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Posts Tagged ‘Autism Speaks U’

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: UC Berkeley Chapter President

September 26, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Caroline McCloskey, a sophomore at UC Berkeley. She is the president and founder of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter and is a true ambassador for our cause! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Helping those with autism has always held a place in my heart. My older brother Joey was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, and has always been my big “little brother.” Joey has a considerably severe case of autism and is often misunderstood because he has difficulty communicating with others. He lives in the world of a six-year old and still watches Disney movies (his favorite being Peter Pan), Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh.  One of the truly amazing things about my brother is his ability to complete a 500-piece puzzle in twenty minutes – something I would never be able to do. He will never fail to impress me with his unique gift and now that I’ve gone to college and live 6000 miles away from home, I miss him dearly.

Caroline hikes to the big Campanile to raise autism awareness.

Coming to the University of California, Berkeley was by far the best decision I have ever made. As soon as I got here I knew that I wanted to get involved on campus, so I looked into various student organizations and tried to find one that promoted autism awareness or raised money for scientific research. No such club or organization existed. I thought to myself: of all the hundreds of student organizations that Berkeley has to offer, how is it that not a single one addresses the problem of autism, something that affects 1 in 110 people?

Consequently, some friends and I took the initiative and our chapter of Autism Speaks U at Berkeley was officially founded on March 9th2011. Now we have over 30 active members and have begun to establish a firm presence on campus as of this academic year. The UC Berkeley community has been very supportive of our efforts and during Autism Awareness Month this year we held an awareness campaign and small-scale fundraiser in the Unit 2 Residence Halls. Our biggest achievement so far has been lighting up the Campanile blue on Autism Awareness Day, which we hope to do again in April 2012.

Campanile Lit Up Blue.

Right now we are in the process of planning a benefit concert to be held on November 19, of this year. We are also trying to establish a mentoring program with the Berkeley Unified School District, where members of our chapter would volunteer with children and young adults on the spectrum. Furthermore, we are in the early phases of planning a large-scale walk event on UC Berkeley’s campus, which will be held on April 72012, during Autism Awareness Month.

This year we have a very strong team of officers who are all contributing incredible amounts of time and effort to our cause. It means so much to me that my friends have been so supportive of what I am so passionate about, and I honestly appreciate their help and support more than they will ever know. I know that this year we’re going to go far and it’s all because of them: thank you, guys.

To get involved with Autism Speaks U and/or the UC Berkeley collegiate chapter, contact autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.  

Autism Speaks U “Back to School” LIVE Q&A Transcript

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment
On Wednesday, September 21, our Autism Speaks U team hosted a LIVE Facebook Q&A for college students across the country. We discussed topics like how/why to start a collegiate chapter, what events to host,  recruiting strategies, and how to secure event funding. If you were unable to join us last night,  please read below for the full Q&A transcript. You can also visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U for more information.
7:56
Hello everyone, thanks for joining our LIVE Q&A tonight. We’ll be starting at 8pm EST/5pm PST.
8:01
This Q&A is intended for college students, faculty and staff. The chat is text only – you’ll interact with us via the live chat client that you are logged into right now.
8:01
Moderating this Q&A will be Sarah Caminker and Jaclyn Renner from Autism Speaks U.
8:02
Let’s do a quick roll call, so we know which schools are being represented. Enter the name of the school you attend.
8:02
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

UC Berkeley

8:02
Comment From Margo Rizzi

Boston College

8:02
Comment From Amanda

Eastern Michigan University

8:02
Comment From Kara

Ohio State University

8:02
Comment From Patty

mansfield university

8:02
Comment From James McDonald

Cisco College

8:02
Comment From Jackie Moreno

University of Southern California

8:02
Comment From Devin Fenyo

SUNY Albany

8:02
Comment From Guest

Community College Of Baltimore County Single Step Program

8:03
Comment From Hailey

Eastern Michigan University

8:03
Comment From Grace

USC

8:04
Looks like we have a great group of schools here tonight! If there are any new comers, please type in your school name.
8:04
Comment From Caroline Williams

Wright State University

8:04
What is your involvement with Autism Speaks U?
I am part of an Autism Speaks U chapter.

 ( 38% )

I have hosted an awareness and/or fundraising event for Autism Speaks U.

 ( 6% )

I have just registered on the Autism Speaks U website.

