World Autism Awareness Day was Wednesday and landmarks across the country were lit up in blue in recognition to those touched by autism around the globe. The national initiative also took a local turn at California State University, Stanislaus where sorority Alpha Xi Delta hosted a public event for families to increase autism awareness and support their philanthropic organization, Autism Speaks.
Internationally recognized as the leading autism advocacy organization, Autism Speaks’ commitment to increasing autism awareness and funding research is at the heart of Alpha Xi Delta’s mission. Having raised more than $7,000 in this school year alone, the sorority prides itself on sponsoring several events for not only CSU Stanislaus students but for the public to get involved.
“Our goal is to raise awareness not just in the community but to ourselves as advocates of Autism Speaks,” said Diana Fuentes, the philanthropy chair of Alpha Xi Delta.
On Wednesday the sorority invited speaker Brittany Nowlin of the Kendall Center, a Modesto based nonprofit that collaborates with schools, regional centers, private insurances and families to offer treatment for children with autism, to speak on the importance of autism awareness and the significance of recognizing early signs.
“There are a lot of families that do not know what to look for or may see symptoms but not recognize them as leading to a diagnosis of autism,” explained Nowlin.
Autism is the fastest growing serious development disorder in the United States that affects 1 in 68 children, a 10-fold increase in the last 40 years according to Autism Speaks. The disorder is typically detected in early development where signs such as lack of communication skills and social responsiveness indicate a child’s removed nature, a hallmark of autism. While the disorder is characteristically marked by impaired cognition, there is a vast scale on which to measure autism as the intellectual and social capabilities of individuals can vary greatly.
Among the support of major organizations such as the Major League Baseball organization and Dollar General Stores, Alpha Xi Delta is a strong contributor to Autism Speaks raising over $2 million dollars since 2009. In the past year the local CSU Stanislaus chapter has sponsored several events to support Autism Speaks including participating in the local chapter of Autism Speaks’ signature event “Walk Now for Autism Speaks.” Other events fundraising events unique to the sorority include selling tacos on campus, a flag football tournament and an upcoming “AmaXing Twister Challenge.” All proceeds of the events go towards Autism Speaks making the CSUS Alpha Xi Delta chapter an important contributor to the national sorority’s major philanthropic efforts.
“For me it’s to see groups of hundreds of thousands of girls coming together to support a cause. That’s pretty incredible,” said Amy Nelson, chapter life vice president of Alpha Xi Delta.