MARTIN — April is National Autism Awareness Month, and one local student has gone above and beyond in raising funds to help support The Highlands Center for Autism in Prestonsburg.
The event, “Volley for Autism,” which was organized by Torie Nairn, was held Monday evening in the gymnasium of the Piarist School in Martin. All proceeds brought in through admissions, concessions and auctions were donated to the Highlands Center for Autism.
“I thinks it’s wonderful that she took the initiative and wanted to help her community,” said Shelli Deskins, program director at Highlands Center for Autism.
Nairn, a junior at the Piarist School and summer worker at the Center for Autism, put together the fundraiser to help support and provide scholarship money for potential students to the center. Nairn spent the last summer working as an intern at the facility.
“I really liked it,” Nairn said of working at the Autism Center, where she says she got to help put together activities and tactile learning objects.
Nairn says she is currently planning to attend Morehead State University after graduation, and hopes to focus her studies on occupational therapy.
“She is a wonderful example to other young people who have an idea, and take it and run with it,” said Deskins, adding that Nairn had already raised quite a bit of money.
“This type of intervention, applied behavior and analysis, is very expensive and families may not be able to afford the full part of the tuition,” Deskins said. The balance of that tuition is usually made up through several fundraisers held throughout the year like “Volley for Autism.”
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.
Coinciding with National Autism Awareness Month, several studies have recently been released looking at new information and potential causes of autism. One study, released Monday, suggested maternal obesity may play a role. While finding the exact cause of autism appears daunting, new information continues to pour in after more than $1 billion has been spent funding research in the last decade.
The Highlands Center for Autism, which opened in July 2009, is a year-round day treatment center serving children from the earliest diagnosis through school age. The educational foundation of our program is based on ABA, which is an approach that is grounded in decades of research. We offer the only center-based program in Kentucky using ABA in a clinical educational setting. We are a mirror program of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism.