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LEND A HAND: Event offers essential information about autism

The Tuscaloosa News - 2/10/2019

Feb. 09--A "lunch and learn" event scheduled for Tuesday in Tuscaloosa will focus on autism.

"Autism 101," organized by the West Alabama Regional Autism Network at the University of Alabama, will begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Belk Activity Center, 2101 Bowers Park Drive. Attendance is free of charge and lunch will be provided. Parents, caregivers, educators and service providers of people living with autism spectrum disorder are encourage to attend.

Registration is available at www.eventbrite.com.

Angie Barber, chair of UA's department of communicative disorders, will be the featured speaker at the event. Barber specializes in early autism intervention.

The West Alabama Regional Autism Network is one of five regional offices of the Alabama Regional Autism Network, a state-funded initiative of the Alabama Interagency Autism Coordinating Council.

Researchers, practitioners, educators and families staff the network and work to increase communities' knowledge of autism spectrum disorder and connect people to a range of services and resources.

The West Alabama Regional Autism Network at UA was launched more than two years ago and in August 2018 hired its first full-time director in Sylvia Hollins, a former school counselor at Tuscaloosa Magnet School. In her previous role, she provided outreach, education and one-on-one support with students who have special needs and their parents.

Hollins said she's excited to build on her work in public education by connecting with residents in 13 West Alabama counties, where people have varying levels of needs, from diagnostic services to interventions. Her first charge was to take inventory of the range of services and providers in the state, along with the average wait-times for interventions and diagnoses, which can range anywhere from six to 18 months.

While diagnostic services are the most common concern for parents, Hollins often finds that many of the symptoms can be addressed through readily available resources that parents don't know exist, like feeding programs and tracking programs.

Tuesday's "lunch-and-learn" is the first region-wide outreach and education event, one of four planned this year. Hollins has communicated with each of the 13 counties through phone calls and mailers. She plans to visit each county in person to establish grassroots connections and build support groups.

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(c)2019 The Tuscaloosa News, Ala.

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