People in the GTA and across the country are marking World Autism Awareness Day for the first time Tuesday, with several events planned to highlight the developmental disorder and to raise money.

The United Nations declared April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day in 2007. This is the first time Canada is participating.

A flag-raising ceremony will be held at noon at Toronto’s city hall and the CN Tower will be lit blue to mark the event. A similar flag-raising ceremony is also being held at Vaughan’s city hall.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects about 100,000 Ontarians, according to Autism Ontario. The developmental disability, which can affect social interaction and communication skills, typically appears in the first three years of life.

Students at North York’s Blessed Margherita Catholic School will wear the colour blue and hold a Walk for Autism Students at 10 a.m. Proceeds raised will go to the Angel Foundation for Learning to help send an autistic child to summer camp.

Other schools in the Toronto Catholic District School Board will be participating in events, including flag-raising ceremonies and wearing blue to show support.

The Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital will be celebrating the research at its Austism Research Centre on Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki -moon said early interventions can significantly change the lives of people with ASD.

“Now is the time to work for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of affected people and ensure opportunities for them to realize their potential,” he said.

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