Clara Smith ‘20
Last week, the clock face on Fenwick clock tower was lit up blue — but like me for most of the week, students might have been too busy running between Stein and Dinand on a caffeine high to notice, let alone wonder why. But if you stopped at a table in Hogan lobby selling merchandise for Autism Awareness to maybe buy a sweatshirt or hat and talk with the students who staffed the table, you may know that this blue light was for Autism Awareness Week, in the “Light It Up Blue” movement begun by the charity Autism Speaks.
However, you might not know that April is also Autism Awareness Month, and that there are still plenty of ways for Holy Cross students like me, who missed Autism Awareness Week, to get involved in advocacy and accommodation for people on the autistic spectrum on campus or nationwide. The table in the lobby was run by the Autism Awareness student organization, so not only can students support the group through their merchandise, but anyone can volunteer with the group by coordinating with the organization through AutismAwareness@g.holycross.edu. Students should also be aware of other charities besides Autism Speaks, which does give toward families in need of support but is only one aspect of supporting autistic people of varying functionality, and one that has been criticized for its lack of regard for autistic voices. Autism Awareness also donates toward Autism Self Advocacy Network, which participates not only in spreading awareness and resources about autism but in projects for accessibility and disability rights. And if students weren’t able to buy merchandise or participate in Autism Awareness, there is also DREAM, or Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring, which works in conjunction with our Office of Disability Services to create a welcoming campus environment. Whether you are a self-advocate interested in speaking out this Autism Awareness month, or a concerned student who wants to connect with an on-campus movement for Autism Awareness, you should be able to speak up about accommodation and awareness through these great student-run efforts.
Finally, this Autism Awareness month, the best way to support your fellow students is by calling out rude or even prejudiced language toward those with behavioral differences, and to be aware of these differences in conversations with other students. Some things to be aware of and that you can accommodate in your everyday conversation include: sensory overload which can occur with extremely loud, fast, or overlapping speech, slow speaking or lack of eye contact, lack of understanding of sarcasm or other subtle language uses, and delayed or atypical conversation patterns, like not responding to a greeting immediately. Other resources on interpersonal accommodation, and on more widespread advocacy for Autistic individuals, can be found on the “Resources” pages on the Autistic Self Advocacy Network website, autisticadvocacy.org, or you can contact the Disability Services office on Hogan 2 for Being kind, friendly, and understanding to Autistic strangers, friends, and colleagues on campus is such an easy way to participate this Autism Awareness that everyone should be able to get in the spirit of this month, and hopefully to keep it going the rest of the year.