Editor’s note: For those who have a loved one with Autism Spectrum Disorder, a community of support can be a lifeline. For more than 40 years, ASNC Chapters and Support Groups have provided families who face similar challenges an opportunity to encourage one another, share experiences, find information and resources, and have a place where they feel welcomed and understood. These volunteer-led groups also offer education to families, increase autism awareness and understanding, and support and extend ASNC’s mission in their local communities.
Throughout this year, we are highlighting the ways each of our Chapters and Support Groups makes a difference. To find one near you, please click here or contact Marty Kellogg, ASNC State Chapter Coordinator, at 919-865-5088 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In North Carolina’s Sandhills, Moore County is often prized by the rich and famous for its isolation and beautiful golf courses, as evidenced by last weekend’s U.S. Open.
But for families affected by autism, there is an unpleasant side effect to Moore’s wide-open spaces. “The cities are pretty spread out. It’s difficult to connect with another family,” said Charmain Reid, mom to an 11-year-old son with autism.
That’s where the Moore County Chapter of the Autism Society of North Carolina comes in.
“We connect families,” said Reid, the chapter’s leader. “A lot of families have come to us and been able to build a relationship with another family or just be around families that have some of the same challenges that they do.”
The chapter also helps families overcome some of those challenges by hosting lots of social events. “Without our chapter, there’s no space in public that is designed for us,” Reid said. “We may have a child on the spectrum who is very, very sensitive to noise or very sensitive to light or needs to be up moving around.”
The Moore Chapter frequently sponsors sensory-friendly screenings of recent movies. “We’ve had families tell us that they have never been to a public movie theater together as an entire family before. That touched our hearts so we tried to do that more,” Reid said.
The showings feature reduced prices, no loud previews, dim lighting, and low volume in a local theater. Families also are permitted to bring pillows, blankets, and their own snacks, which is good for those with special diets.
The movies have been really popular, especially with teens and young adults, a population that the chapter is trying to focus on, Reid said.
The chapter also started a support group for teenagers, “an opportunity to socialize and have something to do or have a place that they could come and just be themselves,” Reid said. The group, for those on the spectrum and their siblings, is facilitated by a licensed school counselor during monthly chapter meetings.
In the past, the chapter has held performance nights at a local Mellow Mushroom restaurant. School-age children on the spectrum, family members, and supporters read original poetry or sang as the restaurant donated proceeds from a certain time period. “We had a great time doing that,” Reid said.
This year, the chapter would like to hold a sporting event, such as Hoops 4 Autism. The event would be a fundraiser, but it would also be another chance for families to attend an event all together in public. The chapter would provide a quiet space where families could retreat if the situation became overwhelming.
The chapter’s biggest project, though, is an effort to create a high school class in which students would receive credit to learn how to support their peers on the spectrum or with other developmental disabilities. The class could be taught by retired therapists, teachers, or parents with an education background, said Reid, who herself is a licensed teacher. Students might spend one period per week in class, but for the rest of the course, they would keep logs of times when they supported peers with disabilities, such as teaming with them during another class, sitting with them at lunch, or walking with them between classes.
The chapter is creating a business plan to present to the county school board and hopes to launch the class for the 2015-16 school year.
For more information
The Moore County Chapter meets on the second Thursday of each month from September to May.
To learn more, send an email to email@example.com or search “The Autism Society of NC-Moore County” on Facebook.Tags: ASNC, asnc chapters, Asperger Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome, autism, autism advocacy, autism north carolina, autism society north carolina, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, autism support, autism support groups, Developmental disability, North Carolina