Forum to shed light on autism

April 15, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY — “Autism impacts all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups,” according to Joanne Tedesco of the Michigan City Human Rights Commission.

“We need to come together, support each other and share our victories so that all with autism spectrum disorder can fulfill their destiny of having an abundant life and the ability to share their God-given gifts,” said Tedesco, also a member of the Michigan City Area Schools Board.

To help make that happen, and inform city residents about what autism is and the different aspects of the condition, the Human Rights Commission is hosting a public forum on Thursday to mark Autism Awareness Month.

The Autism Forum, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., will feature a variety of autism experts discussing the perplexities of autism spectrum disorder.

According to the The Autism Society of Indiana, ASD is a complex developmental disability, with signs typically appearing during early childhood and affecting a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.

“ASD affects every race, gender, creed, and socio-economic background,” Elena Luna Magallanes of the Autism Society of Indiana said, “and has no outward visual signs. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes.”

The Autism Society will further explain what autism is during the event, and highlight the resources available in the state of Indiana.

Kristen Robson, director of The Autism Program at Ancilla College will give an overview of the program, while Michigan City Area Schools staff will introduce the mission of a newly-formed Autism Team. Dr. Bridget Harrison, founder of Innovations in Learning; and Jessica Cleary, Board Certified Behavior Analyst Michigan City Clinic Supervisor, will talk about Applied Behavior Analysis therapy and how it impacts the autism population. Also, Laura Swanson of IN*SOURCE will talk about advocacy support available to families in the community.

The Autism Forum will be held at Living Way Church at 2410 Duneland Drive (U.S. 12 and Duneland Drive), and is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served, and parking is available.

“Autism greatly varies from person to person and no two people with autism are alike. Where one might be verbal, another non-verbal, having no language at all,” Magallanes said. “One in 59 children are identified with autism, which tends to be more common in boys (by 4.5 times) than girls and impacts all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. I hope you’ll come explore the beautiful brain of autism with us.”

In addition to the experts, the forum will offer the community an opportunity to learn more about what the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services and Social Security Insurance/Social Security Insurance Disability offices have to offer the disability community.

BDDS staff will assist parents with signing up for Medicaid Waiver services, which includes an array of services (occupational, speech, physical, music therapies, respite) for individuals with disabilities. An SSI/SSDI staff member will also be available to families with questions.

Local Parent Support Group, Parents Like Us will also be in attendance to discuss the group and upcoming events.

—From staff reports