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Autism, Coronavirus, Anxiety, and Strategies to Cope with it All

Coping. My guess is that if you are reading this blog from Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin, you or a loved one needs coping strategies for this massive pandemic called the coronavirus. That goal is what this blog is for; to provide adults living with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or loved ones of those with ASD, with tools to cope with anxiety surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In most of the patients with ASD I have worked with, and in my own experience having ASD, anxiety is a huge struggle. In adults with ASD, it has been reported that somewhere between 31-51% have some form of an anxiety disorder (1).  In my own experience with my anxiety, I can tell when it’s at play and when my mind is “jumpy”. I like to refer to it as “monkey brain”. I tend to think of a group of monkeys throwing my thoughts around. How disruptive is that? A group of monkeys throwing your thoughts around. I can feel it. My stomach gets in knots, my hands get clammy, and sometimes my heart races faster. It’s as if my body is reacting to the movement of the monkeys in my brain. 

If you asked those closest to me how they know I’m anxious, they would tell you a couple of things. They would start by telling you that all I want to do is plan. For instance, when they want to talk to me about how great something is, and I’ll already be planning something six months down the road. Aside from the future focus, they might also mention that if plans change, I lose my cool — they encounter a hostile and loud version of Sean. Finally, they would tell you they know I’m anxious because I continue to repeat myself over and over, and need to just do this until I calm down. 

So how do we manage anxiety around this coronavirus? Both professionally and personally, I tend to think about anxiety in terms of energetic expression. That is, how is the anxiety presenting itself? Is it showing up as heart racing because I’m stuck on something that is changing (i.e. am I ruminating?), or is it showing up as tension in my clavicle? How anxiety shows up tends to be on a spectrum, and I try to match it to the Bio-psycho-social-spiritual solution to the form it takes (physical or non-physical, high or low intensity). See Figure 1-1.

 So, what does the research and personal experience tell us about the effectiveness of some of these interventions on anxiety in ASD? For instance, when my significant other tells me she isn’t up to going out with friends, and we have been planning to go out with them all week, my anger level may go from a level to 2 to a level 7 pretty quickly. Upon putting down the phone, my forearm muscles may tense, my hands clasp, and I may not really want to talk with my significant other for a bit. As we know from working or living with people with ASD, rumination is common. Rumination is defined as, “A tendency to think repetitively about the causes, situational factors, and consequences of one’s own emotional experiences, and can be conceptualized as a form of nonacceptance of emotion.” (2). So if a person like myself, with ASD is ruminating about plans changing, energetically speaking, how is the anxiety presenting itself?

 

In this scenario, we know a couple things: First, my anger went from a 2–7 relatively quickly. Second, my arms are physically showing signs of an increase in tension in the body. Third, I am avoiding the anxiety trigger. Fourth and finally, I am replaying negative thoughts over and over in their head, reinforcing the anger at a level seven. So, if we refer to Figure 1‒1, what combination of solutions might work to address this presentation of anxiety in ourselves or the person we love? First off, we know that the anxiety is presenting itself in both a physical and non-physical expression, so solutions need to be both physical and non-physical. 

Physically we might see solutions looking like:

Exercise

A well established intervention in patients with Anxiety and ASD is exercise. According to researchers, benefits of exercise include, “On-task behavior, academic responding, and appropriate motor behavior (e.g., playing catch) increased following physical exercise” (3). Meaning that exercise, whether it be in response to anxiety or ASD, results in increased executive functioning (the planning part of the brain). People with ASD might have specific physical solutions already identified, if a high interest includes physical activity. For instance, I have an interest in bouldering (a form of rock climbing that is performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls without the use of ropes or harnesses). This interest, while in some ways isolating, doubles as a physical coping strategy that can increase my socialization. Bouldering in this scenario might serve to address the tension in my body and which leads to an energetic change in my anger level. It is a high-intensity sport that matches the physical energetic expression of my anxiety that shows up as irritability. 

