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Around the county, homes, businesses and landmarks are being illuminated in blue for the month to bring awareness to autism.

For the entire month, Drum Point Lighthouse in Solomons, many homes around the county, and several businesses have been lit blue for Autism Speaks’ “Light It Up Blue” campaign.

The campaign is an initiative for Autism Awareness Month and World Autism Day, which was held April 2. Autism Speaks is an autism science and advocacy group “dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and families,” according the organization’s website.

“Light It Up Blue,” an initiative of the organization, is an opportunity for buildings, landmarks, schools, restaurants, homes and retail locations to change their lights to blue to bring awareness to autism. According to a “Light It Up Blue” fact sheet, on World Autism Awareness Day 2012, “more than 3,000 iconic buildings and landmarks on over 50 countries on six continents turned their lights blue.”

Christine Finamore, a mother of a 7-year-old boy with autism who led the initiative to get a proclamation from the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners declaring April as Autism Awareness Month in Calvert County, said the initiative gets people talking about autism because people start asking questions when they see something lit up blue.

“Folks just don’t know about autism,” said Finamore, who volunteers with Autism Speaks’ National Capital Area Chapter.

According to Autism Speaks, autism is a “complex” brain disorder, often inhibiting a person’s ability to communicate, respond to surroundings and form relationships with others. Autism spectrum disorder and autism are general terms for “a group of complex disorders of brain development,” according to Autism Speaks, that are characterized in varying degrees of difficulty in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S., affecting more than 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys, according to Autism Speaks. ASD includes autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified and Asperger syndrome.

“We’re lucky to live in a great county” that provides “so many” services for individuals with autism and their families, Finamore said, citing Calvert County Public Schools, the Autism Project, the Autism-Asperger Association of Calvert County Inc., Calvert County Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee and Autism Speaks of the National Capital Area, among many others.

Finamore said she knows at least 10 to 15 families who have changed their outside lights to blue, and every time she gets on Facebook, “someone else has got blue lights on their house.”

“It’s pretty cool,” she said, adding that she was surprised when she heard Drum Point Lighthouse at the Calvert Marine Museum is being lit blue for the entire month.

“I have the county administrator’s office, the commissioners and Calvert Marine Museum to thank” for illuminating the lighthouse blue, Finamore said.

Finamore said Sneade’s ACE Home Center locations in the county are selling blue light bulbs in honor of “Light It Up Blue” and donating 50 percent of the sales proceeds to Autism Speaks. She said the business also changed its landscaping lights to blue for the month.

During the BOCC meeting March 26, when the proclamation was presented, Finamore said there are more than 186 students in CCPS diagnosed with autism and receiving special education as well as many others who are diagnosed and in the general education population.

This year, Finamore said Kathleen Porecki, chairwoman of the county’s SECAC, was able to bring the “Wear It Blue” initiative to Calvert Elementary School. Later this month, Finamore said she’s hoping St. Leonard Elementary will participate.

Finamore said she hopes all the schools and several businesses will participate in “Wear It Blue” next year and more businesses and landmarks will change their lights to blue.