Nemeh Sarraj saw a problem and then decided to be a part of the solution. The media, Sarraj said, presents autism in a negative light, and in general, people have a negative view of those with disabilities. She became aware of this in her disabilities studies class at Metro State University. “I’ve come to realize that autism is one of the many disabilities that is lacking in proper awareness and understanding,” Sarraj explained. So, she decided to organize an Autism Spectrum and Other Disabilities Awareness Fair. It will take place in the gym at Al-Amal School in Fridley on Tuesday, November 20.
The first year, 22-year-old student from Fridley has secured the participation of fourteen organizations in the fair, including Fraser, Courage Center, ARC, and Opportunity Partners. Sarraj explained, “The event will show people that there is hope … to have a job, function, and graduate from school.” It is a message she believes is often lost in media portrayals of people with disabilities.
The fair will consist of two sessions. Session One is geared toward students and will take place from 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend the second session from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sarraj said those who cannot make it to the second session would be welcome to attend the first session. She expects to have three speakers per session, activities, and representatives sharing resources from their organizations.
If you go
When: Tues., Nov. 20, 2012
Session One: 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (for students, but public can attend, if needed)
Session Two: 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (for public, but students can attend, if needed)
Where: Gym at Al-Amal School, located at 1401 Gardena Ave., Fridley
The list of speakers will include a representative from the Autism Society of Minnesota, another from Amaze Works, and two parents. Hearing from someone with firsthand experience with a disability is important to Sarraj. “When you sit down with a parent or child on the spectrum, they will give you a better sense of what it is,” she said.
Sarraj hopes that people who participate in the event will discover resources and learn about some of the challenges that people with certain disabilities face. To that end she has planned modified games, such as a game called “stacking,” an activity that some children with autism do. She will also adapt a communication game to simulate communication difficulties.
She is working carefully to organize an event at which anyone can feel welcomed. “I want people to be able to benefit from this event,” Sarraj said. She believes that not only those directly affected by disabilities can benefit, but also those who work with people.