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An early start to “Light It Up Blue” in Central Ohio

January 25, 2011 3 comments

This guest post is by Kim Niederst, the Area Director of Nationally Managed Walks.

On Friday, January 14, I headed to Dublin Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio for the first Autism Puzzle Shootout.  Not knowing what to expect, I was prepared to watch high school boys basketball.  What I found was an army of students and faculty in blue t-shirts with “1 in 110” printed on the front.  It was a true “Blueout” with the entire Dublin Coffman side of the gym in blue shirts – 600 in all!  The players wore the shirts during warm ups, the cheerleaders cheered in their shirts, everyone replaced the tried and true Ohio scarlet and gray and went blue for autism awareness!!

During the week, the Dublin Coffman students sold all 600 tshirts, wristbands, raffle tickets and contenstant slots in minute to win it games which were held during half time.  The students raised $4,000 to benefit Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of Ohio.  A local car dealership joined the effort by donating $5,000 to the cause – so a $9,000 night for Dublin Coffman!  Visit this link for video coverage of the Shootout!

And the fun doesn’t end with Dublin Coffman!  There are 6 more Shootout events scheduled over the next three weeks.

  • Tuesday, January 25 – Westerville South vs. Dublin Scioto
  • Friday, January 28 – Grove City vs. Lancaster
  • Friday, January 28 – Gahanna Lincoln vs. Pickerington Central
  • Friday, February 4 – New Albany vs. Franklin Heights
  • Thursday, February 10 – Hamilton Township vs. Amanda-Clearcreek
  • Saturday, February 12 – Olentangy Orange vs. Olentangy

The Shootout is the brainchild of Jerod Smalley, NBC 4 Sports Director and father of two young boys diagnosed with autism.  Smalley’s concept is to provide high school students with information about the autism epidemic and create a forum where they can show support for awareness and fundraising efforts in Central Ohio.  Students will participate in a “Blueout” at each game and compete with other area schools in a fundraising effort.  The winning school will receive free food for all students.

The Autism Puzzle is Central Ohio’s source for all things relating to autism.  Powered by NBC 4, the Autism Puzzle is showcased through television specials featuring a live web chat and ask the expert phone bank, print magazine and web portal.

In working with NBC 4, I have realized the true power of a media partnership.  Since 2008, NBC 4 has provided countless hours of air time – either through public service announcements or the anchors on the news broadcasts casually encouraging viewers to attend the Columbus Walk Now for Autism Speaks event.  4’s Army has raised well over $25,000 to advance the mission of Autism Speaks.  I am honored  to work with our partners at NBC 4 to increase awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorders in the local community.

If you live in Central Ohio, please go to an upcoming Autism Puzzle Shootout.  The energy in the gym is electrifying and you may even see yourself on TV as NBC 4 broadcasts live at many of the games.  If you are not a Central Ohioan, check out the Autism Puzzle online at www.theautismpuzzle.org.  It is a fabulous resource and who knows you may see the Autism Puzzle at your local station soon!

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If you are a high school interested in hosting an event for Autism Speaks please check out our Student Initiatives Program.

If you are a college student interested in hosting an event please visit Autism Speaks U.

The End of the IEP and the Beginning of “Reasonable Accommodations”

July 25, 2010 15 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: 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. It is an exciting and collaborative way for students to raise funds and awareness for Autism Speaks, while supporting their local autism communities.

In June 2007, I graduated from high school. It was an amazing time for me. The majority of my classmates and I were off to great new beginnings. My new beginning began at Seton Hall University. “This is going to be great!” I thought to myself on many occasions before the first day of classes.

Before this day happened however all new incoming freshman had to attend a summer “Orientation Period.” During this period we would have the chance to spend the night in the freshman dorms, receive our laptops and also get to meet several faculty members at the school. In addition to this, I had one additional separate meeting that most of the other freshman didn’t – an accommodation meeting with The Director of Disability Support Services at SHU.  This is when the ball dropped for me.

During the meeting I learned many intriguing and frightening things about how college was going to be a huge difference from high school; the main difference for me was going to be “The IEP.” When I asked what the difference would be, I was told the difference was I would not have one. I can’t believe I was that oblivious that this was going to happen.  Later, I learned that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) the IEP only exists K-12th grade. At the college door you get a Section 504 accommodations plan.

In college, you only receive “reasonable accommodations” to help make the classes accessible to those specific students with disabilities. The bottom line: there is no plan for you. The only way to receive what you need is by being independent and advocating for your needs. But what does anyone need? If you are a freshman and have autism how do you explain what you need?

At times, this led to many distractions that never would have occurred when I was younger. Sometimes I thought it was unfair. I had to advocate for my own single room in the dorms due to my social complications, extended time on tests for my reading comprehension, a note taker for my classes due to my lack of motor skills and many other complications. For someone trying to fit in it seemed like it was designed to make you stand out like a sore thumb. It even seemed as if as soon as I accomplished one of these tasks, the next semester would begin and it would start all over again for my new courses which required different accommodations.

When you add this to managing a full course load, trying to socialize with your  fellow peers, along with being involved in extra-curricular activities, it can sometimes feels like you are drowning. I mean, “reasonable accommodations” are supposed to help level the playing field, not hinder you in any way. There isn’t a “reasonable accommodation” for that.

Although getting accommodations sometimes was daunting, I was still able to get by and will be going through the same process again with Disability Support Services come this September in my senior year at Seton Hall. For several semesters now I sit up front and tape most of my classes and download the recordings onto my computer, instead of utilizing a note taker. Never would have thought of that freshman year. For those reading who are younger and not yet in college, my advice is to sit in on as many IEP meetings as you can. Learn and ask as many questions as possible.  The letters after your diagnosis don’t tell you if you need extended time or a note taker, but knowing if you are a visual or auditory learner may. Within this I would also strongly consider letting your parents be involved in some of your early decision making, especially when it includes freshman year accommodations. Independence is not grown over night and we all need that added voice sometimes to make sure we are level-headed and knowing exactly what we are getting ourselves into.

As many say early intervention is the key once first diagnosed, early intervention for those on the spectrum in college (and high school for that matter as well) is the key to ultimate success. What I’ve noticed about autism over the years is that it’s not a weakness unless you let it become one. Don’t let it hinder you. Let the advantages of who you are and what you have to offer be your ability to make it at the college level; just always know what your weaknesses are so you can be ready for whatever is to come next!

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