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Posts Tagged ‘Autism Speaks 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

11 Questions Students on the Spectrum Can Ask their College

October 31, 2011 1 comment

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.

Below are 11 questions students on the autism spectrum can ask their college/university.

1. As a college student affected by autism, what is one of the main things I need to know?

A big difference between college and high school is that in high school you generally have a structured plan for your accommodations called an “Individualized Education Program.” However, in college that no longer exists, meaning you must advocate to your Disability Support Group on campus to receive your own accommodations

2. What are some accommodations I can receive in my classes?

Individuals on the spectrum receive accommodations only if they register with their Disability Support Group. They will then receive accommodations based on their needs. This can include extended time on tests, tape recorders for classes, individual note takers, etc.

3. Do I have to pay for accommodations?

Under The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, colleges are required to provide all learning disabled individuals with “reasonable accommodations.” However, you should check the guidelines in regards to what is and what is not available on your campus.

4. Will faculty or fellow students be informed that I am on the autism spectrum?

Faculty members are not allowed to disclose any information about a student to others without consent from the student. However, students must register as a “disabled student” to receive accommodations – meaning your disability support group would be aware you have a disability. It is then up to you to inform your instructors.

5.  Is on-campus living for me?

Accommodations can also factor into your living arrangements on campus which will give you opportunities for a safer environment, like a single room. Ask if your resident assistant will be made aware of your living situation, since he/she can be of help in an emergency.

6. Will tutoring be available for my courses?

Most colleges provide tutoring for all students, but it is important to learn about those services early on to see if it is available and if you need additional support.

7. Are there any restrictions on how many courses I can take?

Some disability support groups require you take less courses in your first few semesters of college to make for an easier transition.

8. Is there a club on campus that raises awareness about autism and provides social opportunities for students affected by autism?

Autism Speaks college program, Autism Speaks U, works with students across the county to start chapters that raise awareness and funds. Some also establish mentoring programs for students and youth on the autism spectrum. To see if a chapter exists on your campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

9. Will my professors have any previous training in educating individuals affected by autism?

There is no requirement at most college for professors to have education in teaching individuals with learning disabilities. You should be prepared to advocate for yourself when a situation deems itself appropriate to do so.

10. Will I be treated differently by fellow students because I have autism?

Like in any other situation where you are around people, there is the possibility of a lack of awareness on their part in dealing with people with learning disabilities. Therefore, spreading awareness is crucial for you and others affected by autism.

11. Is there anything on campus that focuses on post-college plans for individuals affected by autism?

Many colleges have a career program/center that focuses on helping you network with outside companies. You can also look under the Americans with Disabilities Act for information about job accommodations and workshops.

If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

Keep Going, Keep Making a Difference

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events.

In late September, The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) was passed through Senate and was then signed into law by our President Barack Obama. One of the champions in Senate who helped us get there was New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. Almost 2 weeks ago he came to an autistic school called Regional Day in my hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey to give a speech about the significance of the act. What I was amazed at though was when I received a call from his office to speak at the event! In front of countless media, family, and friends I spoke about my story with autism and what the impact an act like this will have not only for me but for countless others who are affected by autism.

The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act as some may recall will grant 693 million dollars to the autistic community for the next 3 years. Even though this is a great feat we still most continue to push forward as I stress in my speech as autism never takes a vacation so neither can we.

Below is a Youtube clip of me speaking at the event that I hope you all enjoy. Thank you!

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: Virginia Tech Chapter President

October 24, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Kaitlyn Whiton, a senior at Virginia Tech. She is the president of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter and is working to create a long lasting legacy on campus! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Autism was a word that most people had never heard of 20 years ago, when my younger brother, Freddy, was diagnosed. I cannot count how many times my friends would ask me why Freddy would hit himself, not talk to anyone, or only repeat the same lines from the same movies. By the age of 10, autism had already had a huge impact on my life and I knew I wanted to continue to help others, like my brother, grow to their fullest potential. Starting a chapter of Autism Speaks U at Virginia Tech was a perfect opportunity to not only give back, but also inspire others to be involved with a wonderful organization.

