Melisa Nellesen Center to turn blue for World Autism Awareness Day


Blue light will cover the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism at Utah Valley University the evening of April 2 to show support for World Autism Awareness Day.

Starting at 4 p.m., the center will display the color associated with autism in many areas of the world. It joins such iconic locations as Niagara Falls and the Eiffel Tower in demonstrating support.

Jane Carlson, director of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism, said the awareness campaign is important, and she issued a challenge.

"World Autism Awareness Day is a wonderful thing to celebrate," she said. "As we work to continue to spread awareness we also need to think beyond awareness to acceptance and belonging. As members of our community, we all live and work and go to school side by side but it's our differences and similarities that make us a community."

The center’s associate director, Laurie Bowen, said the day represents a valuable time to assess and reassess: “World Autism Awareness Day helps us recognize that the only boundaries we have are the ones we create, and those can change as we learn more and expand our understanding to better support those all around us.”

During the coming week, the center will present a “Global Autism Perspective Symposium” from 9 a.m. to noon on April 10. There will also be a parent safety night from 7-9 p.m. on April 11, and an autism conference from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 12.

On April 20, from 10-11:45 a.m., an uplifting celebration for autism will include a balloon launch and there will be an autism-friendly baseball game beginning at noon.

The Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism is where the university and the community come together for education and support related to autism spectrum disorder. One in 54 children in Utah is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

UVU’s center opened in May 2017. It includes therapy rooms for counseling, social skills groups, and family support. There are also sensory rooms, two playgrounds, and a sensory garden that enhances children’s motor skills and their ability to engage in science exploration.