 ( 6% )

I have just attended a Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

 ( 0% )

I have not done anything yet, but would like to!

 ( 50% )
8:05
Comment From Guest

Allison Love Community College Of Baltimore County Single Step Program.

8:05
During the first part of this chat we’ll focus on 3 topics and then open it up to Q&A.
8:06
The 3 topics will be fall event ideas, event recruitment, and getting funding for events.
8:06
Before we dive into our first topic, we’d like to ask a quick question.
8:06
What is your connection to autism?
My family member has autism.

 ( 35% )

I work with or educate those with autism.

 ( 31% )

My friend’s family is touched by autism.

 ( 8% )

My child has autism.

 ( 27% )

I do not personally know anyone touched by autism.

 ( 0% )
8:07
Now on to fall event ideas!
8:08
If you’re looking to host an event this semester, we’re here to help. We encourage you to be creative, and to get started here are a 4 event ideas.
8:08
1. Dance Marathon: This is the perfect event to dance the night away and raise funds and awareness for autism. Ask your school to donate a venue and have student musicians and DJs donate their time and talent. You can sell tickets, blue glow sticks and deck the event out in blue!
8:08
2. Karaoke Night: Ask a local bar or restaurant to donate their venue. Get prizes donated from local businesses to give to those who come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.
8:08
Download the karaoke competition event guide at:http://bit.ly/karaokenight
8:09
3. Obstacle Course Challenge: If your school has an ROTC obstacle course, see if they’ll let you use it for the day. You can set this up the same way as a walk/run, with teams, vendors and prizes!
8:09
Access our walk/run event guide at http://bit.ly/5kwalk3krun and add to it!
8:09
4. Autism Awareness Sports Game: Ask a popular sports team on campus to donate a game to Autism Speaks U. Players can wear puzzle pieces, blue uniforms, use blue sports equipment, etc. If a night game, sell blue glow sticks and noisemakers as a fun way to get donations.
8:10
See how Colgate University’s women’s hockey team donated a game to Autism Speaks U!
8:10

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Players sported puzzle piece jerseys and lit up their rink blue!
8:10
What are events you are planning, or would like to host this Fall?
8:11
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

Benefit concert

8:11
Comment From James McDonald

Planning multiple Pizza Partys and Lock In’s

8:12
Comment From Kara

We’re trying to host a laser tag night as a fundraiser

8:12
Comment From Emily

Battle of the Bands event

8:12
Comment From Devin

Mechanical bull riding competition and on a smaller scale recycling drives and dine-in nights at local restaurants

8:12
Comment From Kara

Once it gets cold outside we’re going to sell hot chocolate outside our student union

8:12
Comment From Allison Love

My program might be hosting a mixer which is a dance for our program to raise awareness for Autism and all other disabilities. They told us at the end of last semester.

8:13
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

We’re also having a bake sale next week.

8:13
Comment From Michelle

A giant scavenger hunt across campus. We’re competing with another club to see who finishes the fastest.

8:13
Comment From Devin

we did a bake sale too and it was successful

8:13
Comment From James McDonald

We are also trying to have a “Auction” where we will be auctioning off faculty members to the students for 1 day. Still in beginning stages but hoping to make them wrap gifts and stuff for x-mas :)

8:14
Comment From Grace Kim

we are not sure yet but diddy riese is an option

8:14
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

I like the scavenger hunt idea

8:15
Comment From Michelle

We’re going to have Greek life and sports teams compete against each other for the scavenger hunt and finish with a relay race

8:15
Comment From Guest

St. John’s University- Staten Island Campus – Welcome!

8:15
Our next topic is on recruiting students to attend your events.
8:16
If you are part of an Autism Speaks U chapter, have or will you participate in your schools fall activities fair?
Yes

 ( 86% )

No

 ( 14% )
8:16
Activities fairs are a great way to get your name out on campus. If you were unable to attend your activities fair, then tabeling on campus to pass out flyers promoting your meetings and events is a great way to drum up membership.
8:17
Other ways to recruit students includes “dorm storming” the freshman dorms to distribute flyers advertising your event, chalking up the sidewalks and texting 10 people about your event and asking those 10 to forward the text to 10 of their friends.
8:17
You can also contact various academic departments (Psychology, Special Education, Speech & Hearing, Communication, etc.), and ask the department head to send an email out on your behalf to their listserv….this reaches so many students that might not know about your event.
8:17
Reaching out to a few professors, to if ask if you can make an announcement before class is helpful too!
8:18
Remember to create a Facebook event and invite everyone you know to attend! Have your event planning committee invite their friends to attend the event as well.
8:18
Here are a few photos of students promoting their efforts on campus.
8:18

