On Tuesday, February 19, at the annual Rhinebeck Area Chamber of Commerce Business Breakfast at the Beekman Arms Inn, a historic initiative was unveiled for autism awareness.
Kathleen Marshall, director of program services for the Anderson Center for Autism, announced that the Center is helping the Village of Rhinebeck become the first Autism Supportive Community in the Hudson Valley.
Raising autism awareness was Marshall’s take-home message as she elaborated on this new project, the purpose of which is to assist businesses and organizations comprehend and better serve individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Open forums will provide Village of Rhinebeck businesses/organizations with an overview of autism, reinforcing the numbers of people/families affected by it, and recognizing them as consumers; the forums will also provide general ideas for businesses/organizations who may want to be more supportive of that customer base. More-intensive training, which the Center conducts for other individual businesses in the area, is also available.
Following the breakfast, a one-hour training session was conducted in which Marshall provided in-depth information on individuals diagnosed with ASD and the challenges their families face.
“If everyone would do one thing, a difference could be made for anyone with disabilities like ASD,” says Mayor Gary Bassett. The village has already taken steps toward its goal. During its holiday parade and tree lighting in December, individuals with ASD and their families were invited to watch from inside a quiet storefront. And Cale Communications has installed softer lighting in its office to accommodate autistic community members.