April is Autism Awareness Month, and on Thursday families of children with autism gathered at the Discovery Center to raise awareness for the disorder.
The event was organized by “Autism Speaks U at Binghamton University,” a club that helps to spread awareness and help in the greater community. Their previous programs include giving out free candy in the Glenn G. Bartle Library and lighting blue lights on the Library Tower and Security Mutual building Downtown to promote autism awareness.
At Thursday’s event, Autism Speaks U at Binghamton sponsored extended hours and discounted tickets at the Discovery Center.
Michelle Keppler, president of Autism Speaks U and a junior majoring in psychology, said that it is important to spread knowledge about autism.
“Many parents I have spoken with say that people are ignorant about their autistic children, especially when their children have strange behaviors,” Keppler said. “I think there are a lot of misconceptions about autistic children. They are really great kids and are very gifted. I know a lot of parents have struggles. We want to be there for parents and be a supporter in the community.”
A Medicaid Service Coordinator named Chrissi spoke about the two families that she works for who attended the event.
She said that talking to and working with families who have children with autism has made her look at life in a new light.
“It’s fascinating,” Chrissi said. “The families that I work with are amazing families that inspire me every day.”
Missy Charlier, a mother from the Binghamton area, thought the event provided an opportunity for families of children with autism to get together.
“I like the Discovery Center, it’s great for kids,” Charlier said. “This night is great for my kind of kid. It makes parents more relaxed. The lower price is also very nice.”
One feature during the event was a film screening of an Arthur episode titled “When George Meets Carl,” which was sponsored by WSKG Binghamton. The character Carl is a friend of Arthur’s who has Asperger’s syndrome.
In addition the screening of the Arthur episode, WSKG provided a resource center that included digital media such as online articles for caregivers and parents who have children with autism.
Wendy London, treasurer of Autism Speaks U and a sophomore majoring in economics, said that the organization raised $115 by the end of the evening.
“We as a chapter are focused more on volunteering than fundraising,” London said. “We like to work more hands on and find giving back to the community to be more important.”
Autism Speaks U at Binghamton has been SA chartered for two full semesters. Currently, the organization has roughly 60 registered members. Gabby Scull, a senior double-majoring in human development and English, is the founder of the Binghamton chapter.
“It’s incredibly touching and special to know that other people on campus have the same desires,” Scull said. “It is amazing to see how much this organization has grown over the last year. It just goes to show what a giving and caring university we have.”