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Autism Speaks U “Light It Up Blue” LIVE Q&A Transcript

February 17, 2012 2 comments

On Thursday, February 16, our Autism Speaks U team hosted a LIVE Facebook Q&A for college students across the country. We discussed Light It Up Blue, World Autism Awareness Day, awareness/fundraising event ideas and shared links to awareness and promotions resources. If you were unable to join,  read below for the full transcript. Visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U for more information.

4:59
Hi everyone, thanks for joining our LIVE Q&A! We’ll begin in 2 minutes.
5:02
This Q&A is intended for college students, faculty and staff.
5:02
It is text only – you’ll interact with us via the live chat client that you are logged into now. When you submit a question or comment there will be a delay from when it appears on the chat client.
5:03
Moderating this Q&A will be Sarah Caminker and Jaclyn Renner from Autism Speaks U.
5:03
Let’s do a roll call, so we know the schools that are being represented.Enter your school name and if you’re an undergrad, grad or staff.
5:03
Comment From Amanda

NYU

5:03
Comment From Theresa

SUNY Albany- undergrad

5:03
Comment From Rosalie

Seattle Pacific University, undergrad of psychology department

5:04
Comment From John

National Univ. San Diego

5:04
Comment From Elisse Bachman

Elisse Bachman, Graduate Student (’13): Bloomsburg Univ of PA (Bloomsburg, PA)

5:04
Comment From Guest

Liberty University – Undergrad

5:04
Comment From sharon moreno

VCU, Richmond, VA – parent of undergrad

5:04
Comment From Jessica

Appalachian State – undergraduate

5:04
Comment From Guest

University of Texas at Austin – undergrad

5:04
Comment From Guest

San Joaquin Delta College undergrade in early child development

5:05
Comment From Rob and LK @ Gettysburg

Co-founders and -presidents of Autism Speaks U Gettysburg College

5:05
Comment From Lori – staff

Bridgewater State University, MA

5:06
Comment From Aspen

Arizona State University Undergrad

5:06
Comment From Susan

Remington College of Nursing, faculty

5:06
Comment From Guest

Smith College, undergrad

5:06
Looks like we have a diverse group here! If anyone comes on later, please post your name and school.
5:07
Comment From Brookie

Meredith College Raleigh NC

5:07
Comment From Katrina Mesina

Chicago Autism Speaks Office

5:07
For those new to Autism Speaks U, it is a program that supports students who
-host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events
-start chapters
-become campus ambassadors.We have 50 official Autism Speaks U Chapters across the country and work with hundreds of students who host events!
5:07
Get more information at www.AutismSpeaks.org/U or email sarah.caminker@autismspeaks.org
5:07
This Q&A will include the following:
-Explanation of Light It Up Blue & World Autism Awareness Day.
-Overview of how to get your campus to participate.
-Event ideas and links to resources.
-Question and answer session.
5:08
Before we dive into our first topic, we’d like to ask….
5:08
Did you know that Monday, April 2 is Light It Up Blue and World Autism Awareness Day?
Yes: ( 73% )

No: ( 27% )

5:09
Thanks for the feedback.For those who answered no, Light It Up Blue is Autism Speaks 3rd annual awareness campaign, where iconic buildings, landmarks and schools across the world are asked to change their lights from white to blue on April 2nd in Honor of United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day.
5:09
April 2nd also kicks off Autism Awareness Month which is all throughout April.
5:09
So what does this mean?April 2nd is a BIG deal, and we need your help to turn everything blue!
5:09
Last year, 150 colleges and universities across the country participated in Light It Up Blue by illuminating a building or structure or by hosting events on campus.
5:10
Did your school light it up blue last year?
Yes: ( 11% )

No: ( 89% )

5:10
Here are few images of buildings that went blue in 2011
5:10

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UConn’s Wilbur Cross Building.
5:11

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UC Berkeley’s Campanile
5:11

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Colgate University’s campus chapel.
5:11

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Case Western Reserve University’s Peter B. Lewis building.
5:11

