By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You might have noticed people wearing blue Monday in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day.

It’s meant to promote greater understanding and acceptance of the developmental disorder.

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“There are so many kids out there who have autism or who might have autism and are not diagnosed, and we know that early intervention is key to promoting success for these kids,” said Rachel Gardner, the director of the Fraser Autism Center of Excellence.

She says parents from around the country move to Minnesota because of Fraser’s services.

“[Minnesotans] have a lot of different options, as far as providers for services for autism,” she said. “We also have great school districts, we have advocacy agencies, we have agencies that just provide information to families, parents groups.”

Gardner says parents appreciate local school districts that don’t separate children with autism from their peers.

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“It’s really important for our kids to be around other typical kids so that they can learn from them and play with them,” Gardner said. “Our kids with autism have so many strengths and many strenghts to share with others.”

Parents are also relieved that Minnesota police officers are proactive when dealing with children with autism.

And it’s just not the children who have access to resources.

“I think we are definitely a leader in looking at what comes next,” Gardner said. “There are so many kids that are growing up and they need services too.”

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This year, Gardner says her focus is on supporting women and girls with autism.

Reg Chapman