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A whole new way to engage autism

Welcome parents, caregivers, and professionals! Our new nonprofit invites your engagement in services that provide support, guidance, and education. We’re here to empower young families living with autism.

Your relationship with your child is so important to his social and emotional well being — now and throughout his lifetime. You spend the most time living with and loving your child. You have the greatest commitment to his development and lifelong happiness. But autism can make it hard to connect with your child. And because each child expresses autism in an individual way, it can be a confusing, frustrating, and time consuming process to find ways to support your child’s specific needs. We know. We’re there too.

We believe that parents are the key to lifelong success for children living with autism. It is, after all, a diagnosis that involves the whole family. Our volunteer board of directors, our writers and our presenters are all personally engaged with autism. It is this personal connection that fuels our passion for sharing, with you, what we know. We are dedicated to building bridges between research, practice and everyday life. It is at this center that engagement, true engagement, begins.

Here, families are the center. We offer education from experts,  how the latest research affects your family, and strategies that benefit your child. And we’re always looking for ways to grow. Explore with us the many possibilities of living with autism.

We’re here to help foster your child’s growth and development – and realize the joy of nurturing your child. Join our blog where we provide a place for everyone to learn and grow.

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Hello and Thank You

Hello CEA community!

If you’re like me, you may have read Shannon Andreson’s “Farewell but not Goodbye” post and wondered, “now what?”. In sharing her decision to step down as executive director, Shannon reflected on the ebbs and flows of a child’s developmental journey and the way families respond and adapt.

Resisting my tendency to worry, I focused on my gratitude for Shannon’s leadership and the way the Center for Engaging Autism provided me with information, support, and meaningful relationships during the challenging early years of my family’s autism journey. During that time, my energy and resources ebbed—information, terminology, forms, and systems drained me, leaving uncertainty, overwhelm, and fear. For me, a return to a relative state of “flow” came slowly through building relationships with other parents who “get it” and who model what it looks like to understand and honor their children and themselves as whole, complex people. Realizing that I wasn’t alone and that others walked the path ahead of me was like that moment of pause when an ebbing wave begins to flow forward again. I have gradually channeled this energy into writing, learning, community-building, and advocacy related to autism, family as an asset and an adaptive system, and community as the place where we grow and connect.

Gratitude, hope, and trust prompted me to pursue the executive director position. I am so humbled and honored by this opportunity to contribute to the organization that has helped me “grow up” or, more accurately, “root down” as a parent within a rich community. I am immersing myself in the supportive network, knowledge, resources, and creative endeavors that Shannon, the CEA Board of Directors, and so many talented members of our community have cultivated over the years.

I will most definitely be in touch, and I look forward to meeting you and growing together.

-Beth Dierker

The Power of Poetry, Community and Autism

Few people master the art of effective communication. When you have a disorder like autism that directly impairs the ability to communicate, mastery can feel out of reach. Too often individuals with autism are seen as incapable of creativity, especially when it comes to writing and enjoying literature. Once we look closer, however, we see that the opposite is true. Poetry and song, with their inherent structures and patterns, are the perfect scaffolding upon which minds with autism build amazing things.

My hopes for Unlocking Potential were concrete, bring the power of creative writing to students with autism and teach educators how to use those tools in the classroom with students struggling with literacy. An Arts Learning grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board made it possible for CEA to bring the work Chris Martin and Brian Laidlaw do with individuals with autism to more families.

What happened in that classroom for five days in early August was so much more amazing than that. What happened was community building. Students who struggle to work in groups, who find social situations overwhelming and connections difficult to make, came together and built works of art. Each contributed, each was engaged, and they all left knowing that they can build beautiful, provocative things.

Yet, the real power of this experience lay in the creation of a safe space in which to be uniquely oneself. In that classroom, each student became empowered, individually. And that empowerment fed the collective creative process. So much of their lives are lived in spaces where they do not see themselves reflected.

For 10 hours this summer that changed. Students with autism created in a space where their “deficits” became assets, and their voices were celebrated. Thank you to Unrestricted Interest for sharing your artistry with families living with autism, and thank you to the Minnesota State Arts Board for seeing all the potential that needed to be unlocked. Through partnering, we give voice to lives that are rarely heard, and we empower individuals with autism to create, speak and share their unique minds.

Join us at Potential Unlocked! on September 16 and discover our anthology of poems created during this course. It is born from a safe, connected space that empowers young people who often feel adrift in society. At this event, our community celebrates their hard work, their creativity, and their extraordinary minds.

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