by Rachel Philbrick ’20
On Tuesday, April 10, the Board of Programmers (BOP) hosted an event in McPhail’s designed to raise autism awareness across campus.
The event involved cupcake decorating using blue frosting, a tribute to the Light It Up Blue initiative, as well as providing students with materials to make their own bracelets, which included small puzzle piece charms to represent the complexity of the autism spectrum.
Decorated entirely in blue, the event served as a form of raising awareness and educating the student body as to what it means to have autism. April serves as Autism Awareness Month, and April 2 is dedicated to annually observe world Autism Awareness Day. Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization, launched the Light It Up Blue initiative which is dedicated to spreading awareness and promoting a sense of camaraderie to those affected by autism. The organization particularly focuses on reaching out to parents concerned that their child may have an autism spectrum disorder to seek early evaluation, because early intervention can be very helpful.
The Autism Speaks website offers insight on the organization’s goal: “My hope is that if I do inspire you in any way, it is to inspire you to realize that oftentimes in order to make a difference you have to be willing to BE different.”
Autism is a complicated disorder that consists of a complex spectrum. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, involves a range of conditions that cause difficulties with social skills, behavioral functioning, and both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Autism is not just one disorder; rather it is a range of differing functioning levels. The spectrum is a reference to the varying strengths and weaknesses that these individuals possess.
“What you see is just a piece of who I am.”
Autism affects a very diverse group of people, from those who have autism to those that have some type of relation to someone with autism. This became evident as a range of students began strolling into the awareness event on Tuesday. The seats at the blue tables were filled with students eager to feast on some cheesy pizza and support a great cause.
Marissa Marino ’21 explained that she came to this event because “I am an Elementary and Special Education major. Last year I was asked to submit my final project, which I chose the topic of autism to cover. My cousin is on the spectrum and served as the main reason driving me to choose learning more about autism. I also came here generally to support the spread of awareness.” Marino attented the event with her friend who is also passionate about shedding light on autism.
“I light it up blue for greater understanding and acceptance”
After speaking with a member on BOP, Katie Fair ’18 explained that she was responsible for the event and that BOP actually teamed up with other clubs on campus to make this event possible. Fair stated, “This event is a lot different than the other BOP-planned activities. It has a lot of meaning behind it and I made a real effort to plan a more diverse night for everybody.” Fair scanned the room with a smile and her goal of providing an inclusive atmosphere for a worthy cause seemed to be accomplished.
Autism Speaks provides an informative website containing various tools for anyone interested in learning more about the community. From research to advocacy, as well as fun events that the organization plans annually, anyone looking to support the spread of awareness can visit the website at: https://www.autismspeaks.org.