MONTPELIER >> The Vermont Autism Task Force invites individuals and families living with autism and the interested public to join us in the State House Cafeteria on Autism Awareness Day, April 13. We'll be available from noon to 6 p.m., with speaker presentations from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. At the close of our program, we will present our award to two outstanding Vermonters in gratitude for their work to improve the lives of Vermonters with autism. A buffet of light refreshments will be provided from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Task Force's Autism Awareness speakers include
Senator David Zuckerman: Zuckerman will speak about working as a legislator to improve the services and supports available to Vermonters with autism.
Mark Utter: For his first 20 years of his life, Mark Utter's autism limited his communication to understanding what others said, for he was unable to express his own thoughts. At 30, thanks to assistive technology, Mark's communications skills became so strong that he now has his own talk show, "Utterly Mark."
Amanda Perl and Rook, a K9 Rescue Dog: Amanda and Rook will be available outside the cafeteria before Amanda speaks, so you can meet Rook and give his head a gentle pat of thanks. Amanda will share with you real-life adventures in which Rook and other trained hero dogs have rescued individuals with autism.
Karly Fereday: Miss Vermont International 2015, will share with us how a family member prompted her to choose autism for her platform.
Corporal Matt Knisely of the Montpelier Police Force: Knisely will offer an overview of Team Two Training, a program that prepares police officers to be safe, effective first responders when a mental health crisis arises in a home, a school, or a public place. A fifteen-year veteran of the Montpelier Police Force and a Team Two Instructor, Officer Knisley came to our attention while responding to a crisis involving the child of a Vermont Autism Task Force member. Matt will discuss how Team Two training prepares police officers to respond to crises involving citizens with autism.
Mary A. Morrissey's smile has been a welcome constant since the inauguration of Autism Awareness Day in Vermont. Year after year, Mary has made time to participate in our Autism Awareness events, encouraged us to continue our efforts when we had ample reasons to be discouraged, and inspired us on to achieve several seemingly impossible victories. Gentle, cheerful, wise, and funny, this self-effacing lady is an inspiration to all, and the Vermont Autism Task Force could have no better friend.
John Killacky, a writer, dancer, and filmmaker, is currently CEO of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington. He came to Vermont after a stellar stint as a program officer for the San Francisco Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds a variety of community initiatives, including arts and culture projects. Thanks to John's efforts, the Flynn Theatre has mounted several productions in such a way as to make them enjoyable and comfortable to people on the Autism Spectrum.
"Autism" is a general term that refers to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a group of complex developmental disorders characterized by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive behaviors. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children – of whom 1 in 42 are boys - has been identified with ASD.
About the Vermont Autism Task Force
The Vermont Autism Task Force is a grassroots volunteer organization composed of Vermonters dedicated to improving services and supports for individuals with ASD and their families. Our membership includes parents whose children have autism, adults with autism, and people whose professional lives focus on assisting those whose lives are affected by this disorder. To learn more about the Vermont Autism Task Force, please visit http://vtautismtaskforce.org/