By Bethany Anderson

April is Autism Awareness Month, and The Autism Society’s conference is focused on using the annual platform to provide an opportunity for parents, educators, and professionals to develop new skills, implement best practices, and network with others dedicated to “connecting the pieces of awareness.”
“Our annual Tri-Cities conference creates unity by providing accessibility, compassion, collaboration, education, and support to those living, working, and supporting the journey known as autism,” said Kandis Burney, Executive Director for Autism Society of East Tennessee.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 59 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) are or soon will be diagnosed with autism. By comparison, this is
more children than the combined total of those affected by diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic
fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome. Here
in Johnson County, that number has not been officially counted, but many local
families are affected by autism.
Based in Knoxville, the Autism Society of East Tennessee provides services to 36 counties in East Tennessee, including Johnson County and it is part of the larger nationwide organization of The Autism Society, which provides information regarding treatment, education, research, and advocacy for autistics and their families.
The Autism Society of East Tennessee is dedicated to connecting individuals, families, service providers, and educators in the Tri-Cities with programs, services, and resources based on their needs.
Johnson County Schools Supervisor of Special Education Paula Norton is in charge of the various special education needs of students in local schools.
Norton is assisted Doe Elementary School Special Education Teacher, Melanie Adams. “In my experience, Johnson County Schools strives to meet the needs of students who have Autism Spectrum Disorder by
working closely with
teachers, parents, and therapists to determine the
best program of services for each child,” Adams
said adding, “Because Autism is a wide spectrum, our services for these students also cover a wide spectrum; but the goal is always to provide the best possible services while keeping the child as fully involved with their grade- level peers as possible.”
The mother of one of Adam’s students shared, “Autism is such a part of our lives that we don’t even think of our daughter as any other way than herself.” She added, “Of course we appreciate all the help that she gets at school now, but we know that she will need more throughout her life. We are hopeful that she will be able to do just that and thrive like any other child.”
This year’s conference scheduled for Saturday, April 27 includes a new location and new format at the Northeast State Community College in Blountville.
Professionals, experts, and specialists from Laurel Heights Hospital and other local providers will host sessions covering a range of topics including Understanding Psychiatric Crisis for Children with Autism, Applied Behavior Analysis 101, Maximizing Your Child’s Treatment, and Conservatorships.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet and greet with local exhibitors providing services within the East TN area.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with experts across the state from organizations like ARC of TN, STEP, Special Needs Law Center, Tennessee Respite, and others to bring you the most current and helpful information about autism,” a statement emphasized on the event’s website.
For more information or to register for the visit, call Executive Director Kandis Burney 865-247-5082 or email: