Communication Sciences and Disorders to Raise Awareness for Autism

Department teams with student-athletes for Light It Up Blue event

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is teaming up with the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders to raise awareness for a condition that affects one in 68 children.

“With the number of children diagnosed with autism increasing at dramatic rates, we as a community must recognize that this is everyone’s concern,” said Gina Keene, speech-language pathologist in the university’s Hearing Impaired Language and Literacy, or HILL, program.

“We all will have a chance to interact with, be involved with or love an individual with autism. The more that we know and work together, the better we can make our community for all people.”

Kicking off Autism Awareness Month, the Light It Up Blue event on April 3 begins with Rebel student-athletes joining children at Willie Price Lab School to read “My Brother Charlie,” a children’s book by Holly Robinson Peete that explores autism from a child’s perspective. The books are donated by Square Books Junior.

“University and community members are encouraged to wear blue and meet in front of Kinard Hall at 9:45 a.m. to walk together to the University Circle,” said Amy Livingston, speech-language pathologist and HILL program instructor.

Students will then host an autism awareness table on the Gaultney-Lott Plaza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to distribute information about the disorder to students, presell T-shirts and pass out snacks.

All proceeds from the T-shirts help support HILL and HILL Transition classes on campus.

The HILL Preschool and HILL Transition Classes serve children with moderate to severe receptive and expressive language disorders.

“Teaching our graduate students and undergraduate students how to advocate on behalf of clients is critical to our scope of practice as speech-language pathologists,” Livingston said. “We don’t just help our clients become better communicators, but we help the community better understand communication disorders.”

Alexandria Russell, a first-year graduate student in communication sciences and disorders, says educating the public about autism is important to her as a future speech-language pathologist.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to help our community become more aware of what autism is and how it affects families and children with the diagnosis,” Russell said. “We’re so grateful to the local businesses who are donating items to make the event possible, including JCG Apparel, Square Books, R&R Bakery, Sugaree’s Bakery and The Cakery, and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association.”

To order a T-shirt, complete the order form and email to For more information about the event, contact