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Code Blue for Autism

I am the oldest of four children, and being the eldest child has come with a lot of unsaid responsibility. Everyday I try my best to be a role model to my two younger sisters and my baby brother; from my academics, to my faith life, to my everyday life choices. It isn’t always easy. I’ve come across many challenges in my role as the big brother, but the fact that I love my family always gives me the perseverance to live and learn through every struggle. One challenge in particular I’ve had, and my whole family has had, is centered around something called Asperger’s Syndrome–a high functioning form of autism that my baby brother struggles with everyday, and something that shapes my role as a big brother everyday.

Asperger’s symptoms, and autism symptoms as a whole, vary from person to person; which is why experts have classified it on a spectrum–it doesn’t have an absolute. Symptoms most common in people with Asperger’s include difficulties with social skills, eccentric/repetitive behaviors, unusual rituals, communication difficulties, limited/narrow interests, but most of all–it includes being exceptionally skilled and talented. For my brother, he has always struggled socially. In the past, and even still today, he has even been bullied by peers. He knows everything about Marvel, he has this “thing” about playing with his hands, he’s a super picky eater and he has his bedtime ritual that he refuses to change. He’s also the smartest thirteen-year-old I have ever met. I can’t believe some of the stuff he already knows at his age!

My family has been shaped in positive light by my brother having Asperger’s. While we will always have lessons to learn, so far it has taught us how to be more patient, to be more understanding, and to increase our capacity to love–to think that was even possible! For me personally, it has taught me to be more selfless of a big brother and more compassionate of a human being. Ever since my brother was put on the autism spectrum, I have been eager to help people become more aware and understanding of Asperger’s and autism in hopes that  ultimately people like my brother can live a normal life like the rest of us. I hear far too many stories about autistic people getting bullied at school, struggling to make friends, battling depression, or not getting the help they need. It made me realize something needed to change. People need to be more aware of autism and the struggles people with autism face. People also need to be more understanding of autism and the struggles people with autism face. But most of all, people need to help people with autism and the struggles that they face.

My brother inspired me to become a catalyst for this change, and in 2011, I organized two benefit concerts called Code Blue for Autism to raise money for organizations that promote autism awareness. I had plans of making the cause much bigger, but planning for and going to college put those plans on hiatus for awhile. However, thanks to the generosity and helping hands of AQ Special Saints, our special needs club here on campus, Code Blue for Autism is becoming a reality again. Only it’s not just a one day event this time–it’s a week long event! AQ Special Saints will be hosting Autism Week from Monday October 27-Saturday November 1st to promote autism awareness on campus and raise money for the Autism Alliance of Michigan, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for everyone affected by autism. Here’s what we have in store during this week:

  1. On Monday, October 27, we will be planting a tree in the Aquinas community garden to honor those with autism
  2. On Tuesday, October 28, we will be tie dying shirts. Students will have the option to buy a shirt or they can donate a shirt to the Autism Alliance of Michigan.
  3. On Wednesday, October 29, we will be having an Autism Talk at the Cook Carriage House. Anyone is welcome to come up and speak about their experience with autism. I will be talking about my experience having a brother with autism.
  4. Since blue is the color of autism, we want everyone on campus to wear blue on Thursday, October 30. We will be taking a picture of everyone in front of the Academic Building at 4:30. Everyone is welcome to take pictures of themselves in blue, and if we find you wearing blue, we’ll give you candy!
  5. On Friday, October 31, we invite everyone to tweet pictures of themselves in their Halloween costumes to us @AQSpecialSaints. Children from the Autism Alliance of Michigan will be picking their favorite costumes, and the winner gets free tickets to the show on Saturday!
  6. On Saturday, November 1, Code Blue for Autism will come off its three year hiatus. Join us from 5-8 at the Wege Ballroom for music provided by Aquinas students. To get in, you can pay $2 or donate unused school supplies; all of which will go to the Autism Alliance of Michigan. Different autism organizations will have booths at this event, where you can learn more about autism awareness and how you can help the cause. All are welcome!

Autism Week was one of my many ideas I came up with while I was working this past summer. I didn’t think this would become a reality, however, my passion and the passion of many other Aquinas Students have made this something remarkable. Aquinas College makes all the difference in the world, and this is one of the many examples of our students making a difference. Everyone will have their own reasons for being part of this cause, and for me it’s being able to show my brother all the Aquinas students wearing blue and having the opportunity to say: “Buddy, THIS is how much I love you.” Seeing and hearing what my brother goes through makes me eager to trade places with him and free him from the struggles he faces. I want him, and all other people people who struggle with autism, to have a better life. What is your reason for supporting autism awareness? Come show us during Autism Week 2014–coming soon to an Aquinas College campus near you!

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