Change in Diet

Most of our neurotransmitters are carried from gut to the brain via the Vagus Nerve (9). One of the primary neurotransmitters is Seratonin, 90% of which is stored in the gut. When information travels along the Vagus Nerve, blood sugar levels can affect how that information is delivered. Therefore, too little or too much sugar to the brain can lead to irritability, anxiety, and inattention (may be mislabeled as Bi-Polar, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)(10). So what are some things you can do to help regulate your diet, without consulting your doctor? You could: reduce consumption of foods containing preservatives and other chemicals, prepare healthy meals, eat fresh foods (fruits and vegetables), and reduce your use of sugar (10). These are just some simple solutions, however if you have Diabetes or a complex medical condition which requires consultation, please consult your physician before making any dietary decisions. 

Non-physically we might see solutions looking like:

Meditation

While it might seem too easy, meditation is a simple solution to address the anger expression of anxiety, as it builds awareness of ourselves. Below is a quick video explanation of meditation, but in short, it is a practice of focusing on the present to become more aware of what is going on around us in the moment. This solution comes from a family of interventions called mindfulness-based interventions, of which multiple studies support as an intervention for anxiety and ASD presentations (see 6–8). These interventions are great for supporting emotional regulation. In my scenario, both the sudden shift in anger from a 2–7 and the ruminations which reinforce the anger are addressed with this solution. Using meditation, while it sounds counter-intuitive, forces the brain to stop. Part of the problem with anxiety in people with ASD can be the processing speed of the ruminations. Many people are not aware that a  message is on repeat (e.g. “She doesn’t love me because she can’t follow through with plans”, etc.), or that it increases energy; which makes it difficult to derail the emotional expression. However, by forcing myself to meditate, I am forced to attend mentally to the present, and in turn, notice my energy level changing, and my mind on repeat. Once aware, I can then interrupt the thoughts, and challenge the negative thought on repeat. This solution matches both the expression,
non-physical, and high intensity.

Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Exposure-based Solutions

One of the greatest challenges I hear from people with ASD and anxiety, is fear of failure. For me, I challenge myself to be brave and face my challenging situation (e.g. talking to my significant other to tell her how I feel). There is an Exposure Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program for managing anxiety in children called “Facing Your Fears” (FYF), which is for children with ASD and anxiety. Children who participated in FYF showed a 66% positive change in anxiety related disorders, as compared to those in the treatment as usual, which only reported a 20% change in condition (9). If you have a child with ASD and Anxiety, consider pairing rewards for tasks that demonstrate bravery. For instance, if taking a shower is scary, consider rewarding your kid for taking a bath and being willing to clean him or herself. The thought being we want to reinforce brave behaviors.

In my example, when my energy has decreased, after a combination of bouldering, meditation, and dietary changes, I must have a conversation with my significant other to outline my concerns in a respectful way. Again, what must be stressed here is matching energetic expression with intensity and form of expression (e.g. low intensity, and non-physical solution).

In closing, as we have demonstrated, there is no one “right” solution to address anxiety around this pandemic known as the coronavirus. However, when it comes to you or your loved one(s) with ASD, refer back to figure 1‒1, and try to gauge how the anxiety is presenting itself today. It can be physical or non-physical, high-intensity or low-intensity, or maybe somewhere in between. No matter the scenario, I hope these suggestions help you during this time.

By Sean M Inderbitzen, APSW

Sean Inderbitzen APSW is a Behavioral Health Therapist at Northlakes Community Clinic, who lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder and provides psychotherapy to children, adolescents, and adults.

 

http://northlakesclinic.org/sean-inderbitzen-apsw/

References

(1) Hofvander, B., Delorme, R., Chase, P., Nyden, A., Wentz, E., Stahlberg, O., et al. (2009). Psychiatric and psychosocial problems in adults with normal- intelligence autism spectrum disorders. BMC Psychiatry, 9(35).

(2) Gaus, V. (2013) Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Guilford Press. 243.


(3) Russell Lang, Lynn Kern-Koegel, Kristen Ashbaugh, April Regester, Whitney Ence, WhitneySmith, et al. (2010)  Physical exercise and individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review

(5) Sizoo, B. B., & Kuiper, E. (2017). Cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness based stress reduction may be equally effective in reducing anxiety and depression in adults with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 64, 47–55.

(6) Kiep, M., Spek, A. A., & Hoeben, L. (2015). Mindfulness- based therapy in adults with an autism spectrum disorder: Do treatment effects last? Mindfulness, 6(3), 637–644.

