a blue treat. Then send your pictures to stacistephen@gmail.com to be highlighted on social media.

Augusta Levy Learning Center will also be holding a 24-hour online fundraiser and a workshop open to the public on April 2. All proceeds from the online fundraiser will go to benefit local children with autism that attend ALLC. To donate, go to www.augustalevy.org. The workshop will be free of charge and will allow the community to take a look into the future of autism. The event will be held from 5-7:30 p.m. at 1007 Market St.

ABLE, David George, West Virginia Department of Rehabilitation, and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services will be presenting. Last year, more than 50 businesses participated in Light It Up Blue, and ALLC was able to raise more than $3,000 from the puzzle-piece fundraiser. Their goal is to exceed that number this year.

The costs per year for children with ASD in the U.S. are estimated to be between 11.5 billion and 60.9 billion. That can be broken down to $40-60 thousand per child per year. With the Median Household Income in West Virginia falling almost $17,000 below the national average at $43,469, this presents huge obstacles for families of individuals with ASD.

Seven years ago the West Virginia legislature passed the Autism Insurance Law requiring public and private insurance companies to pay for the diagnosis and treatment of autism; however, self-funded insurance plans are exempt from the state law, and, in some cases, require an astronomical amount for co-payments and deductibles before they will cover services.

Some families have been required to pay $60-$90 a day in co-payments for a total of $1,200-$1,800 a month and $14,400-$21,600 a year, respectively. Lack of funding combined with lack of treatment programs means that fewer than four percent of children with autism are receiving effective treatment in West Virginia. Augusta Levy works to decrease the financial gap for families. That is why every penny that is raised is a crucial piece to the autism puzzle.

“I have great faith in the Ohio Valley community,” said Director of Development Staci Stephen. “Seeing the outpouring of support and love from the community following the devastating fire last year gives me great confidence that the community will utilize their creativity and help us exceed last year’s record of 50 businesses! ‘Light It Up Blue,’ and help give a voice to individuals with autism!”

Every day, millions of Americans living with autism and their families face challenges that many others never know. Augusta Levy Learning Center strives to increase awareness of this ever-growing epidemic and create a better understanding of autism spectrum disorder and all the challenges that coincide. National Autism Awareness month gives the center a special opportunity to educate the public about autism and the issues that surround the autism community.

ASD refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communications. ASD often comes with multiple other conditions such as anxiety, seizures and epilepsy, OCD, gastrointestinal symptoms, sleep problems, motor difficulties and ADHD, just to name a few. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 59 individuals have been identified with ASD. ASD is four times more common among boys than among girls and is growing at a rate of 10-17 percent every year.

If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, talk to your child’s doctor and share your concerns. To learn some of the red flags to watch for, visit the CDC website.



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