#HCAwarenessWeek: Meet Darian Darway, Autism Speaks U at WVU Awareness Chair

Autism Speaks U is a nationwide organization that raises awareness and support through fundraising efforts that benefit research, family resources and community grants. The WVU chapter of Autism Speaks U does its part by being the only collegiate chapter in the state of West Virginia raising funds for the Mountaineer family. Darian Darway, sophomore student at WVU, explained the impact that the organization has had on her, her inspiration and how she does her part in raising awareness.

HC: What is your current position in Autism Speaks U? What are your responsibilities?

DD: I am the awareness chair. I am in charge of bringing acceptance and teaching to our events and activities to help those who don't know about autism so that they have a better understanding.

HC: What does Autism Speaks U mean to you?

DD: As autism statistics continue to rise I believe the clubs awareness aspect is so important. By raising awareness, I hope that people will be more accepting of those who fall on the spectrum. This organization holds a close place to my heart because I have a younger brother who falls on the more severe side of the spectrum, so I know firsthand how the lack of knowledge people have of this disorder can be. I can think of the countless times people have stopped to point and stare because my brother was different. After they learned what was wrong with him, the rude comments and looks would stop.

HC: What type of projects does Autism Speaks organize and who do these projects benefit?

DD: We host meetings usually once a month where we discuss upcoming events as well as help educate those who attend more about autism. Our fundraisers are hosted in many different settings so we can not only reach the students on campus but the community of Morgantown as well. All proceeds we make go back to our head organization Autism Speaks U.

HC: What would you say motivates you to do what you do?

DD: My brother Drew. He was diagnosed with autism around 18 months old, so as long as I can remember, autism has been a word we used often and it was something that I understood. It wasn’t until I got older and friends would ask me what was wrong with my brother and or ask why didn't he talk that I grew to realize this was not “normal” to everyone. Although the way Drew acts is normal to me, to others I can see how they wouldn't know how to approach or treat him or would be hesitant. I hope that through organizations such as this one, autism won't be “normal” just for those with close friends or family with autism, but that it will be universally understood and accepted!

HC: I know that being a part of Autism Speaks U relates to your major, what or who influenced you to head toward the career path of Occupational Therapy?

DD: Drew started receiving occupational therapy through the birth to three program shortly after he was diagnosed with autism. I can remember being so excited when Drew’s OT would come over because she would let me help with therapy and always included me. As Drew got older, his OT continued to work with him through various outlets and became a very close family friend and was always so helpful to my mom while she navigated through this journey with Drew. I knew I wanted to do something where I could help people of all ages, with a wide range of abilities or disabilities and after the lasting impressions she had on not only Drew’s life but on my entire family’s, I knew I wanted to enter this worthwhile profession.  

HC: What advice do you have for someone who is interested in joining Autism Speaks U?

DD: If you are interested in joining ASU reach out to one of our social media accounts to find out more or come to a meeting and we will get you all set up to receive emails about upcoming events.

HC: What advice do you have for someone who feels like they don’t know how to act around someone who is autistic?

DD: Treat them as you would want to be treated, remember they are just like you and me. Different abilities, not a disability!

For anyone interested in joining Autism Speaks U at WVU, feel free to contact them through their social media.