Thursday, December 8, 2011
Naturally, autism is a strong focus of many Education majors at Rider University, given its expanding prevalence among children. It is a subject that hits particularly close to home in New Jersey, where some studies have shown that as many as 1 in 94 children are on the autism spectrum, one of the highest rates in the nation.
More than 140 students from various student organizations, as well as their professors, joined forces to organize the Rider Education Department team at the 12th Annual Central Jersey Walk Now for Autism Speaks in October at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, N.J. A fun-filled, family-friendly event, Walk Now for Autism Speaks is Autism Speaks’ most effective and visible force to fund vital research to solve the riddle of the fastest-growing serious developmental disorder in the United States.
Together, the Rider Education Department team – composed of students from the Council for Exceptional Children, Student Education Association, and the Kappa Delta Pi international honor society in education – raised $3,763 for autism research. The team also produced and sold T-shirts in support of the event, with the proceeds going to Autism Speaks. Many students donated their own money to produce the T-shirts.
In total, the Central New Jersey event has generated more than $211,000 this year. And while every dollar raised helps combat autism spectrum disorder, the Rider students also benefit the cause – as well as themselves – by aligning themselves with the communities most affected by it.
“The community service is just one of the major benefits of the students’ involvement,” said Dr. Michele Wilson Kamens, professor and director of Special Education programs at Rider. “It promotes autism awareness and helps establish them as integral members of the community. We had such a presence.”
Kamens said that there is also a service learning component to the Walk Now event.
“When they are there, they are there with many families who have autistic family members,” she said.
Other student organizations from Rider that participated in Walk Now for Autism Speaks this year include the Alpha Xi Delta, which raised $2,540, the Swimming & Diving team, and Rider SERVES.