Oakland shines a light on autism awareness

Rachel Williams

Oakland University will be celebrating World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 with the Light It Up Blue event.  

Last year, the event was put on for the first time by the OU Center for Autism (OUCA).  Elliott Tower lit up blue for the event and representatives from the community spoke about autism.

“This year we are doing it on a bigger scale,” Meghna Chowdhary, graduate assistant for OUCA, said. “We want the families to participate and get aware of what we are doing.”

This year, Elliott Tower and Pawley Hall will shine blue on April 2.  

The goal of the event is to help spread awareness while providing fun activities for families and people with autism or autism spectrum disorders.  

Ashley Semma, president of the student organization Amplifying Autism Awareness, helped with last year’s event and her group will be present at this year’s as well.

“Autism Awareness Day is a big deal for the autism community,” Semma said. “The goal is to spread awareness of autism to the whole student body.”  

Programs like Amplifying Autism Awareness and the OUCA help provide research, education and resources for students and those in the surrounding community who have autism or have family members with autism.

OUCARES is the outreach branch of the Center for Autism.  The program offers activities like sports, summer camps and family days.  

It is dedicated to providing resources and activities for those with autism and their families while getting the Autism community more involved at Oakland.

OUCARES offers internships for students who wish to assist and work within the Autism community.  

This year’s Light It Up Blue event will celebrate the OUCARES families, Pontiac communities and the greater Autism community.  

The event will feature speakers from the Human Development and Child Studies department, Dr. Chaturi Edrisinha and Dr. Jan Gaetz.

Chowdhary is still waiting on confirmation from other speakers but encourages everyone to attend the event and show their support.  

The event will begin at 6 p.m. and will start in the Engineering Center.

Three classrooms will be designated for three different age groups.  Within each classroom there will be age-appropriate games and activities for participants.  

At approximately 7:20 p.m. everyone will gather in the atrium in the Engineering Center and make their way to Elliott Tower.

There will be music, speakers and free food available for those who attend.  

At 7:30 p.m., Elliott Tower and Pawley Hall will light up blue in support of autism awareness.  

Landmarks across the world light up to celebrate this day and the people it supports.  

Semma stresses the importance of this day to the autism community and the greater Oakland community.

“We can celebrate them and show that we are all special in our own way,” Semma said.  “It’s their day, not ours.”

For more information on autism resources on campus, visit oakland.edu/hdcs/center-for-autism or oakland.edu/oucares.