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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects as many as 1 in 50 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration. 

Although significant progress has been made over the past few years, a great deal more needs to be done in developing appropriate services and supports for children, adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum and their families.

To raise awareness and help address the needs of families affected by autism, April is recognized as National Autism Awareness Month. UD is offering programs across campus for students, faculty, staff and the community to learn more. 

  • Tuesday, April 2 – To spread awareness, Autism Speaks has established Light It Up Blue Day. Look for buildings around Delaware’s campus to be lit up, including Old College, Memorial Hall and the Alpha Xi Delta (AXiD) House on West Main Street.  Using the Light It Up Blue mobile app, you can turn your own buildings blue and share with friends on social media.
  • AXiD will also be in Trabant handing out Autism Speaks keychains, as well as co-hosting a philanthropy event with Alpha Phi, “Are You Smarter Than a Frat Star?” in the Trabant MPRs from 7 to 9 p.m. 
  •  April 3 – Cucina di Napoli on Main Street is donating 10% of their profits made all day towards Autism Speaks. Everyone is encouraged to come in, mention Alpha Xi Delta/Autism Speaks, and enjoy a delicious meal going toward a great cause.
  • April 4 – the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Health Sciences are co-sponsoring a Colloquium from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at 104 Gore Hall. Iva Obrusnikova, Associate Professor of Behavioral Health & Nutrition, University of Delaware, will present Using therapy dogs to increase physical activity and engagement levels in children with autism spectrum disorders.
  • April 8, Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity is hosting a viewing of The United States of Autism at 5 p.m. in the Trabant Multipurpose Room A/B. This documentary features Richard Everts’ 11,000 mile, 40 day journey across America to visit twenty families and individuals — from Mormon to Muslim and Hispanic to Chinese — living with autism. Cost is $3 for students with valid ID, $8 for others, with a portion of proceeds going to PUSH America and the Tommy Foundation.
  • April 24 – the Delaware Department of Education and the Positive Behavior Support Project at the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies will host a workshop – Social Skills for Home.  It is a myth that students on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum don’t really care about forming relationships. The reality is that they don’t understand how to interact socially, to develop relationships and friendships and require direct, explicit instruction in social thinking and practice in social skills. By learning about the Social Thinking© program, parents/caregivers and educators can teach children to understand the viewpoint of others and how their behavior impacts others.
  • April 29 – the Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS) is hosting a Lunchtime Learning presentation of: A Blueprint for Collective Action: The Delaware Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorders. CDS is the lead agency on Delaware’s two-year planning grant to develop a comprehensive state plan to improve services for children and adults with an ASD. Presenters will share findings from focus groups and the statewide needs assessment survey as well as share preliminary recommendations from the Delaware Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Lunchtime Learnings are held from 12 noon–1 p.m.at CDS, 461 Wyoming Road, Newark. Attendance is free, but registration is required.


The Center for Disabilities Studies conducts research and offers programs related to ASD. These include:

  • Developing a computer tool that customizes language representations to document how customized graphics help youngsters who have visual processing difficulties learn language and express themselves more effectively.
  • Creating a Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) postsecondary education program that offers students with intellectual disabilities (including ASD) the opportunity to earn a certificate from the University of Delaware.
  • Piloting social skills programs and professional development and workshops for families based on curriculum by Positive Behavior Support (PBS) Social Skills Pilot program.
  • Conducting a Developmental Screening Outreach and Public Awareness Campaign to increase knowledge about the importance of developmental screening, helping new parents achieve an early diagnosis of ASD.

In December, look for the book School Success for Kids with Autism that describes how parents and teachers can work together to create nurturing, supportive and effective classroom environments from preschool to high school. 

Co-authored by Chris Barthold, a researcher with the Center for Disabilities Studies, the book provides an  overview of autism spectrum disorders (ASD); how schools assess and define ASD; general instructional strategies for students with ASD; targeted interventions for early childhood, elementary and secondary students with ASD; and fostering family and school partnerships.

For more information on programs and services at the Center for Disabilities Studies, please visit their website

For more events and news during Autism Awareness month, see the College of Health Science’s Facebook page.