Autism Community Center Offers Much-Needed Services in Asheville

In January, a new community center opened in Asheville, offering much-needed services to children and adults with autism and their families.

The Autism Community Center was founded on the premise that people with autism should have a quality of life worth celebrating. There is no typical person with autism; their strengths and weaknesses, skills and struggles vary greatly, just as in the “neurotypical” community. The Autism Community Center is here to help people on the autism spectrum celebrate their unique gifts and explore their own interests while they build valuable social skills and increased self-confidence.

When someone has autism, it can sometimes feel like everything in his life revolves around therapies, schedules, and sensory diets. And while those things are all important, the Community Center gives people a break from that and lets them simply hang out, have fun, maybe try something new.

The Autism Community Center offers activity groups for youth, teens and adults-topics range from cooking to hiking to video games, and each group is led by someone with a true passion for the topic. Participants can interact and participate as little or as much as they’re comfortable with-whether you simply sit and listen the whole time or jump right in and help run the show, you’re welcomed in the group. Groups cost $65 a month, and some need-based scholarships are available.

Autism doesn’t just affect the individual; it affects the entire family. The Community Center allows parents to have a break with their parents’ night out program, staffed by trained professionals and volunteers. It’s open to all kids, not just the ones with autism. Kids can choose between a variety of structured activities or just do their own thing; they’re welcome to bring their favorite things from home to enjoy. The cost for two and a half hours of child care is $15 for the first child, and just $5 for each additional.

The Community Center’s parent seminars focus on ways to enrich the incredible experience of raising a child with autism. They cover topics like finding and making the most of available resources, and building a successful home program that can evolve to meet the needs of your child and family. The leader of the seminars uses real-life examples and experience to make sure the information is relevant and keeps you interested.

For more information about the Autism Community Center, visit their website or call (828) 919-9313. You can also email shelley@autismcommunitycenter.com or sylvia@autismcommunitycenter.com. Since it’s a non-profit organization, donations are always needed. If you’d like to help, they could use all sorts of costumes, art supplies, and sports equipment; office supplies, especially a fax machine; and food-call or email the center to see what the cooking group has planned, and what ingredients they need.

Two of my boys just joined groups at the Community Center. Jeremy thought it was a little cold to go hiking last week, so he’ll have his first outing tomorrow, but Sebastian went to the cooking group and absolutely loved it. He was welcomed right in by Sylvia, and an hour later emerged with a huge grin and a bag full of delicious sugar cookies he made. He’s excited to be part of the Community Center, and so am I. Nobody can predict the future, but with the Autism Community Center up and running, I think it’s looking better than ever for these amazing kids of ours.

april is a freelance writer and mother of three boys on the autism spectrum, and three neurotypicals who are anything but typical. read more of her work here or follow her on facebook.

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