Autistic student starts club dedicated to help, inform
Published: Friday, March 23, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 23, 2012 08:03
Alexander Orsak, sophomore communication major, started Jigsaw MSU, a club at Mississippi State University, to help raise autism awareness after realizing how Asberger’s Syndrome affected him during his first year in college.
Orsak did not enjoy his first year in college, during which he spent his spare time in his dorm and rarely socialized with people. Over the summer he attended Kamp Kaleidoscope to help him meet other people with autism.
“Attending camp was an eye-opener for me," Orsack said. "I realized that my form of autism was high-functioning compared to other forms of autism. Not many people understand how autism can affect someone, so I wanted to spread awareness."
Autism is difficult to diagnose because not everyone shows the same symptoms. Some of the symptoms for autism include limited or no eye contact, twitching and limited social interaction. Orsak shared his interest in starting a club for autism at MSU with the president of Kamp Kalidascope, Mark Yeager. Yeager introduced him to Sandy Devlin, sponsor and faculty adviser of Jigsaw, to help Orsak begin the club. Orsak and Devlin spent the 2011 fall semester creating the charter for the club and talking with the administration.
The first meeting was a kick-off party for Jigsaw at Devlin’s house. Jigsaw’s secretary Megan Peebles, junior special education major, decided to attend the party. Peebles knew very little about the club, but she decided to give Jigsaw a chance after being around a student with autism.
“Everyone is going to have to deal with someone who is affected by autism no matter what field of work they are in. I feel as though everyone needs to learn how to recognize autism," Peebles said. "Being autistic does not make someone different."
The officers recently decided to host two meetings each month: one will be for those who are affected by autism. They will learn social skills and self determination skills at each meeting.
The other meeting will be held for those without autism to learn about those who are autistic. There will be a meeting for both groups once a month to participate in an activity together.
Students who are interested in joining Jigsaw can email Peebles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jigsaw MSU does not charge membership fees and relies solely on fundraising events. On Feb. 15, Jigsaw MSU held a bake sale on the Drill field.
Jigsaw MSU plans on writing letters to the American Psychiatric Association to advocate against the revision of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ guidelines for diagnosing autism. The new spectrum of autism will be rearranged to where certain cases of autism will not be recognized.
“We understand that there needs to be revisions of any disorder, but the revision of the autism spectrum is too far because fewer people will be diagnosed with autism. I would not qualify for Asberger’s Syndrome with the new revisions of the DSMMD,” Orsak said.
On April 17, Jigsaw MSU is hosting Autism Talk Night for Autism Awareness Month. The event will be at 6:30 p.m. in Swalm 001. Students and parents of students who are affected by autism will speak about autism.
As Jigsaw grows, Orsak said he hopes it can branch out to the city of Starkville so high school students would be included in Jigsaw’s activities.
“We are lucky to have Sandy’s help and all of the officers have been great. The support for Jigsaw has been amazing,” he said. “Every day we are looking forward to seeing what is to come with Jigsaw.”