ACMC “Lights It Up Blue” for Autism Awareness

A poster competition and fundraiser brought campus awareness to this disorder

In April, the American College for Medical Careers (ACMC) found unique ways to engage students, instructors, and staff members alike around autism awareness. World Autism Awareness Day was April 2, 2017, and each year the nonprofit organization Autism Speaks invites the international community to join its signature campaign, “Light It Up Blue” in support of people living with autism.

Each April, the organization invites people to wear the color light blue, and to illuminate their buildings, homes, and communities in recognition of this day as well as World Autism Month, which are sanctioned by the United Nations. Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month long, to increase understanding and acceptance and to support people with autism.

“We wanted to spread awareness about autism, and to give students a chance to be directly involved,” says Marsha-Ann Burrell, ACMC’s Campus Director. “We also wanted to give back to the local chapter of Autism Speaks.” In preparation for an on-campus event on Tuesday, April 25, the school announced an “Autism Awareness Poster Contest.” Students were invited to participate in what she describes as a “fun and educational event.”

For the poster competition, each class was charged with working together to come up with an original idea. “The process required research about autism, as well as using creativity and color,” says Burrell. Members of both the morning and evening classes took part, creating eight different posters in all. “The students did such an awesome job!” she said proudly.

The winning poster was chosen at the campus event on April 25, based on creativity and executing the theme. It represented four different puzzle pieces, each with a different message, ranging from “Grow your awareness” and “Why fit in when you can stand out?” to “Loving someone with autism makes the heart grow stronger.”

One of the judges in the contest was guest speaker Karen Bacharach, Senior Director, Field Development, for the Southeastern Regional Office of Autism Speaks in Florida. Bacharach came to campus that day to speak to a large group of nearly 80 students plus instructors and staff. She touched on the signs of the disorder that medical professionals should be on the lookout for, particularly in children with whom they may be working. She offered examples of ways to interact with someone with autism, who might be sensitive to sound or to touch.

“Ms. Bacharach educated the group and also made suggestions of simple steps you can take to put someone with autism at ease,” Burrell says. “For example, to ask, ‘Is it okay if I take your hand?’ rather than to simply go ahead and touch the patient without checking with them first.”

Bacharach also directed the audience to toolkits on the Autism Speaks website that are tailored to specific medical professionals, such as dental assistants or those doing vision exams, EEGs, or blood draws. “Ms. Bacharach’s great educational presentation was extremely useful to our students,” says Burrell, “as they will soon encounter patients with autism as they graduate and move into the work force.”

ACMC joined the Autism Awareness campaign in yet another way, by hosting an on-campus fundraiser. The school donated hot dogs, chips, drinks, and cupcakes, which students and staff could purchase as a packaged lunch. The school raised a total of $325 and presented this donation to Ms. Bacharach at the campus event on April 25.

“This fundraiser allowed students additional opportunities to participate,” says Burrell. “On the days when we offered the lunch, they volunteered their time to help with the setup and also worked as cashiers. It helped the students to have buy-in, and it was great to see them feel part of the initiative.”

You can join the campaign by making a donation to Autism Speaks at https://www.autismspeaks.org/liub.

This article is part of the weekly blog of the American College for Medical Careers in Orlando, FL. We offer six different professional training programs. Learn more by reaching out to us or scheduling a campus visit today!