SPOTLIGHT: Looking at the spectrum from a different perspective

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DSU Blue Club aims to break stigmas around autism

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter

What is normal? Why do humans have a need to place things in categories? Are all people with autism the same? These are some of the questions that the DSU Blue Club wants their members to ask themselves. In a world of instant satisfaction, reaction, or answer, there also comes an instant judgment. Breanna Himmelright, the President of the DSU Blue Club, hope to dispel the stigma around autism.

According to Autism Canada, “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological condition. It impacts normal brain development leaving most individuals with communication problems, difficulty with typical social interactions, and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour.”

The spectrum refers to the variety of ways autism presents itself in the individual. While some people with autism might have found it difficult to interact in social situations at a young age, others might be non-verbal at an older age. Perhaps, in a college, others might judge without knowing any information about an individual living with autism. Himmelright noticed that among the various clubs and services available to students, very few services addressed the needs of individuals living with autism.

“I had come up with the idea for the club during a dinner conversation with my parents,” Himmelright explained.

What began as a passion project developed into a safe space, providing a place where Douglas students with autism [could] form a support network, have their voices heard, and where students not on the spectrum can gain a more intimate understanding of autism and those living with it.

“I then came up with the name for ‘The Blue Club’ after Autism Speaks, then reached out to various students—including friends of mine who went to Douglas—asking if they would be interested in joining.”

When it comes to community involvement, Himmelright has her sights set on the right places.

“We will soon be working with the Pacific Autism Family Centre in New Westminster, to promote two new employment initiatives targeting autistic adults, and we hope to have more involvement with similar organizations throughout the Lower Mainland.”

While there are many clubs that provide a fun and relaxed atmosphere, Himmelright believes that the DSU Blue Club is more than just a safe space for college students.

“I believe there’s a stigma around developmental disorders such as autism—there is plenty of information on what autism is and what it looks like in varying forms, but very little information on what it’s really like to be autistic. And Hollywood’s offering sure haven’t helped the matter.”

Over the past year, Himmelright has learnt many important lessons about herself thanks to the ongoing support from family, faculty, and fellow students. She urges students to reach out and give a helping hand to others who don’t always have the capability to ask for help.

“I am a part of this club because I feel it is important to give autistic adults a voice,” she comments.

“It has helped me realize that I am not alone in my journey, and that my experiences may be able to help others feel less alone. Whether you are autistic or not, support in any form is always welcome. Open yourself up to seeing through the eyes of another, and you’ll probably learn some pretty remarkable things.”