Volunteering with S.Au.S. - Truly Inspiring

by chelsea-martin on May 13, 2013 - 6:32pm

Over the course of the semester, I have been extremely interested in, and wrote about the issue of health. I feel that health is a problem in our society and is extremely important to be aware of. I have written about many topics under this issue, such as cancer, the effects of caffeine on unborn children, and new medical treatments. There are many reasons to explain why I chose health as my focus, one being because I feel it is important to make people aware of what is going on in the world, what is changing, and what can help them. Another was because over the past five years, several health problems have arose in my family, from my cousin being diagnosed with Autism to my grandmother being diagnosed with Cancer and to my father having a heart attack, I want to be aware of health issues in order to prevent other issues from arising. When my cousin was diagnosed with Autism I felt it was necessary to help raise awareness for the disease and by volunteering in that field, I felt as though I was helping. I also read many articles this semester on Autism, from diagnosis being raised, to new injections that could help with the gastrointestinal part of Autism, reading these articles interested me more and more in the topic.

In order to continue my work on this issue, I decided to volunteer for the Soutien Autism(e) Support foundation (Aka S.Au.S.), a foundation which is working to raise the awareness of Autism as well as figuring out how to help people with the disease become active members of society. (http://www.s-au-s.org)

Every year this foundation holds an Autism Awareness Run that is held in Candiac in a local school yard. There is a five kilometer run and a three kilometer walk that both start at 9am. They start in front of the school and there is a planned course to follow around the city, streets are blocked off during this time and the race is lead and followed by two police cars. After they are completed there is a one kilometer run for the children participants. This year, there were over 1500 people participating as well as hundreds of volunteers. People from different high schools, such as Reach and Centennial Regional High School, created groups and take part in the run together. Aside from the actual run, there is an activity area which includes face painting and blow up rides, for the children. There is also an information table, which gives information about Autism, and the foundation, so if people had any questions about the point of the run, or how to become more aware, they could all be answered. The focus of the whole day is really to raise awareness and funds for the cause. The participants are asked to make a donation when registering for the race which goes to help support the cause.

My volunteer work for that day was to hand out medals to the participants once they came across the finish line. We weren’t allowed to simply hand them the medals, we had to drape them over their shoulders as though they were Olympic athletes. It was really inspiring to see people’s faces light up when they received their medals because they were so excited that they worked this hard to help raise awareness and help the cause. It really showed me how people coming together can truly change things, these 1500 people will talk to their families, neighbors or friends and in turn those people will spread the news and it will really bring awareness about what the disease is and how they can help out with it. It can also puts those affected with Autism minds at ease, because the more awareness the less ignorance will be exposed to them and their families. Although my volunteer work wasn’t hands on with raising awareness, giving people those medals excite them, and may lead them to come back in the years to come. I volunteered with this organization primarily for a personal reason, my nine year old cousin was diagnosed with Autism when he was very young, and I was unaware as to what this was or how I could help, so I decided I needed to find out, and this organization allowed me to. He goes to school every day and is bullied because he is different; he’s ostracized by his class mates and teachers because they see that he is different from the rest. It’s heartbreaking, when I look at him, I see a fun loving nine year old, but they don’t, because they’re unaware. By helping out with this foundation it raises awareness to people like those kids and teachers. By continuing to talk about the issue, and continue to raise awareness, the ignorance held by those certain people will be diminished, and hopefully my little cousin will be able to live a normal life, a life he deserves. Also, there are so many organizations out to help large, life threatening diseases, like cancer, however there aren’t many organizations for illnesses like Autism, and because of this, people become very unaware. I felt by helping out, it could help the Autism community become larger, and more people will be led to help out.

Using a photo sharing website, I have posted many pictures taken at the run as well as an interview about the run with the President and Vice President of the foundation. (http://awareness-run.tumblr.com.)

