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Autism Speaks Welcomes National Philanthropic Partner: Theta Delta Chi

December 14, 2011 7 comments

We are thrilled to announced that Theta Delta Chi, one of the nation’s oldest college fraternities, has selected Autism Speaks as its national official philanthropy.  The partnership between Autism Speaks and Theta Delta Chi will engage the thirty-three Theta Delta Chi chapters on college campuses nationwide in autism awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts as part of our Autism Speaks U college program. Autism Speaks U is an initiative that engages college students in their efforts to support Autism Speaks.  Since its inception in 2008, Autism Speaks U events have raised over $1 million for Autism Speaks research and advocacy efforts. There are more than 45 Autism Speaks U chapters on college campuses nationwide.

We are extremely grateful to Theta Delta Chi for partnering with Autism Speaks.  With the support of its members, autism awareness will continue to grow on college campuses throughout the country.  Theta Delta Chi is the second collegiate society to partner with Autism Speaks through its Autism Speaks U program. In 2009, Alpha Xi Delta sorority selected Autism Speaks as its national philanthropic partner. Since the partnership was established, Alpha Xi Delta’s 120 collegiate chapters have raised over $625,000 for Autism Speaks.

For more information, click here to read the press release.

The Power of a Positive Attitude

December 12, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University, and is actively involved with our college program. Autism Speaks U is an initiative designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned in college was the ability to lead through, “The Power of a Positive Attitude.” When I was growing up it was always difficult for me to commit to things, always hard for me to get to that next level. A big part of that was based on my attitude. I didn’t know it back then but I was blind from how my attitude was leading the direction of my life. I struggled so much back when I was a kid it was always tough for me to focus on what was needed to overcome those obstacles.

College did change me though. It made me understand the need to take my attitude that indeed dramatically changed in high school to another level again. This happened when I started to realize there’s a solution to everything. Indeed, some of these solutions are ever changing as our society evolves and gains more knowledge but like what my mom would always tell me, “there are no problems, just solutions.” This helped me tremendously. Whether it was was getting accommodations for classes or even finding a way for an individual with autism such as myself to get a masters degree in strategic communication, the solution was there for me to find.

For all those reading what I hope you take from this is that even though there is a great deal of uncertainty out there involving autism that you understand we must continue to push positivity in everything we do. There are answers out there to help our loved ones succeed, autistic or not. Getting down on ourselves will help no one in our pursuits for a better tomorrow. Our community is in desperate need of this. I know this might be harder for some but for those individuals I ask that you make an effort to lose yourself in your passions to make a difference for yourself and the lives of others.

Tell yourself, there are ways to improve my life. There are ways to help my loved ones. Make these your mantra. We spend so much time sometimes saying what we don’t have, what services we can’t find, what diagnosis’s we can’t get, that we don’t appreciate what we have today. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Live your life with no more problems but instead strive to find the solutions. And if you can, do it with a smile. It can make a world of difference. It did for me.

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org or through my Facebook Page here.

Autism Speaks U Chapter Spotlight: George Washington University

December 5, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Courtney Hindle, co-president of the Autism Speaks U chapter at George Washington University. Autism Speaks U is a program designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts. To start a chapter on your college campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

My name is Courtney Hindle, and I am a junior at George Washington University (GWU), studying political communications. I am also the current co-president of the Autism Speaks U chapter at my school.  My involvement with autism began early on, when my younger brother was diagnosed and I later became a volunteer for Hunterdon Outreach Programs in my hometown.

Courtney (center), with members of Autism Speaks U GWU.

These programs are designed to teach children with various disabilities how to play a range of sports. I remained a volunteer for the Hunterdon Outreach programs throughout high school and knew I wanted to continue my passion for helping those with autism once I came to college. When I discovered the Autism Speaks U chapter at my school I decided to join.

We have had a chapter at GWU for a year and a half now and are so thrilled with the progress we have made with this incredible organization. The overall GWU student body has been tremendously supportive of our chapter.

Whenever we are hosting events for Autism Speaks, students always stop by to talk about their personal experiences with autism and how appreciative they are for everything Autism Speaks does for raising awareness.  While many students are informed about autism, there is still a large portion of the student body that doesn’t quite grasp autism. We hope that through future awareness events we will be able to reach out to those in our community that don’t quite understand and give them a better understanding of the disorder. The mission of Autism Speaks U at GWU is to raise awareness on campus about autism and Autism Speaks while also looking for volunteer opportunities for students.

Recently, our chapter raised over $2,000 for the National Walk Now for Autism Speaks and placed second out of all collegiate fundraising teams for that Walk.  Leading up to the Walk, we organized several tabling events where we fundraised and registered fellow GWU students to participate in the Walk.

