There is no doubt that many of you have noticed that the star on the mountain is currently blue.  You may even have seen a blue porch light or two.  For those of you who are wondering what that's all about, the blue lights are a way to draw attention to the fact that April is Autism Awareness Month.  There is a wonderful, local organization available if you're looking for resources on how to best help somebody who is dealing with Autism.  David Taylor of the Autism Community Network of El Paso was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

How long has your organization been around?

  • Our 1st event was in June of 2010 and we were approved as a 501c (3) nonprofit in January 2011

Tell me a little bit about what it is that the Autism Community Network of El Paso does.

  • "It is the Mission of the Autism Community Network of El Paso to outreach to families affected by Autism in order to support, educate and advocate in their best interests and to communicate tolerance so that  Individuals effected by autism and their families have opportunities to thrive and succeed in their homes and in the community"
  • We have monthly meetings at Vino Nuevo Church (East Campus) 988 Kessler Ave.  The topics covered are those that surround autism from Applied Behavior Analyst to Social Skills.  All presentations are conducted by professionals in their perspective field.  The organization also focus on peer relationships so families meet others who affected by autism.
  • Films For friends is a collaboration we have with Cinemark Theater at Cielo Vista that allows families affected by autism to enjoy a film in a “judgment free” environment.  To lessen the sensory impact the lights are turned up and the volume is turned down.  If someone has a special dietary needs that the theater cannot accommodate they are allowed to bring the snacks into the theater.
  • Mock Flights is another program that is unique to El Paso.  We have joined forces with Southwest Airlines, Transportation Safety Administration and the El Paso Airport to provide individuals with autism and their families to get the entire flying experience without ever leaving the ground.  It starts at the ticket counter where everyone is given a boarding pass and check in their luggage.  Then off to the TSA screening where all the flight rules apply and everyone goes though the same procedures as a true flyer.  Gate B6 is normally the gate we use but sometimes it changes so the gate number has to be found.  Waiting to board is also part of the flying experience so waiting is practiced as is proper social behavior.  Once boarding begins, down the ramp and skinny tunnel which can be overwhelming for some affected by autism.  Once aboard, seats up, buckled up and trays up just like flying.  The smaller confines of an aircraft can be over whelming as well so it takes practice and time for everything to settle down.  The flight crew goes through all preflight instructions and procedures.  Snacks and drinks are passed out and after 20 minutes we “land” in El Paso and we get off the plane and head off to baggage claim.  This is a great program that allows a dry run to get the experience of the sounds; procedures and it also give the staff a chance to learn about our kiddos so if they come upon a situation that includes a person with autism they are better prepared to have a successful outcome.
  • We also have other events throughout the year and are always planning new ones.

As I’m sure you know, April is Autism Awareness Month.  Is there any information that you think the public should be made aware of concerning Autism?

  • Autism is everywhere, at work, in schools at our church and grocery stores.  Everyone deserves respect, understanding and tolerance.  Understanding the signs and symptoms of autism and if you think someone might have autism then have them see a professional. An early diagnosis is important and getting therapies started, also get the school involved.

Are there any events that you have coming up in the near future?

  • Our Next event is the 2nd Annual Rock for Autism benefit concert.
  • 15 April 2012
  • 3:30 – 10:00
  • Handlebars Bar and Grill 1731 N. Lee Trevino Dr., El Paso, TX

How can people get in contact with your organization?

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