Expand
8:18
That’s of the Autism Speaks U chapter at Ohio State University. They made Autism Speaks ping pong balls to give away at their fall activities fair!
8:19

Expand
Autism Speaks U chapter at UNC at Chapel Hill tabels on campus to raise awareness!
8:19
If you need an Autism Speaks U banner and materials to pass out (posters, handouts, quarter cards, etc.), emailautismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.
8:19

Expand
Various Autism Speaks U materials
8:19
What are ways you recruit students to attend your meetings or events
8:20
Comment From Michelle

We flier everywhere and get the on campus television to run free ads for us!

8:20
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

Tabling is a big one for us. Also, we sold those rubber bracelets on campus and they were a huge hit and got us a lot of attention. Facebook has been hugely helpful as well.

8:20
Comment From James McDonald

We just recieved aproval this morning to send a mass email to all students using our “Blackboard” system as well as posting it directly on the schools website. We will also be placing fliers in every classroom on campus

8:21
Comment From Thomas

We can set up posters around campus, right?

8:21
James, of course you can! We have posters that we can send you as well. Include tear offs on the bottom of all posters with your contact information, so students can call/email you directly.
8:22
To get Autism Speaks U posters, emailautismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org with your mailing address.
8:22
Comment From Kara

We bought ping pong balls in bulk and some blue sharpies, and drew puzzle pieces or wrote “Autism Speaks U” or “1 in 110″ on them to spread the word. We also use Facebook and flyers a lot.

8:22
Comment From Grace Kim

we are planning on having the director of campus affairs email the whole school about autism speaks u

8:22
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

Depends on your campus rules (in regards to posting fliers)

8:22
Comment From Emily

We wear our Autism Speaks U t-shirts to campus the day of our meetings and make announcements at the beginning of class.

8:23
Comment From Chris

Where can materials for tables form Autism Speaks U be requested at?

8:23
Chris, email autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org - Include your mailing address, school and how you’d like to get involved!
8:24
Now for our last topic…. getting funding for events. And then we’ll open it up to Q&A.
8:24
Comment From Sindia

I like the ping pong ball idea!

8:24
Sindia, we do too!
8:24
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

I support Sindia’s idea.

8:24
If your school offers funding for on-campus clubs or events, contact your Student Government Association to see what paperwork needs to be filled out. Note that they generally have deadlines on when you can apply so check into this well in advance.
8:24
If your school does not offer club funding, here’s a few other options.
8:25
Contact your alumni association and send an email out to all members requesting they support your event’s efforts. Alumni love to see students from their alma mater give back!
8:25
Do you know how to contact members of your alumni association?
Yes

 ( 33% )

No

 ( 67% )
8:26
For those that answered no, visit your school’s Student Activities Office and they’ll direct you to the right person.
8:26
You can also ask local and corporate businesses to sponsor your event.
8:26
Download our event sponsorship guide athttp://bit.ly/sponsorguide. it offers a ton of tips and resources that you can send out to local businesses.
8:27
Remember to be creative with how people and businesses can partner with your events (whether the donation goes to event expenses or back to Autism Speaks).
8:27
For example, last April, a group of students received a challenge match from an alumna. He offered to donate $1,000 to Autism Speaks, if they could get 100 people to attend their event.
8:27
Other alumna offer to match donations that the event raises (i.e. event raises $2,000 and the alumna matches it with another $2,000).
8:27
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

A lot of businesses are usually willing to help out with any events you may be planning. Even if they just donate gift cards or something small you can use them for raffles prizes, etc

8:28
How have you secured sponsors for your events? Or how are you planning to contact potential sponsors?
8:29
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

Sponsorship packet

8:30
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

Posterboard in student lobby

8:30
Comment From Emily

We contacted a local restaurant and they offered to pay for our event t-shirts as long as we put their logo on the back of the shirt.

8:30
Comment From James McDonald

We have contacted several local businesses who have agreed to help with drinks, food for our events as well as donating raffle items. As a business owner myself it was easier to contact other business owners in my area.

