There are many things in our world that are described as blue; people, places, things and even a state of being. These various shades of blue manifest themselves in our lives via a multitude of avenues. There are people named Blue, the most famous at the moment would be Blue Ivy (Jay-Z and Beyoncé daughter), a genre of music called “The Blues”, a state of being when you are depressed, and there is even a city in India commonly referred to as the “Blue City” (Jodhpur), due to the vivid blue-painted houses around the Mehrangarh Fort.
Shades of blue are used in our world today for a variety of reasons. Blues are the hues of serenity, peace and security. The last of the three primary colors that create the RGB color base we use for digital design, is used in a variety of design combinations. Blue, because it also creates a sense of calm and friendliness, is the primary color used by popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. With all these things that can be described as blue, and the ways in which the color blue is used, you probably have no idea why I would write about something as vague as “Shades of Blue”.
All my life, blue has been my favorite color. The wallpaper of my childhood bedroom is blue, my first car was blue, the logo for my jewelry line is blue, my birthstone (sapphire) is blue, and I even have a Pinterest board called “Shades of Blue”. Anything and everything that is blue, makes me smile. Blue has always been a source of peace, serenity and tranquility for me. That is until April 8, 2009.
On the 5th of November 2005, for the VERY FIRST TIME, it was love at first sight. She had prematurely arrived a month sooner than expected and barely tipped the scale at 4 lbs 6 ozs. Locks of curly black hair, 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 dark brown eyes, she was a tiny miracle. My sister named her, Storm Asenath Miracle Reeves Partee, a mouth full to say the least, but she was a miracle.
As far back as I could remember, my sister wanted one child, a girl. As children, she and I would talk about our weddings, our dreams and our children. I always wanted a house full but her idea never wavered, one child, a girl. Now there’s a lot to be said for someone who knows how many children they can handle. In an over populated world and children born to parents that cannot afford to mentally, physically, emotionally or financially care for them, you have to admire someone that knows their limits and capabilities when it comes to parenthood. But, I digress. After a few weeks in the hospital, my niece was able to go home. The first year was just as to be expected, she smiled, laughed, reached for things, crawled and walked shortly after her first birth date. But after the first year, we noticed a delay in speech, which we initially assumed could be corrected by speech therapy. I grew concerned when I realized she wasn’t saying yes or no when asked a question. In searching the internet I ran across some information on Autism. After reading the most common or top 10 signs of Autism, I quickly moved the thought out of my head and ignored the information on Autism. Not because I refused to believe it could be possible, but because she didn’t appear to have the main symptoms. She wasn’t withdrawn, she laughed, she liked hugs, kisses and cuddle time with her mother and grandmother. She looked us in the eye and responded to her name. So it just didn’t seem like a possibility.
April 8th, 2009 proved me wrong. After visiting a specialist at Children’s Hospital, my sister gave me the news that my 3 yr old niece had been diagnosed with autism. She gave me some other information but I only heard AUTISM. It seemed to echo in my head like a radio with the volume on to high. I lay on my couch and cried like a baby. I cried for my sister, she had only wanted one child, a girl, and even though God had given her that, He had also given her Autism. I screamed, “God, she didn’t ask for 2, 3 or 4 children, she didn’t ask to be rich, she didn’t ask for too much, just one child”. I can’t speak for my family (an interview with my sister will follow next month where she shares her thoughts and feelings) I can only speak for me, SaRatta. And I was angry!
The first shade of blue I experienced was a sense of sadness, a depression for my sister and for the life I wondered about for my niece. Would she be able to communicate with us? Would she be able to go to school? Would she continue to hug us? Would she withdraw completely? What would life be like for her? Was she happy? How would she experience life? Then my thoughts shifted to my sister. Everyday for a few months I wondered but was afraid to ask. Was my sister angry? Was she going to be ok? Could she manage a life of uncertainties? Was she afraid? Life just didn’t seem fair.
The second shade of blue, came much later in the year. It was a sense of calmness. It was a direct result of many conversations with Him. Understanding and accepting that not all things are given to us because we ask, they are given because it is His purpose for our lives. It is up to us to walk in our purpose and seek His guidance in doing what He wants us to do. I didn’t yet and still don’t understand the why; but I do know that my niece was given to us to help us grow, learn, connect, and love. She has taught me more in her 8 yrs than most people will ever learn with college degrees. Her style of communicating has not only taught me how to communicate with her, but it has taught me how to effectively communicate with people that have a different style of communication than myself. Her laughter has taught me that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, we are all imperfectly beautiful. Her sense of humor and slight mischievous behavior (at times) has shown me that she has defied the odds that the doctors placed on her. Trust me, she knows what she is doing and she understands far more than she’s able to communicate.
The third shade of blue was a sense of peace and acceptance. Knowing that my niece was born into a family that will always love and support her. Knowing that she has a mother that would and will sacrifice everything for her. Knowing that she can walk, talk, see and hear, something so many children cannot do. Knowing she laughs, she is aware of her surroundings, she speaks, answers questions, follows directions and has a love of music that is so beautiful. Knowing that Autism is a work in progress, she is always learning, developing and understanding. Just a little differently than most.
