This guest post is by Allison Drake, the president and founder of the Autism Speaks U Chapter at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She is a senior Communicative Disorders major and plans on becoming a speech pathologist working with individuals on the spectrum. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.
My desire to help the student population on campus comes directly from my family. My youngest brother T.J. was diagnosed with autism at the age of six. Growing up he faced many difficulties academically and socially because of it. Since his diagnosis he has come such a long way, and I truly believe that children on the spectrum can improve dramatically with proper support and guidance. However, we as a country have not come close to funding enough research to help support and guide the almost 4 million children born with autism every year. Autism Speaks is an organization that stands for what I believe in; providing education and funds for research to help those affected by autism.
It is for this reason, that I decided to start an Autism Speaks U Chapter at Saint Mary’s during the Fall semester of 2010. With majors like Communicative Disorders, Psychology and Education, Saint Mary’s was lacking an organization that supported a population many of us will be working with in the future; that’s where Autism Speaks U comes in. Our goal as a chapter this year is to raise funds to support the national organization at Autism Speaks.
We are currently in the process of planning a walk on Saint Mary’s campus to occur during Autism Awareness month in April 2011. We are going to work hard to include the local community, by means of reaching out to the local Autism Center in South Bend.Since Saint Mary’s is right across the street from the University of Notre Dame, so we have reached out to Notre Dame for additional support. They also happen to have classes and research labs dedicated to autism studies. With the support of the local community and the University of Notre Dame, we are expecting our first walk to be quite a success.
We are currently hosting two popular fundraisers on campus. We started selling autism puzzle piece silly bandz for $1 each, and have raised almost $200 in two weeks. We also ordered sunglasses in neon green that promote our Autism Speaks U Chapter for the girls to purchase and wear at the Notre Dame football games and around campus. I have been fortunate to have a great team of officers who have helped me do everything. We wouldn’t be where we are without all of their help. Since school started, we have recruited almost 150 girls to be part of our chapter and have reached out to other clubs, such as the National Student Speech Hearing and Language Association, Saint Mary’s Education Club and Psi Chi which is the International Honor Society in Psychology. We are so excited to experience this much success so early on in the semester. I cannot wait to see the foundation we will leave at Saint Mary’s when I graduate in May.
If you’d like to support Allison’s fundraising efforts at Saint Mary’s College please click here.
If you are involved with Autism Speaks U on your campus and would like your story to be featured on the Autism Speaks blog, please send it to AutismSpeaksU@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.