Kaitlyn (far right) with her brother Freddy (left) and her father Fred (center).

Even though this is only Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech’s second semester on Hokie stomping ground, we have already made an impact in our community. Last semester we raffled off a football signed by coach, Frank Beamer and a  basketball signed by coach, Seth Greenberg. This semester, our big fundraising event is going to be an awareness night at Hokie House, a local restaurant and bar, on Friday, November 4. During the event we are going to be raffling off themed baskets as an extra way to raise money.

Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech, unfortunately has a number of seniors who will be graduating in the spring. Luckily, we have found motivating and inspiring individuals who will continue the mission of Autism Speaks U in the Virginia Tech community. Our old executive board will help train the new executive board throughout the rest of the current semester and will be here to advise the new officers during the spring semester.

My dream would be to come back to Virginia Tech and attend a fundraiser executed by our predecessors. My goal this year is to inspire, motivate and educate the newest members of the executive board so that our organization continues for many years to come.

Members of Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech at their 2011 club fair.

For more information about Autism Speaks U at Virginia Tech, contact the chapter president, Kaitlyn Whiton, at kait6573@vt.edu.

GO BLUE for Autism Speaks U Photo Winners

October 19, 2011 3 comments

College students from across the country have submitted amazing pictures for our GO BLUE for Autism Speaks U Facebook photo contest! Winners were chosen by the number of Facebook “likes,” comments and creativity (how “blue” you could go!). Thank you to everyone who participated in this fun awareness campaign! The winners are as follows:

First Place: University of California, Irvine

First place wins a $200 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


Second Place: Appalachian State University

Second place wins a $100 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


 Third Place: University of California, Berkeley

Third Place wins a $50 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


Honorable Mentions: Each winner receives a $25 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event

Case Western Reserve University: Best Use of a Human Puzzle Piece

Elmira College: Best Use of Decorations

Northwestern University: Best Action Shot

Rider University: Best Homemade Banner

Southeast Missouri State University: Best Use of Hand Signs & Face Paint

Stonehill College: Best Group Shot

Texas A&M: Best Pose

To view all Go BLUE photos click here. Autism Speaks U will email photo winners about prize details.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities. If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: Cornell University Chapter President

October 18, 2011 1 comment

This guest post is by Cynthia Vella, a junior at Cornell University. She is an Industrial and Labor Relations major as well as the founder and president of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

As President and Founder of Autism Speaks U at Cornell University, I feel strongly attached to the goals and values of our newly established club. With an uncle who is autistic, I have heard the struggles my mother and her family went through years ago.

Because of this, I decided Cornell needed to spread awareness about autism to it’s own students. Gathering a few friends and meeting two more great board members along the way, the Autism Speaks U Cornell board has really come together to raise money and especially awareness around campus. Our university organizations have even reached out to help us promote our cause through various student organizations like Greek sororities, fraternities and Hillel. In our second semester on campus, we have expanded our club’s initiatives and are planning a Dance-a-Thon called Dance Now for Autism Speaks U, which we hope will have a huge impact on Cornell.

Members of Autism Speaks U Cornell University tabling to raise awareness.

While last semester was extremely successful, from earning funds through bake sales and through Greek life and Hillel events, this semester, the Autism Speaks U Cornell board has much planned to increase our presence on campus. While bake sales are always easy and fun fundraisers, we plan on holding our first annual Dance-a-Thon on October 22nd in one of our basketball courts with pre-sale tickets, refreshments, cookies, blue decorations, and giveaway t-shirts.

We are currently marketing the event around both the campus and Ithaca community through our school newspaper, media site, flyers and posters. We are also tabling at local dining halls and main libraries where there is a large traffic of students and faculty passing through. We want to reach out to different clubs such as A Cappella and dance groups.

