National Autism Awareness Month hits close to home for UK

Jack Pilgrim

On April 2, the official start to National Autism Awareness Month, buildings across campus such as Memorial Hall, Champions Court I and II, and Woodland Glen I glowed blue as part of World Autism Awareness Day. Blue is the official color of autism awareness, and UK buildings are matching iconic places like the Empire State Building in New York, and the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia that are lit with the color to show support for the cause.

The month of April brings about a celebration that affects countless people throughout campus in some form or fashion. Students may see someone wearing a wristband or a t-shirt with a puzzle piece, or signs throughout campus talking about “Light It Up Blue.”

April is considered National Autism Awareness Month, when the Autism Society holds an annual effort to spread awareness and encouragement of acceptance of those with autism, inclusion, and self-awareness.

Autism is a developmental disability that directly affects the nervous system, impairing one’s ability to communicate and interact effectively.

Now known as one of the most diagnosed intellectual disabilities in the country, autism will affect one in 68 children in America, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

An organization here at UK decided to take ownership during National Autism Awareness Month to emphasize the importance of accepting those of all abilities and disabilities.

Student Council for Exceptional Children Vice President Kaylie Kruer, an elementary education freshman, emphasized the importance of National Autism Awareness Month and what the SCEC organization is doing to promote it.

“SCEC … is an organization to help students with disabilities succeed in and out of the classroom and promote inclusion,” Kruer said. “Our chapter here at UK created an Autism Awareness Week on campus. We had events to promote awareness and inclusion, raise money for the Autism Society of the Bluegrass, and celebrate those with Autism and their loved ones.”

The first week of April offered a variety of activities to help spread the word about autism.

April 5, a bake sale was held outside of Bowman’s Den with all proceeds going directly to the Autism Society of the Bluegrass.

“Temple Grandin,” a movie about an individual with autism and his personal story, was shown in the Taylor Education Building Auditorium on Thursday, April 7.

On Friday, April 8, students, staff, and families joined in the Taylor Education Building Auditorium and lit up blue glow sticks to participate in their own “Light It Up Blue” event. The SCEC organized the event with games, food, and prizes to celebrate acceptance.

BCTC graduate Claire Mynear was diagnosed with autism when she was 12 years old.  

“I had a hard time in school because I didn’t understand the work they were teaching me. I enjoy playing and hanging out with friends,” Mynear said. “(Having autism) changed my life because I didn’t feel like a ‘normal’ person. It made me feel like I did not fit in anywhere before I went to college in 2012.”  

Autism Awareness Month allows people like Claire to feel like they belong, to show that they are more alike than different to those without disabilities.