Autism Spectrum Navigators program hosts video game tournament

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Bellevue College’s Autism Spectrum Navigators Program is hosting a video game tournament (YES, a video game tournament!) on Friday May 18 at the cafeteria from 3:20 p.m. until around 7:00 p.m. The event will be a fundraiser in which students can contribute to the program by paying a $10 participation fee. Awards will be handed to winners and a silent auction will take place as well. Key speakers will be present at the event throughout the day.

The tournament will consist of playing “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” on the Nintendo Wii. Only players ages 13 and up can participate in the gaming challenge. The winner will receive a collector’s edition of “Guild Wars Nightfall,” the runner-up, a coveted “Portal 2” gift box, and the third prize will be a signed copy of “Guild Wars Factions”.

Thirty Nintendo Wii’s will be available and 60 people will be able to play at a time. The event is organized so that about 250 players can compete throughout the entire day.

Players under the age of 13 will have a separate room set up for them with Xbox Kinect consoles.

The event, however, will not consist of the tournament alone. Entry without competing is free and Dr. Hilarie Cash, who is the Co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services and co-developer of the Gaming and Internet Treatment Program will be speaking at the event at 3:30 p.m.

Bellevue College students who are part of the Autism Spectrum Navigators Program will also be speaking at the event at 4:30 p.m. Lynne Banki, founder and Executive Director of Autism Day WA, will discuss how to explain autism to different audiences at 5:15 p.m.

Jane Meyerding, Program Coordinator of the International Studies Program at the Jackson School of International Studies, and author of “Mapping Charlie,” a book about autism, will also be present to discuss her book at 6:15 p.m.

Finally, Benjamin Wahl, director of the Aspiring Youth program, will be present to discuss how to prepare students for college and independence at 7:00 p.m.

A silent auction will also take place throughout the event. Items on auction will consist of various theme baskets, including Starbucks’ Coffee, a Starcaster Acoustic Guitar by Fender and Gold and Diamond Earrings donated by Palace Jewelry and Loan. There is no age limit to participate in the auction.

The money raised at the event will benefit the Autism Spectrum Navigators Program in many ways. Donations, for example, will help expand the club both student-capacity-wise and space-wise. They may also contribute to the program’s aspiration to create a bridge program for high school students to prepare for college.

“This tournament is a great way to get the word out that there is support for students with autism,” said Sara Gardner, the Autism Spectrum Navigators Program Coordinator, in a Bellevue College news release. “The more people who come and contribute, the more autistic students Bellevue College will be able to serve.”

The Autism Spectrum Navigators Program is one of Bellevue College’s 63 programs. It was created last year and according to Gardner “provides a way for students with an autism spectrum diagnosis to access college classes, programs and services.” The students meet each week with experienced mentors who help them overcome issues like anxiety, social communication and self advocacy.

Why would the Autism Spectrum Navigators Program choose video games, of all things, over more traditional events like 5K runs or Autism walks? According to Gardner, the group did think of those but then decided otherwise. “So many of our students have a high interest in video games that we felt a video game tournament would be a good fit,” she said.

A lot of work went into the organization of this upcoming event. “This event has definitely been a collaborative effort among many campus programs,” said Gardner. “Our biggest supporter has been Student Programs, most notably Faisal Jaswal and Nora Lance. We couldn’t do it without them!”

Other contributors include Multicultural Services, the Office of Equity and Pluralism, Public Safety, Tom Pritchard of Student Services, Dominic Tran of the Rotaract Club and Peggy Strader of Events Services. Local businesses have also donated items to the silent auction and families of the program’s students have helped collect donations and contribute to the event. Nintendo America will be lending the Nintendo Wii’s and Ray Salas the Xbox Kinects for the game room.