Today: May 29, 2024

SCSU to host ‘puzzle party’ for autism

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Children puting puzzles together at a past “Puzzlethon” fundraiser hosted by ASCONN.

Puzzle pieces of all shapes and sizes will come together at Southern to bring awareness and help raise money for individuals with autism.
Puzzlethon will be held on March 3 from 12-4 p.m.; the event is being organized by the Autism Center and is being hosted by the Autism Society of Connecticut, or ASCONN. According to its website, ASCONN has been “supporting the autism community since 1977.”
This year will mark the sixth annual Puzzlethon, and this will be the first year it will be held on campus. Southern is one of two universities in Connecticut hosting a Puzzlethon, said Kim Freeman, the site coordinator of the event—Sacred Heart University in Fairfield is also having the event.
Puzzlethon is like an “open house” because anyone can come, whether they are “2 or 102,” said Freeman, adding she would like for people to think of the event as “coming to a puzzle party.”
“Puzzlethon is designed to combine fundraising with civic engagement that provides an opportunity for individuals with autism to sharpen their social skills while doing an activity that everyone enjoys,” according to ASCONN’s website.
Freeman said the idea originated from a Walk-a-thon, except puzzles will be used. By working on puzzles, the individuals “can focus and be in their element,” she said. The puzzle piece is the official symbol for autism.
According to the Puzzlethon website, “For decades, the puzzle piece has been the symbol of the autism community, reflecting the complexity of the disability as well as the difficulty in piecing together interventions that are as unique as each individual.”
ASCONN specifically helps Connecticut residents with autism, unlike Autism Speaks, which is on a national level, Freeman said.
The donations made to the organization are staying in Connecticut, she said.
In addition to puzzles, participants can also do crafts. Food will be donated by Subway and Pepsi, and there will also be a raffle. Freeman said some of the prizes include donated toys, movie tickets, aquarium passes and gift cards for restaurants in the New Haven area.
Participants will also have the chance to decorate homemade cookies with fondant. Freeman said the event is family-friendly.
Nine students, including Freeman, have organized the event.
“Even though the event is hosted by the Autism Center, it is really student-driven,” Freeman said.
The students have been working hard to put the event together, but Freeman said they wouldn’t mind having more volunteers.
“There’s a place for everyone,” she said. “It would be great to have the campus represented.”
Elementary education major Ashley Kreiner has also helped organize Puzzlethon. She said she thinks everyone should take part in the event.
“I think that Southern students should get involved and help participate in Puzzlethon to help support those with autism and their families,” Kreiner said. “A small contribution, whether it be your time or a donation, can make a lasting impact to a family affected by autism.”
Freeman said she hopes the event not only helps Connecticut residents with autism but also brings more awareness a b o u t autism to
someone who may not be familiar with it. The general public often hears about breast cancer and heart disease, but autism is not heard about as frequently.
“I want people to understand what the lives of these individuals [with autism] is like,” she said. “By understanding as a community, we can help them.”
Kreiner said she has worked with children in elementary school who have autism so “a cause for autism is close to my heart.”
“Witnessing their struggles and triumphs has added to my desire to bring awareness to autism,” she said.
People diagnosed with autism have it at different levels, from mild to severe; they are different levels on the spectrum.
“If you meet one person with autism does not mean you’ve met everyone with autism,” said Freeman, “everyone is unique.”
Freeman also said it is important not to judge people with autism.
“If I can tell people one thing,” she said, “it’s that someone may come across as very high-functioning, but they still have difficulties.”
According to the Autism Center website, one of their goals is “to maintain ongoing communication outreach and collaboration among multiple statewide agencies and organizations concerning autism-related projects and issues in educational settings.”

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