A Chance to Connect
From the Co-Director
March 3, 2011 Prism Newsletter
By Paula Durbin-Westby
I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with the Autism NOW Center. The Center has a strong commitment to the principles of the Developmental Disabilities Act, and because of that commitment, self-advocates are being included in meaningful roles throughout Center activities. As a self-advocate and a person who believe strongly in self-determination, this was an important factor in my decision to become part of the Autism NOW Center staff.
One of the most exciting things about working with the Center is the opportunity to network with many people on the autism spectrum and with other disabilities and to connect self-advocates with others who want to hear from our own experience and expertise. I have been working to locate people on the autism spectrum to present webinars (stay tuned!), to take leadership roles in regional summits, and to participate in the Center’s other activities and initiatives. I have always had an interest in introducing people with similar interests or concerns to each other, usually through Internet-based venues. At the Center, I am adding phone calls- lots of them!- to my repertoire. Because of my own communication difficulties, I am also focusing on making sure that events, conference calls, webinars, and other activities are accessible. (I get the side benefit of having it be really a lot more accessible for myself!) Some conference calls, particularly our Advisory Committee meetings, will be CART captioned. Other accommodations are being built in to our Regional Summits, such as sensory-friendly rooms and Internet-based access for people who need or prefer written communications.
As a person on the autism spectrum and as Co-Director of the Center, I think it is critical for us to be involved at all levels. If you have ideas, comments, feedback, or just want to get in touch, please do not hesitate to contact us. We want the Autism NOW Center to reflect the ideals of inclusion and accessibility; so if something is not working for you, if you have concerns about access, or if you need assistance, please do not hesitate to let us know!
Paula Durbin-Westby is the Co-Director of the Autism NOW Center.