The Graduate Center radiated blue light on Tuesday April 2, National Autism Awareness Day, as Lindsay Hand, a freshman special education major, dressed in blue, arrived to show support for autism, an important cause for her and her family.
Hand’s 14-year-old brother has Asperger’s disease. It was a struggle for him and his family, since they did not know right away that he had it. He struggled growing up, having to deal with bullies.
Hand wanted everyone to know that people like her brother had as much potential as anyone else. This made her choose her major and involvement at Kutztown.
“My brother is what wanted to make me become a special education major,” said Hand.
Hand joined 25 to 30 other students at 8 p.m. for pictures and a video taken by a 69 News camera crew. Another picture was taken earlier at 11 a.m.
This event was the beginning of Autism Awareness Month. The Graduate Center will remain blue for the rest of April as part of Autism Speaks’ “Light It Up Blue” campaign. According to lightitupblue.com, about 57,000 people joined this campaign to light up buildings and other structures.
Diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have gone up in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 150 children had ASD in 2000, while one in 88 had it in 2008.
Disability Services provides services for around 18 autistic students over the course of the academic year.
The services depend on the documentation that the student provides to the Disability Services Office, according to Maggie Mclaughlin Yannes, provider of disability services at KU. Services could include single rooms, testing accommodations and early registration. Mclaughlin Yannes said that they also meet with each student to get an idea of what would best benefit them.
She believes that programs such as Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy and science organization, and the larger amount of children being diagnosed have increased awareness lately. However, she emphasizes that each case is different, which is why the office provides services case by case.
“People with disabilities in general are often an overlooked diverse population so as always, education to the campus community and the community at large is important,” said Mclaughlin Yannes.
The office received positive feedback from parents and students who found that the services helped the students do well at the university.
“We have students who have excelled by utilizing our services and learning how to navigate a college campus,” said Mclauglin Yannes. “Both parents and students [have expressed] the fact that the services we are able to provide have benefited them.”
Hand believes there is a lot of awareness about autism and other disabilities on campus. There are groups that promote awareness, such as the Delta Alpha Pi Disability Honor Society and Phoenix Group, as well as special education majors.
Hand, a part of Phoenix Group, said the group is small, but the people are passionate about disability awareness. Phoenix Group holds events such as fundraisers and disability panels in which students, including several autistic students, meet and discuss disabilities.
“They can do as much as anyone else if they are given the chance to,” said Hand.
For more information on autism, as well as news and events, visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/.
By Emily Leayman