April is National Autism Awareness month and the City of McAllen is showing its support to help raise awareness of the disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. The City has joined Autism Speaks’ Light it Up Blue Campaign by replacing its outside lighting fixtures at City Hall and the downtown Parking Garage with blue lights in order to shine a bright light on this alarming health crisis affecting our children.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.

“With such staggering figures, it is imperative that the City does its part to bring awareness to autism. We all get so caught up in our day-to-day activities that if we are not personally affected by autism then we may not give much thought to the disorder; however, with so many of our children living with autism, that must change,” stated Mayor Richard F. Cortez.

The city collaborates with the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen by providing baseball leagues for children with autism and other disabilities, as well as partners with the McAllen Youth Soccer Association by providing soccer leagues for the children. Mike Sanchez, a McAllen father of autistic ten and eleven-year old boys, stated, “We are grateful to the City for providing recreational activities for children with disabilities. These types of programs help our children develop socially, mentally, and physically, not to mention providing a sense of normalcy for parents and children alike.”

When asked what he wanted citizens to take away from National Autism Awareness Month, Sanchez added two points, “The more that communities take notice, the more the U.S. will take note of allocating funding toward research and finding a cure for the disability. Also, awareness is key to educating the public that our children look normal, but when we’re out in public, they must understand that any fits of temper are not because they are spoiled or that they’re misbehaving and they just need a spanking. The children are aware of their surroundings and extremely smart, but we’re dealing with a developmental disability that requires patience, understanding, and support.”

According to Autism Speaks, autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. and more children will be diagnosed with the disorder this year than with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined. Yet, it receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases. More information on autism can be found at www.autismspeaks.org.