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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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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