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— The Communication Sciences and Disorders department at Ole Miss is

raising awareness about autism during Autism Awareness Month.

The department, along with Ole Miss students, kicked off Autism Awareness Month by walking
with the Hearing Impaired Literacy and Learning, or HILL, preschool students from Kinard Hall
to the Gaultney-Lott Plaza, where they gave out information about autism.

Gina Keene, a speech-language pathologist for the HILL preschool, hopes raising awareness for
the spectrum disorder will make people realize how common it is, with some children being
diagnosed as early as 18 months old.

“To me, one of the reasons why we had this day is to have kind of a call to action,” said Keene.
“We as a society need to pay attention to this; something is going on with our children and we
need to do something to help them.”

Ole Miss graduate student Alex Russell knows her future job as a speech language pathologist
requires her to advocate for her clients, so being able to raise awareness about autism in the
Oxford community is very important.

“For me as a graduate student I’m really thankful I got to participate in this event because thats
what we’re doing, we’re bringing awareness to the community,” said Russell.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or the ASHA, every 1 in 68

children are diagnosed with autism. With this number on the rise, Keene says that statistic is one
of the main reasons why awareness needs to be raised.

“We need to learn ways to prevent this if we can,” said Keene. “We need to learn how to teach
these children so they can learn as much as possible so they can become as independent as
possible as adults an contribute to society.”

Keene, Russell, and others handed out flyers and snacks to Ole Miss students, hoping to educate
those who didn’t know much about autism.

“It’s everybody’s issue right now because we’ll all be affected if the numbers continue to rise
like they are,” said Keene.

Keene stressed that getting more people involved is key to finding ways to prevent autism.
“It really can be a devastating thing for the families and if we can get more people involved,
more people concerned, more people concerned that this is all of our issue, then maybe we can
change things and make things better for our community and these children,” said Keene.

To get involved during Autism Awareness Month, wear blue to show your support and for the
Oxford community, Autism Speaks U will host an autism walk on the Ole Miss campus on April
14th. For more information about autism, visit the Autism Speaks website.