According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 1 in 54 children within the U.S. have Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. This disorder benefits greatly from early intervention, which expands the opportunities for healthy development. However, diagnosis is often the first step in a lifelong struggle that parents and individuals with ASD face when managing ASD’s impact on life and daily activities.
Autism is described as a spectrum, and individuals with ASD can fall anywhere across it. Because the disorder can manifest dramatically differently from one individual to the next, there is no “one size fits all” solution to support individuals with ASD and their families. It requires a customized approach, and services and resources aren’t always easy to find.
Enter Autism Tennessee: a Middle Tennessee-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing support, education, and advocacy to help families and individuals struggling with ASD.
“We want to meet you where you are in that moment and provide services and referrals that you’ll need for that,” said Autism Tennessee Executive Director Babs Tierno. “And then we’re always here for the next thing as well.”
Autism Tennessee offers empathy, assistance, and community for those navigating the gifts and challenges that come along with this unique diagnosis. The organization serves as a bridge to a wide array of resources, from psychologists and therapists, to daycares, summer camps, and support groups. What’s more, they are a community who often understands firsthand what those who reach to them are going through.
“The person on the other end of the helpline that is employed by Autism Tennessee is either a parent or professional,” Tierno said. “They’ve been in the shoes that you’re in in that moment when you make that phone call. They’ve been as desperate as you are, and so they have that compassionate shoulder aspect that a clinical or call center might not have.”
Their support line offers several ways to contact them, including phone, email, or text messaging. Like Dreamscape Foundation, Autism Tennessee aspires to make life more accessible. Their goal is to maximize the independence of individuals with ASD by helping them reach their maximum capacity. It’s a lifelong effort; one they’re willing to step in and assist no matter the person’s age or extent of their disability.
“[We’ll help] a child as young as six months old who’s not meeting developmental milestones all the way through assisted living,” Tierno assured. “Every step of the way, we assist families and individuals and caregivers.”
Resources Like Autism Tennessee and ReAbility Help Bridge the Gap
Dreamscape Foundation recently collaborated with a parent of an autistic child named Chris Myers to develop an online tool called ReAbility. Currently, this customizable search engine connects individuals based in Tennessee with resources specific to disabilities, including autism. However, the long-term goal is to expand its pool of resources across the entirety of the U.S.
Because its mission is so closely linked to Autism Tennessee’s, we asked Tierno to provide her input on why resources like ReAbility matter.
“Inclusion and finding what you need when you need it,” was her straightforward and honest reply. “Just the immediacy of being able to access what you need.”
Access is the pivotal hurdle that stands between many individuals with disabilities and the road to achieving a fulfilled life. To learn more about Autism Tennessee’s resources and their mission, visit their website. For more information about ReAbility, take a look at the “Help” tab on the tool’s website.« PreviousNext »