By Jocelyn Oceguera
April is National Autism Awareness Month and students are gathering to shed light on the nation’s fastest growing serious developmental disability.
According to the Autism Speaks website, autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships. It is characterized through difficulties with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communications as well as repetitive behaviors.
With its growing incidence, The Autism Society was founded in 1965 and by the early 1970s they began a nationwide campaign to bring awareness, holding their first Autism awareness month that April.
“I think it is important to bring awareness to school campuses so we can learn how to accept and interact with people that have autism,” said third-year sociology student Ruby Ponce.
Ponce tutors elementary students, some of which have autism. She believes that college campuses should put more focus on such an important issue, so that students can have proper interactions with those affected by the disorder.
Cal Poly Pomona’s chapter of Alpha Xi Delta is raising autism awareness. They proudly support Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism advocacy organization dedicated to informing the public of autism spectrum disorders.
Since becoming the national sponsor for Autism Speaks, Alpha Xi Delta has risen over $5 million in donation funds. They advocate for the needs of individuals with autism, their families, funding research, prevention and treatments.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism is a national public health crisis, as both the cause and cure remain unknown. It affects 1 in 68 children. It has affected more than three million individuals in the U.S. and tens of thousands worldwide.
Despite these statistics, autism research remains severely underfunded.
“I’m hoping that our efforts can help people understand and learn what to do when they encounter someone with autism, and accept that they may think slightly different than others, but know how to react, and make sure that person feels heard,” said Kelly McInnis, a third-year aerospace engineering student.
McInnis is the philanthropy vice president for Alpha Xi Delta. She believes that autism awareness already exists and would love to push for people to learn as much as they can about it, so that people are more accepting and considerate to those who fall in the broad spectrum.
Alpha Xi Delta is promoting the Light It Up Blue campaign this month, asking people to light up their houses blue or to wear blue in support of National Autism Awareness Month. In addition, they will be tabling over the next two weeks during U-Hour to hand out information about the disorder and Autism Speaks.
“I would love if people would come out to the Orange County Autism Speaks walk at Angels Stadium, there are so many great resources there, and educational opportunities for people to learn about the issue.” said Mcnnis.
Alpha Xi Delta
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