8:30
Comment From Sindia

I am area that major restaurant chains are willing to do nights where they will give a certain percentage of a persons bill back to an organization or charity.

8:31
Yes, places like Pinkberry, Applebees, Qdoba, Fridays, 99 Restaurant, Chick-fil-A, Chilis are examples pf places that students have done dine-in nights in the past
8:32
A student recently did one at Starbucks too! Since Monday nights are slower, anything they raised more than average, they gave 50% back to the Autism Speaks U chapter.
8:32
Comment From Emily

Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs and Dunkin Donuts have always donated to our events also.

8:33
Comment From Hailey

I used to work in non-profit management, and we had a fundraising breakfast using the Benevon model, and we had a bunch of our members invite 10 guests to have breakfast, then there’s a speaker who talks about the cause, and then there’s an “ask” at the end. The ballroom we hosted it in donated space, and the food was extremely discounted for the cause. Do you think that’d work for a student organization as well?

8:34
Sure! Especially if you can get a speaker that students want to come out and hear. Even making it an all-you-can eat pancake breakfast or burger/fries helps appeal to college students on a budget.
8:35
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

Will any restaurant chains in Round Rock support Autism Speaks U as well?

8:36
I’m sure! Start by contacting chains and restaurants on campus or nearby and see if they’ll give a percentage back to Autism Speaks, or offer a special of the day.
8:36
Businesses want to get college students in the door, so leverage that!
8:36
Comment From James McDonald

Johny Carino’s is a statewide sponsor here in Texas for Autism Speaks. We are in the process of talking to them about Autism Speaks U as well

8:37
Comment From James McDonald

I have worked with them when we do our Walk Now for Autism Speaks in April. They are always willing to lend a helping hand when it comes to charity

8:37
In regards to funding for events, student can also participate in our “GO BLUE for Autism Speaks U” Facebook photo contest. Deck out in blue, submit a photo, and get friends and family to like the photo. Top 3 photos win marketing grants for their next Autism Speaks U event.
8:37
Get contest details at http://bit.ly/gobluedetails
8:38
See how Autism Speaks U at UC Berkeley went blue! Get creative and send us your photo!
8:38

Expand
Autism Speaks U chapter at UC Berkeley gather together to GO BLUE!
8:38
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

When you say marketing grants, what exactly do you mean? Would we have to use the money specifically for marketing?

8:38
The grants go toward event expenses for your next Autism Speaks U event.
8:39
Expenses can include marketing, logistics, supplies, etc.
8:39
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

Okay!

8:39
Will you submit a photo for our “GO BLUE” Facebook photo contest?
Yes

 ( 71% )

No

 ( 14% )

I already have

 ( 14% )
8:40
Deadline to submit photos is Friday, October 14. We encourage you to send them in as early as possible, so you can have friends and family “like” and comment on the picture(s).
8:41
Contest details at http://bit.ly/gobluedetails
8:41
Now on to Q&A… Feel free to ask questions about what we discussed or about the Autism Speaks U program in general.
8:41
Students are encouraged to answer each others questions as well!
8:41
Comment From Guest

The business I worked at last year let me do the puzzle peices for 1.00 I no longer work there. any suggestions on how to raise money for the walk in may 2012

8:43
You can still sell the puzzle pieces on campus to students and to local businesses. Other fundraising ideas include bake sales, dine-in nights, loose change campaigns.
8:43
And even asking students to contact their families and networks to donate online!
8:43
Comment From Hailey

Amanda (also in this chat) and I are thinking about starting a chapter at Eastern Michigan University. Besides filing the appropriate paperwork, what else is involved in starting a chapter?

8:44
Please review the 8 steps to creating a chapter document athttp://bit.ly/nj2yhw. This explains everything that needs to be completed on our end.
8:45
Your school might have other requirements, so contact the Student Activities Office.
8:46
Comment From James McDonald

starting a chapter is easier then renewing your drivers license!

8:46
Comment From Sindia

In response to Hailey’s question: I just started a new chapter on the staten island campus of St john’s University. Aside from the paper work needed from Autism Speaks U, you will need to get approval from your campus’ student organization

8:46
Comment From Hailey

Thank you!

8:46
Comment From Sindia

The process can take quite some time on the schools behalf.

8:46
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

Is Student Activities another name for Student Life? Because at ACC, we call it student life.

