Memorial Hall sees blue for autism



By  Grant Willoughby | @KyKernel

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UK hosted the first documented Light It Up Blue autism awareness event in the state of Kentucky on Monday as part of World Autism Awareness day.

The event, which saw Memorial Hall illuminated by blue lights, was sponsored by the Student Council for Exceptional Children, and drew more than 100 people.

Among those speaking at the event were Brandy Denton, the Student Council for Exceptional Children co-president, and Dr. Amy Spriggs, the co-sponsor. Topics touched upon include the definition of autism and the spread of autism acceptance.

“What we hope to do through this event is have people better educate themselves about autism,” said Denton, a special education junior. “We want to promote autism acceptance as well as autism awareness.”

“Autism awareness is a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart,” said Shealynn Hall, a linguistics junior and Student Council for Exceptional Children member.

“I have a sister who has Asperger syndrome (a form of autism that affects social development, while preserving cognitive development) and a brother who has autism, and this is something I’m very excited to be a part of.”

Hall added that the goal of the event was to spread autism acceptance, which she defined as a better integration of people with autism spectrum disorders into overall society.

In addition to the lights illuminating Memorial Hall, attendees were given blue glow sticks to add to the effect.

Attendees also wore puzzle-piece badges, which have become a symbol of autism awareness.

“The initial plan was to sell blue light bulbs, and the students took it and ran with it,” Spriggs said. “The fact that no one in Kentucky had done this was shocking.”

“Our faculty adviser told us about Light It Up Blue, so we got a committee together and planned this. We’re really proud,” Denton said.

According to Spriggs, autism and autism spectrum disorders affect about one in every 50 individuals.

UK is also offering a graduate certificate in autism studies beginning next semester.

“It’s really encouraging to see so many people turn out for this,” Hall said.