School of education silent auction increases autism awareness
By Sam Allen
As part of April Autism Awareness Month, the UAF School of Education is teaming with the Autism Society of Alaska for the fifth annual all-day silent auction event this Wednesday on the seventh floor of the Gruening building.
The proceeds, typically averaging around $2,000, go the Autism Society. The money raised is used to bring guest speakers who teach a summer class at UAF and host community events, according to JoAnne Healy, assistant professor for special education. Last year, they brought up Emily Iland, who did police safety training for kids who are on the autism spectrum. She invited police and kids to interact by putting on handcuffs and practicing how to let an officer know they have autism. “Often times people with autism may act a little different—a police officer might interpret as something might be wrong there, and it’s just their normal way to act,” Healy said.
At the silent auction, trainers Besty Jacobs and Nathan Collin, from The Other Paw Assistance Dogs non-profit organization, will do demonstrations and
answer questions about therapy dogs and how they can be used to help kids on the autism spectrum. Jacobs says they teach the dogs certain commands to ease anxiety in some patients. “A popular command is ‘lap’ where the dog puts its paws on your lap–giving you something to hang on to or hug, which keeps a person focused and able to calm down,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs recently trained a dog that is now working with youth in transition at the Access Alaska Youth Facility. “It attends meetings with children who are in trauma and have to talk about things that they’re not comfortable with. It makes them feel comfortable and at ease,” Jacobs said.
The auction will feature more than 100 items, ranging from gift cards donated by local business to glass jewelry and wooden bowls made by adjunct professor Deb O’Connor and her husband.
Upcoming autism awareness and fundraising events include Fairbanks Roller Girls Skate for Autism this Saturday, where a portion of the proceeds will go to the autism society, a fun skate for autism event as Joel’s Place on April 25 and the sixth annual Walk for Autism on May 9.