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Resource Center

The ASERT Resource Center serves as Pennsylvania’s leading source for up-to-date and accurate information and resources for individuals with autism, their families, the community and the professionals who support them. Contact the ASERT resource center to speak with a resource specialist who can help you learn how to discover and access resources in Pennsylvania.

When should I contact the Resource Center?

If you have additional questions about information you found on PAautism.org or would like to invite an outreach specialist to attend an event, conference, or support group, someone at the resource center can assist you.

Be sure to visit the following pages below here on PAautism.org to find helpful information. If you still have additional questions, contact the Resource Center.

By phone
1-877-231-4244

Are you located outside of Pennsylvania?
The ASERT resource center is focused on specific resources in Pennsylvania. If you are in another state, the resources specialists will not be able to help you. Please visit the resources section of PAautism.org, as some of the online resources may be applicable to residents of other states.

           

Ask an Expert: Community Engagement

To celebrate Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month, ASERT is highlighting important topics each week through data facts, resources and information. In this accompanying series, we ask different experts in the field of autism to answer questions on the weekly topic. The first week's topic is Community Engagement. 

Our expert this week is Shannon Kirk, B.S.Ed., a Community Support Professional with Keystone Autism Services who has worked as direct support staff since 1994. 

Q: What does community engagement mean? Why is it important?

A: Community engagement refers to the interactions that occur in social settings in which the preferred outcome is for the individual with Autism and the community business/organization to establish a rewarding relationship. The hope is for the interactions to be beneficial to the well-being of both parties. This is important for everyone in the community to learn and grow together in a safe collaborative manner and to build a more reciprocal, ongoing relationship.

Q: What are some tips for individuals to be more active in the community?

A: Some tips that I find helpful for increasing time and value of community activities include: Go into community/on outing with a trusted family member, friend or caregiver. Visit locations during non “peak” times so stimuli is lessened (less people often means less noise, commotion) Take noise-canceling headphones. Bring an object that brings you comfort (such as a favorite book, phone, or “stress” ball, to name a few.) Keep in mind that visiting smaller stores and establishments can be very helpful in minimizing what can be an overwhelming experience. Doing a short visit to a restaurant or grocery store during non peak hours to familiarize an individual with ASD may increase the likelihood of a successful longer outing in the future.

Q: How do you encourage individuals to participate in their community if they are hesitant/resistant about getting involved?

A: Trying to utilize some of the strategies listed above is helpful in supporting individuals with ASD to become more actively involved in their community. Smaller venues during non-peak hours is best. Encouraging outings to preferred locations, preferred interests is key of course. After meeting some success with going to preferred locations and events, try pairing small non-preferred activities (grocery shopping, for example) with a preferred one (like a game store or library.)

Q: What are some good activities for individuals and their families to take part in?

A: Libraries and book stores are good choices as they usually offer more low key, quieter environments with calm, helpful staff available. Volunteering at a library or shelter helps with skill building and family bonding. (Cats are often preferred as some individuals may experience sensory overload with barking dogs.) Some movie theaters, stores, and family fun centers/arcades offer sensory-friendly events that help reduce stimuli of bright lights, level of music and noise.

Q: How will being more involved in their community help individuals/their families?

A: The more community involvement individuals are engaged in will greatly impact their self-worth, promote independence, and increase their skill-building. More engagement in the community for individuals with ASD will strengthen the familial bonds and increase acceptance and promote diversity within the community.

 



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