Zain Rhodes

Students in OHIO’s COMS 4050 class are organizing a fundraiser for Krisa Rhodes and her 10-year-old son, Zain (seen sporting an Ohio University sweatshirt) who has autism.

Photo courtesy of: Krisa Rhodes

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OHIO students using classroom lessons to raise funds for local family

‘Making Moves for Autism’ fundraiser slated for Nov. 23

Ohio University's COMS 4050 students are using the lessons learned in this meeting and conference planning class to organize a fundraiser for a local mother and her son who has autism.

A group of students in the class will host "Making Moves for Autism," its end-of-the-semester class project, from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Ping Center. A "field day" of sorts for children and adults, "Making Moves for Autism" will include various activities for both children and adults – everything from sack racing, arts and crafts, and piñatas to basketball and cornhole. The event will also include an appearance by OHIO mascot Rufus and coffee and/or specialty drinks donated by Donkey Coffee and Espresso in Athens.

Funds generated from the event, which is open to the public, will benefit Krisa Rhodes and her son, Zain. The 10-year-old has social, behavioral and speech challenges and, like many children who have autism, does not pick up on social cues and becomes overstimulated by normal noise.

Krisa Rhodes plans on using the money to implement the techniques she was trained and certified in through the Autism Treatment Center of America's Son-Rise Program at her home. The program's family-based method of treatment focuses on teaching families better ways to communicate, teach and interact with children who are autistic by developing one-on-one relationships, reducing stimuli and generating eye-contact, for example.

"We were really blessed by the opportunity," Krisa Rhodes said of being chosen for the COMS 4050's fundraising efforts. "There are so many families in need."

The treatment and educational model for the Son-Rise Program has changed the way in which children with autism are helped worldwide. Krisa Rhodes said she has connected with a community of mothers who have autistic children and plans to open the program to that community.

The COMS 4050 class was split into groups with each group organizing its own fundraiser for the Rhodes family. The class has already held five events and has raised about a third of its $3,000 goal.

"We came up with the idea of 'Making Moves for Autism' because we wanted it to be an open and fun experience for all ages," said Brad Mash, a web developer at OHIO who is enrolled in the COMS 4050 class and is helping to organize the fundraiser with fellow classmates Jenna Glasscock, Chelsea Fagan and Matt Williams. "We enacted a thorough marketing strategy to publicize our event to the community, and we have all types of games, ranging from basketball to arts and crafts."

Karen Deardorff, an instructor in OHIO's School of Communication Studies who teaches the COMS 4050 class, applauded the students organizing the fundraiser for "thinking outside the box" and for creating a "carnival-like" event that Zain and his mother can attend.

"The idea behind the project was to give students an opportunity to apply theory and methodology in a real-world application while incorporating and fostering community and community service within the classroom," Deardorff said. "In addition, the activity also serves as a vehicle to raise awareness about autism. I have a Ph.D. in health communication, so working to raise awareness about autism helped tie organizational and health communication together."

Admission for the fundraiser is $8 for adults and children 10 and older and $5 for children younger than 10. Donations may also be made at

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