Renowned autism awareness expert and award-winning author Chantal Sicile-Kira and her autistic son and artist, Jeremy Sicile-Kira, will be the featured guests when MiraCosta College celebrates World Autism Awareness Day April 2 at the Little Theatre on the Oceanside Campus.
“This will be an exciting event that will further awareness of autism throughout the campus community,” said Michelle Strauss Ohnstad, library operations coordinator at MiraCosta College, who is organizing the discussion.
World Autism Awareness Day was established by the United Nations in fall 2007 and is one of only four health-specific UN days. Its mission: encouraging autism organizations around the world to celebrate with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events.
MiraCosta College is on the front line in that regard with its April 2 program featuring Sicile-Kira and her son, a former MiraCosta College student.
Sicile-Kira has spent more than a quarter century advocating for those living with autism spectrum disorder, and her passion for empowering others and her personal interest in autism has led her to become an autism consultant, speaker and leader in the field. She is the founder of AutismCollege.com, an online resource on all things autism for parents and educators that also provides a bevy of practical courses.
After her son was diagnosed as severely autistic, the family eventually moved to San Diego to provide him with a proper education. Placed in special education classrooms, Jeremy couldn’t speak but learned to type and point to letters.
At Torrey Pines High School, he was placed in general education classes and graduated as the school’s first non-verbal autistic student. At age 21, he discovered he had synesthesia when he explained to his mother for the first time that he saw people’s emotions in color. That led to a passion for abstract painting, and in 2016 he held his first curated solo art show at Space4Art in San Diego. His story has been covered by local and national media, and he was highlighted on the MTV documentary series True Life.
Jeremy will utilize voice-output technology to detail his experiences living an independent life with autism, and he will present the college with a painting he created. A question-and-answer period will follow the presentations by mother and son.
Ohnstad said having Jeremy as a featured guest sends a powerful message. “It’s important to show that there are adults who are thriving in the community while living with autism, but it’s also important to show that we have a long way to go in understanding, accepting, and creating support systems for adults living with this neurological disorder,” she said. “MiraCosta College prides itself as being an inclusive community. This is one example of how we can increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of members of our community who live with autism.”
The event is set to begin at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public. MiraCosta College is at 1 Barnard Drive, Oceanside, 92056.
For further information, contact Ohnstad at 760.757.2121, ext. 6709.