In addition, many stories in the news recently have been related to Autism. One of which I wrote about this past semester. It was posted on CTV News, on March 20th 2013, stated that there has been a growth in Autism diagnosis since the last consensus. In order to find out the numbers of those affected, they asked parents via a national phone survey which took place in 2011 and 2012, but only a quarter of the parents agreed to answer the questions. However, next year new medical and school records are expected to be studied. The article stated that they it didn’t mean Autism was becoming more frequent, it meant that doctors were diagnosing children who had milder problems, as Autistic. The earlier numbers stated that 1 in 88 children were Autistic, this study, however, looked at medical and school records instead of relying on the parents. Autism has been defined as children with severe language, intellectual and social impairments, as well as unusual repetitive behavior, but now this definition has been altered to fit the milder conditions. The new numbers indicate that one million children have Autism. There are no medical tests designed to diagnose Autism; it is diagnosed by observing the behavior of the child. Normally children are diagnosed at 8 years old, but now children are being diagnosed at older ages.

I think the fact that people are being diagnosed more frequently is a reason to raise awareness about the disease. This foundation does exactly that, it helps raise awareness to those who need it. It’s main goal to help people become more aware about the disease. With the rise of Autism, awareness is definitely needed. If one million people are affected, the general public should be more aware of these conditions, how they affect the person who is diagnosed, and how they can accept them. The S.Au.S Foundation helps Autistic people become active members in society, and with more people being diagnosed, the more this foundation will be needed. Hopefully with the rise in diagnostics, more foundations will be found and more people will become aware of Autism as well as become less ignorant. Helping out with the S.Au.S foundation allowed me to help with people becoming more aware and it made me realize that I was in turn, helping my cousin have a better time at school.

Another article, posted on April 15th 2013, by CTV Montreal on CTV News, states that the MIRA Foundation has extended their organization to incorporate helping Autistic children. The MIRA foundation is known for training seeing-eye dogs, but ten years ago they started training dogs to help with Autism, and the results have been extremely good. One family adopted Morgan, a dog trained by MIRA, to help their five year old and four year old sons, who both have Autism. Before they had Morgan, it was impossible to leave the house because the boys would become too stressed. Also, the five year old, Oliver, had night terrors at night leading to very little sleep for the whole family. When they adopted Morgan, Oliver’s night terrors diminished and when the boys left the house, the stress levels were much lower. The article stated that Morgan became their security blanket. According to Dr. Sonia Lupien, dogs can decrease stress levels to an incredible degree. She has measured the level of cortisol in children, which is secreted when people are stressed, when people adopt dogs, the amount of cortisol is decreased incredibly. She says she has never seen such a reduction in these levels and never thought that a human body could decrease in stress in that large of a way. MIRA is now training more dogs and will have 120 dogs working with Autistic children within two years.

MIRA is working to help Autistic children have easier access to everyday activities. By helping children be able to go into society, they can in turn help them become active members of society. The S.Au.S. Foundation’s second goal is to figure out how to help people with autism to become active members in society, they want them to be able to go out in public like everyone else and not be stressed out to do so. With MIRA coming up with a way to reduce stress for Autistic children it can help them be able to do every day activities like everyone else. The MIRA foundation has found a way to achieve one of the S.Au.S’ goals, and that can truly help Autistic children everywhere. It is a great thing that children will now be able to go into public and not be stressed while doing it, they can complete daily activities without being worried, as well as their parents not being worried as well. A goal that S.Au.S has been trying to reach now has a solution, which will truly help with children everywhere.

Volunteering with the S.Au.S. foundation was eye opening, it really showed me how people who have no connection to Autism are still willing to help out for the cause, it was a great learning experience and the Foundation is a really great awareness raiser.

The Associated Press. “U.S. estimates autism now being diagnosed in 1 in 50 kids.” CTV
News. 20 March 2013. Web. 21 March 2013.

CTV Montreal. “MIRA sees ‘incredible success’ helping autistic children.” CTV News.
15 April 2013. Web. 13 May 2013.