Cal State Fullerton students filled up a board of puzzle pieces at Titan Walk on Wednesday to answer the question, “What makes you unique?”
The puzzle was part of a booth that aimed to raise autism awareness on campus by encouraging students to reflect on how individual differences and identities intersect in the community. The motif for the event, a blue puzzle piece, symbolized autism awareness.
The event was hosted by the CSUF Center for Autism and the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. The Center for Autism’s mission is to “improve the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families through research, teaching, clinical service and community involvement,” according to its website.
April is National Autism Awareness Month, and the center hopes to celebrate uniqueness and encourage students to support their peers who may be “differently-abled,” according to an event flier.
Sidrich Chhour, a senior speech language pathology major and a member of the campus club Autism Speaks U, hosted the booth to inform students about the services available.
“If anyone from the community needs a referral for their child, or a family member or any loved one, we’re right there to help as best as we can,” he said. “(People with autism) want to be treated like everybody else and they’re usually classified as normal.”
Chhour said that, judging from his experience, he does not call autism a disability.
“I would just call it a unique character trait,” he said. “We all have unique character traits.”
Senior art major Rachel Landin visited the booth to add her puzzle piece to the board. While she said that she thinks the club is doing a great service to the community, she admitted that she does not have a full understanding of autism.
“I don’t know that much about it. All I know is that for many people who have autism, it’s a spectrum. Not everyone is the same and not every case is the same,” she said. Events like the puzzle display are helpful, she said, because people who know someone with autism may not know where to begin to look for information.
Brittany Simmons, a senior communications major with an emphasis in advertising, stopped by the display because, while she said that she is not personally afflicted with autism, she suffered from a speech impediment as a child and was harshly bullied for it.
She said that she wanted to encourage those who are directly affected by autism.
“Don’t worry about what other people say about you,” Simmons said. “Just accept who you are and use it to better yourself and better the community, and even further the world.”
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that approximately one in 68 children in the United States was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2012.
The CSUF Center for Autism is hosting a fundraising event, “Night at the Bar for Autism,” on Thursday, April 21 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Bourbon Street Bar and Grill located at 110 E. Commonwealth Ave. in Fullerton.
Proceeds from food and drink sales will benefit the center and its engagement, community service and research programs.