Autism Awareness Month events scheduled in April

Western Carolina University’s Office of Accessibility Resources will be hosting Autism Awareness Month in April to promote diversity, acceptance and inclusion for all WCU students who identify on the spectrum.

The month will offer opportunities for the WCU community and local residents to interact with students who identify with autism spectrum disorder through special training, panel discussions, athletic events and a 5K race.

“Students with autism have much to contribute to the life of the university and add to the diversity of the campus community,” said office director Wesley Satterwhite. “It’s important to not make assumptions but to get to know students with autism as individuals. The saying is true – when you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

Approximately six percent of students registered with the Office of Accessibility Resources identify on the spectrum, but Satterwhite said she believes there are more students who choose not to register for various reasons, such as the stigmas against having a disability or the accommodations they receive.

Wesley Satterwhite

“It’s important to note that students on the spectrum at WCU have been accepted to the university through the same processes and admission criteria as all other students on campus,” she said. “However, they may face social challenges that impact campus living and extend to the classroom.”

With Autism Awareness Month, Satterwhite and her office hopes to pull back the curtain on autism spectrum disorder and help the campus community appreciate students with autism for everything they bring to the table.

“They just want to be accepted as who they are – college students,” she said.

For more information, visit @WCUOAR on Facebook or the office website.

Events scheduled for April include:

Autism Awareness on the Lawn

April 3 and 4, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., University Center lawn

Attendees can get some autism awareness “swag,” view and purchase crafts from Full Spectrum Farms and sign up for Alpha Xi Delta’s Autism Speaks 5K.

Lunch and Learn

April 5, noon, UC Raleigh Room

Interested individuals can bring their lunch and receive special training for faculty and staff about working with students on the autism spectrum. Led by Wesley Satterwhite.

Diversity Dialogue

April 6, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Room 220, Killian Building

Wesley Satterwhite will lead a panel discussion about autism in higher education.

Blue Out Baseball Game

April 21, 5 to 7 p.m., Hennon Stadium

Fans are asked to wear blue and support the WCU baseball team against VMI.

Alpha Xi Delta’s Autism Speaks 5K

April 26, 6 p.m., Central Plaza fountain

Individuals can help raise awareness and money for Autism Speaks by walking or running in the 5K.