A child is born, a beautiful baby boy. As with most brand-new babies, he's the center of his family's attention. He's showered with the love of parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters.

They dream the usual dreams inspired by the promise and potential of a new life: What will he grow to become? A schoolteacher? A scientist? President of the United States?

Who's to say? No dreams seem too grand for a child just starting the journey down life's pathway.

But as the child grows, it soon becomes apparent that something is wrong. The beaming smiles of his parents go unreturned. Birthdays come and birthdays go, and never a word is uttered by the child. He doesn't play with other children and seems isolated unto his own lonely little world.

Light it up blue

Then one day his parents learn the reason for their child's behavior when he's diagnosed with autism. It's devastating news. To them, it seems as though the promise of the future has been snatched away in an instant.

Their love for their child is undiminished. But they fear for his future, and for his happiness. And they know that life will now be more difficult for everyone in the family.

But you can help them.

April is National Autism Awareness Month

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States. It affects 1 in 88 children. A family with an autistic child will incur an extra $60,000 per year in expenses, on average. The lifetime per-person costs associated with autism are $3.2 million.

And there's no cure for the disease.

But on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day will be celebrated with fundraising and autism awareness events. The fundraising and awareness drives will continue throughout the month since April is designated as National Autism Awareness Month.

How You Can Help

Of course, you can donate funds at any time to help families cope with this dread disease. But there's something else you can do to help spread awareness: you can Light It Up Blue.

The Autism Speaks foundation encourages everyone to light up homes and businesses with blue lights in April to show support and raise awareness. Many of the world's most iconic buildings and landmarks will be decked out in brilliant blue lights, and you can do the same. Then you can take photos showing how you helped Light It Up Blue, and upload them to the Autism Speaks website.

We're going to do our part at Christmas Designers. Effective immediately and throughout the month of April, we're offering a sale on all blue lights. And 10% of all proceeds from sales of blue lights will be donated to Autism Speaks.

So be ready on April 2 to Light It Up Blue. Let's have a very blue month!

Where There's Help, There's Hope

Autism is a terrible disease that impacts millions of lives every year. But as long as people are willing to help, there's hope. And as the poem below so eloquently expresses, Light It Up Blue is a great opportunity for you and me to show that there is indeed help, and therefore hope, for all of the people impacted by this dread disease.

Light It Up Blue

Light it up blue, it's so easy to do

Doesn't take very long, shows how love can be strong

For the kids who we know, need support as they grow

And for families too, who are counting on you

So come lend us a hand, throughout this wondrous' land

We can all play a part when we give from the heart

Take a moment today, for the 1 in 88

Who each day of their lives, show such courage and pride

And when this day is through, don't just take off the blue

Keep this light glowing bright, and continue the fight

For it won't end today when the blue lights all fade

It's a journey for life, filled with joy and with strife

But today you can show, with this small little glow

That we're never alone, in this land we call home

It's a light within you when we Light It Up Blue

By Annivar Salgado