Mary Barinka: Autism touches everybody

Published 6:13 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

“Built in 1871 The Hormel Historic Home strives to preserve the Home and History of the George A. and Lillian Hormel Family.

We are now a community resource with a mission to maintain the home and to honor the family legacy of Hospitality, Music, Education, and community service through meaningful programming and outreach. 

In 2010, the Hormel Historic Home had a vision to create Autism Programming to serve youth on the spectrum and their families.  That initiative, now called Autism Friendly Austin, is making our community more inclusive and understanding of autism spectrum disorder.”

Graphic provided

Email newsletter signup

Autism affects one in 54 people. It is a neurologically based spectrum disorder which means it affects every life experience, but uniquely and in varying degrees for each individual.  It is an invisible condition impacting one’s processing of social, communication and sensory information.

It’s likely you already know someone who is autistic, and for this reason it is beneficial to understand more about Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Increasing understanding leads to improved support, services, opportunities and outcomes.  There are well over 200 youth under age 21 with autism and at least that many adults living in Mower County.

Last Tuesday, April 13, 2021, the HHH hosted an exciting, well attendedin-person presentation by the Minnesota Autism Center (MAC).  They are looking to expand out from the larger metro area to better serve the autism population in rural areas and are planning to open a center here in Austin!  This would complement and strengthen our efforts, and those of others, allowing more family needs to be met locally.  Parents, school administration, advocates, community organizations and other service providers listened, asked questions, and were all in agreement that a MAC center would be a major asset to the Austin area community.  (

MAC provides therapeutic services for children ages 18 months to 21 years who have ASD. Just as importantly, they serve the families and guardians of those with ASD.

Graphic provided

The services are both center-based and in-home, utilizing several therapeutic modalities all based on the principles of applied behavior analysis therapy.  These services are intended to help develop individualized treatment plans and group learning experiences delivered in a 1:1 ratio or group learning setting with a team of mental health professionals.

As a comprehensive provider, their programs focus on early intervention, school readiness, and life skill development and include speech and occupational therapy, assessment and diagnostic services, and individual and family therapy. They serve approximately 400 clients at their 10 centers in Eagan, Eden Prairie, Fridley, Minnetonka, Woodbury, Duluth, Mankato and Rochester.

MAC is already receiving ‘in-take’ forms for those interested in receiving local services in-home or via telehealth until the Austin center opens.  The more intake forms and interest they receive, the faster the process will take place.

Anytime we improve quality of life, opportunities and outcomes for a portion of our population, the atmosphere and appeal of our community is enhanced overall.  As your Community Autism Resource Specialist since 2017, I am proud of the strides we make—not only during the month of April—but year after year to promote education which leads to understanding, and to provide support and opportunities which lead to improved outcomes for those with ASD.

Upcoming Events

Finally, a reminder schedule of exactly what I refer to:

April 30: ASD Recreation night—youth with ASD grades K-8, 6-7 p.m.

May 1: ASD Teen and Young Adult Chillaxing afternoon, 1-2:30 p.m.

June 6: 10th Annual Stepping Out for Autism Fundraising Walk, 1-3 p.m.

June 10: All Day ASD Conference featuring Judy Endow: “Autistically Thriving” Living a Self-Determined Life with Autism, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

June 21-25: Circle of Friends Day Camp for youth with ASD K-grade 5

July 5 and July 12 weeks: All Access Community Explorations Camp ASD youth grades 6-12th

July 19-23: Camp Just For Me ASD youth grades K-12 with more significant support needs.

Camp registration is available online now at the website below.  They will fill up quickly!

Note: All events are in-person, masks required and prior registration required.

Although much attention is given to Autism in April, our programming is offered year- round and you are invited to learn more at If you have questions about MAC intake forms, or would like to join our advisory team, or host an Autism Friendly Austin ‘certification’ training, contact me at or 507-433-4243.