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The Great Buddah at Hyogo in Kobe, Japan. – We know it’s not a school, but this is one of our favorite pictures!
5:12
Other incredible monuments that lit it up blue last year include the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls, Sydney Opera House, Christ the Redeemer Statue, Tokyo Tower and more!
5:12
A new question for everyone…..please vote!
5:12
Is your school planning to light up a building/monument blue this year?
Yes: ( 48% )

No: ( 52% )

5:13
If you answered no, here are 5 easy ways to get your school to participate in Light It Up Blue.
5:13
1. Decide what building you want to light up blue. Determine this BEFORE you ask your school to participate, so you’re prepared when meeting with faculty and staff.
5:13
2. Contact your school’s President and Student Activities Director to ask them to participate. Do this via email or by making an in-person appointment.
5:13
Download a sample letter template that you can modify and send to your school athttp://bit.ly/liubletter.
5:14
3. See if there’s an Autism Speaks U chapter (http://bit.ly/chapterlist) or one of our national philanthropic partners (Αlpha Xi Delta http://bit.ly/azdlistings & Theta Delta Chihttp://bit.ly/tdxcharges) at your school. If so, contact them and work together!
5:14
4. Ask different academic department heads (Psychology, Education, Communication, Speech & Hearing, etc.) to work with you and the school administration to light up your campus blue.
5:15
5. Explain to your school WHY it is important to Light It Up Blue.
5:15
For example, 1 in 110 individuals are on the spectrum and a new case is diagnosed every 15 minutes. All the more reason to educate your campus about this prevalent disability.
5:16
Your campus will also be aligning themselves with prestigious schools, such as Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern, UC Berkeley and Penn State who lit up their campuses blue last year.
5:16
Now….HOW do you actually light up the building blue? There are 2 ways.
5:16
1. The school purchases blue bulbs from a hardware and lighting supply stores and replaces the white bulbs with blue ones.
5:17
Contact your school’s facilities manager for specific details on what type of lights you will need.
5:17
2. Place gels, filters or blue cellophane over the existing lights. These can be purchased from a local lighting supply store.
5:18
A few tips about the gels/filters…
5:18
If the installed lights are very bright white light, then it is recommended to use Roscolux #80 Primary Blue.If the lights have a medium intensity or the surface isn’t highly reflective, use Roscolux #68 Sky Blue.
5:18
The school’s facilities manager will be able to discuss this in more detail, but it’s helpful to have this information on hand.
5:18
If unable to light up a building blue there are other ways to have your school participate.
5:19
If there is an electronic marquee on your campus ask them to display the Light It Up Blue logo and announce that it is World Autism Awareness Day.
5:19

5:19
Encourage students, faculty and staff to all wear blue on April 2, or on another designated day in April. Gather everyone together, take a picture and send it to us!
5:19

5:20
Get a banner hung cross campus or near student housing to let everyone know that it’s World Autism Awareness Day.
5:20

5:20
Does your school have a well-known statue, monument or mascot? If so, decorate it with Autism Speaks U banners, gear and blue balloons!
5:20

5:20
Deck out the campus in blue. See how one school got approval to paint their campus’ tunnel.
5:21

5:21
There are SO many different ways to light up your campus blue! Be creative, think outside the box and don’t forget to send us pictures!
5:22
Now for a QUESTION….please submit a response
5:22
What building(s) or monuments are you planning to light up blue?
5:22
Comment From Caitlyn

The student center

5:22
Comment From Guest

Library, student center, and quad

5:23
Comment From Guest

Dorms

5:23
Comment From Lori – staff

I would love for the University to light up the main administrative building ~ Boyden Hall.

5:23
Comment From Rosalie

Demaray Hall Clocktower

5:23
Comment From Jessica

Mascot statue and our university’s main sign

5:23
Comment From Kimberly

Hey something I haven’t seen … let’s try and get towns or cities lite up blue that day

5:23
Comment From Rob and LK @ Gettysburg

Our main historic Building, Penn hall

5:24
Comment From Guest

I would like to light up College Hall here at Smith College, MA. It is very visible.

5:24
Comment From Theresa

I requested my school to light of the University Hall which is the first building you would see if you walked onto campus or the Campus Center

5:24
Comment From Kasia

We have a building that is a historic building here that just got new led lights so the building is always lit up and they can make them change different colors.

