Little ones of Project Help raise autism awareness...

Little ones of Project Help raise autism awareness with friends (+VIDEO)

The children, staff and volunteers of MTSU’s Project Help worked this week to make the community more aware of autism with a special, and colorful, celebration called “Light It Up Blue.”

MTSU Project Help student Evan concentrates on writing his name in blue chalk for the “Light It Up Blue” celebration for autism awareness Wednesday at the North Baird Lane center. (photos courtesy of Project Help)

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and groups across America have been sharing information about the developmental disability since the 1970s. “Light It Up Blue” began in 2010 to help kick off the monthlong program and to observe World Autism Awareness Day, which is April 2.

Project Help is Rutherford County’s only community- and center-based program serving very young children, including those with special needs.

During their April 2 celebration, Project Help’s North Baird Lane and Fairview Center locations welcomed dozens of community friends, parents and several MTSU Blue Raider football players to participate in activities that included bright blue chalk and drawings in the parking lots and painting hallways blue.

Along with its status as MTSU’s signature shade, blue is associated with the advocacy organization Autism Speaks, which launched “Light It Up Blue.”

“Every year our staff, ‘Big Friend’ students and families come up with new ways to share important information with folks on campus and in the community,” Project Help Director Susan Waldrop said. “The ‘Light It Up Blue’ experience was one of their best efforts.

“The blue paint and crayon artwork from the kids was lovely and amazing. Seeing the football players and university employees exhibiting their creativity in blue chalk on our driveway was both fun and surprising!

“Our football friends designed some really cool messages referencing their autism awareness, and (Associate Athletic Director) Diane Turnham’s ‘Go Blue Raiders’ contribution was exceptionally well done in an appropriate early learning manuscript! We’re grateful to all who participated.”

Project Help student Grace adds her artistic touch to her fellow Project Help students’ artwork on the walls of the North Baird Lane center Wednesday to celebrate “Light It Up Blue” day and autism awareness.

Founded in 1983 by the late Dr. Ann Campbell, an MTSU special education professor, Project Help’s comprehensive early learning center provides inclusive classes for children ages 3 months to kindergarten, where little ones with developmental delays play and learn with those who are developing typically.

Project HELP logo“Project Help Prep” helps 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds get ready for public school.

Project Help also provides home-based services for families of children from birth to age 3 who have developmental delays.

It’s affiliated with the Tennessee Early Intervention System and provides hands-on learning experiences for MTSU and Motlow State Community College’s Nursing Program students who work with the children and staff.

Project Help will formally be renamed “The Ann Campbell Early Learning Center at Middle Tennessee State University” later this month.

For more details about Project Help and its services, visit Check out the link there to its Facebook page for more great photos.