Second Annual Light It Up Blue for Autism

 By Lisa Patrick

The Ashland Beacon

   Blue took over Central Park Saturday, as children participated in several activities for the second annual Light It Up Blue event.

   The event, which is held to shine a spotlight on Autism, was hosted by the Ashland Foundation for Children with Disabilities (AFCD) formerly known as Buddy’s Sensory Exchange.

Light It Up Blue is held during the month of April to celebrate Autism Awareness Month. The event was free for all local families that have children with disabilities and/or more typical children. The party was meant as an all-inclusive event where all children can come and have a good time playing together.

   There were three different inflatables set up for children of varying ages and abilities. All of the children were welcomed at each of the tables, where different community organizations had set up activities for them. There was also free pizza, chips, snack cakes, cookies, and water bottles on the stage while supplies lasted. A DJ played music and many children were happy to hop up on the stage to show off their dance moves and of course, their “flossing” techniques. Children also got to compete in the annual “Bunny Hop” race.

   Kristin Matthews from Dragonfly Outdoor Adventures had a group of mats set up to teach Kids Yoga. The children had a great time learning yoga moves and were very impressed by the fact that they got a prize after completing five moves that were displayed on colorful cards.

   Old Orchard Christian Church showed up with “moon sand.” That is a mixture of flour and canola oil that can be molded into shapes like regular sand, but is easier to clean up. Children dug in with the measuring cups and molding cups that were provided, but mostly with their bare hands. The church also brought containers of farm animals buried in dirt with sponges and water called a “farm animal wash” and a big bucket of water beads for the kids to play in.

   The I Believe Foundation was there with a “pin the horn on the unicorn game.” They gave away prizes like coloring books and crayons and bouncy balls. They also had a picture board that flipped two ways. A child could put their face inside and be Superman or flip the board around to be Supergirl. They wanted to give every child the opportunity to see themselves as a superhero.

   Boyd County Tourism handed out bags with coloring books, bubbles, guitar keychains, and candy. Autism Services Center’s Applied Behavior Analysis Clinic passed out balloons with little monsters as weights. The Ashland Police Department was present with the Autism Awareness police car. The Ashland Fire Department gave kids a tour of their firetruck and passed out hats.

   The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities set up a table where the youngsters could make their own sensory bottles and picture frames. They could pick the color of their sensory bottle and then add in glitter, sequins, or pom poms to look at when they shake it up. The volunteers working the table made sure that the lids were tightly glued on when the children were ready to walk off with them. They had an assortment of foam stickers to personalize picture frames, as well.

   The big hit of the day, other than the moon sand, was the actual sand that was found at Grace Culture’s table. Children could dig around for animals and other small items in the sand that was held in two small plastic pools. They could then hide them again. Five-year-old Logan Carver, who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, jumped right into the pool and immersed himself into the sand as much as he could. Like many children with ASD, Logan loves sensory play and the sand was a great play area for him. Grace Culture also brought a large tub of uncooked pinto beans with “bugs” in them that the youth could dig out.

   The weather caused the event to be shut down an hour earlier than had been originally scheduled, but everyone seemed to have a great time. The AFCD is ready to bring it back on an even bigger scale next year. They have already started the planning process for the next event. There will also be a Push for Inclusion 5K on June 5.