RSI shines blue light on autism in April

Rehab Services Inc. is lighting it up blue along Broadway for the next couple of weeks.

The blue lights shining from a window are in support of Autism Speaks’ global, annual Light It Up Blue campaign to observe World Autism Awareness Month. RSI, a non-profit that provides support services to people with disabilities and autism in the Minot area and state, lit its lights on World Autism Awareness Day on Wednesday and will have them lit each evening for two weeks. RSI is located at the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue Southwest.

Terry Peterson, director of development at RSI, said the organization used regular blue bulbs in participating in the observance last year, but this year is trying back-lit, transparent film over the window in hope of getting more visible blue lights.

It is one small effort in an observance that involves 8,400 structures, buildings and landmarks being lit up in 1,300 cities on seven continents as part of the project. The sites include the Empire State Building in New York City, Aspen Mountain in Colorado, Niagara Falls in Canada, the Sydney Opera House in Australia and the International Space Station.

Peterson said the hope is the blue lights in Minot will raise awareness and lead families to seek out the resources they need. The purpose also is to encourage people to give to support resources for people with autism and their families.

RSI’s main programs for people with disabilities that include people with autism are its employment program and group home for children. RSI has offered employment assistance since 1988.

“That helps people with disabilities find and maintain and be successful at community employment,” Peterson said.

RSI built a duplex that provides a home environment where children with disabilities can receive services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It houses up to six children.

Throughout the month of April, Minot residents can show their support and get involved by:

– changing white bulbs to blue in their homes, businesses, schools, places of worship or making websites blue.

– hosting a “blue event,” such as a blue-themed bake sale or gala to raise money for autism programs.

– donating at (www.autismspeaks.org/LIUB) or text AUTISM to 25383 to give $10.

– brighten the day of people with autism or their families with small acts of kindness, and then inspire others by sharing the actions on the World Autism Awareness Day Facebook page.

Autism spectrum disorder covers a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors, according to Autism Speaks. The disorder can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with the disorder excel in visual skills, music, math or art.

Autism affects more than 2 million Americans. Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify about one in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness.

The Minot Center for Disabilities, Minot Infant Development Program and private therapies serve people with autism and their families in the Minot area. For information on available resources, go to (www.ndcpd.org/sand).