Students get glimpse into the science behind autism, some deal with it close to home


Dana Foster and family and friends walk at the 2011 Autism Speaks walk for her brother Jeffrey. NKU hosted an autism symposium March 22 on campus, where students could learn more about the disorder.

The Dorothy Westerman Hermann Autism Symposium was held in the Otto Budig Theater on March 22, allowing many students to hear from professionals about diagnostic techniques, treatments and behaviors associated with autism.

Drawing on how autism has affected her family, public relations major Dana Foster said that people won’t understand autism and its effects without actually having it or knowing someone who does.

“My brother Jeffrey is three years older than me. My life hasn’t changed from him being autistic, but it surely has been blessed,” Foster said. “He makes me view things differently and helps me see the brighter side of things. He’s always happy and never sweats the small things. So, I guess that’s how he’s impacted my life.”

Many people living with autism may not enjoy the same things that others do, such as living on a college campus, but they perform many of the same activities each day. Professionals emphasize the importance of incorporating a “normal daily routine” into the lives of those with autism while also providing outlets such as tutoring and mediation when necessary.

Autism affects one in every 88 children and it is five times more likely to occur in boys than girls. Foster and her family said that they are fortunate enough to live in a society where most are accepting of people with disorders like autism but some people are not aware of the facts and behavior behind it.

“What bothers me the most is that some people think that it’s okay to make fun of mental disorders. Small little comments about being retarded or jokes about riding the short bus are things that I hear often. But when you say those things, they do hear you and they do understand what you’re saying, and it does hurt them,” Foster said. “We had a problem with my brother saying retard, and it’s not because any of us said it; it’s because others had said it around him. I wish people would understand that those things do impact people with disabilities.”

“Jeffrey is truly a blessing. I know the last thing a parent wants to hear is that their child has a disorder. But, I know my family has been truly blessed with him. He’s an amazing person, and he loves and cares for everyone he meets,” Foster said.