“My Autism Journey: Various Perspectives” educates Boone community on autism

Michael Lillywhite, Reporter

Hub for Autism and Neurodiversity, has worked with the Boone community for two years, ensuring families and individuals get the services, resources and advocacy to help them better understand autism and neurodiversity through “My Autism Journey: Various Perspectives.”

Mary Horine is the director of community outreach at the Institute for Health and Human Services, the host of the program.

“When a family receives an autism diagnosis, their world is rocked and will forever be changed. It’s not always straightforward as to the steps necessary to get help and guidance, and where they might find support,” Horine said. ”HANd is trying to be an organization to help provide that roadmap for families.” 

Ray Hemachandra is a parent and advocate of children with autism and the event’s keynote speaker. Hemachandra will present “Neurodiversity and Autism: Embracing Values of Acceptance, Inclusion, Ambition, and Love in Family, Schools, and Community.”

Rebecca Long, president of Autistic Students and Allies of the High Country, has autism and will speak at the event as a self-advocate. 

“I think as a society we don’t often recognize autistic people as fully human beings … and our opinions have been undervalued,” Long said. “This has led to a whole host of negative outcomes: diminished expectations from autistic people, abusive treatments and therapies, and a lack of opportunities.”

While most autism education events occur during Autism Awareness month in April, Rebekah Cummings, academic and life skills coordinator for the Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program, said HANd believes “education and advocacy around the autism spectrum needs to occur throughout the year.” 

Cummings is part of the HANd leadership team and will serve as one of seven App State faculty members who are providing educational breakout sessions at the conference.

The conference is Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. – 3:15 p.m. at Alliance Bible Fellowship.