All week long the fountains at the Redding Civic Auditorium will glow a blazing blue, lit up to shine a light on autism awareness month.
And Wednesday evening, on World Autism Awareness Day, families dealing with the troubling disorder gathered together by the flowing waters in front of the municipal building.
“I think it's important for the Northstate and for our community to know about what autism is and isn't,” said Jennifer Ortiz, the mother of autistic twins, Dylan and Shane, who paid for the fountain to shine blue. “I think it's important that we concentrate on spreading that awareness.”
Ortiz has gone so far as to start a movement in name of her sons.
She says symptoms range from developmental delays to social and sensory deficiencies and beyond, and because of that autism can be difficult to diagnose.
“Every situation is different for every parent, every child is different. Once you've met one autism child you've met one autism child. There are a lot parents out there that aren't aware their children have signs,” Ortiz said.
Mark Behner, who attended the event with his wife and four children, is one of those parents.
“We didn't realize our son was dealing with autism until the second grade when we really started to see other children maturing and our child left behind,” Behner said.
Mark says the difficulties of raising an autistic child can feel like an isolated struggle. For him, Wednesday night's event was a comfort.
“When you come to a place like this you realize that other people go through the same struggles you go through every day,” he said.
To bring people together, to raise awareness, and to call the community to action, Ortiz hopes to do it all.
“I think we need to be more knowledgeable on what autism is, have more support group for parents, have more events, more therapy available for these kids,” she said.
And until she sees some kind of change, she'll let her voice be heard.
“My boys are my world. I will do anything to speak for them.”
More information about Ortiz’s efforts to raise awareness can be found on her Facebook page.
Autism awareness resources in Redding can be found on the Far Northern Regional Center website.