Five years ago, Jeanelle Mandes' three-year-old daughter Sharlize was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Mandes looked for autistic-friendly events in Regina - where the two of them could learn from other families - but she found none existed. So, she decided to start her own.

“I came across this website called 'Light it up Blue.' I called the organization and asked them if it's okay if I made an event out here, which they happily said yes to,” said Mandes.

'Light it up blue' is a worldwide campaign intended to raise public understanding of autism, in support of world autism awareness day. The Regina event featured guest speakers, information booths and children’s activities.

“A lot of children with autism, they can't really go to event because of the noises they make (and the) meltdowns,” said Mandes. “But here, it's very encouraged.”

During the event, several parents spoke about a variety of issues regarding autism services.

Twyla McNab lives on George Gordon first nation, and her son Drew has ASD. She says there is a lack of autism services in First Nations communities, with her community's closet autism support worker nearly 200 kilometres away. When her son was diagnosed, it took months for them to find help.

“It would (have been) eight, nine months,” said McNab. “Drew could have been receiving services already in those eight to nine months. I really hope that in the future, the services are better.”

Overall, the event is about improving the lives on all Saskatchewan kids dealing with ASD

“Don't be that parent that, if you see a kid with his mom having a meltdown walking by, don't prejudge or think that the kid is just a bad kid,” said parent Brandon Brooks. “Ask them if you can help out.”