Spotlight on the Blue
With April being Autism Awareness Month, UC Irvine’s chapter of Autism Speaks U hosted a weeklong event in an effort to raise awareness on the medical condition that has affected countless families.
Dressed in blue to represent the movement, student members of the organization participated in shedding light on the social and medical implications of the condition on patients and their families.
“I have a brother with autism, and back then, there was not a lot of awareness,” said Rae Gonzales, a third-year history major and the executive administrator of Autism Speaks U at UCI.
“What we are hoping from this movement as it grows throughout the years, is that people become more aware of what autism is and help raise fun for autism research. There are a lot of pieces still missing from our knowledge of autism.”
On Monday, April 2, the student members of Autism Speaks U hosted an autism myth buster. The next day, the club hosted a game night at the ARC where people could win prizes if they guess correctly on trivia about the condition.
A parent panel was held in Webster Hall on Wednesday, where Circle of Fifths performed for the organization and parents were asked questions about their experience with raising a child with autism.
On Thursday, the club held a craft night in VDC Norte where guests were offered free donuts and could participate in decorating their own puzzle pieces, the image being a symbol of autism. As Friday dawned, the club concluded their event by giving out blue carnations on Ring Road along with free donuts. The color blue predominates, being the color representing the conditions and the movement to help cope with it.
“What I like about this organization here at UCI is that we actually go out and develop actual connections to autistic kids or autistic teens,” Gonzales said. “Even when I have a very busy schedule at school, I would go to one out events and play with the kids. It’s really nice.”
The UC Irvine chapter of Autism Speaks U was established in winter quarter of 2011. There are currently 97 members in the organization.
Every Saturday, members of the club participate in a sports league and would coach teams of children who have autism and help them to play sports. The club is currently trying to raise money for the upcoming Los Angeles Walk Now for Autism held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on April 21.
Last year, the UCI walkers raised over $2,000 in fundraising, with the money going to autism research and national events to raise awareness and offer comfort and support to families dealing with autism.
“We try to spread autism awareness on campus, but we also participate in the OC community,” Gonzales said.
“We have many service events that occur ever single week, and we work with organizations and families who have children with autism and develop a closer relationship with them.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Autism affects one out of every 88 individuals and affects individuals from every ethnicity, regardless of gender, culture and socioeconomic groups.
Further information from the CDC characterizes the condition as a series of developmental disabilities or disorders that cause impaired social, behavioral and communicatory functions.
“Twenty years ago, I remember how hard it was for my family and I just to get my brother his needs, even when we moved to the United States,” Gonzales said,
“And so, what I like now is that all these organizations are coming up with programs that will actually take the time to help us. We didn’t have that before, so I’m hoping that as Autism Speaks grows, and more people know about it and more people get involved, that the future will be very bright.”