Today, blue has come to me in another shade, Autism Blue. Autism Blue is the color of the main symbol for Autism, the puzzle piece. On a nationwide level, the Puzzle Piece symbol reflects the mystery and complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Also, since every puzzle piece is different in some way, a puzzle piece accurately represents the diversity of the individuals affected.
Every year on Light It Up Blue Day, myself and millions around the globe, wear something blue in support of Autism Awareness. Small business and large corporations use blue lights to light their buildings in support of Autism Awareness. It only takes a a minute to put on a blue watch, tie, necklace, bracelet, t-shirt, eye shadow or nail polish to show your support.
If you would like to know more about Autism. Please read below for a few excerpts I copied from the websites identified below.
Thanks for your support and love. – SaRatta Speaks
The following was taken directly from: HelpGuide.ORG
Signs and symptoms of autism in babies and toddlers
If autism is caught in infancy, treatment can take full advantage of the young brain’s remarkable plasticity. Although autism is hard to diagnose before 24 months, symptoms often surface between 12 and 18 months. If signs are detected by 18 months of age, intensive treatment may help to rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms. The earliest signs of autism involve the absence of normal behaviors—not the presence of abnormal ones—so they can be tough to spot. In some cases, the earliest symptoms of autism are even misinterpreted as signs of a “good baby,” since the infant may seem quiet, independent, and undemanding. However, you can catch warning signs early if you know what to look for. Some autistic infants don’t respond to cuddling, reach out to be picked up, or look at their mothers when being fed.
Early signs of autism in babies and toddlers
- Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed).
- Doesn’t smile when smiled at.
- Doesn’t respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
- Doesn’t follow objects visually.
- Doesn’t point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate.
- Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out.
- Doesn’t make noises to get your attention.
- Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling.
- Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions.
- Doesn’t reach out to be picked up.
- Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.
- Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.
The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your child’s pediatrician.
- By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.
- By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
- By 12 months: Lack of response to name.
- By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk.”
- By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving.
- By 16 months: No spoken words.
- By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating.
As children get older, the red flags for autism become more diverse. There are many warning signs and symptoms, but they typically revolve around impaired social skills, speech and language difficulties, non-verbal communication difficulties, and inflexible behavior.
Signs and symptoms of social difficulties in autism
Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to live in their own world, aloof and detached from others.
- Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them.
- Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends.
- Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled.
- Doesn’t play “pretend” games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways.
- Has trouble understanding or talking about feelings.
- Doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to him or her.
- Doesn’t share interests or achievements with others (drawings, toys).
Signs and symptoms of speech and language difficulties in autism
Children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with speech and language. Often, they start talking late.
- Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch (e.g. ends every sentence as if asking a question).
- Repeats the same words or phrases over and over.
- Responds to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it.
- Refers to themselves in the third person.
- Uses language incorrectly (grammatical errors, wrong words).
- Has difficulty communicating needs or desires.
- Doesn’t understand simple directions, statements, or questions.
- Takes what is said too literally (misses undertones of humor, irony, and sarcasm).
Signs and symptoms of nonverbal communication difficulties in autism
Children with autism spectrum disorders have trouble picking up on subtle nonverbal cues and using body language. This makes the “give-and-take” of social interaction very difficult.
- Avoids eye contact.
- Uses facial expressions that don’t match what he or she is saying.
- Doesn’t pick up on other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures.
- Makes very few gestures (such as pointing). May come across as cold or “robot-like.”
- Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds. May be especially sensitive to loud noises.
- Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving (e.g. walking exclusively on tiptoe).
Signs and symptoms of inflexibility in autism
Children with autism spectrum disorders are often restricted, inflexible, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests.
- Follows a rigid routine (e.g. insists on taking a specific route to school).
- Has difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or environment (e.g. throws a tantrum if the furniture is rearranged or bedtime is at a different time than usual).
- Unusual attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys, light switches, or rubber bands.
- Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain order.
- Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, often involving numbers or symbols (e.g. memorizing and reciting facts about maps, train schedules, or sports statistics).
- Spends long periods of time arranging toys in specific ways, watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part of an object such as the wheels of a toy car.
- Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking, or twirling (known as self-stimulatory behavior, or “stimming”). Some researchers and clinicians believe that these behaviors may soothe children with autism more than stimulate them.
Common self-stimulatory behaviors:
LATEST UPDATE: March 27, 2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 eight-year-olds) in multiple communities in the United States has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This new estimate is roughly 30 percent higher than previous estimates reported in 2012 of 1 in 88 children (11.3 per 1,000 eight year olds) being identified with an autism spectrum disorder.
Just a simple Google search of Autism or Autism Awareness will yield countless other sources of information. Education is the key to empowering others about something that is affecting our children in record numbers. It’s Time To Listen.