Our speaker on October 14th was Heather Eckner, the Education Specialist at the Autism Alliance of Michigan.
The AAoM’s mission is to lead efforts to raise expectations and expand opportunities for people touched by autism across the lifespan.  Ms. Eckner believes her role is to be an advocate, which she defined as “positive disruption”.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disability that affects the way an individual perceives the world, making communication and social interaction difficult.  ASD includes a wide range of symptoms, which can range from gifted to severely and are
typically recognized in the first three years of life.  There is no cure, but early recognition, evaluation, and evidence-based intervention can significantly reduce symptoms and improve development and learning.
Schools and the medical profession evaluate a triad of characteristics – communication, social, and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.  These three areas of focus can have numerous offshoot issues, such as irritability, intellectual disabilities, and hyperactivity. 
It wasn’t until 1975, with the passing of the Individual with Disabilities Act (IDEA), that access to public education for children with disabilities to help prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living became the law of the land.  The AAoM’s four pillars operate based on this Act – to navigate those touched by autism to create high education expectations, to maximize employment opportunities, and to drive initiatives to attain independent living.
With the diagnosis of autism becoming more prevalent nationwide (from 4.9% of students to 10.5 in a 10-year period), the work of the AAoM has become that much more important.  To learn more, visit www.AAoMI.org and you can contact an autism specialist by calling 1-877-463-AAOM or by e-mailing Navigator@aaomi.org.