Transitioning to college life is difficult for many, but those on the autism spectrum face a heap of additional obstacles during this transition. Students at the University of Tennessee identified this as an issue worthy of being addressed and, in 2016, created an organization called Advocates for Autism.
According to the UT Daily Beacon, graduate students Brianna Mason and Terrell Broady Jr. were inspired by personal experiences from working with individuals on the spectrum and living with family on the spectrum.
They are active both on campus and off-campus, hosting a variety of events that are educational, recreational, or intended to fundraise for local organizations. They actively collaborate with people and organizations in the local community, such as the Autism Site Knoxville, with whom they’ve worked on many projects, including sensory friendly recreational events.
Advocates for Autism make a pointed effort to directly help students with autism, by creating a safe, inclusive environment and providing resources to those who need them. Their mission statement from the University of Tennessee website reads:
Advocates For Autism aims to raise awareness and educate the campus about autism and individuals on the spectrum. We provide an inclusive environment for students on the spectrum and serve as allies. Advocates for Autism raises funds to provide local students, families, and adults with resources, support, and education.
A 2015 article based on survey results from participants with autism was published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine and revealed that participants experienced significant academic support, but lacked sufficient social and emotional support. Organizations like Advocates for Autism are helping to provide much needed social support for those in the community by integrating neurodiverse populations and making them feel welcome.