Mary Barinka: Celebrating acceptance

Published 6:30 am Saturday, April 17, 2021

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By Mary Barinka

Community Autism Resource Specialist Hormel Historic Home

In April we celebrate Autism Acceptance/Awareness month!  (As guest columnist this week I want to add Appreciation to the alliteration.)  Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological developmental condition impacting one’s processing of social interactions, communication and sensory information.

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Since 2009, the Hormel Historic Home has embraced outreach and education for those affected by autism in Austin and the surrounding communities.  Much of the growth and now breadth of the programming, recognized on a local, regional and even national level, came under the strong leadership of our Executive Director, Holly Johnson. As I write, Holly is embarking on a new exciting career adventure here in Austin.  On behalf of families, the ASD advisory team, the HHH staff, the community and me—thank you Holly!  Your drive, compassion, and focus (and of course your technology skills) allowed me and others to create and implement impactful camps, recreation and educational events increasing understanding of autism and improving outcomes.

You supported us to meet every current need possible while always evaluating what more could be done. We very much appreciate all your efforts in developing the Autism Friendly Austin community we all now benefit from! You will be missed by us at the HHH, but we know you will continue driving positive change and impact in Austin!

Appreciation also goes to the following Austin businesses/organizations who have been certified as Autism Friendly since 2017. They have participated in a specially designed program to make them more aware of the needs of those on the autism spectrum. As Community Autism Resource Specialist, I conduct an hour-long interactive training where I explain the condition and provide simple ways to treat, serve and support autistic customers or employees.  The training is free and businesses are given a tool kit which includes sensory items and additional resources.

• Apple Lane Childcare

• Austin Artworks Center/Paramount Theatre

•Austin Community Concierge

•Austin Fire Department

• Austin Public Schools Food Service Department

• Austin Public Library

• Bridget’s Dance Conservatory

• Catherwood Childcare Center

• Drs. Elrod, Green and Heimer, D.D.S. Austin/Adams

• Essence Salon

• Family Eye Care Center

• Guy Family Dentistry

• Hormel Foods Human Resources and Recruiting Departments

• Hormel Historic Home

• Impact Fitness

• InnoVision EyeCare Austin/Albert Lea

• Jimmy Johns

• Just For Kix

• LIFE Mower County

• Matchbox Children’s Theater

• Mayo Clinic Health System

• Medicap Pharmacy

• Midtown Auto Clinic

• Mower County Historical Society

• Mower County Human Services

•Parenting Resource Center

• Perkins Restaurant

•Potach and Mitchell Dentistry

• Shoe Sensation Austin and Albert Lea

• Seibel Center

•Southeastern Minnesota Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

• Spam Museum

• Style Lounge

• Summerset Theater


The Autism Friendly Austin initiative and related programming is made possible by many appreciated donors including Pat and Gary Ray, Nancy Knowlton, the United Way, the Hormel Foundation and YOU! Following is a list of upcoming events we are very excited to host as we get back into the groove of in-person activities and events here at the HHH.

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

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!

Although much attention is given to Autism in April, our programming is offered year- round and you are invited to learn more about it at If you have questions or would like to join our advisory team contact me at or 507-433-4243.