April is autism awareness month throughout the world, and Mercyhurst University is doing its part to help inform and educate about autism.
Four years ago, Mercyhurst launched the Asperger Initiative, a program designed to help support students with a disorder on the autism scale as they assimilate themselves to the academic and social requirements of college. Since the launch of the program Mercyhurst has been nationally recognized for its support to students on the autism spectrum.
Mercyhurst began observing Autism Awareness Month four years ago.
To kick off of the month this year, Old Main was lit with a blue light on the evening of April 2.
“Mercyhurst was one of thousands of buildings around the world to be lit,” said Dianne Rogers, director of Mercyhurst’s Learning Differences Program.
The blue light shines on landmarks throughout the world as a way of spreading autism awareness and showing solidarity with those who have disorders on the autism spectrum.
Another way that Mercyhurst is celebrating autism awareness month is by inviting author Sean Barron to speak on campus.
“We’ve always included a lecture (as part of autism awareness month),” said Rogers, “but this is actually the first time that our speaker is a person who has Asperger’s syndrome himself.”
Barron is a reporter for The Youngstown Vindicator and has co-authored two books about living with Asperger’s.
“We were particularly interested in bringing him in because he represents a person who has successfully overcome some of the very significant problems associated with an autism diagnosis,” Rogers said.
Brad McGarry, the coordinator for the Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst wants Sean Barron’s talk to be a message of hope for Mercyhurst students with Asperger’s.
“(They) can understand that someone else was in their shoes and is now a successful reporter and a successful motivation speaker, showing them that they can come out on the other side and be very successful in what they want to do,” McGarry said.
Barron will be on the Mercyhurst campus on Wednesday, April 18. He will first host a forum for students on the autism spectrum, and for their friends and families in the afternoon. He will also give a presentation called “The Ten Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” at 7:30 p.m. in Walker Recital Hall.
That presentation is free and open to the general public. Students who wish to attend the forum in the afternoon can contact Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.