Autism Awareness Events

In order to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month every April since the 1970s.

The Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) and Mercyhurst University join the Autism Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania in providing opportunities with the autism community during April.


Past Events

April 18, 2012: Author Sean Barron

Barron rules book


Sean is a very interesting and intelligent young man who has faced the challenge of autism. He and his mother wrote an insightful book, There's a Boy in Here, about their lives together. Published in 2002, it has won many accolades for offering the unique perspectives of two people who look at the same world but see and feel entirely different things. Sean’s emotions controlled his social behavior. Baffled by social rules, isolated and friendless, he made up his own, and applied them to others. When he inevitably broke society's rules, he felt worthless and unloved. With great effort, Sean has progressed to the point that it is difficult to even realize that he once was truly impacted by autism/Asperger Syndrome. Sean is a graduate of Youngstown State University, and works as a reporter for the Youngstown Vindicator. He’s pursuing a second degree in journalism. He is now a freelance writer, lives independently, and recently co-authored Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships with Dr. Temple Grandin.

He presented "A Forum for Young Adults: Developing Social Relationships" and spoke to the general public about "Ten Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships." He focused on how the autistic way of thinking affects social relationships.

April 16, 2011: Matt Savage, talented jazz pianist, composer, performer, and Autistic Savant

Matt Savage


The 18-year old debuted his ninth album, Welcome Home, in November 2010. The record was produced by Grammy-nominated Jonathan Wyner and engineered by nine-time Grammy winner Tom Bates. Composed and arranged entirely by Matt, Welcome Home featured both a quintet and a trio to showcase Matt's music and included the five-part "Big Apple Suite," inspired by Matt's landmark musical appearances in Manhattan. Matt's career and travels began at the age of 7 when he released his first album and was hailed as a jazz prodigy. At the age of 11, Matt debuted at the famed Blue Note (and was signed as an artist for Bösendorfer pianos). The following year, he appeared at Birdland with the legendary Clark Terry on trumpet, Jimmy Heath on sax, Jon Faddis on trumpet, Marcus McLaurine on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. In 2007, Matt made his first appearance at the prestigious Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center and, in 2009, he debuted "Big Apple Suite" at New York's Cachaça Jazz Club.

April 14 & 15, 2011: Dr. Gena Barnhill

gina barnhill

Dr. Barnhill is the author of multiple publications on Autism and Asperger Syndrome and has been in the disability services field for over 25 years. Currently on the faculty at Lynchburg College, she has taught in Kansas and Missouri. She has been a school psychologist and an autism coordinator in Missouri and a school counselor in New Jersey. She has also worked as a pediatric Registered Nurse in Ohio and New Jersey. Her presentations included:

Navigation Tips for Teens and Young Adults with ASD

Navigating the Choppy Waters of ASD (emphasizing methods and approaches to best serve the needs of students on the spectrum)

The College Experience for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

April 6, 2011: Mary and Max

Mary and Max

Presented as part of the Guelcher Film Series at Mercyhurst, the Sundance Award-winning film spans 20 years and two continents and tells of a pen-pal relationship between two very different people: Mary Dinkle, a lonely 8-year-old living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia; and Max Horovitz, an obese, 44-year-old Jewish man with Asperger Syndrome living in New York City. The clay animation film was followed by a panel discussion featuring Dr. Jennifer Pasternak, Dr. Douglas Della Toffolo, Janet Pawlowski, and a parent of a young man on the spectrum as well as a local adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Civil War photo exhibit
Photographs of the American Civil War

Dates: Jun 12-Aug 1, 2014

Location: Cummings Gallery

Cummings Gallery
Art Faculty Show

Dates: Aug 21-Sep 28, 2014

Location: Cummings Gallery

William Close and The Earth Harp Collective
William Close and The Earth Harp Collective

Dates: Sep 5

Location: Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center