Advocates for Autism (AFA)

Group: Advocates for Autism (AFA)

Category: Center for Social Concern

Website: https://sites.google.com/site/jhuautism/home

Name: Katherine Simeon

Year: Class of 2014

Position: Co-President

A multidisciplinary investigation of the autism spectrum
Autism has become an increasingly popular topic in science, education, and the media. In the past, we’ve seen the claim that vaccines supposedly cause autism, different ways to educate the autistic, and celebrities with autistic children. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 children in the United States has autism –23 percent more than three years ago.

Advocates for Autism (AFA) is a student advocacy group striving to learn more about the rapidly evolving autism spectrum through campus events, networking, and community service. To accomplish our goals, we host on-campus events reaching out to the Hopkins community and informing them about autism (you will often see us in the library on Tuesday evenings giving away brownies and cookies accompanied by autism fact cards!). Our initiatives bring together Hopkins students of different backgrounds and interests to explore what autism is and its implications on society, education, research, and more.

Baltimore and Autism
In addition to campus events, we invite guest speakers to talk at our weekly meetings. In previous years, we have had insightful educators, researchers, parents, and students share their perspectives on autism. These talks are informal and interactive. They allow AFA members to quench their curiosity. Our guests have been amazingly gracious in the past and serve as great connections. Some members maintain relationships with our past guests and become their mentees, research assistants, or interns. Not only do the speakers teach us more about autism, but they also localize the topic and connect Hopkins to Baltimore’s autistic community.

Advocating Neurodiversity
AFA makes community service a priority. Every month we volunteer as a group at the Kennedy Krieger Institute near the medical school campus. In the Child Life and Therapeutic Department, members work one-on-one with patients. The conditions of the children and adolescents at Kennedy Krieger extend beyond the autism spectrum as many patients are diagnosed other severe developmental and motor disabilities. This exposes us to other disorders and their treatment, which in turn allows us to develop an understanding of neurodiversity and promote it on campus. We are currently establishing new relationships with other organizations in Baltimore to volunteer with.

Join us!
Anyone can join Advocates for Autism and participate in our campus, service, and networking events. Contact the Co-Presidents at afa.jhu@gmail.com to join our email list and get more information.