In an effort to raise awareness for autism, schools, businesses, commissioners and staff from six state agencies and others worldwide will assemble and blow bubbles today.

(Uriel Sinai, Getty Images)

Last year, more than 57,000 people participated in "Bubbles 4 Autism" from about 300 locations worldwide. This year, that number is expected to double.

Bubbles 4 Autism was started 11 years ago by Isabelle Mosca, executive director of FACES 4 Autism, who has a son with the disorder.

"Initially it started as a way to get my son's preschool class to play with him and we wanted everyone to interact," Mosca said. "We wanted people to know that kids who have autism are just the same as everyone else. They like to do a lot of similar things and something they have in common is blowing bubbles. We had the entire school do it and it grew from there."

Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report indicating that the estimated number of children with autism has increased nationwide to one in 68 children. In New Jersey, that estimate is one in 45.

"In South Jersey, our statistics are probably one in 25," Mosca said. "We are very aware of autism in our schools, and the most important thing for the communities to know beyond our area is that people with autism are just like you and me and they need respect and acceptance in the community."

The purpose of the bubbles is to send bubbles of hope to the skies above, according to Mosca, so awareness is spread around the world.

Bubbles are hopeful. Everyone loves bubbles. When people go outside and gather, it's a symbol of joy and unity. It also represents solidarity for families who are facing autism."

"Our slogan this year is 'We are Linked in Love,' and we most definitely are," Mosca said. "I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support by the communities and their willingness to do something that doesn't cost anything, but sends that message to children that it's okay to be different."

Tuesday's event will include representatives from the Departments of Community Affairs, Children and Families, Education, Health, Human Services and Labor and Workforce Development. The group will assemble outside the State House, and anyone who wants to participate is asked to join and blow bubbles at the exact same time from 1:15 to 1:16 p.m.

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