8:47
Yes at some schools!
8:47
Comment From Hailey

What is the benefit to the university to have a chapter on campus? We will be asking one of our faculty members to advise our chapter and would like to know what the university might gain from having a chapter with Autism Speaks, versus another autism organization?

8:47
Download our chapter guidebook at http://bit.ly/chapterguidebookand refer to page 6.
8:48
If you have more specific questions, send us an email atautismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org and we’ll brainstorm some ideas with you!
8:48
Comment From Amanda

How do you go about funding? Would you need a separate bank account?

8:49
Sometimes the school will ask you to create a bank account for your organization, but again, that depends on the school. There also might be a minimum amount you need to put into the account to start one (i.e. $50, $75, etc.)
8:49
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

Mr. McDonald. I am 19 years old and I have Aspergers. I’m trying to start a chapter at ACC in round rock. Can I contact you for questions. If so, how?

8:49
Comment From James McDonald

alot of schools will setup an account for your chapter with the business office. All you have to do is ask

8:50
Comment From Sindia

But once you get approval and get the ball rolling its all up to you!

8:51
Thomas, send us an email at autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.organd we’ll connect you with James at Cisco College!
8:51
Comment From Michelle

Where can we order Autism Speaks U shirts?

8:52
Students can order Autism Speaks U shirts athttp://bit.ly/asugetgear. You can also customize the front and back of them. They are really affordable ranging from $4-$10.
8:53
Comment From Michelle

To students who have started a chapter, I’m new at this, what has been your biggest challenge so far?

8:54
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

for our chapter, it was just getting it off the ground in the 1st place. Our school has a lot of red tape when it comes to new clubs and promoting. We found it was best to be persistent

8:55
Comment From James McDonald

I think the biggest challenge so far for me has been “ok, What next”… Everything is a challenge for me as we are a small community college with locations 75 miles away from each other. Finding recruits, fundraising is the easy part. Getting everything organized for the first yr has been my toughest challenge because we are technically “the new group” on campus

8:55
Comment From Kara

I think our biggest challenge has been getting the word out since our chapter is fairly new too. But we’ve been attending our involvement fairs and making sure to pass out flyers and make announcements before classes

8:56
Comment From Emily

We have so many great ideas but executing them can be difficult. Which is why having a strong executive board is important, so that we can delegate responsibilities.

8:56
Comment From Patty

I want to try to start a chapter at my school. Is it hard to get people involved and join the club? I’d assume it takes a few people just to get it started..

8:58
All it takes is a few students, have them reach out to their friends and you’re off! Also, in our chapter guidebook on pages 7-8 we offer recruitment ideas. Download it athttp://bit.ly/chapterguidebook
8:58
Comment From James McDonald

Thankfully serving on the committee for West Texas Autism Speaks has helped me in tremendous ways because i am use to the funraising and sponsorship atmosphere. I’m sure it can be a little overwhelming at first but having a positive attitude and selecting a great e-board has helped so much

8:58
Comment From Molly

Patty- we are a brand new chapter, just got approval a few weeks ago. It’ll take a little work, but you’ll be surprised how many people will be interested once you get your name out there!

8:58
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

It only took us a small number of people to start but once we started tabling and getting the word out a lot of students approached us.

8:58
Comment From Patty

thanks!

8:59
We would like to thank all of you for participating in our Autism Speaks U Q&A! It’s fantastic to see college students so involved in raising awareness and advocating for the autism community.
8:59
If we didn’t get to your question or you have a few more, email us at autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.
8:59
Please be sure to check out www.AutismSpeaks.org/U for more information!
8:59
Have a great rest of the night!
9:00
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

Thanks! You too!

9:00
Comment From Kara

Thanks!

9:01
Comment From Emily

You guys are awesome! Thanks!

9:02
Comment From Patty

you too! thanks :)


LIVE Facebook Q&A for College Students!

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

The Autism Speaks U team will be hosting a LIVE Facebook Q&A for our chapters and student leaders this Wednesday, September 21 at 8pm EST/5pm PST.

To join the chat, click here 

This is the perfect time for Autism Speaks U newbies or veterans to ask our team questions about the program, what awareness and fundraising events to host in Fall and how to start/maintain a chapter.

We look forward to chatting with you!

To see how you can get involved with the program, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

Watch the “Autism in Academia” Live Video Chat!

