Jersey City Marks Start Of Autism Awareness Month

Jersey City is flying a blue autism awareness flag high over city hall. CBS2's Kevin Rincon reports.

Video Transcript

- Today marks the start of Autism Awareness Month.

- And we can tell you it's a chance for those on the spectrum and their families to celebrate their differences. CBS 2's Kevin Rincon has the story.

KEVIN RINCON: Here in Jersey City, a blue autism awareness flag is now flying high over City Hall. For Sherry Singh, founder of the Whole Spectrum Foundation and her family, it's a reminder of their own journey, . Which hasn't been easy. She has a 34-year-old son with autism.

SHERRY SINGH: We saw a big difference in his behavior. Aggressiveness, you know, him becoming very aggressive to his own self, hurting himself more.

KEVIN RINCON: The isolation hurt. And the pandemic forced school closures, parks and pools were locked up, things that often offer some sort of relief.

STEVEN FULOP: Little things like that make a huge impact on these families, and just the resources weren't there.

KEVIN RINCON: In Paterson, a similar flag ceremony marking autism awareness was also held. For Felisa Van Liew, she works to make a difference year-round.

FELISA VAN LIEW: The statistics say one in 45. We say one of a kind. Because they're children. They may be unique and they may have special idiosyncrasies, but they're still children and we need to treat them that way.

KEVIN RINCON: With that in mind, Elizabeth Marcketta, who's got a 13-year-old son with autism. She says it should be less about awareness and more about acceptance.

ELIZABETH MARCKETTA: We're aware of things that are dangerous or scary or harmful. And autism is none of those things. It makes Tommy pretty awesome, actually.

KEVIN RINCON: Her son was only recently diagnosed by the staff at Children's Specialized Hospital.

TOMMY MARCKETTA: There are things to me that make parts of me better, but there are also things that are harder for me, like social skills.

KEVIN RINCON: But he, too, wants people to be accepting. It's the same message from families everywhere.

- Don't look at them differently. Look at them as someone who's special in their own way.

SHERRY SINGH: Just by smiling at someone makes a difference in their life.

KEVIN RINCON: And to give you an idea of just how widespread autism is in the country, the latest CDC reporting found 1 in 54 children are on the spectrum. In New Jersey, though, they had the highest rates. Here, it's one in 32. In Jersey City, Kevin Rincon, CBS 2 News.