Groups come together for Autism Friendly Austin

Published 6:43 pm Friday, January 21, 2022

By Jean McDermott

The Hormel Historic Home created Autism Friendly Austin to help the community become more Autism Friendly and Sensory Sensitive. Mary Barinka, the community autism resource specialist, drives this mission and has accomplished much since her hiring. Autism Friendly Austin will make our community and region a more inclusive and accepting place that strives to provide increased opportunities and improved outcomes to those on the spectrum.

The Autism Friendly Austin (AFA) Project began as a way to encourage current Autism Service providers, retailers and businesses to work together to better serve the Autism community.  There are currently over 100 students in the Austin Public Schools diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  That does not include the number of adults living among us who are also on the Spectrum. We can be a better community by understanding the needs of these people who are our customers, our employees, and our neighbors.

The AFA vision is to make our community and the surrounding area autism friendly, sensory sensitive and family welcoming.

The AFA mission is to promote understanding of and provide support for inclusion and acceptance for autism and special needs through engaging, training and educating our entire community.

Austin has great resources in place for those on the autism spectrum, and AFA wants Austin businesses to know about them and to be considered one of them. The AFA team can help businesses or organizations become an autism friendly location. With minimal time and money invested, businesses can grow and become a preferred provider to those actively seeking shopping opportunities and services. The Autism Friendly Austin team will provide businesses and organizations with the resources and tools they need to attract customers and potential employees. Over 40 Austin businesses and organizations have already been certified as autism friendly. If you would like to find out more, please contact the Hormel Historic Home for more information at 507-433-4243 or autism@hormelhistorichome.org.

Austin Noon Kiwanis has a mission to serve the children of the Austin community. We have bi-monthly meetings and several fund raising projects each year to create funding for various programs. Some of our fundraising projects that require volunteers are track and field days, pinewood derby, Pizza Ranch, and peanut sales.

Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. Our main focus is serving the children of Austin. We sponsor two summer track events for all local children. We sponsor pinewood derby in connection with Club Scouts. We support dozens of other local causes and events.

Austin Noon Kiwanis will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this spring/summer.