Autism Awareness on Campus
You may not know this, but April is Autism Awareness month. Autism may be a foreign concept to you or something that has personally affected you in your life. Either way, we all can take a few steps in order to help put the puzzle together that is autism.
First off, autism comes in many forms and degrees. It is a complex disorder that affects everyone a little differently. That is what makes it so hard to understand and so hard to treat and care for. The three main areas for autistic symptoms come in as social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Depending on the severity of the disorder certain motor functions, physical capabilities, and health issues, such as sleep and gastrointestinal issues, can be affected. Autism typically shows signs within 2 and 3 years of age.
Not all individuals diagnosed with autism show visible signs. Autism just makes them see the world in a different way than most people. This has led to some of the world’s mathematical breakthroughs and most creative art works and music pieces. Our job is to accept these individuals and to help them understand the world around them. Other individuals on the autism spectrum suffer from reduced communication to more debilitating issues. And then our job becomes helping them understand the world around them and assisting them with tasks they are not able to perform.
One of the organizations that have made great contributions to autism is Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is a national organization that promotes awareness, advocates to Congress, researches causes and solutions in order to treat and better understand autism, and gives back to those families struggling in order to care for their children with autism. Autism Speaks aims to educate the nation on autism and encourages people to vote to help Congress and other International entities fund autism treatments. Their mission is to change the future for all who deal with and struggle with an autism disorder. I think Autism Speaks has already accomplished their goal and will continue to make an impact in the future. You can get involved with Autism Speaks by going online, finding a walk near you, or donating your time, effort, and money at any of their walks, advocating conventions, and in the life of a child with autism close to your heart. Autism Speaks website is http://www.autismspeaks.org/.
College Awareness and Transition Supports (CATS) program is a program that Ferris State University offers in order to help encourage individuals with autism to go to college and supports them during their college years. The program provides mentors to the students as well as meeting as a whole group for social events. As a result those students with autism do better in school, stay longer in school, and enjoy school more.
As an Alpha Xi Delta at Ferris State we partner with the CATS program during their social events for the students. My sisters and I love being able to give back to our community in a way that is close to our hearts. To find out about a school near you that has a program go to your Disabilities Services office or check some out online at http://www.collegeautismspectrum.com/collegeprograms.html.
Most of these programs operate under grants from the government, these grants need to be lobbied for or they will not be available in years to come. Autism Speaks lobbies for grants like these and others that support children with autism and their families at different stages of their lives. So if there is not a program at your school and you think there is a need for a program like CATS, petition your disability centers and get in touch with lobbying organizations, like Autism Speaks, in order to encourage the government to fund more of these grants to support individuals with autism.
Haylee is pursuing a degree in Business Administration and a degree in Health Care Systems Administration at Ferris State University. After college, she plans on getting her Master’s and working in a hospital. Haylee is involved in many extracurricular activities that keep her busy. She spends her time after class playing intramurals, working as a Teachers’ Assistant, and hanging out with friends. Some organizations Haylee is involved in include: the Student Advisory Council for the College of Health Professions, Health Care Management Association, the Honors’ Program, and Alpha Xi Delta. When Haylee finds some free time, she enjoys reading and playing sports. Haylee has played soccer since she was three and loves to play whenever she gets a chance.