LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - April is National Autism Awareness Month and the McNeese Student Union Board and Leadership Programming Office created a fun way to raise awareness.
On Wednesday, the Quad at McNeese State University was transformed into a family fun zone.
It was the university's first Disability Awareness Fair, designed to celebrate National Autism Awareness Month.
"And to bring out families from the community who might have kids or other loved ones with disabilities just to give them a fun day," added Summer Meche, Graduate Assistant with the McNeese Leadership Programming Office.
And from face painting to a bounce house there was plenty of fun to be had for attendees like Megan Telles and her son.
"I have a six-year-old little boy who's intellectually disabled and I'm also a student here at McNeese and I heard about the program, the event today and wanted to see what it was about," said Telles.
Telles, like other attendees came to learn about resources that are available. One of them is the McNeese Autism Program. Director Alfred Tuminello says autism is called a spectrum disorder for a reason.
"There are individuals who don't speak, can't take care of themselves, have problems with hygiene, being able to get their wants and needs met, and then you have other individuals who are thriving," explained Tuminello.
While the non-profit caters to children, Tuminello says it's open to people of all ages. Some even travel from Texas.
Organizers say autism is one of the most under-funded disorders in the nation.
And proceeds raised at the Disability Awareness Fair go directly to the McNeese Autism Program which benefits them in a number of ways.
"Every dollar that comes in goes directly to actual patient care, whether we need to buy devices, materials, those kinds of things, update what we already have, technology, we love to implement technology everywhere we can, so it's all going directly to the patient treatment," said Tuminello.
And while statistics are constantly changing, Tuminello says their focus remains on people.
"We are here after these things have occurred and for the families to come along and get the help that they need," said Tuminello.
Organizers say they raised over a thousand dollars in just two hours and hope to make it an annual event.
For more information on the McNeese Autism Program: http://www.mcneese.edu/autism