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Autism Speaks U Chapter Spotlight: West Virginia University

This guest post is written by Kasia Bryant, founder and former president of the Autism Speaks U chapter at West Virginia University. The collegiate chapter was established in October 2011 and is making an incredible impact on campus and in the local community.

My name is Kasia Bryant and I am a graduating senior at West Virginia University (WVU). I am the former Autism Speaks U at WVU chapter President, but now am the Founder and Alumni Advisor. Spreading the word about autism is something I’m very passionate about because my younger brother, Jason, is on the spectrum. 

For the longest time my mother and I could not understand why Jason would only focus on certain things, or play with only certain toys, until he was diagnosed with Asperger’s. At the time I had not even heard of Asperger’s let alone understood what autism was. That same year I left for college and started to explore the real world on my own. I did some personal research to learn about autism and I was amazed at the things I found out on the Autism Speaks website. It was not until I was looking up events for Autism Awareness Month around Morgantown, that I came across Autism Speaks great college program, Autism Speaks U. I saw that there were other students who supported the program however a chapter did not exist on the WVU campus. I believed starting a collegiate chapter was necessary to raise awareness on campus and to help give back to the organization that has helped my family out tremendously.

Autism Speaks U at West Virginia University officially became a chapter on October 7, 2011 and was the first in the state of West Virginia. Since then we have made a big impact on the Morgantown community. We have held awareness and fundraising events, and have had guest speakers come and share their personal experiences and connections with autism. One of our main goals for the 2012-2013 school year is to have our own walk in Morgantown. Personally, I think the biggest reward the chapter has received, is hearing from the community how much they appreciate our efforts.

A student came up to me and asked if the chapter hosted awareness and fundraising events for a class or for community service, and my answer to that is no. The members of the group are doing it because they are connected to autism in some way or they want to work with people on the spectrum. Seeing students across campus wearing the blue Autism Speaks bracelets makes me smile because I know that the chapter has succeeded in being advocates and educating the community on what autism is.

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The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.