Members of Autism Speaks U GWU at the 2011 National Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

We have also sponsored an event hosted by George Washington University’s Disability Support Services,  about “composing disability.” This symposium focused on how college students with disabilities are viewed and how teachers and students can work to address problems those with disabilities have in the school system.  This was a great opportunity to have our members learn about how our school works with supporting those with disabilities and we were so honored to be one of the symposium’s sponsors.

Being a part of Autism Speaks U has been an incredible experience and our chapter cannot wait to see where we will be a year from now!

For more information about Autism Speaks U and how you can get your campus involved, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U or email autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.

Get College Students Involved with Autism Speaks U!

November 28, 2011 5 comments

Are you a college student? Do you want to raise awareness about autism while gaining volunteer hours and experience for your resume? If so, join our team at Autism Speaks U to recruit students on your campus to host events benefiting our cause and to start a collegiate chapter. Become a Campus Ambassador at any college! You do not have to be close to an Autism Speaks office. It requires a time commitment of 3-5 hours per week for 3 months during the school year.

Watch our video below and click here for more information.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts. If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

11 Myths About Autism

November 21, 2011 24 comments

You’ve probably heard lots of thoughts and ideas about autism, but we want to make sure you know what is true and what is false. Our Family Services and Science department put together 11 myths about autism to help put an end to any misconceptions. All of these are great for students to share with their classmates. If you’re in college, get involved with Autism Speaks U, a program that supports college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.

1. Myth: People with autism don’t want friends.

Truth: If someone in your class has autism, they probably struggle with social skills, which may make it difficult to interact with peers. They might seem shy or unfriendly, but that’s just because he or she is unable communicate their desire for relationships the same way you do.

2. Myth: People with autism can’t feel or express any emotion—happy or sad.

Truth: Autism doesn’t make an individual unable to feel the emotions you feel, it just makes the person communicate emotions (and perceive your expressions) in different ways.

3. Myth: People with autism can’t understand the emotions of others.

Truth: Autism often affects an individual’s ability to understand unspoken interpersonal communication, so someone with autism might not detect sadness based solely on one’s body language or sarcasm in one’s tone of voice. But, when emotions are communicated more directly, people with autism are much more likely to feel empathy and compassion for others.

4. Myth: People with autism are intellectually disabled.

Truth: Often times, autism brings with it just as many exceptional abilities as limitations. Many people with autism have normal to high IQs and some may excel at math, music or another pursuit.

5. People with autism are just like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man.

Truth: Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning its characteristics vary significantly from person to person. Knowing one person with autism means just that—knowing one person with autism. His or her capabilities and limitations are no indication of the capabilities and limitations of another person with autism.

6. Myth: People who display qualities that may be typical of a person with autism are just odd and will grow out of it.

Truth: Autism stems from biological conditions that affect brain development and, for many individuals, is a lifelong condition.

7. Myth: People with autism will have autism forever.

Truth: Recent research has shown that children with autism can make enough improvement after intensive early intervention to “test out” of the autism diagnosis. This is more evidence for the importance of addressing autism when the first signs appear.

8. Myth: Autism is just a brain disorder.

Truth: Research has shown that many people with autism also have gastro-intestinal disorders, food sensitivities, and many allergies.

9.  Myth: Autism is caused by bad parenting.

Truth: In the 1950s, a theory called the “refrigerator mother hypothesis” arose suggesting that autism was caused by mothers who lacked emotional warmth. This has long been disproved.

10. Myth: The prevalence of autism has been steadily increasing for the last 40 years.

Truth: The rate of autism has increased by 600% in the last 20 years. In 1975, an estimated 1 in 1,500 had autism. In 2009, an estimated 1 in 110 had an autism spectrum disorder.

11. Myth: Therapies for people with autism are covered by insurance.

Truth:  Most insurance companies exclude autism from the coverage plan and only half of the 50 states currently require coverage for treatments of autism spectrum disorders.

If you’re interested in raising awareness in college, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

This Is Why I Speak

November 14, 2011 18 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University, and is actively involved with our college program. Autism Speaks U is an initiative designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.

“My 5 year old son was just diagnosed with PDD-NOS and has no speech. Will he ever be able to speak?” 

Kerry Magro at age 4.

While the young mother stood before me in tears, I felt trapped; trapped because I couldn’t tell her that everything was going to be alright.

When I look back at my life, that 6 year old boy, going into first grade with so much anger, and so many emotions, it was almost too much. I knew back then I was mad. I was lashing out because I didn’t know how to communicate in an appropriate manner. That was almost 16 years ago. I was that 6 year old again. What would it take for her son to be able to speak one day? Would he be as lucky as me?

So, I surprised myself. I hugged her. I hugged this complete stranger for what probably ended up being 5 minutes. No words were said. I could only hear her sobbing and I almost joined her several times. I knew I couldn’t answer her question, but by telling her about my journey, I could give her hope.

