Autism Awareness Month: Light It Up Blue!

By: Expert Contributor Amber Knowles, Amber Knowles How to Play LLC


Parenting children is the only job that doesn’t come with sick days and vacation time. We all know this, but at Amber Knowles Play we are here to offer you support and advice when it all starts to seem like a little too much.

When your children are not exhibiting those textbook characteristics and behaviors you read about, predicted, and studied for, it can be alarming.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I would like to highlight Autism Spectrum Disorder and do my part to help spread awareness and educate. As an Early Education Therapist and Parent Educator for over a decade, I am equipped to answer questions such as:

“Why is my child suddenly doing this?”

“Is my child different because of...?”

“What made my child become interested in that?”

“How much value is placed on my child’s IQ at any given age?”

“What if my child can’t do certain things other children can do?”

“Does my child need to be evaluated for a disability?”

“Does this behavior mean I am a bad parent?”

“Is this behavior ever going to go away?”

“Why does my child like doing...?”

“I don’t know how to engage my child at this age.”

“Something is different about my child.”

“Is this a good thing or bad thing?”


Indicators of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.

You may have seen the puzzle piece symbol more frequently this month or the popular phrase, “light it up blue.” This is meant to enlighten those who do not know what Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is and spread awareness to those who have not been directly exposed to the characteristics nor had interactions with people who have been diagnosed. I will begin with the general definition of Autism shared from the Autism Speaks website:

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.

 We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.

Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.


Indicators of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.

Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.

As an educator and early intervention therapist I am passionate about providing services for children who have learning difficulties. I have been privileged to engage with and treat several families of children with Autism. I am a liaison specializing in the diagnostic process as well as someone who provides private early intervention services to children presenting signs of neurodevelopmental disorders inclusive of Autism.

Autism is unique it its presentation. Chances are you will never encounter two people exhibiting identical characteristics. This is also why it has been classified as a spectrum disorder. People with the diagnosis can truly fall anywhere on the scale of two opposite points. Those two points are vast in their degrees of separation which can leave specialists, physicians, clinicians, educators, and parents extremely baffled. Although Autism can possess a daunting quality to some, there are many programs, treatment plans, and interventions in place to change the narrative of what it means to have Autism and live with the disorder.

What’s the Process to a Diagnosis?

If you are concerned your child may be demonstrating signs or similarities indicative to what the Autism diagnostic research has presented, you may want to express your concerns to your pediatrician who will probably refer you to a developmental pediatrician.

If your child continues to need further evaluation from there, you will more than likely be referred to a child psychologist or child psychiatrist where multiple factors presented such as: age, school involvement, sibling/family history,  and general day to day functioning will be taken into account. The doctor will most likely provide parent resources and information for you to review. Within those resources you will probably come across early intervention professionals and clinicians who can provide services to your child in home/school in both public and private sectors.

During this time, again inclusive of the highlighted factors listed above, you may be guided while meeting with your psychologist or early intervention clinician to have a formal comprehensive assessment of achievement and cognitive abilities or a nueropsychological assessment battery administered. Then begins the formal diagnostic process and the road to creating the beginning treatment plan conducive to your child’s needs.


So you have this diagnosis in your hands, this label…

this thing that you think classifies your child and “all they will ever be.” You get the gut wrenching feeling that all you hoped for and dreamed of for this tiny human being just flew out the window and shattered all over the ground. You have to somehow wrap your head around this monumental, life-altering moment and push forward. Oh, and you have to continue to be what you signed up for— the parent! The weight of something like this can obviously take its toll and require a level of coping that is truly specific to your individuality; it becomes personal.

I like to leave the parents I encounter feeling encouraged and positive about their new journey, especially those who seemingly become paralyzed or bewildered during this phase. Something I am privy to that began when I was a child and has continued to instinctually carry me through my adulthood is the acknowledgement of any one person’s ability to

change the narrative.

Once you get to a place of healing and have the ability to receive what you need as a parent while walking into this journey, you will recognize you have the power, you get to walk in your truth and determine the direction you want this story to go. It can tear you down and leave you in a place of shock, anger, bitterness, heartbreak, discouragement, fear, frustration, asking why me, and more.

We are all unique in our acquisition, our ability to grow and learn. Just because you received this information about your child does not mean they cannot learn. They are no less than the next child. It just means they learn differently.
— Amber Knowles

The other option is to pick up the pieces and decide you are going to be the best parent you can be despite a few words on paper and verbal exchanges (that should have provided clarity not confusion). It should not be the end all be all of what you aspire your child to be. You can become the opposite of all those heavy feelings listed. Even if it requires time, in time choose that path. We are all unique in our acquisition, our ability to grow and learn. Just because you received this information about your child does not mean they cannot learn. They are no less than the next child. It just means they learn differently.

I hope at the very least you have a new sense of awareness about Autism. And for those who will embark on this journey with a child, that you have a greater ability to move forward in your truth and allow that awareness to change the narrative.

Amber Knowles


Website: Amber Knowles Play

Amber Knowles has over a decade working with families, schools, and early childhood programs to provide customizable therapy services and educational solution tools in order to intensify the overall progression of education across various demographics. As an international leading school-based provider of highly skilled educational and therapeutic clinicians, Amber can help you meet the educational needs of your child and decrease the necessity of long term intervention and costs in delivering excellent educational service. She is currently working towards board certification in a sequence of neurosensory and neuromuscular activities individually prescribed and monitored by the doctor to develop, rehabilitate and enhance visual skills and processing otherwise known as vision therapy.

In her practice she collaborated with school administrators and leaders to schedule services, document, and measure progress and outcomes of children. Through the years she as professionally excelled at modifying methods of instruction to customize educational programs and services that comply with each school district's policies and guidelines while meeting the individualized needs of each child. She believes it is her duty and responsibility to encourage clients to be the best they can be provided appropriate educational tools in all facets of life. In her free time she enjoys traveling, reading, watching movies, and spend time with her family.