Today is the 11th Annual World Autism Awareness Day, which brings Autism in its many forms to the public eye, and focuses on awareness and acceptance of this developmental delay. According to the CDC, 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

My daughter was diagnosed with ASD when she was in grade school, although there were signs when she was even younger. I have to admit that what I knew about Autism came almost exclusively from the movie "Rain Man." Dustin Hoffman did a great job portraying a man who had classical autism with savant capabilities. Since the diagnosis, it has been a challenge to meet her needs, as well as preparing her for the world outside of school.

Our family got involved with Special Olympics, and since then I have met so many different people with ASD, and the line that keeps going around in that circle is ever so true; "When you have met one child with Autism, you have met one child with Autism." No two cases are alike, just like no two neuro-typical people are alike. There are similarities, there has to be in order to make a diagnosis, however, each person is an individual with individual challenges and successes.

I am celebrating World Autism Awareness Day because ASD affects my family directly, and it also affects our community. Life has been a challenge, no lie there, but, my daughter is doing great. She has graduated from High School, has a job, and is even dating a nice young man. Without the ASD diagnosis for my daughter, I would not have been introduced to the friends I have now, and I would not have the empathy that I was sorely lacking in my early 20's. A diagnosis is a huge change for everyone I have met, but, it doesn't mean it's a negative change. It will change your whole life, and in our case, it changed it for the better.

#Light It Up Blue with me and my family today. Wear your blue and remember that April is Autism Awareness Month.

Melissa Hall/TSM