Speaking on behalf of the autistic community

Penn Speaks for Autism aims to provide services and raise awareness

· April 10, 2014, 8:21 pm   ·  Updated April 10, 2014, 10:37 pm

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Last week, Penn Speaks for Autism painted Penn’s campus blue. Not literally, but by handing out blue ribbons to raise awareness about autism.

Penn Speaks for Autism is a student group on campus that provides services for children with autism in Philadelphia and raises awareness about the autism spectrum on Penn’s campus.

The “Light It Up Blue” campaign, which was executed on campus last week, was inspired by the efforts of the national association Autism Speaks.

Every year on April 2, people are encouraged to light something in blue in an effort to raise awareness. “Because of their efforts, monuments such as the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House and the Christ Statue in Rio de Janeiro have all shined in blue light in honor of ‘Light It Up Blue’ day,” PSA Awareness Chair Ramita Ravi said. “While we were unable to light up an entire building, we are glad that we were still able to participate in the event in our own way.”

PSA maintains a campus presence through speaker events, panel discussions, and a monthly newsletter. Their presence in the Philadelphia community is fostered through after- school workshops they host at Lea Elementary School. “The focus of the after school program is fun, but at the same time we build the curriculum around skills that the students are working on,” PSA Volunteer Chair Dana Kamerling said. “Many of the children we work with may not be able to participate in after school programs at like there typically developing peers do.”

“Light It Up Blue” was very present on social media. Members of PSA made black and white Facebook profile pictures of themselves holding blue signs that said “I light it up blue for autism awareness. ” They also changed their cover photos to a black and white image of campus featuring a blue version of the Love statue. With the help of informative photo captions, these photos aimed to garner attention on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The captions encouraged readers to tint their profile pictures blue in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. There was also a Facebook event students could RSVP to for more information.

“We are extremely grateful for both our volunteers and the children that join us at each of our programs,”  PSA Co-President and College sophomore Blake Mergler said.

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