Bridges, buildings and monuments turned blue on Wednesday, April 2, in recognition of Autism Awareness Month. This April, the JCU chapter of Autism Speaks U is joining in the celebration.
Wednesday, April 2 marked the international “Light It Up Blue” celebration of World Autism Awareness Day and commemorated its seventh year as a United Nations-sanctioned event.
JCU’s Autism Speaks U brought Autism Awareness Week to campus through four days of fundraising and advocacy events, ranging from a table in the atrium to tie-dying t-shirts.
Sophomore Tim Schifferle, president of the Autism Speaks U JCU chapter, described one of the group’s upcoming events.
“This year on April 11, we’re partnering with SUPB. They’re doing a bingo night, and all the prizes are going to be blue in honor of Light It Up Blue week,” he said.
Autism Speaks U is not solely focused on raising money and spreading awareness. The JCU chapter also works with children from Milestones Autism Resources, a local organization in Beachwood, Ohio.
Schifferle, who is serving his second year as president of the organization, said the group will be hosting an event at the end of April specifically for children with autism.
“We’re actually going to be doing a Spring Fling event, where the kids are going to come here and we’re going to do a spring formal dance with them,” he said.
Autism Speaks U, the division of Autism Speaks targeted towards college students, states that autism affects 1 in 88 people. The organization compared this statistic with 1 in 500 people affected by juvenile diabetes and 1 in 1,200 people affected by leukemia. Autism receives $79 million in funding, while juvenile diabetes receives $156 million and leukemia receives $277 million.
According to Schifferle, autism is the “fastest growing disability in the world.”
He also emphasized Autism Speaks’ goal to spread autism awareness.
“A lot of people are scared to go and talk to kids that have autism,” Schifferle said. “In Autism Speaks U, one of the things you realize that all you have to do is just go and talk to them.”
“They’re just normal kids like you and I. They’re super fun and they like having fun. They play games, watch TV and they do everything a normal kid does. Except they have those disabilities which kind of draws them back from society.”
As a nonprofit organization, Autism Speaks donates much of the money it raises to families affected by autism, as well as to research efforts.
“There isn’t a cure, but there are ways to diminish it greatly if it’s found early on,” said Schifferle.
On Friday, March 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the number of children with some form of autism has risen to 1 in 68. However, the CDC clarified that only children in certain communities were studied, and the data was not comprehensive enough to be attributed to the entire country.
“It’s not that there are more kids with autism,” said Schifferle. “Through the spreading of advocacy, more people realize what autism is.”
JCU’s Autism Awareness Week concludes today, April 3, with a table in the atrium. Members of the organization will be selling raffle tickets, lollipops and t-shirts.
For more information, visit autismspeaks.org