This post is by Shawnie Keenan, Autism Speaks Field Development Manager
On Friday, February 15th over two dozen teenagers visited us at Autism Speaks' Washington, DC office while in town for the B'Nai Brith Youth Organization's International Convention 2013. The conference attracted more than 2,000 Jewish teen leaders, alumni, advisors, staff and philanthropists from 18 countries. Our visitors chose us as the site of their convention day of service.
We started the morning with an introduction to autism and Autism Speaks. We led the students through an interactive presentation entitled "Celebrating Differences," in which she engaged them in experiencing what it would be like to try to learn in a typical classroom setting if you were experiencing sensory overload.
After lunch we walked over to our neighbors at George Washington University where Dr. Valerie Hu, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The George Washington University Medical Center, walked the visitors through her lab and talked about her research. the underlying biology of autism through the identification of altered genes, pathways, and gene regulatory mechanisms specific to the different subtypes of autism spectrum disorders. We next paired up with the campus chapter of Autism Speaks U where our visitors worked side-by-side our Autism Speaks U members to distribute leaflets on campus urging GWU students to join Autism Speaks U and wear blue on April 2nd in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.
"Our university is in the process of establishing an Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders institute focusing on research, treatment and policy," said Heather Russell, Director of Development, Office of the Vice President for Research. "We are delighted to have so many young leaders embrace the cause of autism. With one in 88 children now diagnosed, we need to gather and focus supporters on this national health crisis."