Autism Awareness: Honors Students educate Dubuque on ASD

For the last three years, a senior honors group has been focused on bringing awareness to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Dubuque. As sophomores in the honors program, they were given the broad task of spreading awareness for ASD. This translated into a multi-year research and development process for a brochure and informational event to assist families and people affected by ASD.

“We learned there were a ton of misconceptions and not a lot of info out there about ASD, especially in Dubuque,” senior Kayla Thompson said, “so we set out to educate.”

The group’s project began as a very open-ended topic, so finding the initial direction to take the project was difficult. However, the group was successful in publishing a brochure last year on what ASD is and where to find resources in Dubuque. This year, their plan is to host an informational event in April. Now that they have made substantial progress on the project, all their hard work is paying off.

Group members of this project include Thompson, a PR and Creative Writing double-major; Olivia Clarey, an Elementary Education major on a Special Education track; Shannon Schuster, a Spanish and International Studies double-major; Rachel Valente, a Biology major; and Davis Dahlberg, a Biochemistry major. With a group as interdisciplinary as this one, there were a wide range of strengths brought to the table.

“We all have our strengths,” Thompson said. “For example, I’m taking the marketing for this event, since that’s what I do for my internship, and running with it. Davis and Rachel are taking another aspect they’re comfortable with. Olivia knows people in the area, since she’s worked with them before. It’s an interesting blend of strengths that really enhance our group.”

On Saturday, April 6, the group will host an event called Autism Resources Connect. The event was first proposed last year, out of a desire to bring the local ASD community together along with professionals to culminate the group’s research and efforts into one event.

“[This project] has had its ups and downs,” Thompson reflected. “It hasn’t always been fun, but I know from watching friends in the program before me that any change is good change. Whether we have 20 or 200 people (we hope for 200 obviously) at this event, we’ll impact someone. Our efforts mean something.”

This honors event will take place on Saturday, April 6 in the ballrooms from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Anyone who may be interested in ASD (including education, psychology, and social work majors, along with professionals in those fields) or knows someone with ASD are welcome to attend. This event will not only shed light on what ASD is, but also what resources are offered in Dubuque for individuals with it. Dr. Lynn Gallagher will be speaking, and there will be plenty more informational resources at the event.

For more information and safety tips for parents and educators linked is an article called ‘Keeping Your Child with Autism Safe‘.

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Audrey Miller is a writer for The Lorian.

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