MU\'s Faurot Field lights up blue for World Autism Awareness Day

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COLUMBIA - The Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders partnered with Autism Speaks Saturday for a World Autism Awareness Day event.

Many families and children who have visited the Thompson Center attended the event to promote awareness of autism and participate in the activities the Thompson Center planned.

The families were able to run around and toss footballs on the football field, and children could get their faces painted and make crafts. They could even take pictures with MU's mascot, Truman.

A statement from the University of Missouri said MU buildings and locations around Columbia would also be lit with blue lights as part of the Light It Up Blue campaign.

Stephen Kanne, executive director and associate professor of the Thompson Center, said raising awareness starts with getting rid of misconceptions about autism.

"For years, people have misunderstood what it is, why it exists, the disorder itself, what the symptoms are, if there's a cure, if there's not," Kanne said. "So the whole idea of Autism Awareness month is to be able to have the public become much more aware of what autism is, and how it affects the kids, and how it affects the families."

Kanne said many people don't know there's an entire autism spectrum.

"You can have kids who are very verbal and talk, and are very smart, and work and do great in the real world," he said. "You have others that are much more affected and have trouble talking and need a lot more support."

Amy Longenecker came to Faurot Field with her 6-year-old son Carter, who is on the autism spectrum.  

"For us to be able to come out here, and for him to see other kids and to see that he is normal. He's great the way that he is," Longenecker said.

Carter was diagnosed at the Thompson Center with autism almost a year ago.

"It doesn't define who he is. It's just a piece of him," she said.