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Campus Life

April is Autism Awareness Month: learn how to treat peers with different conditions

April is Autism Awareness Month, and organizations on campus are working to debunk common misconceptions about disabilities and conditions.

One of the organizations dedicated to promoting inclusiveness for students with all abilities on campus is ABLE. It stands for advocate, believe, lead and empower, and its mission is to spread disability awareness on campus and to host intentionally inclusive events.

“Everyone deserves to feel welcomed and valued on our campus,” said Bayleigh Pirtle, a sophomore disabilities studies major from Hendersonville, TN, and who is one of the ABLE officers.

Two percent of U.S. adults have autism, a condition that can significantly cause social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the CDC. As the condition grows, groups such as ABLE are seeing the need to inform and sensitize the student body.

Pirtle encourages students to treat students with disabilities “the same way that you would treat your friends, whether that’s talking to them or just inviting them to get dinner with you in the ‘caf.’ It can be really easy to include people with all abilities, you just have to put that effort in.”

“A big misconception is that people with disabilities don’t understand as much as their peers, that they need to be treated like they are younger than they are,” said Pirtle. “All of the students that are here on campus with disabilities are adults, and we should treat them like they are one and not treat them like they are a child.”

“I feel like people with disabilities have the equal opportunities as anyone else on this campus because we all have a voice to be heard about what they want, like everyone else does,” said Kaitlyn Parks, a first-year IDEAL student from Hendersonville, TN

Just this past month, ABLE hosted a disability inclusion week, where the club organized a dance party for Down Syndrome Day. Students were also able to experience what it was like to be in a wheelchair for a day. Regarding Lipscomb, Pirtle thinks that students do a “really good job of being inclusive and friendly.” She says that students shouldn’t be afraid of getting involved.

On April 11, ABLE will be at the welcome desk in the student center passing out fidget toys and spreading information about autism.