(7) Conner, C. M., & White, S. W. (2018). Brief report: Feasibility and preliminary efficacy of individual mindfulness therapy for adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and  Developmental Disorders, 48(1), 290–300.


(8) Reaven, J. et al. (2011). Facing Your Fears Facilitator Manual. Brooks Publishing, 9. 

(9) Johnson, Mindy (2019). Mood Regulation without Medication. 

(10) Your Gut Can Influence How You Feel (2018). Retrieved from bodyecology.com/articles/your-gut-can-influence-how-you-feel-it-all-starts-with-seratonin

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Now What? Ten Ideas for Supporting Autistic Children through the Uncertainty of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Now What?

Ten Ideas for Supporting Autistic Children Through the Uncertainty of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Parents, Educators, Students…this is weird, right?

Weird. It’s a polite word for the combination of the all-too-real feelings floating around right now. Uncomfortable. Scared. Angry. Sad. Confused. Deceived. Lost. Lonely. Worried. Stuck. As a teacher, and advocate for autistic acceptance and support in schools, I thought to myself, “This “now what” feeling is new for me; but so many of my past students live DAILY with this level of anxiety. Recognizing the discomfort I’m feeling about the unknown, asking myself questions like “They say I’m safe, but am I really?”, “When will things go back to normal?”, “Will things ever really be like they were before?”

While I recognize that these are questions faced by a nation in the shadow of COVID-19, I am also recognizing that they are the same sentiments shared by our students. This pit in the stomach feeling; THIS is what she felt when her teacher switched up the schedule and taught math in the morning instead. THIS is what he was feeling when a substitute paraprofessional showed up to work with him without anyone explaining why. THIS is what it felt like when the semester changed and they told her to go to art instead of gym, even though gym was on her schedule. THIS is what it feels like when there IS no schedule. This “Pandemic Panic,” is something that we are all starting to experience or empathize with. THIS is an opportunity for us to empathize with our students, kids, and friends on the spectrum, because THIS doesn’t feel great. For many, this is a temporary feeling. But for a lot of neurodivergent minds, THIS feeling is all-too-familiar.

It is THIS empathetic understanding that can and should drive our support of one another, especially right now, but also, always.

Here are 10 ideas on how to get started:

1

Start with establishing an understanding of WHY everything is different right now. Remember that negative energy can communicate fear, even when words are comforting. Lead with what is concrete, and what your child/student can do to feel more in control. 

Check out these social narratives

2

Create a routine. For some, it might be the same activity at the same time every day. For others, it might be the same type of activity in the same order. This doesn’t need to be fancy. Your worst drawing will still be better than nothing for students who visually process. Your worst handwriting will still be better than nothing for those who prefer text.  Here is an example that I’m using in my home:  COVID Schedule , which I adapted from the original here:  https://littleoldtown.com/

3

Make a list of what is the same, and what is different. Find creative ways to show all of the things that your child/student will still get to do/eat/see/etc. If rules will be different during this time, consider creating “Rules for School at Home,” that are clear, concrete, and constant. Example:  Same/Different

4

Consider a choice board to give your student/child options to exercise choice during an otherwise very limited time. (Can they choose between snack options, chore options, homework options, pajama options, really…anything!)  School-based example HERE.

5

Realize that behaviors are communication, and consider what basic needs your child/student is struggling with right now; body regulation, emotional regulation, sharing worries and seeking help; these human needs can often be demonstrated through “behaviors.” Be a detective, and reach out to your child’s team, or the experts themselves (autistic voices). Stuck? Check out:

Fear, Anxiety, and Autistic “Behavior” (Judy Endow, 2015)

Autistic Neurology and “Behavior.” (Judy Endow, 2016)

6

Practice MINDFULNESS. We’ve heard about it, but now is the time to truly test its ability to calm our anxious minds and bodies. Modeling mindfulness for your child/student will support you as well!

Check out these video models:

7

Pokemon. George Washington. Luigi. Fluttershy. Trains. Naruto. Glitter. That same 30-second clip of that same YouTube video on repeat. Rocking, spinning, scripting, squealing. These passions are so much more than “high interest areas.” They are COPING mechanisms. They are a rush of positive feelings. They’re always accessible. Some days they’re needed more than others. Right now…PLEASE let your child engage in their personal passions and carry their safety items with them. These passions are so much more than an “obsession.” They’re safe, and happy, and in the middle of a pandemic, we are all trying to grasp onto safe and happy.  

Learn more here: “A Passion for Passion: Why Autistic Interests are Important” (Yenn Perkins, 2017)

8

Parents, ask your questions! Just because schools are closed, does not mean that your child’s teacher/therapist/IEP team member should be left alone. As teachers, we are used to managing the competing needs of 30 students, colleagues, building leaders, district initiatives, and controlling our bladders. We THRIVE on being needed, and we MISS our students! Please collaborate with us on how we can support your child!

9

Build in opportunities for sensory regulation! While every child is different, you don’t have to have all the fancy tools of an occupational therapist to provide some relief! 

Learn more here:

“Autism and a Changing Sensory System,” (Judy Endow, 2015)

The Sensory Funnel: AspergerExperts 

10

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the real experts: autistic authors are shaping our understanding of neurodiversity, and how neurotypicals can simultaneously accept and support. Here are a few who have shaped my understanding and support: 

Note: I’ve included identity first language in this article. To learn why, visit the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network HERE.

Written by Allie Tasche

When Allie’s adventures in parenting pause, she is an educator, advocate, learner, and leader for social justice in Wisconsin. Allie has spent her career as a learning strategist, autism and inclusion coach, and program support teacher in Wisconsin schools. Allie realized her passion for advocacy after creating professional development and classroom sensitivity training in schools. This led to guest lecturing at local universities, and presenting on topics related to Universal Design for Learning, Autism, and Inclusion at disability & education conferences (OCALICON 2018, CAST Symposium 2017) with her thought partner, Katy Hayes. She recently moved to the lakeshore, and joined the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin’s Board of Directors. Allie and Katy will be presenting at the Autism Society’s 31st Annual Wisconsin Autism Conference this spring.  

Direct inquiries to atasche@autismgreaterwi.org

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UPDATED: Message About COVID-19

We have been closely monitoring and evaluating developments about the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) to ensure we take the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of Autism Society members and Annual Conference attendees. As a result, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to move the 31st Annual Wisconsin Conference from an in-person event at the Kalahari Convention Center to an online event. 

Each year, we look forward to hosting those in the autism community from around the state to network, learn, and support each other. While we are deeply saddened that we cannot see you all at the Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells this spring, we are thankful for this opportunity to continue with the event in a different way this year.  

We are currently working with a virtual event platform to build an engaging, interactive, and informational event that can accommodate our session line up and exhibit hall. We will have more details in the coming weeks.

For additional resources on COVID-19 and how it affects the disability community, click here.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Wisconsin, click here.

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Tom’s Drawing Board Recognized as First Autism Friendly Communities Partner in the Central Wisconsin Area

The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin and the Central Wisconsin Affiliate is excited to recognize Tom’s Drawing Board as the first Autism Friendly Communities partner in the Central Wisconsin area. The new Autism Friendly Communities Initiative, launched earlier this year, aims to increase the quality of life for those affected by autism by improving community understanding of autism and improving access to inclusive experiences, programs, and events.

“It means so much to the families we serve to know there are places like Tom’s Drawing Board, where people with autism are understood, welcomed, and included,” says Anna Kania, president of the Autism Society of Central Wisconsin, “we look forward to our partnership with Tom to continue improving access to sensory friendly programming.”

Tom’s Drawing Board, located in Rhinelander WI, is an art studio that offers unique art classes, art lessons, and other design services. The Autism Society of Central Wisconsin and Tom’s Drawing Board began their partnership by hosting a sensory friendly Santa event last December. Tom has also received training from the Autism Society about the basics of autism and how he can modify his programs to make them more accessible to people with autism and other disabilities.

“It’s important to me that everyone in the community has access to our programs and services,” says Thomas Barnett, owner of Tom’s Drawing Board, “I am honored that Tom’s Drawing Board is recognized as the first Autism Friendly partner in this part of the state and would love to talk with anyone else interested in becoming Autism Friendly.”

