Bay County is going "blue" for autism. Its part of a global "Light it up Blue" campaign, bringing awareness to the disease that affects one in 88 children.
The whole month is dedicated to awareness, but there's a more to it. The heart of the cause is to foster an attitude of acceptance, and for those who live with the disorder everyday, acceptance is key in order to achieve their dreams.
Meet George Bass.
At first glance, George is your average college sophomore, struggling through algebra with sights set on the horizon, but a closer look and you might notice George is autistic.
Diagnosed as toddler, this 19 year old has had a long road, but he's put up a fight.
"You don't have to feel like autism will bog you down," said George.
For George, a 3 pronged mantra continues to push him through daily battles; one is passion, another is ambition.
"You just...you can't give up on your dreams. I mean, if you really want to be big in the world and fulfill what you want to do, and just keep on rolling, don't let anything steamroll you out of the way," he said.
The last prong is family.
For his mother, Denise Bass, acceptance of George and his autism is critical as he heads to FSU in Tallahassee this fall.
"We worry what will happen. Will he be able to live in his own apartment? Can he live on campus? How will the students accept him," said Bass.
It's a fear of any parent, but it's escalated for the Bass's, who have worked to get their structured son to prepare for the unexpected.
"My goal for him has always been that he can do exactly what he wants to and he's always set his goals high and he's succeeded at it," said Bass.
It's a success story that perhaps any therapist would want for their client.
Monday, Focus on Behavior's Kari Woznick traded out blue light bulbs for "World Autism Day." She hoped this gesture and this month will do more than simply raise awareness about the disorder.
"It's important to be aware, not just for early detection and early intervention purposes, but it's also really important to foster and attitude of understanding and appreciation for what these unique individuals have to offer," said Woznick.
For George, the budding meteorologist has his sights set on the skies.
"Maybe be the next Jim Cantore, he's kind of an idol to me from The Weather Channel," said George.
World Autism Day is April 2nd.
For more on the "Light it up Blue" campaign visit: http://www.lightitupblue.org/Markslist/home.do
For autism resources in our area visit: http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-guide