The UC Irvine chapter of Autism Speaks U held a series of events during Week One in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
From March 31 to April 4, members of the club handed out blue Easter eggs and blue flowers on Ring Road, and also held an art day at their booth.
According to the national organization Autism Speaks, “autism spectrum disorder and autism are general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.” The CDC states that 1 in 68 children will fall on the spectrum. Also according to the national organization Autism Speaks, “ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.”
Chris Halsh, a third-year earth system science and ecology and evolutionary biology double major, is the president of the Autism Speaks U club at UCI. The group focuses their efforts on autism awareness and service to the autism community. The chapter raises awareness by educating members of the club about the disorder during club meetings.
The club has two recurring events that provide service to the autism community. One of these events, The Friday Night Club, was created by a girl in high school who wanted to give her brother a high school experience. It is an “opportunity not just for children with autism, but for children with all sorts of disabilities to sort of come together and hang out,” Halsch said.
Autism Speaks U also works with the SPIRIT League every Saturday morning. The organization provides a place for children with various disabilities to have a team experience and play with people who are on their level. In the fall, the kids play soccer and in the winter they play basketball. “Right now it is baseball, which is the most fun,” Halsh said.
In addition to the two recurring events, they participate in local walks, held twice a year to support autism. Halsh became involved with the autism community because his brother has autism.
“My brother personally has a really tough time talking and making eye contact with people, but he is still a normal kid. People with autism are still normal kids, they still like to have fun,” he said.
“I think that autism is really misunderstood. People think that it means that you are really dumb or that you are really smart, but it is not that. Like it is kids, kids who just have a hard time communicating in the way that we have set up our society.”
Autism Speaks U will hold a benefit show featuring UCI bands and alumni on April 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Crystal Cove Auditorium. Admission is free, but there is a recommended donation of $5.
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