The Autism Society of Central Wisconsin and Tom’s Drawing Board invites community members to a special event in recognition of this partnership. The open house event will take place on Wednesday, February 26th at 6:00 pm at Tom’s Drawing Board- 52 N Brown St, Rhinelander, WI 54501. Refreshments provided.

Join us to celebrate this partnership!

The Autism Society of Central Wisconsin and Tom’s Drawing Board invites community members to a special event in recognition of this partnership. The open house event will take place on Wednesday, February 26th at 6:00 pm at Tom’s Drawing Board- 52 N Brown St, Rhinelander, WI 54501. Refreshments provided.

About Tom’s Drawing Board

Tom’s Drawing Board is a working studio with a retail shop and classroom located in beautiful Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Tom’s drawing Board has clients worldwide and Tom has been a professional illustrator and graphic designer with over 15 years of professional experience. Services provided everything from logo design, original branding, unique art classes, private art lessons for adults and youth, and more.

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The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin Recognizes the Building for Kids Children’s Museum as First Autism Friendly Communities Partner in New Initiative

The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin’s new Autism Friendly Communities Initiative is pleased to recognize the Building for Kids Children’s Museum as the first Autism Friendly Communities Partner. The initiative aims to increase the quality of life for those affected by autism by improving community understanding of autism and access to inclusive experiences, programs, and events. The initiative recognizes community partners that actively work to design spaces, programs, and events that include and support individuals and families with autism.

“ASGW and our local affiliates are excited for the opportunity to partner with local businesses and organizations to make community spaces more welcoming and inclusive to autistic individuals,” says Kirsten Cooper, executive director, Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin.

“The Building for Kids Children’s Museum has been a valued partner for years. While this Initiative is new to the Autism Society, the Building for Kids Children’s Museum has long been committed to ensuring that children of all abilities can access their museum and programs. We are thrilled to recognize our continued partnership in this new way,” says Diane Nackers, president, Fox Valley Autism Society affiliate.

The mission of the Building for Kids Children’s Museum is to empower children, engage parents and energize communities. The museum offers a Sensory Superstars program once a month that includes free admission to families with children diagnosed with autism, a lower sensory experience, and special programming. Additionally, the museum has sensory kits and a quiet space available to children and families during their visit at any time. The kits include sound-reducing earmuffs, tactile toys, visual timers, decision boards, play scripts, and proprioceptive weights.

“Responding to the needs of all children, including those with autism, is central to our mission of empowering children, engaging parents, and energizing communities,” said, Oliver Zornow, executive director. “We are pleased to partner with the Autism Society and hope this recognition will increase access to even more families.”

About the Building for Kids Children’s Museum

Established in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin in 1991, the Fox Cities Children’s Museum opened its doors in November 1992, occupying only a section of the current second floor. In 2006, the facility was expanded and completely renovated with new exhibits designed by kids for kids under the new name, Building for Kids Children’s Museum. The Building for Kids accomplishes their mission by providing specially designed exhibits, programs and events. Their goal is to inspire, teach and reinforce curiosity.

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Betty McCluskey Joins the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin Board of Directors

Elizabeth (Betty) McCluskey, Outpatient Psychotherapist and Owner at Psychological Resource Center, LLC in Tomahawk, Wisconsin has joined the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin as a member of the Board of Directors.

“Betty’s experience is invaluable to the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin as we continue to work toward more inclusive communities. We’re thrilled to have Betty part of the Board of Directors” said Robert Peyton, President of the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin.

Ms. McCluskey has her own private counseling practice in Tomahawk, Wisconsin and is well known for specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorders in her professional community. She is committed to bringing awareness and understanding to her local community through speaking engagements and community trainings.

“The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin’s mission is meaningful to me in many ways, as my husband and daughter have both been diagnosed with Asperger’s”, says McCluskey. “Without this organization, I know that the quality of life of my daughter’s life, and the lives of those I support as a therapist, would be much different than they are today. I want to continue to make a difference and I believe it is time for me to take more responsibility at a higher level.”

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Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin Welcomes Glen Stiteley to Board of Directors

Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin Welcomes Glen Stiteley to Board of Directors

Glen Stiteley, Executive Vice President and CFO of County Bancorp, Inc. (NADSAQ: ICBK) and Investors Community Bank, has joined the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin as a member of the Board of Directors, according to Robert Peyton, President of the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin.