September 13, 2011 2 comments

More and more young adults on the autism spectrum are looking forward to higher education. Login to CollegeWeekLive tomorrow at 4pm EST to watch “Autism in Academia” featuring Lisa Jo Rudy. Learn how to prepare for the college experience, where to find autism-friendly colleges, and how to access special needs services at the school of your choice.

Lisa Jo Rudy is a professional writer and works with museums, community organizations and families to build access, inclusion and opportunities for people affected by autism. Lisa is also the mother of a fifteen-year-old son with autism and will be speaking at CollegeWeekLive’s Diversity Day.

“Autism in Academia” is part of a larger program called Diversity Day. Admissions reps in charge of diversity and multicultural recruitment from 40 universities across the country will chat live with students of all race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, nationality, or disability to address the unique opportunities available on their campuses.

Sign-up now. It’s free and easy. CollegeWeekLive will also giving away a $1,000 scholarship!

To get involved with Autism Speaks college program, visit www.autismspeaks.org/U. Autism Speaks U designed for college students who want to host events, start chapters, volunteer and/or become campus ambassadors! 

Be Who You Are

September 12, 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.

Have you ever had that day when someone calls you or one of your loved ones awkward, odd, or weird? I think I’ve been called all of those words every year since I was nine. What do these words even mean now anyways? I think the easiest way of thinking of this in today’s society is someone who is away from the “norm.” That one person who does something that doesn’t seem “right.” Society has set us up with a standard that is set for us to judge without reason.

This standard has hurt people with autism for decades. When I was diagnosed with autism at age 4, I would soon have some tendencies that would be far different than the established norm. I was going to have a hard time with eye contact, some difficulty with my motor skills and also would have a hard time speaking in front of crowds. None of this makes me any less of a person as the next. I don’t want the pity that some grant for having a disorder either. I just want to know that at the end of the day I’ll be allowed to be me with no judgment, no questions asked.

That’s why when I write this blog I encourage everyone reading, to lead by example by taking action. If we let ourselves and our loved ones be who they are proudly, we defy and ignore the criticisms of others and hopefully lead to a better, more aware world; autism and all. As a college graduate with autism, does this mean I may have some difficult times from others ahead? You bet. It sure beats the alternative though of not being who I want and was meant to be, and that someone is me.

*What things have people said about who you are you that make you different from the norm? Feel free to comment below!*

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.

College Fashionistas Support Autism Speaks U

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

The Autism Speaks U Chapter at the University of Michigan’s co-founders (Maressa Criscito & Alex Lewisohn) interviewed collegiate entrepreneurs and twins, Samantha and Morgan Elias. These 21 year old sisters are the brains behind The Vintage Twin. Samantha, a member of Autism Speaks U at the University of Michigan, and Morgan, who attends New York University, recently hosted a trunk show on August 1 in New York City, donating over $550 to Autism Speaks.

Owners of The Vintage Twin with Autism Speaks U Co-Founders at Trunk Show Benefiting Autism Speaks U

The Vintage Twin, which was founded and self-financed in August 2009 with a trunk show in the their mother’s basement, is now a burgeoning brand; the first to use only recycled materials in creating one-of-a-kind original designs. Recreating vintage clothing, home goods, and accessories, TVT is a retail revolution offering people a style that is all their own.

1. Do you have a personal connection to autism? If so, please explain.

Our eldest sister is a speech pathologist and we have each shadowed her in working with children with autism. More close to home, our first cousin has asperger syndrome and we have watched him grow and overcome the hardships of staying in a specialized mainstream school.

 2. Why do you feel it is important to host events for Autism Speaks?

Autism affect MILLIONS of people on varying degrees and the numbers only seem to be growing.   Awareness must be raised, but more importantly, funds must be raised to better the quality of life for those who live a lifetime with it, rather than many medicinal fundraisers that are focused on fatal diseases.

3. How did you become involved with the Autism Speaks U program?

My best friends (Maressa & Alex) started it at The University of Michigan!

 4. What other events have you hosted for Autism Speaks or other charities in the past?

We have previously donated to Project Kids Worldwide.

 5. Why is it important for college students to be educated about autism?

Autism is EVERYWHERE and not going anywhere fast. We need to be aware, able to coexist and assist people in assimilating despite their social challenges. 

6. What kind of impact can the fashion world have on spreading autism awareness?

As the brand grows and we continue to have events benefiting Autism Speaks U, our fan bases can combine to not only raise money for the cause, but also to spread awareness within the vast world of fashionistas and fundraisers.

