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Autism Speaks Loud With Alpha Xi Delta Sorority

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With pink roses and quills, mascot Al Fuzzy and colors of gold and double blue, sisters of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority fundraise for Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization that raises awareness for autism research and organizes outreach activities. 

“It’s about enhancing lives of those affected by autism,” Kelly O’Malley, a senior in the College of Education, says. “It’s improving the quality of life by providing families with resources.” O’Malley is the standing president of Alpha Xi Delta: Theta Epsilon chapter.

Autism Speaks has been the Alpha Xi Delta national philanthropy since 2009. Since then, over eight million dollars for autism advocacy have been raised.  In a statement on its website, former Autism Speaks president Liz Feld says that the Alpha Xi Delta sisters have done an incredible job advocating for the autism community.

“Their awareness, volunteering and fundraising efforts have allowed thousands of Alpha Xi Deltas to truly ‘realize their potential’ while helping others realize theirs,” Feld says.

According to the website, medical expenditures for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder are 4.1 to 6.2 times greater than those without autism.

O’Malley says many sorority sisters have worked with children on the spectrum before joining the sorority.

In reference to Autism Speaks, she says, “There are definitely deeper ties to Alpha Xi Delta, which is really cool we can come together, celebrate and fundraise for something that’s really deep in our hearts.”

Autism Speaks focuses on enhancing lives and not changing them, O’Malley says.  “It’s trying to improve the quality of life and advocate for more acceptance of those who do have autism.”

Since 2009, the Theta Epsilon chapter has raised $99,693 for Autism Speaks.

The Autism Speaks Walk is the largest fundraiser the Marquette sorority does for its philanthropy. O’Malley says families who are affected by autism walk for the cause, while activities are set up for kids to enjoy. Last semester, Alpha Xi Delta raised just under $12,000 was raised.

The sorority hosts fundraisers across campus throughout the year, including a flag football tournament on its Dads’ Weekend, during which students can sign up and play for a donation. Additionally, Alpha Xi Delta facilitates Step it Up 5K, a color run featuring blue chalk, where participants run the Marquette Mile followed by a pancake breakfast. All proceeds raised in every fundraiser go toward Autism Speaks.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Wendy Krueger, a clinical associate professor in the College of Health Sciences, says. Krueger teaches a class about children and adults with autism. 

“It’s a developmental disorder characterized by impairments in two different realms,” Krueger says of the autism spectrum.  “One is social communication and the other is restrictive repetitive behavior.”

ASD can manifest in different ways, Krueger says, “The first, most notably, (is) forming different relationships. But that can be due to the back and forth attention, being able to share that moment with somebody else and being able to communicate both verbally and nonverbally.”

Krueger says the other side of the spectrum includes stereotypical behavior like rocking, clapping and echoing speech. Krueger says ASD can affect someone who has significantly impacted cognitive disabilities or someone who has a genius level IQ, adding that intelligence has nothing to do with ASD.

In fall 2019, the university will be facilitating a support program for students with ASD called On Your Marq. Krueger is part of the planning team looking to educate the university about individuals with ASD to create a more welcoming atmosphere and better learning experience.

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