“We are very excited about the skill-set that Glen brings to the Autism Society. His financial background, governance experience, and strategic mindset will certainly strengthen our ability to deliver on our mission of maximizing the quality of life for individuals and families affected by autism” said Peyton.

Mr. Stiteley has served as the CFO of Investors Community Bank since August of 2017 and has a wealth of experience in all aspects of operating a business (e.g. finance, marketing, strategic planning, operations, human resources, IT). Glen and his wife Katie have three sons.  Their youngest was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and is now five years old.  “Our family deals with autism on a daily basis.  Katie and I are very passionate about sharing what we have learned and helping other families affected with autism.  We are really excited to be joining such a great organization that is dedicated to helping families touched by autism” said Glen.  

The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin provides a community for those interested in increasing the quality of life for those affected by autism in its 53-county service area. Founded in 1979 as the Autism Society of Wisconsin, the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin has been passionately committed to improving the lives of those affected by autism for 40 years through its five core program areas; support, education, information and referral, advocacy and community building.

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Autism Society of Wisconsin Becomes Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin

The Autism Society of Wisconsin becomes the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin

We are excited to announce our new name – the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin.

A recent decision by the Autism Society of America changed our service area from all 72 Wisconsin counties to the northern 53 counties. No longer a statewide organization, the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin name is a better reflection of the organization’s service area.

The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin’s service area includes Vernon, Juneau, Adams, Marquette, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, and Sheboygan counties and extends up to the northern border of Wisconsin. It includes 53 of the 72 Wisconsin counties. The southern 19 counties are served by the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin and the Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin. Families in these areas are encouraged to reach out to their respective affiliates for questions about resources and programs.

The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin will continue to serve as the parent organization for five local Autism Society affiliates (Central, Chippewa Valley, Fox Valley, Lakeshore, and Northeast), located throughout our service area and shown on the map. These affiliates will continue to offer the same programs and services they always have. Likewise, our organization will continue to offer the same services and programs, with no other changes to structure or operations.

The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin continues its commitment to making a difference in the lives of those affected by autism in Wisconsin. We will continue to work with the other Autism Society affiliates to continue statewide initiatives.

The formal transition to the new name, the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin, took place on May 9th. At that time our website moved to autismgreaterwi.org and our staff can be reached at the new email addresses below. Please make a note to change your records.

Kirsten Cooper, Executive Director, kcooper@autismgreaterwi.org

Amber Gollata, Education & Outreach Coordinator, agollata@autismgreaterwi.org

Kelly Brodhagen, Office Manager, kbrodhagen@autismgreaterwi.org

We look forward to our future focusing on our 53-county service area with a new name.

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Autism Awareness & Acceptance Day

Bringing Elected Officials, People with Autism, and Families Together at Autism Awareness & Acceptance Event at the Capitol April 3rd

(Madison, WI) – Governor Evers will present a proclamation to recognize April as Autism Awareness Month on Wednesday, April 3rd at 11 a.m. in the Senate Parlor.

Senate President Roger Roth (R—Appleton), Autism Society Affiliates in Wisconsin, and a panel of speakers who have autism will share their stories and discuss policy issues affecting individuals and families with autism in Wisconsin.

 “With nearly 1 in 59 individuals affected by autism, it’s important that my colleagues and I spend time listening to, and learning from individuals with autism and their families,” said Sen. Roth.

“Meaningful discussions about maximizing the quality of life for people with autism through effective policies must include the voices of people with autism.  We’re thankful for this opportunity to bring our community together, celebrate the contributions of those with autism, and highlight the stories and experiences of four individuals on the spectrum from Wisconsin,” said Kirsten Cooper, the Executive Director of the Autism Society of Wisconsin.

Sen. Roth and the Autism Society Affiliates are proud to partner this April to increase community understanding and work toward building autism-friendly, inclusive communities.

The Autism Society Affiliates in Wisconsin are a part of a national network that shares the vision of individuals and families living with autism able to maximize their quality of life, are treated with the highest level of dignity, and live in a society in which their talents and skills are appreciated and valued.

Affiliates across the state focus on serving people with autism, their families and professionals through five core service areas; Advocacy, Education, Information & Referral, Support and Community.