Student organization wants to light the Tower blue for autism awareness

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A student signs a petition Wednesday afternoon in support of the Longhorn Autism Alliance’s goal to light the Tower blue for Autism Awareness Month in April 2016.
Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

A student group is attempting to turn the Tower blue, instead of its typical burnt orange, for autism awareness. 

Longhorn Autism Alliance is calling for the University to light the Tower blue on April 2, 2016, for World Autism Awareness Day, according to Alec De Jong, biology junior and volunteer chair for
the alliance.

“Families of those affected with autism live this every day and [Autism Speaks] are asking that as many people as possible recognize that for World Autism Day,” Jong said.

Special education studies sophomore Lindsey Robertson said she is glad to see awareness being raised about autism.

“This is an awareness for all students,” Robertson said. “Autism affects so many lives, and in many ways, people do not know about it. This is a different and unique way to raise awareness.”

Autism Speaks, a national autism advocacy organization, started the movement Light it Up Blue, which lights up landmarks blue around the world to raise autism awareness. Some of these places include the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls in Canada and the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.  

Jong said the group knew the idea of lighting the Tower a color other than burnt orange was possible after it was lit blue during a graduation ceremony in 2013. 

Jong said one of his favorite things about the alliance’s outreach is clearing up some misconceptions, most recently with the measles outbreak sparking a national conversation about vaccines. 

“The reason for measles outbreak is there is a lot of hate for anti-vaccinations people, and [others] immediately assume the Autism community is anti-vaccination,” Jong said. “Autism Speaks used to be anti-vaccination, but they fully approve them and try to educate people about it.”

 As the group gathered at West Mall on Wednesday to garner support for their cause, it organized singers from UT choir groups to perform. Theatre studies freshman Anna Lehnhoff said she appreciates helping with the petition because she has a brother who was diagnosed with autism.

“I am honored to be a part of this and asked to sing,” Lehnhoff said. “I enjoy singing, but it makes me feel like I am able to help my brother’s cause. Hopefully, one day the Tower will be lit, and I can send a picture of it to my brother.”