Hunter Rhodes, 13, and his mother, Melissa Rhodes, show their blue spirit. Melissa Rhodes asks the community to “Light It Up Blue” for World Autism Awareness Day on Wednesday.

For Muskogee resident Melissa Rhodes, Autism Awareness Day is every day.

“This is something that is a great passion of mine,” Rhodes said.

According to a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder.

That is a 30 percent increase from the one-in-88 statistic released two years ago.

The Oklahoma Autism Network says autism spectrum disorders are a group of related brain-based disorders that usually appear before the age of 3. Although individuals with ASDs can exhibit a wide range of functional abilities, they share three areas of difficulty: social interaction, communication, and behavior.

Rhodes’ son, Hunter Rhodes, 13, has a form of Rett Syndrome, one of the many autism disorders.

“Autism plays a big role in Hunter’s life,” she said.

The CDC report also reveals autism disorders are almost five times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).

With the increase of occurrence and without a known cause, the importance of awareness is something that Rhodes said is a necessity.

“Like anything else I feel like there needs to be awareness for the community,” she said.

On Dec. 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 62/139. It declares April 2 to be World Autism Awareness Day, one of the few official health-specific United Nations Days.

Muskogee is one of the many cities in Oklahoma that has an autism support group. The Autism Muskogee group meets on the third Tuesday of each month.

Christi Kellogg, group facilitator of Autism Muskogee, said she is attempting to get the word out about World Autism Awareness Day.

“My plan is to send out an email. We have a Facebook. Most of the special ed teachers know about it,” Kellogg said.

According to, autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States.

“We need to find a cure,” Kellogg said.

April is Autism Awareness Month. On Wednesday, the public is invited to shine a light on autism by participating in Light It Up Blue. The celebration reaches all over the world. Last year, buildings and public structures including the Empire State Building in New York City, St. Sava Temple in Belgrade, Serbia, and the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, lit up the night with a blue glow.

People who wish to participate are encouraged to wear blue or put blue light bulbs in their porch lights.

“It’s all about the blue,” Rhodes said.

Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or

Learn more

If you would like to learn more about autism spectrum disorders, go to the website for the Oklahoma Autism Network at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center: www.okautism.

org  or call (877) 228-8476.

If you go

WHAT: Autism Muskogee, support group.

WHEN: 7 to 8 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month.

WHERE: First Church of the Nazarene, 2700 E. Peak Blvd.

INFORMATION: Christi Kellogg, christi@

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