Club promotes acceptance of neurodiversity


Alexandra ScicchitanoReporter

Having an Autism Awareness and Advocacy Club (AAAC) promotes inclusion and allows acceptance, said Jimmy D’Elia, a senior sports management major.

D’Elia has been a member of the AAAC since roughly a year and a half ago.

“[AAAC] makes everyone feel welcome,” said D’Elia. “That’s what this club does a very good job of.”

The club’s purpose is to participate in volunteer opportunities in the autism community, and raise funds for corresponding organization, according to the e-board’s message on Owl Connect.

“As a club, we plan to support those with autism, their families,” the message reads, “as well as organizations, local and national, that advocate for all those affected by autism.”

Rachel Iassogna, junior communications disorders major and president of the AAAC, said she joined about a year ago, because her professor was promoting the club. She said she liked the atmosphere greatly and that everyone acted inclusively.

“It definitely sparked my interest,” said Ledia Fazo, junior communications disorders major. “I know I want to study development disorders and cognitive science in grad school, that’s my main focus.”

Fazo said she joined the club two years ago, and has since become vice president.

Much like Iassogna, D’Elia said that he joined because a recommendation, but this time from a friend. D’Elia said his friend Lauren thought joining would be good for him.

“I have a disability, its not autism,” said D’Elia. “With Autism Awareness, all that anxiety and those feelings go away.”

Iassogna said fundraising is a big part of the club’s focus.

“We have two to three bake sales a semester,” she said. “We all bake and sit in the Engleman Rotunda and we raise money for programs with individuals with autism and their families.”

The club also does other events, Fazo said, focusing on sensory imagery.

“We do PowerPoint presentations, we do hands-on activities, games,” said Fazo, “connecting that back to our main cause.”

A lot of the activities have to do with understanding the situations that individuals with autism have to deal with, such as not being comfortable in social situations and reading social cues wrong, said Iassogna.

“We try to be very informative” she said, “but make them very interactive.”

The club is hoping to have a seminar this semester about autism and they want to collaborate with other clubs such as Best Buddies, according to Fazo.

“We are trying to get a panel to come and talk about different topics each time,” Fazo said. “We want a student with autism, and parent of a kid with autism, and a speech pathologist, or special ed. Teacher.”

It’s good to have the AAAC to help educate people about the real picture that individuals with autism have to deal with, said Iassogna.

Fazo stressed that the motivation for club events is to educate students on how to support all classmates, including those who are affected by autism and those with any developmental disorder.

“A lot of people don’t know how to make them comfortable,” said Fazo, “or how to help them out.”

D’Elia said this mission has been helpful to his college experience.

“People accept me for who I am,” D’Elia, “It’s just the acceptance.”

Photo Credit: Alexandra Scicchitano

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