On Thursday, April 1, Kean students joined the Center for Leadership and Service (CLS) on their final Say Hello to Autism event in an effort to raise awareness of autism spectrum disorders.
Prior to the event, student volunteers were sent an email with a list of activities to complete during the service. Students were given the option to write a letter to an individual with autism, decorate a ribbon for Autism Awareness Month, decorate a puzzle piece with an encouraging word/quote or draw a picture.
They were encouraged to print templates for the ribbon and puzzle piece that were provided to later be scanned and submitted.
Once submitted, the drawings and letters are printed and sent out to an organization supporting individuals with autism.
Makenzie Powell and Katie Gordon, service specialists at CLS, welcome volunteers as they flood the online meeting. After greeting students, they verified everyone's preparation for the event and offered help to those who needed it.
As students worked diligently on their activities, a documentary titled: The Life Autistic Collection was showcased. The documentary explored all the challenges and successes of people with autism spectrum disorder. Students were given the opportunity to look deeper into the lives of families and individuals with autism ranging in condition and age.
With the documentary coming to a close, Powell welcomes everyone back with a presentation to cover more on the topic.
First, they go over the definition of autism.
"Autism (ASD) refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communication," Powell reads, "Every individual with ASD is different. The many different ways in which people with autism think, learn and problem solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged."
ASD is a fast-growing developmental disability, therefore it is important to spread awareness. Drawing other's attention to learning about the disability and helping raise money to donate to organizations for ASD can help tremendously.
The presenters explain to volunteers what to keep in mind when interacting with people who have autism. It is important to be patient, communicate clearly and respect differences. Bullying can be prevalent in the lives of people with autism. Students were encouraged to stand up for their peers if they see acts of violence against them.
Volunteers were introduced to the National Autistic Society, a UK-based charity for autistic people and their families. This charity's main goal is to transform lives, change attitudes and create a society that works for autistic people.
As the event came to a close, students were given space to share their thoughts on the documentary and comment on the things they learned during the event.
If students have any questions or concerns, they can reach out to the Center for Leadership and Service by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org