NORMAN — Eighth-grader Cassidy Gaddie may seem soft-spoken and shy, but she’s happy to make her cause for acceptance as loud and clear as the colors on her tie-dyed T-shirt.
Earlier this year, Gaddie, with the help of family and teachers at Whittier Middle School, launched Show Your Colours for Autism, an initiative to show support for those with autism spectrum disorders and raise funds for ASD-centric charities by selling custom tie-dyed T-shirts, made by Gaddie.
“Because autism affects social skills, people assume that those with autism spectrum disorders are less intelligent, which isn’t true,” Gaddie said. “I want people to gain better knowledge and know how it is for people with autism to be themselves.”
Gaddie first came up with the idea in the summer 2012, inspired by personal experiences of bullying and ridicule against friends and loved ones with ASD.
At the encouragement of her teachers at Whittier, Gaddie worked with the Whittier PTA to sell the T-shirts as a fundraiser for Whittier’s special education classrooms.
She has since set up a website (http://shop.showyourcoloursforautism.org) for the general public to order T-shirts and benefit charities serving those with ASD, such as the National Autism Association.
“Overall, we’ve sold about 70 shirts,” said Gaddie’s mother, Kim Gaddie. “She’s really only had this up and going for a month. This is a brand new experience for all of us.”
Aside from liking tie-dyed patterns, Cassidy Gaddie feels that her ability to tailor each shirt’s color to its individual customer is symbolic of showing personality.
“The tie-dye can represent people who order a shirt, showing their favorite colors and who they really are,” Gaddie said.
This openness of personality and acceptance of individuality is key to Gaddie’s mission of empowering individuals with autism.
“I hope that those with autism can feel more comfortable with who they are and be more accepted and understood,” Gaddie said.