April sparks national campaign of Autism Awareness Month

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Lark Kwan Choi, a graduate electrical engineering student, talks to members of Autism Speaks U at the Autism Block Party Monday evening. The event was created to raise awareness for the disorder during Autism awareness month.

Photo Credit: Shannon Kintner | Daily Texan Staff

Starting tonight, buildings in downtown Austin will shine blue in honor of Autism Awareness Month.

Autism Speaks U and Tau Kappa Epsilon hosted an Autism Block Party Monday to raise awareness for this growing disorder as well as fundraising to support research.

The goal of the event was to educate students about a disorder that is not commonly acknowledged, said Stephanie Schirber, psychology senior and Autism Speaks U vice president.

“April is Autism Awareness Month, so we wanted to do something to support this national campaign,” Schirber said.

New statistics show that the number of children affected by autism has grown recently, so it is necessary to make people more aware of what the disorder actually is, Schirber said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s March 30 report, one in 88 children are affected by autism, an increase from the previous statistic of one in 110 children. According to the centers’ website, “Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Autism affects different people in different ways. It impacts the way peoples’ brains process information, and it commonly causes challenges with social interaction.

Schirber said she was motivated to get involved with Autism Speaks U because her sister has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

“Autism Speaks U is new UT organization that tries to work with kids and families of those affected with autism,” Schirber said. “We also place a large focus on awareness, because people should learn to be more accepting of those with autism.”

This event was held to serve as an outlet for everyone to come and learn about autism, said Doris Kisel, Autism Speaks U president and communication science and disorders junior.

“Many people can recognize autism as a disorder, but most do not know what autism actually is or the effects of it on children and their families,” Kisel said.

At the event, members answered questions and clarified any misconceptions about people affected by autism, and people sold items associated with Light Up Blue, a national movement for autism awareness.

“We sold bracelets, lights and pins that are all tied with the movement,” Kisel said. “[Each night this month} we will all light up and shine with blue light to stand with the millions affected with autism.”

Nolan Brand, Tau Kappa Epsilon’s philanthropic chair and mathematics sophomore, said he believes it is extremely important for them to be involved in the community and to help out with causes like this.

“Autism is one of the biggest disorders out there today,” Brand said. “It is essential for people to realize this is prevalent, and I hope people took this opportunity to learn.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: City, campus seek autism awareness