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City to proclaim August as Asperger Syndrome Awareness Month

The City of Madison is recognizing August as Asperger Syndrome (AS) Awareness Month.

Mayor Paul Finley will sign a proclamation on Aug. 1 at 2 p.m. at City Hall. The public is invited.

The observance promotes further understanding of traits and characteristics, Angela Prestriedge Collier said. She is executive director of AS SEA (Support, Educate, Advocate) Beyond Tomorrow.

AS is an autism spectrum disorder. “Individuals with AS are extremely bright but often isolated by their social skills,” Collier said. “They’re talented with IQs typically above average.”

Students with AS have superior language skills but “often don’t know what to say and how to interact in social situations,” Collier said. Individuals have difficulty in understanding sarcasm and interpret conversations literally.

“There is hope,” Collier said.

In North Alabama, approximately one person in 57 has AS or autism. Collier believes the community should prepare for the future as these individuals age. “We’re not doing enough to meet needs of individuals from 20-60 years old who need housing support and employment,” Collier said.

Parents can identify a child’s early signs of autism by 18 months. “Special interests are often extreme. They find difficulty moving on to other topics. Vocabulary is strong,” she said.

For example, when a parent tells the child, “No,” the parent also should state the appropriate behavior.

By law, schools must accommodate students with AS. “However, depending on school and administration, sometimes (provisions) aren’t carried out as they should be,” Collier said. Awareness month encourages parents to advocate for students.

The major misconception about AS is “that there isn’t a cure and teaching is imperative (for) weaknesses.” All ages can be taught. “Understanding and knowledge in the community is critical,” she said.

SEA Beyond Tomorrow is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Individuals can mail donations to 461 Capshaw Road, Madison, AL 35757.

The annual AS Benefit will be held at Lowe Mill Center on Aug. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. DiscOasis will entertain. Tickets are $10.

For more information, visit aspergersyndromeseabeyondtomorrow.com.

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