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Empowering Individuals with Autism

Adult Autism Center community celebrating Autism AwarenessThe Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning and the Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning is proud to celebrate the month of April and promote Autism Awareness and Acceptance.

The Pingree Center has a long-standing history of promoting awareness, support, and continuous learning about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), when recognition was still very limited. As the community has gained more insight through research and development in the understanding of ASD we continue to adjust and adapt to promote neurodiversity.

Advocacy groups often encourage communication around disabilities in ways that promote autonomy and create more positive identities (Kenny et al., 2015). Initially, this awareness led to the use of person-first language. However, not all communities agree with the use of person-first language. Some within the autism community feel disability or identity-first language is best to highlight inclusion in the community (Kenny et al., 2015). There are different perspectives about which language approach best describes autism and the identity of autistic people. This discussion continues to be relevant in the autism community today and it is key to ask individuals (or their guardians) how they would like to be addressed.

At the Pingree Center and Adult Autism Center, we acknowledge the opinions of both groups and work with families and adults to identify and use language around autism that reflects the individual opinions of each family. Our teams celebrate the differences individuals diagnosed with autism bring to our communities. We are inspired by their insights and embrace their experience of autism to promote lifelong learning.

We use the following values to guide our practice and support of the autism community at the Pingree Center and the Adult Autism Center:

Awareness – We promote awareness about what Autism is, how it impacts individuals, families, and our community. Promoting awareness aims to inform people, dispel stereotypes, and work towards acceptance of differences.

Advocate – We aim to provide a voice to individuals who do not have the ability to self-advocate. We work with individuals to teach them how to self-advocate and they, in turn, teach us how we can better support them and their identity.

Accept – We accept and support all individuals who are on the autism spectrum and respect how they would like to be identified. We encourage open communication about both people first and identity-first language, and individual preferences.

Appreciate – We appreciate the contributions that the autism community brings to our society and enriches us with the opportunity to learn, expand, and reflect on our values, beliefs, and how the uniqueness of each individual diagnosed with autism contributes to the communities we have created.

As we all navigate this ever-changing world, we acknowledge and recognize the need for both awareness and acceptance. And above all, the need for respect. By advocating for and appreciating the differences individuals with autism bring to each Center, we can continue to grow and learn from each autistic person. We will continue to support our families and autistic individuals as they direct us on how they would like to be addressed.

Thank you,

Heather Davis, Adult Autism Center Director and
Sarah Buchanan, Pingree Center Director

smiling headshot photo of Heather Davis, clinical director editor of the adult autism center

Heather Davis graduated from Texas A&M University with her Ph.D. in Special Education and is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Heather has spent 18 years of her professional career working with children diagnosed with autism and their families. In her previous role as the Clinical Director of the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning, her focus was to provide on-going staff training to ensure the delivery of high-quality, evidence-based services to meet the individualized needs of each child diagnosed with autism. She is inspired to continue to work in this field by the progress clients demonstrate which helps to improve their quality of life. Hearing individuals speak their first words, gain independent living skills, and demonstrate skills families never thought possible are what drive her to become a better clinician and continue to work with these important members of our community. In her free time, Heather enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her twin girls and husband exploring all the wonderful landscapes of Utah.

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