5:24
Comment From Susan

Will encourage everyone to wear blue April 2nd

5:24
Comment From Guest

Main building

5:24
Comment From Jasmine

The preschool I work for, the quad at the college and my house!

5:24
Comment From Kasia

Possibly our Mountaineer statue as well

5:24
Comment From Theresa

University Hall or the Campus Center

5:25
Comment From Guest

We are planning on having a block party on April 2nd. We’ll be having blue bracelets that light up, so we can do a countdown for sunset and have students light theirs up then.

5:25
Comment From Mike

We’re lighting up all the dinning halls on campus blue

5:26
Comment From Brooklyn at ISU
I love that block party idea
5:26
In addition to lighting up a building blue, host an event on April 2, or throughout the month of April!
5:26
To start, download our Light It Up Blue cards at http://bit.ly/liubcards.
5:26

5:27
Print these out and distribute the cards outside the buildings that are lit blue. They are a great way to raise awareness!FYI….we’ll be listing all available materials in a few minutes.
5:27
Event ideas can include, but are not limited to:
5:27
Bake sales
Autism Speaks wristband sale
Blue cupcake eating contest
Walk/run
5:27
Blue hair extensions booth
Spare change campaign
Zumbathon
T-shirt sales
Blue flower sale
5:28
One of our favorites….a blue cake pop fundraiser!
5:28

5:28
They’re easy to make and a big hit. Download the cake pop recipe at http://bit.ly/bluecakepops.
5:29
Or try a puzzle piece campaign.
5:29

5:29
Set up a table on campus and sell puzzle piece cards to students, faculty and staff. Whoever purchases the card, signs his/her name and display the cards in your Student Center.
5:30
Attach fact cards to blue flowers and sell them on campus throughout April. It’s a great way to raise awareness and brighten someone’s day.
5:30

5:31
For more event suggestions, download our “A through Z Event Ideas” guide athttp://bit.ly/q4Ex0w.
5:33
Another QUESTION for everyone….what awareness and fundraising events are you planning for Light It Up Blue & World Autism Awareness Day?
5:34
Don’t be shy….what events are you planning on April 2nd?
5:34
Comment From Rob and LK @ Gettysburg

trying to get the entire campus to wear blue, trying to light up a couple buildings, facts will be written throughout the ground in crayon, and we will be passin out info cards as well as wrapping trees up in blue tape

5:35
Comment From Mike

We’re having an all blue relay race on campus. $20 a team to register. The team with the most creative uniform wins a gift card which was donated.

5:35
Comment From Guest

We are getting shops around the university to post facts, make donations, and decorate their stores blue throughout the month of April.

5:35
Comment From Caitlyn

I was thinking a run/walk race and if that wasn’t possible an Autism Awareness BINGO night where the prizes would be blue

5:35
Comment From Jasmine

I plan on baking blue treats, cupcakes, cookies, cakepops and getting crafty by making blue flower headbands. Also, I plan on wearing blue as much as possible through out April! My 4 yr old son has autism and he makes my whole world a better place!

5:35
Comment From Lori – staff

My hope/plan is to get the involvement started at my campus! I love the ideas people are posting though!!

5:36
Comment From Susan

Blue Sidewalk chalk might be cool

5:36
Comment From Anna

We’re setting up a blue hair extension booth from April 2-6 on campus.

5:36
Comment From Lakesha

A scavenger hunt using puzzle pieces as clue cards, having students and faculty wear blue and having a walk.

5:36
Comment From Theresa

Aside from having a building lit up blue, we are trying to get everyone to wear blue and I was having trouble coming up with an idea but I really love the idea of the cake pop fundraiser attached to fact cards. And Sunday April 1st is our walk.