7. What advice do you have for other students who are also interested in becoming entrepreneurs?

START. Whether it’s selling out of your closet or opening a store, start now!

8. What are your future plans for your business?  Any specific designers/trends or events your fans should keep an eye out for?

Our website is going to be an awesome destination for affordable unique wears for ALL.

 9.  What was the biggest challenge that you faced during the creation of your business?  How did you overcome it?

The website. We raised enough money to afford creating an in-house studio that will fill our website with hundreds of items daily.

10)  Would you be interested in hosting other events with Autism Speaks in the future?

DEFINITELY- namely in Ann Arbor and also online. Last month,  supporters were able to save 10% on their purchase with 10% of the  proceeds  going back to Autism Speaks U.

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College students, faculty and alumni can get involved with our college program, Autism Speaks U, by visiting www.AutismSpeaks.org/U. Autism Speaks U works with college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Individuals with Autism in College

August 22, 2011 11 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of 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, while supporting their local autism communities.

A big part of our autism movement is surrounded by the numbers. No matter the organization, a standard that seems to be advertised is in regards to the prevalence of autism in today’s society. It seems like any brochure you open these days will tell you that….

  • 1 in 110 will be diagnosed with autism.
  • 1 in 70 boys will be diagnosed with autism.
  • A new case is diagnosed almost every 15 minutes.

Over the past couple of months I have transitioned to focusing more on the numbers for adults with autism. The problem is we still have a great deal to decode. I have looked through countless websites to try to find a standard but it’s been very challenging. I then decided to just focus on one area which was how many individuals with autism go to college/receive a college degree.

Parents often ask me how someone with autism can prepare for college and how many individuals with autism actually attend college. The number I usually tell them is that 1 in 1040 students was the norm of how many individuals on the autism spectrum attended my alma mater, Seton Hall University (5 autistic individuals out of 5200) because that’s all I know. My hope is that the more we learn about these numbers the more we will be able to assess how much funding should be provided for adult support in the schools. We already have estimates for unemployment (autism spectrum disorder ranges anywhere from 75-98% per diagnosis on the spectrum) adults still living at home (about 80%) or adults who will be on the spectrum in the next decade (estimated around 500,000).

Do you think numbers for “Autism in College” should be addressed more? What are your thoughts on the steps needed to see this become a reality?

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 Fan Page here.

What can help a student on the spectrum succeed in college?

August 19, 2011 10 comments

Back by popular demand: The “Got Questions?” feature of the Autism Speaks Science blog. Today’s answer comes from… 

Simon Wallace, PhD, Autism Speaks director of scientific development for Europe

I can remember starting college and how anxious I felt facing the new and challenging environment. I had to meet such a range of new people, deal with academic pressures, organise my day and get to appointments on time, manage my finances (I still struggle!) and generally look after myself. Such an upheaval tests any young person—all the more so for a young adult on the autism spectrum.

So what can help? First, remember that US and international legislation supports the right to a college education for individuals with disabilities. Educational institutions are required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide services for students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  The college are required to make all reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of students on the autism spectrum and to avoid discrimination based on their disability. (See Ralph Savarese’s blog post on Oberlin’s acceptance of his son, DJ, possibly the first nonspeaking student with autism to live in a US college dorm and be accepted to such a highly selective US college.)

In addition, there are many steps that parents can take to help their son or daughter have a rewarding college experience. Transition planning is key. I encourage you to work with your child’s high-school and college advisors to draw up a transition plan that extends from before the freshman year to post-graduation. Consider such issues as the appropriateness of a college’s location, available facilities and course content. It helps to visit the college, meet with at least some of the teaching staff and tour classrooms and dorms with an eye for how well they accommodate your student’s needs.

As part of the transition plan, work closely with the college’s disability services. Of course, this requires that your son or daughter discloses his or her ASD and, if necessary, provides the necessary documentation of disability and needs. Armed with this information, the disability office can organize an assessment of need and provide learning supports. These can include both psychological and behavioral services, assistive technologies (e.g. a recording device for a lecture) and academic aids such as note-takers and extra time in exams. It is important to have assessments of need conducted early so that learning supports are in place when the student starts coursework. Then, once a year, ensure that college staff review the effectiveness of the support program.

