Law signed, events held as Utahns mark World Autism Awareness Day

Posted at 9:51 PM, Apr 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-02 23:51:57-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- World Autism Awareness Day seems to be taking on greater significance in Utah

It could be because Utah continues to have one of the highest rates of children with autism spectrum disorders: one out of every 54 according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control in March.

Whatever the reason, Anika Hoybjerg is thrilled about the attention.

"I’m so glad that the world is more aware of autism, and that these children can be celebrated for their differences and for the unique qualities that autism brings," Hoybjerg said.

Hoybjerg chose the day to cut the ribbon on her treatment center, Autism Behavioral Intervention. She decided to start the center when her nephew, Troy, was diagnosed as a baby.

"I don’t think he’d be where he is today if he didn’t start at 20 months old, and I’m grateful that [the treatment is available] here in Utah," said Whitney Hoybjerg, Anika's sister and Troy's mother.

The University of Utah also marked the day with lectures and other events on campus.

Westminster College students organized a pledge drive they called "Spread the Word to End the Word." The "Word" they're referring to is what they call the "R" word for people with intellectual disabilities.

The Governor's Mansion on South Temple in Salt Lake used blue light bulbs to give the mansion a blue glow to mark World Autism Awareness Day.

But the most significant event of the day from the prospective of many parents happened behind closed doors. The governor signed Senate Bill 57, which tells large private insurers and large employers they must cover the cost of Autism treatment as a part of their health insurance plans.