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The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

Celebrating Autism Awareness Month

Written by: Mikaela ConleyApril 01, 2015

Kelly Pence is no stranger to autism.

The District 3 Ally for the Indiana Autism Society works with families and individuals in the Northeastern areas of Indiana, helping them navigate their diagnoses, overcome problems, find resources, provide training classes, and help coordinate outreach and awareness events.

But all of the individuals involved in the Autism society’s ally program are also directly affected, whether it be knowing someone with autism or being on the spectrum themselves.

“I have two sons with autism, and my husband also has autism,” Pence said, “so I am living it too.”

According to the CDC, “Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges,” and 1 in every 68 children is on the spectrum, which is a life- long disorder.

Although, Pence said, “It is a really difficult number to gage because it changes so quickly and many people with it have probably never been identified.”

“Nearly a quarter century ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life,” according to autismsociety.org.

But the society has been educating people on autism for 50 years, since 1965, and in honor of their 50th anniversary, Pence encourages people to take the next step this year, and focus on acceptance.

“I think people are aware now and have an understanding of it, but the focus is that they want to just be accepted as who they are. It isn’t bad to have autism. It’s just different. Individuals with autism need to be an accepted and active part of our community and that’s what we are striving for,” Pence said.

Many local businesses and organizations are hosting their own autism- focused events this year.

East Allen County Schools will host a free resource and information fair April 18 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. at Park Hill Learning Center. About 35 vendors including case management companies, service providers and organizations that provide support and advocacy for individuals with autism will be present.

Jennifer Hartman, transition coordinator for EACS said, “Our goal is to help as many people as possible to understand the variety of resources that are available.”

Miracle Stables will be offering free therapy rides and Dr. Marla Souder will be at the event with her therapy dog, Payton. Souder will take part in a panel discussion from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. at the event, called “The affects of Autism on Siblings.”

There will also be a silent auction of wooden puzzle pieces, autism awareness shirts and other crafts made by special needs students.

Fort Wayne’s Skyzone Trampoline Park will turn the music off for children and adults with special needs, providing them a venue with limited distractions. The cost is $8 per jumper for 60 minutes of jumping time. This event will take place on April 13th, from 5-7 p.m.

A little further away in Greenwood, Ind., IXF Crossfit will once again be “raising the bar” and raising money for autism on Saturday, April 11 at 8 a.m. The cost is $125 per team with a limit of 80 teams spread across six heats. Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams in each division.

More information on events happening around the state can be found at www.arnionline.org.