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New hue for Elliott Tower

Participants+gathered+around+the+Elliott+Tower+with+blue+balloons+on+World+Autism+Awareness+day.+
Participants gathered around the Elliott Tower with blue balloons on World Autism Awareness day.

Participants gathered around the Elliott Tower with blue balloons on World Autism Awareness day.

Taylor Stinson

Taylor Stinson

Participants gathered around the Elliott Tower with blue balloons on World Autism Awareness day.

Gina Navaroli, Staff Reporter

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Parts of Oakland University’s campus will be bathed in  blue for a week to raise awareness for those with autism spectrum disorder.

OU’s Center for Autism hosted Light It Up Blue for World Autism Awareness Day on Sunday, April 2. The event included information, resources, food, activities and a walk to Elliott Tower, which was illuminated with blue light.

This year, OUCA is focusing on community partnerships, according to Brent Fragnoli, a graduate student in the master’s of education in higher education and leadership program. Planning included “orchestrating the lighting of the clock tower and soccer dome, planning a diverse and accommodating menu, contacting a wide range of support services to host information tables, coordinating volunteers and the games/activities provided at the event and, most importantly, connecting with families and individuals with ASD to attend the event,” Fragnoli said.

Fragnoli said the Department of Human Development and Child Studies planned the event and  had an “all hands on deck” mentality. OUCA strives to improve the experience each year.

“We have utilized every facet within our network with the School of Education and Human Services in hopes of reaching out to all who want to come to Light It Up Blue,” he said.

This included promotion through media outlets and school systems.

Aside from raising autism awareness, the event is also meant to show support to those who have ASD and their loved ones.

“This event offers families, individuals, caretakers and supporters of those with ASD in and around the Oakland University community an annual opportunity to stand in solidarity with one another,” Fragnoli said.

His goal is to help people with autism find what they can do best in life.

“You would be surprised at how one action can go a long way,” he said. “Whether it be dedicating a few hours to volunteering, or even just changing a lightbulb [to] blue on April 2, it can drastically improve the life of someone else, which is what OU is all about.”

Assistant Director for Residential Facilities Kevin McDougall and his team were in charge of changing the light color.

“[OU’s electricians] added film to the LED lights,” McDougall said. “We buy theater gels, so it can take the heat. We put them over the lenses for the spotlight.”

The prevalence of autism diagnoses has grown rapidly, said Chaturi Edrisinha, associate professor for Human Development and Child Studies and director of research at OUCA.

“In Oakland, in this part of the state, we are a huge player when it comes to autism research and autism support,” she said. “Last year, we had 180 people, and we had a ton of families from the community show up. It’s bringing a lot of awareness to campus.”

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