Local student lights town blue for Autism Awareness Day

CDC: 1 in 68 American children are on autism spectrum

The organization Autism Speaks reports Autism Spectrum Disorder is a general “term for a group of complex disorders of brain development.”

Saturday was World Autism Awareness Day, and one local teen and his family made sure their community began to understand what ASD is all about.

West Salem High School seniors are required to do a senior exit project in order to graduate. Gunner Skroch, who is on the autism spectrum, is using his project to shed a bit more light on a topic that is somewhat unfamiliar to most.

Drivers through West Salem may have noticed some new lights along the side of the road this weekend. That’s because Gunner and his family are lighting the town blue for Autism Awareness Day.

“Just kind of get people asking questions like, ‘What is autism? What else can I do to help?'” Gunner’s mom, Pam, said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 1 in 68 American children are on the autism spectrum. For his senior project, Gunner raised about $1,000 to purchase more than 200 blue lights to set out along Commerce Drive in West Salem.

“If we can just get people interested and asking questions maybe it could lead to other things like people donating to help research,” Pam said.

His mother said Gunner doesn’t have great verbal skills, but other than that, he is just like every other kid his age.

“Maybe he’s never going to go to college and be a surgeon, but he’s ours,” she said.

Though he may struggle with communicating sometimes, the lights are Gunner’s way of getting others to talk about autism.

“Well, anytime you can bring awareness to people — because autism, there is still so much unknown about it,” Pam said.

The whole village of West Salem is behind Gunner and his family. Besides just the blue lights, several businesses throughout West Salem turned their lights blue, and most of the car dealerships in town have moved all of their blue vehicles to the front of their lots.