Additionally, one of our board members, Conor Callahan, has teamed up with the Racker Center located in nearby Ithaca for our members to interact with local children affected by autism. We are excited to have this opportunity and plan to start doing smaller events like slumber parties in the spring semester. As our club continues expanding with almost 30 new members this fall, we have more and more great ideas to make the club more successful in our endeavors. New leaders stand out and our board welcomes more students to help raise funds and awareness. We are extremely excited to collaborate with our new members to make a difference in our community.

For more information about Autism Speaks U at Cornell University, contact the chapter president Cynthia Vella at autismspeaksucornell@gmail.com.

How Autism and Facebook Work

October 10, 2011 4 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. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events.

Oh the almighty power of social media. It all started for me my second semester of college. I went to a charity event near my hometown in Jersey City, New Jersey with a group of friends when someone asked me to “tag them” in a photo I took. I remember being slightly confused for a second until I was later introduced to the social networking tool of our generation called“Facebook.” It was the hip new trend that would evolve the way I communicated forever.

These memories came back to me earlier this month when I received 3 emails from parents within one week about the advantages and disadvantages of their young individuals with autism using Facebook. In the end, like many experts say, face-to-face interaction never plays second fiddle to online communication, but I think that’s easy for some to say when they are not referring to individuals with autism. I’ve been dealing with anxiety for years when it comes to face to face interaction. Between making enough eye contact, worrying about standing too close to someone, to having topics to discuss to avoid awkward silences, it in all essence becomes like a job, and that’s not fun. It’s a chore at times.

That’s why I love Facebook. I can decide to communicate with people during my free time, and when I feel the most comfortable in doing so. Between adding friends, towards starting groups with friends, playing games, instant messaging, adding photos, it gives you a new outlet to I think the main thing to remember is that most things must come in moderation. Facebook can be as much as a confidence builder in helping individuals with autism as it can be a deterrent if it’s over used (1-2 hours daily should be the max). That’s the key. Autism and Facebook work because it is a communication building tool for youth. After time it should help encourage involvement off the web. As I’ve progressed through Facebook I’ve spent less and less time on it, in exchange for hanging out face-to-face.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you have a loved one with autism who is just starting out on Facebook? What are your concerns? I know there are also a lot of underlying issues (cyber bullying, procrastination, etc.), so as always feel free to email me or comment below with any questions!

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.

What Autism Means to Me: Natalie Davis

October 3, 2011 13 comments

This guest post is by Natalie Davis, a senior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota majoring in chemistry. Natalie serves as Miss Minnesota 2011 and has adopted autism awareness as her pageant’s service platform.  

As I am sure is the case for most people who are touched by autism, I have always seen my disposition as the sibling of someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as both a blessing and a curse. When I was a child, I knew my brother Trevor was different. He spent hours silently lining up toy cars into perfect rows instead of playing with other kids. He didn’t speak until he was 3, and he couldn’t produce a full sentence until he was 7. Trevor seemed to be in his own little world, but he and I were connected.

Natalie and her brother, Trevor

Even though Trevor couldn’t speak, I always knew what he needed. I was constantly on high alert regarding his emotions and any environmental factors that might upset him. For as long as I can remember, I have been his helper and protector. When kids bullied him, I quickly tried to explain, “He’s special ed.,” hoping they would have mercy. When he threw tantrums because he didn’t want to do his schoolwork, I slyly suggested a game of “tutor” instead. I helped him cover his ears when the sound of a fire truck was too much for him to bear.

Things have always been harder for Trevor. I went to a prestigious private school; Trevor was in public school in special education. I was invited to countless birthday parties; Trevor wasn’t invited to any. I was the star. I was the pageant queen, singer, athlete, and brilliant student. I seemed to have it all, but I had a brother who struggled.

Growing up with a brother who has ASD has not been easy. But when things get tough, my parents remind me to count my blessings. Despite his challenges, Trevor graduated from high school in the top 50% of his class, and he is currently a part-time student at St. Cloud State University. He plays piano, he is an excellent public speaker, and he is an Eagle Scout. His dream is to become a best-selling children’s book author. Just because Trevor is different does not mean that he is less. Yes, he faces challenges that most individuals never have to face, but the fact that he has continually overcome many those challenges makes Trevor extraordinary.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

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