CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- You may have noticed a bit more blue Monday. That's because April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day.
"It's really what this day is about, awareness and acceptance," says Major Dan Johnson, with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office.
The office joins the hundreds of thousands of events that Light It Up Blue kicked off for Autism Awareness Month.
"Just seeing the blue lights and seeing the support of the local community is huge for the autism community", says Lauren Kidder, director of field development with the Carolina Autism Speaks Chapter.
It's a way to shed light and understanding on the disorder affecting 70 million people around the world and nearby.
Major Johnson helped organize the event. He's a 20-year veteran of the force and works with the local Autism Speaks chapter.
"Most importantly - I'm a dad of someone who's diagnosed on the spectrum," Johnson says.
His son, Tyler, is now a 10th grader at Union County High School. Johnson says it hasn't always been easy.
"From birth we just knew something was different. I can't explain how it feels, the word diagnosis is cold it's clinical, it's scary and as a parent its not easy to understand," Johnson says.
With help from other families and Autism Speaks, he says he and his wife began to look beyond the diagnosis. It has allowed his family to grow and a live in a way he never expected.
"It's really allowed us to grow up with him to understand him to see the world through his eyes, which is an incredible incredible gift to us," Johnson says.
This was the ninth annual Light It Up Blue event for the sheriff's office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate - 1 in 68 children in the U.S. are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.