Autism Awareness: Training Future Autism Leaders

By: Melanie Bloom Email
By: Melanie Bloom Email

There are many inspiring young adults that are learning to become future leaders in autism.

The Alpha Xi Delta sorority joined forces with Autism Speaks several years ago to raise awareness and funding. The hope is that they'll draw attention to the developmental disorder and help the children and their families that deal with it every day.

At the Alpha Xi Delta chapter at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, there are at least two young women who are studying to change the lives of children with autism.

Casie Kavanaugh and Valerie Pavlicek are both juniors. Both of the young women are drawn to the warm hearts of children living with autism.

"I just fell in love with the kids because they have the biggest heart even if they just can't express it that much," said Valerie. She started working with children with autism while she was in high school in Kearney.

Casie Kavanaugh is a speech pathology major. She works with children with autism while she's studying in college.

"A lot of kids with autism are kind of misunderstood. A lot of people say they don't like to interact with other people, where as, they just don't know how to do that. And so going up to them and engaging them in a game or getting them to do an activity with you... Its really special that you can grab their attention and they want to interact with you, " said Casie.

Even though Valerie is studying to teach children with autism to overcome some of their challenges, she is also learning something from them.

"Every small little thing, like finishing your homework, they get so happy about it. They're like, 'oh now we get to play a game or something fun. So just enjoying every little aspect of life and not looking at the bigger picture all the time, but just taking it step by step," said Valerie.

The UNL chapter of Alpha Xi Delta has raise more than $5,580 for the annual 'Walk Now For Autism Speaks' event on Saturday. They have raised the most money of any other team in Lincoln so far.

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