Empire State Building Blue for National Autism Awareness Month

April 2, 2012 Updated: April 2, 2012

NEW YORK—The Empire State Building lit up blue on Monday in celebration of World Autism Awareness Day, kicking off Autism Awareness Month. Autism Speaks co-founders Susanne and Bob Wright flipped the switch with designer Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee Hilfiger.

The event was part of the third annual Light It Up Blue campaign hosted by Autism Speaks, a science and advocacy organization for autism. On Monday, more than 3,000 buildings around the world were lit in blue light to raise awareness for autism. The Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum also participated.

Autism advocacy groups also held a press conference at Hilton Manhattan East Hotel to push for official recognition of autism as a national public health emergency. They criticized federal health officials’ lack of response to the issue.

Autism currently affects 1 in 88 individuals and, 1 in 54 boys in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Education statistics showed a 28 percent increase in autistic students between the age of 3 and 21 from 2009 to 2011, according to news website DNA Info.