In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, co-ed honor fraternity Phi Sigma Phi created six events – that began Monday and will end Saturday – for its first time sponsoring the cause.
“I noticed pretty quickly that the [Indiana University of Pennsylvania] community could benefit from a program like this,” said Robert Matchett, (senior, disability services) who has helped plan and oversee all the events throughout the week.
Matchett explained that this event really hits close to home with him because his younger cousin has autism.
“My goal is to spread awareness about different types of disabilities to get rid of some of the stigmas that exist,” Matchett said in an email. “This Autism Awareness Week is just the first step in all of that.”
All of the events organized are intended to raise awareness about autism. Donations will be accepted during the events throughout the week and will be sent to Camp Lakey Gap, a summer camp that works with people who have autism, according to Matchett.
“This is something I am so passionate about because I believe that knowledge is the first step in action,” he said.
To kick off the week, members of the fraternity held the first event Monday called “Pin it Blue” in the Stapleton Library.
Pins, ribbons and information regarding autism awareness were offered, as well as the opportunity to write encouraging messages on blue puzzle pieces relating to autism awareness. The puzzle piece shape and the color blue correlate with autism awareness.
On Tuesday, the next event called “Piece by Piece” was held in the Stapleton Library, the Hadley Union Building and five different residence halls. The event encouraged students to write messages about autism on different puzzle pieces.
For the third event of the week, two members of the IUP faculty and a student served on a panel regarding Autsim Awareness Wednesday in the HUB Delaware Room.
Panelists included Joann Migyanka from the college of education and educational technology; Diane Shinberg, of the sociology department and student Madelyn Nissel (junior, disability services).
For Thursday, the movie “Temple Grandin” was shown in G-98 Wallwork Hall.
“Temple Grandin” is a movie based on the true story of a girl who battled the obstacles of autism and became a leading scientist in the livestock industry.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Matchett and Aubrey Keperling (junior, biology and philosophy) will be hosting a photography project from the HUB that involves individuals getting his or her photo taken in a blue shirt or blue face paint.
The photos will then be created into a mosaic of a puzzle piece.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, the week’s series of events will conclude with an autism awareness walk starting and finishing in the courtyard of Stephenson Hall.
Participants are also invited to make signs as well as get their faces painted. Families involved in the Special Needs Activity Program are invited to attend the walk as well.
Additionally, the Stephenson rotunda will be illuminated in blue, and members of the fraternity will make brief statements to begin the walk.
“I am planning on making this an annual event,” Matchett said. “That’s my goal for next year. I think a community outreach would take an event like this to the next level.”
Along with Phi Sigma Phi, the IUP Office of Housing, Residential Living and Dining, including Stephenson, Maple East, Ruddock, Wallwork, and Northern halls cosponsored the event.