Cricket Barrientos’ journey toward founding Sounds of Autism began with a seed, and like a plant sprouting from that seed, her nonprofit organization has grown to affect the ASU community.
Her 10-year-old son, Landon, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was 19 months old.
Barrientos is balancing the position of manager of Z’Tejas restaurant and running Sounds of Autism along with raising her children as a single mother.
She gives presentations to different groups of people educating them about the disorder and teaching them how to become “Autism RESPONDERS.”
Once they go through the presentation, she gives them a bracelet with a bead on it that indicates that they are informed about the proper way to handle kids with the disorder.
The goal is that these RESPONDERS will be able to recognize each other in the future, and children on the spectrum will know that these are people they can trust.
It all began when she found symbolism behind a sesame seed in her coffee, followed by multiple others popping up randomly throughout the week.
“One day I found a seed in my coffee cup, found another seed the next day, and soon found more seeds on my patio table,” Barrientos explained. “This pattern continued and with these coincidences I started to ask, ‘What’s the message here?’”
Soon after, a man who came into the restaurant Barrientos was managing heard about her seed story and immediately responded, “Start a nonprofit for autism. I think you’d do awesome!”
The idea took root when she walked back into the kitchen after the conversation and discovered a sprouted lemon seed on the counter.
“Who couldn’t miss that symbolism?” Barrientos said.
Journalism senior Alex Maza is the philanthropy chair for the ASU chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, which provides volunteers and donates money to Sounds of Autism.
“Cricket’s passion for Sounds of Autism is amazing,” Maza said. “She strives for making her nonprofit successful in everything that she does.”
The goal of Sounds of Autism is to inform people who may not understand the disorder and are therefore uneasy around kids with autism.
Barrientos uses humor to loosen up her crowds and finds that her audiences are more responsive to light-hearted discussion that familiarize them with the disorder.
Business junior Paige Beeson is a member of the sorority who was affected closely by the goals of Sounds of Autism.
Her brother is on the autism spectrum, and Beeson said she has struggled to understand it.
“I feel like had people heard Cricket’s presentation and known more about what an autism spectrum disorder is, my brother’s childhood would have been a lot easier,” she said.
Barrientos said she hopes her organization will be able to touch lives nationally and internationally within the next five years.
“We want to flood society with RESPONDERS of Autism so we can be the Sound and Voice of Autism,” she said.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com