Having a social mentor can be particularly useful. Autism Speaks’ college program–Autism Speaks U–promotes awareness and advocacy for students with ASD and may be one source of social mentoring during college. Sometimes just a friendly ear is needed, particularly at times of increased pressure (e.g. first week of college and exams).

Before the start of classes, see if you can get an advanced class schedule. Consider the timing and distance between classes—again from the point of view of the demands placed on your student.

Finally at least a year before your son or daughter graduates, begin planning an “exit strategy” in consultation with the school’s careers office and other college staff familiar with your now-adult child.

With the right planning and support, college can be a great environment for young adults on the autism spectrum. I hope your son or daughter has as much fun as I did.

Here are some additional resources:

1. The Autism Speaks’ Transition Toolkit, particularly the section on Post-Secondary Educational Opportunities.
2. The TEACCH Autism Program of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
3. Preparing Students with Autism for College, and Preparing Colleges for Students with Autism, Hurewitz and Berger (2008).
4. Supporting More Able Students on the Autism Spectrum: College and Beyond Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders VanBergeijk, Klin and Volkmar (2008).
5. The [UK] National Autism Society’s Guidelines for Student Mentors.

Got more Questions? Please email us at gotquestions@autismspeaks.org.

College Students To Host Vintage Clothes Fundraiser for Autism Speaks

July 29, 2011 4 comments

This blog post was written by Alexandra Lewisohn and Maressa Criscito, the co-founders of the Autism Speaks U Chapter at the University of Michigan. Their Autism Speaks U chapter is dedicated to raising awareness and funds on campus and in the community. To get involved in our college program, visit www.autismspeaks.org/U.

On August 1, 2011 from 5-10 PM at 45 East 34th Street, 3rd floor in New York City, The Vintage Twin will be holding a trunk show event, where 10% of all proceeds will be donated to Autism Speaks. The Autism Speaks U Chapter at the University of Michigan is helping to organize this event and invite you to come out, shop and support Autism Speaks!

With a store run by stylists, The Vintage Twin treats shopping as a service and style as yours, allowing people of all colors, ages, and sizes to enjoy one-of-a-kind hand-picked, remodeled, and original designs. In line with its modernized products, The Vintage Twin is a footprint-free and socially responsible company.

Come join The Vintage Twin’s show, buy some fabulous one of a kind items, and help raise funds for Autism Speaks!

For more information about Autism Speaks U at the University of Michigan, visit our Facebook page to keep updated about future fundraising, volunteering, and advocacy events!

17 Wishes from an Adult with Autism

July 18, 2011 33 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of 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, while supporting their local autism communities.

If I had to make a list, this is what I would wish for the Autism Community…

1. I wish that acceptance was easier to come by.

2. I wish that loving one another was always on our mind.

3. I wish that an “early diagnosis” remains a high priority.

4. I wish that people would stop calling autism a disease.

5. I wish that communication becomes easier for everyone with autism. We are trying.

6. I wish that we find more treatments to enhance the lives of people with autism.

7. I wish that insurance for autism gets passed in all 50 states.

8. I wish that the government would understand the need for services for the autistic in schools.

9. I wish that autistic individuals can one day live their lives independently.

10. I wish that I was capable of helping more.

11. I wish that people would stop using the words “socially awkward” and “retard” in a negative way.

12. I wish we raise awareness for all with disabilities. Those of us living with a disability are doing our very best.

13. I wish for those who are or love someone who is on the spectrum that you know that we are moving forward every single day.

14. I wish that all of our voices can be heard.

15. I wish everyone will follow the words of one of my favorite performers of all time, Michael Jackson who sang in his song called, “Man in the Mirror”, If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.

16. I wish you all knew me when I was 4, when I was diagnosed with autism. For a long time I was lost. Scared of myself and what I was capable of. I never thought I would be where I am today… but I did it. I graduated from Seton Hall University this past May and will be going to Graduate School for Strategic Communications in the fall to boot. So for my final wish:

17. I wish for you all to always live life with hope. I wish that your days are filled with hope for a better tomorrow, and for today no matter how dark life gets sometimes that you realize you’re never alone. I wish this for you…

* I encourage everyone in the Autism Community to remember that we must come together as a true community to put our best foot forward. I know we all have a lot of wishes out there so let’s avoid distractions and focus on progress so we can all, “Make a Difference”. You can also find this article in the SFGate here.

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 Fan Page here.

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