As Michigan lawmakers get set to enact legislation improving health care coverage for people suffering from autism, state landmarks will change color for the cause Monday night.
On World Autism Awareness Day, Detroit's Renaissance Center, Fisher Building, Wayne State University, Madonna University and DTE Energy building will join a score of state and international landmarks "lighting it blue" to raise awareness for the disease.
Ben Duff, president of Corner Pieces, a group that provides technology resources to autistic children, dreamed up the idea to light the Mackinac Bridge blue.
"The one thing everyone knows in Michigan is the Mackinac Bridge," Duff explained.
The bridge will be lit at 9:15 p.m. and can be seen at the St. Ignace Country Club starting at 8 p.m. or on the live video feed, embedded above. Michigan's Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, whose daughter has autism, will speak at the ceremony. The project is funded entirely through donations.
Detroit will also be sprinkled with blue, from the Renaissance Center buildings to Madonna University, where marketing students worked with Corner Pieces to organize the Light It Blue Michigan campaign.
While companies, organizations and individuals came out of the woodwork to support Light It Blue, greater autism awareness is still necessary in the state. With 15,000 children diagnosed statewide, Michigan has the fourth-largest autistic population. But last year, it ranked as one of the worst places to live as a person with autism or parent of an autistic child in a survey released by the advocacy group Autism Speaks.
Duff, whose son is autistic, said the state is on its way to improving: Legislation passed in the House and Senate last week will require insurance companies to pay for Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis and treatment, up to $50,000 year for children under 7, $40,000 up to 13 and $30,000 up to 18. Though similar bills failed to pass in 2010, they passed this year with broad bi-partisan support, according to Michigan Radio.
The legislation is expected to go into effect in October and will make Michigan the 30th state to mandate ASD coverage. Duff said he hopes it will make it easier to get treatment for his son and other families. "For me it's going to be a really good thing," Duff said. "Just last year we had $10,000 in medical bills alone for my son."
"If he had lost his speech because of a car accident, or was born with Down's Snydrome, these things would have all been covered," he added.
One in 88 U.S. children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, released in March.
Below, see HuffPost Impact's five ways you can make a difference this World Autism Awareness Day:
To shed light on the growing concern of autism, advocates around the world are turning on blue lights everywhere -- from structures as iconic as the Empire State Building to porch lights at home. Take the pledge to replace at least one light in your life Monday to show your commitment to funding research and finding a cure for autism.
To help find a cure for autism, consider donating to the organizations that are blazing the trail. The nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, Autism Speaks funds research investigating the causes and prevention of autism and a potential cure. The only nonprofit of its kind, the Organization for Autism Research uses applied science to answer the pressing questions that parents, families, people with autism, teachers and caregivers face on a daily basis.
Write a letter to a friend about your commitment to finding a cure and seal it with one of eight colorful autism awareness stamps. Artists around the world submitted their designs to the United Nations Postal Administration for consideration and the top picks can be purchased here.
While nonprofits are working hard to raise awareness, some families affected by autism want the government to play a bigger role in advocating for children with the developmental disorder. To encourage the Centers of Disease Control and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to launch a campaign that would help prevent delays in diagnosing autism and create a society that's more tolerant of the disorder, sign the Change.org petition.
To get fans to focus on a cause dear to her heart, Kate Winslet gathered a bunch of gorgeous stars -- including the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney -- to don fedoras for her book of portraits, "The Golden Hat: Taking Back Autism." Proceeds from book sales benefit the Golden Hat Foundation, which offers people with autism the opportunity to learn to communicate effectively, get job-training skills and revel in recreational activities.