Local community center offers free resources for families affected by autism

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- As many as one out of 68 children born today will have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the Autism Society of East Tennessee. Now, the organization has opened a recreation center in Johnson City to meet the needs of the growing number of families affected by autism.

Located at Beeson Hall, the center has support groups and workshops for families and adults and teens affected by autism as well as activities for kids.

“We’re trying to become more of a place where anyone in the community affected by autism can come in here relax, be themselves, find support, and kind of just find somewhere where they fit in,” Courtney Johnson, the Teen and Adult Social Scene Coordinator for Beeson Hall recreation center said.

Johnson helps create programs, events and workshops for families at the center. She has autism and cares for her little brother who has autism. She said this offers her a unique perspective to create effective programming for individuals affected by autism.

She said having something like this growing up would have made her feel less alone.

“It’s as if everyone else had a script I just didn’t, I was just pushed out there. I had no idea and so having a place like this would have made such a difference,” Johnson said.

According to the Autism Society of East Tennessee:

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. It is part of a group of pervasive developmental disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) that significantly affects how a person perceives the world, interacts with others, and communicates. As its name implies, ASD is a spectrum disorder that affects individuals differently and with varying degrees of severity.”

The center provides activities for kids including games, calm-down areas, books, and movies.

“It’s somewhere they can go and be themselves and not be judged. They can have a meltdown and we’re like oh yeah we understand, go to the calm down room and relax and try to breathe, and the parents don’t feel ashamed,” Johnson said.

The Autism Society of East Tennessee said this center came about in March, after it saw the lack of variety in programming and services and the growing number of diagnoses in our region. The organization provides services to 36 counties in East Tennessee.

The center is run entirely by volunteers and is free for families. It’s located at 403 Harrison Street in Johnson City. For more information you can visit: http://www.asaetc.org/

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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