I reflected back to the journey that I had had led me to where I am today. The therapies, the special need classrooms, the accommodations, the hate, the ignorance, the awareness, the drama, the acceptance, the struggle, the tears, the heartache, the strength, the friends, my mom, my dad, and above all else the love that has made my journey worth every second.After we hugged I told her my story. I told her about that 6 year old boy and how he became who I was today. 15 minutes later tears of uncertainty had become tears of hope for not only her but for her son.

This is why I speak. Each time I share my story I pray that I’m making an impact on a parent, a family, a friend, etc. for the future of the autism movement. I may not be a scientist, or an expert in the field, I just know what it’s like to grow up–and thrive with autism. So, if you have autism, especially those young adults out there who are trying to spread awareness at the college level or beyond, tell your story.

It’s time for all of us to listen.

*I shared this story with my friend Laura Shumaker on her official website here as well. Thanks Everyone!*

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org or through my Facebook Page here.

Autism Speaks U Chapter Spotlight: University of California, Irvine

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

This guest post is by Elizabeth Montiel and Lindsey Marco, two students who established the Autism Speaks U chapter at the University of California, Irvine. Autism Speaks U is a program designed to support college students in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.

My name is Elizabeth Montiel, I am currently a fourth-year Psychology major with a History double major, and founding President of the Autism Speaks U, UCI Chapter. My Sophomore year I took a psychology class in which one of the topics was autism. When the teacher asked students if they knew what autism was, I was appalled to see only a few hands raised. A few months later I mentioned to my friend Lindsey Marco that I wanted to start a chapter of Autism Speaks U on our campus because there was a serious lack of awareness. From the beginning she was very enthusiastic about starting the club. I remember her telling me, “I don’t know much about autism, but its about time I learn.” Since then we’ve been a dynamic duo working towards the goal of spreading Autism awareness to every corner of our campus.

My name is Lindsey Marco, I am a third-year Psychology major and founding Vice President of the chapter. Trying to start a club on a campus of 200+ clubs can be difficult and definitely disheartening. Students in their college state of mind are more focused on passing classes and preparing for their future. When clubs are tabling on campus it is easier to walk by and pretend to be on your cell phone rather than risk having to talk to someone for five minutes about why you should join their club. I was one of those people a year ago, focusing only on school work and friends. When clubs tried to get my attention I would ignore them as best I could. I never really found a club that I was passionate about or that was worthwhile of my time. But one day in class, Elizabeth approached me about her dream of starting an Autism Speaks U chapter on campus. The passion for the cause was clearly evident in her eyes. I had never met someone that truly focused and dedicated towards something. Needless to say I caught the fever. It is hard not to catch that passion and dedication when you are working with Elizabeth, her personal experiences and zeal to create awareness and change is truly inspiring. Now I find myself the person talking about why you should join our chapter, Autism Speaks U at UCI.

Chapter Members at the Orange County Walk Now for Autism Speaks

Our chapter is dedicated towards raising autism awareness on our campus and throughout Orange County, offering volunteer opportunities for members in the community so that they can work one on one with children with autism, providing speakers that are involved in the field of autism to educate and inspire, and fundraising for autism research. This year we have huge plans, as a new club last year our autism awareness week in April, Light it Up Blue was a success, but this year we plan on making it even bigger, making it impossible for a student on our campus to miss. Our Light it Up Blue campaign is planned for the first week of April.

Members of Autism Speaks U UC Irvine, gather together to GO BLUE!

It was amazing to see the overwhelming response we had to the “Go Blue for Autism Speaks U” Facebook photo contest, to see our club grow from two or three people to this amazing show of support from over 1,000. This club would be nothing without the support and passion of others on campus and in our community, we are proud to say that this club has a huge heart and passion that is never in short supply.

Our chapter is currently working with Spirit League, a sports organization for children with disabilities. Their organization provides an opportunity for children to play on a sports team just like other children their age at a pace that is attuned to their needs. Members that come back from Spirit League are hooked and cannot wait to return. Currently Spirit League is playing soccer, every Saturday you can see our members running along side children offering encouragement and keeping them involved. Other community service opportunities include the Friday Night Club, Groupo de Autismo Angeles, and we are currently in the process of finding more opportunities that we can get involved with in the community.

At the beginning we had a really hard time with establishing ourselves on our campus and finding the time to make everything happen. We faced many roadblocks like recruiting members, establishing strong community relations, and finding other student leaders that were dedicated to the success of the club. However, through passion and commitment we have been able to rise and now a year later we are stronger than ever.  We have a passionate board of 14 people working with us now and as we prepare to attend our second Walk Now for Autism Speaks Orange County its amazing to see the difference that one year can make in our ability to raise a strong group of passionate student leaders.

For more information about Autism Speaks U and how you can get your campus involved, visit www.autismspeaks.org/U or email autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org

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