5:37
Comment From Caitlyn

Also I was thinking of painting a bunch of puzzles blue and hiding the pieces around our student center and the library and the person with the most pieces got a prize

5:37
Comment From Vicky Cid

we will be wrapping trees in blue ribbon, posting fact puzzle pieces into the ground with stakes, chalking facts onto the ground, lighting up a building blue, teaming up with our student body to hold awareness events like a blueberry pie eating contest, trivia bowl, etc… and teaming up with a local bar to raise funds

5:37
Comment From Rosalie

Will try to light up the buidling, blue ribbons around trees, mass emails to student to wear blue, and a fundraiser

5:38
Comment From Kasia

We are celebrating the entire week. We’re going to get a banner and have people sign but I’m liking the puzzle piece campaign better. Selling blue or puzzle piece printed ribbon. Selling wristbands. Giving out prizes to people we see wearing blue in support. Try to do a walk and have a game night. Having a guest speaker. On the 2nd we are also having a party (if the weather is nice) out by the building that we are lighting up blue.

5:38
Comment From Jasmine

My house will be decorated with Light It Up Blue and blue decor inside and out!

5:39
Comment From Michelle

We’re having a powder-puff football game with a few different sororities on campus. All the funds raised go to Autism Speaks! We’re getting the Greek Council & Student Government Assoc. to encourage everyone to attend.

5:39
All awesome ideas! There is one GREAT way to promote your events and that is through texting.
5:39
How many emails do you open? 1 out of every 10.How many text do you open? ALL
5:40
Send a text to 10 people. Include the event info. and ask them to forward the text on to 10 of their friends.
5:40
Create a text messaging campaign to increase attendance and funds raised!
5:41
Comment From Will

That’s a great idea! I never thought of that.

5:41
We’re excited for all you have planned.
5:41
Please remember to send pictures to autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org of your events and campus lit up blue!FYI, since photos tend to be large, only send one photo per email.
5:42
Once your event is confirmed, we’ll send out awareness materials and a banner. Email autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org your name, mailing address, event name/time/date/location.
5:42
A few additional tips….
5:42
1. Distribute awareness materials outside the building being lit up, so students connect the color blue to autism and Autism Speaks U.
5:42
2. Remember to take pictures! Contact your school’s newspaper or photography club and ask them take a high resolution picture of the building being lit blue and of your events.
We promote all of the schools that we receive pictures from.
5:43
3. Don’t start from scratch…use our promotional materials to get the word out!
5:43
Click the links below to download the items and print them off.
5:44
Side note: We’ll be posting the transcript from this Q&A later on the Autism Speaks U Facebook (www.facebook.com/autismspeaksu), so you’ll be able to access the links again.
5:44
Customizable Light It Up Blue Posters
• 8.5 x 11 poster- http://bit.ly/liubposter1
• 11 x 17 poster- http://bit.ly/liubposter2
5:44
•How To: Light It Up Blue Flyer- http://bit.ly/liubflyer
• This offers ideas for how you can get your campus involved.
5:44
Light It Up Blue Fact Cards – http://bit.ly/liubcards
5:45
These cards were just made for Autism Speaks U & Light It Up Blue, so use them!
5:45
Autism Speaks U Quarter Cards – http://bit.ly/quartercards
5:45
Fact & School Cards – http://bit.ly/vefknD
5:45
Autism Speaks U Handout – http://bit.ly/xfp6fq
5:46
Remember to email autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org when your school CONFIRMS what building will be lit up and/or you have a confirmed event planned for Light It Up Blue.
5:47
We promote all the schools that participate in Light It Up Blue and want to include your campus!
5:47
We have a few minutes left, and wanted to take one more poll, before we open it up to questions.
5:47
Do you prefer attending a monthly Facebook Q&A or would you rather have a monthly conference call?
Conference call: ( 11% )

Facebook Q&A: ( 89% )

5:49
Good to know that we all love Facebook!
5:49
Now, please ask any questions about what was discussed or about the Autism Speaks U program.
5:50
We’ll share these questions, so everyone can learn from each other. If you have tips/suggestions please provide those as well.
5:50
Comment From Kim

If I’m having trouble getting my school to Light It Up Blue, who should I contact?

5:50
Kim, please contact your school’s president and/or student activities director. Download a sample letter template that you can modify and send to your school at http://bit.ly/liubletter.
5:51
Comment From Mojdeh

How long does it take to start an Autism Speaks U chapter?

5:51
Mojdeh, it can take some students 1-2 months, while 6 months+ for others. It depends on your school’s process, and if you finish all the required Autism Speaks U paperwork.
5:51
Comment From Isabel

If we’re having an event can we use the Autism Speaks U logo on our flyer?

