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Tuesday, May 16, 2023

An Autism Peer Group

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the autism spectrum

Mariyam Syed writes at The Courier (College of DuPage, IL):
Beginning college can be particularly challenging for students with autism and other disabilities. For three current students with autism, finding a strong support system of peers and counselors, as well as academic accommodations, was important to achieve their goals and overcome stereotypes.

Sophomore student, Robert “Bobby” Henry, described himself as a very social person, who enjoys interacting with his peers as the president of Autismerica and a past leader in the New Student Orientation. Autismerica is a social club that serves students on the autism spectrum. Monthly meetings provide space to socialize and enjoy activities in a welcoming environment.

“Once you join, there’s a sense of joy that you belong to a group, a community of people,” Henry said. “When I’m around people who have the same disability as me, like being around PD (Pedro Gamez), it’s really helpful. I think we understand and trust each other. I’m so thankful that I have PD Gamez as my vice president; he’s really helpful and supportive of me.”

Gamez is vice president of Autismerica, which he has been part of since the fall of 2021. As the club officers, Gamez and Henry schedule the meeting activities and make sure new students feel welcome. Henry enjoys designing posters to promote Autismerica events.
One punctual attendee is Samuel Philippian, a sophomore pursuing environmental science, who rarely misses the Autismerica meetings.

“When I’m there, I just kind of feel free, and it helps to destress,” Philippian said. “We have a range of activities, Jenga bricks outside and indoors video games, and different board games. I’ve also gotten to show my friends digital artwork I’ve made in my free time for fun.”