5:52
We have a specific Autism Speaks U logo that is used for people hosting events. Please email jaclyn.renner@autismspeaks.org, explain your event and we’ll provide the correct logo.
5:53
We do ask that you submit a proof to us of ALL items using the Autism Speaks U logo before it gets printed/distributed.
5:53
Comment From John

To Kim, I have found that getting the Local TV station involved can sometimes push things in the right direction.. Be Nice…

5:53
Comment From Lakesha

I am having trouble getting my school to light it up. The presidents secretary is not letting us get through, and other faculty are not showing up to meetings we have scheduled to talk about plans

5:54
We have had students email the school President directly and explain WHY it is important to light it up blue. Explain to them what this day/campaign means. You can also CC other school administration on the email, so they are appear about it as well.
5:54
Comment From Jasmine

If I host an Autism Awareness/Light It Up Blue party at my house, will you still be willing to send banners and additional materials?

5:55
Absolutely! Email us the details.
5:55
Comment From Kasia

As far as selling t-shirts are we allowed to sell the shirts from the website or does it have to be designed that we created to sell?

5:56
You can sell shirts from the website or from other places that you purchased them. Completely up to you!
5:56
Comment From Kim

John- That’s a great idea. I was thinking of contact our school and local news paper and TV station to see if they would publicize what we’re trying to do.

5:56
Comment From Mojdeh

How to you go about getting sponsors for events? My school has said that once my chapter is approved I am given $200 for the year.

5:58
Contact local businesses, restaurants, shops, etc. Stop by stores close to campus and explain to them what a sponsor for your event/chapter would entail.
5:58
Access our sponsorship guide at http://bit.ly/o2REod.
5:58
It’s a great resource!
5:59
We’re just about out of time. Thank all of you for participating in our Q&A!
5:59
It’s fantastic to see college students so involved in raising awareness and advocating for the autism community.
5:59
Remember to check out www.AutismSpeaks.org/U for more information!
5:59
If we didn’t get to your question or you have a few more, email us at autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.
6:00
Thanks, and have a great night!

Call Me Kerry and Never Rain Man

January 3, 2012 8 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.

Do you know that I was once called Rain Man by a college peer? Wow. When I look back at the reason why anyone would say something like that I think of some of the stereotypes of autism. Some think people with autism lack social interaction and others think people with autism are good at math. In the 1988 movie Rain Man, Actor Dustin Hoffman plays a character that is autistic and shows he’s good with numbers but also lacks some communication skills. Because of the popularity of this movie and mainly because autism was still very unknown during the release of the movie it became, for better or for worse, a characterization of what autism could be.

But you know what the problem is here? I’m autistic and I’m nothing like Rain Man. I’m now an adult great with verbal communication, I’m not as good in math and the differences keep piling up. You see, autism is very broad. No one diagnosis is the same and therefore when we think of Rain Man we must think of Rain Man as ONLY Rain Man. He is one symbol of the countless symbols of real people out there that have autism. I think that’s what makes our autism community great. We all are unique in our own way and we all have the opportunity to have our “voices” heard. Sometimes that voice is not a verbal one, sometimes it is heard through our art or music or some other skill or talent we have or simply a smile at our family members. Each and every individual with autism is a new and unique symbol of what autism is today and will be for our future.

So in keeping with the future…

To those who are reading…

Don’t call me Rain Man. Call me Kerry.

Don’t think I’m bad at verbal communication, because in fact in my own way I’m great at communication and I’m getting a Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication to boot.

Don’t think I’ll be ready to help when it comes to numbers, because all I’m going to do is pass you a calculator.

AND, most importantly, just look at me as me. I’m Kerry and there is only one of me. Just like there is only one of you. Let’s embrace the fact that there will only be one Kerry Magro, just like there will only be one Rain Man. We write our own stories based on the biography of life which we are all living through right now. Let’s make sure the chapters we’re writing are good ones, by living it just the way we are.

So please call me Kerry the next time you see me, because that is someone who I  was always meant to be.

I just started a new video blog called “My Autism My Voice,” and this is one of the topics I discuss. Click here for more information. 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.

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.

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