Jessica Medlen - Guest Blogger: Assistant General Manager of Guest Experience
In 2008, Conner Prairie partnered with Applied Behavioral Center for Autism (ABC) to help our staff understand how guests with Autism communicate and engage. This was a win-win situation. ABC helped us understand Autism and worked with us to train our staff. Conner Prairie helped socialize ABC students and engaged them in a nurturing rich environment catered to their needs.
One of the biggest challenges was helping our staff recognize these special guests since Autism covers such a large spectrum. We focused on the main signs of Autism. These include verbal and nonverbal communication, social behaviors, such as emotions and empathy and stereotyped behaviors concerning objects and routines.
We found our staff was enthusiastic and felt empowered. We also saw a positive response from the community. Guests were very appreciative of having a family destination where they and their needs were understood. I continuously receive phone calls and e-mails thanking Conner Prairie for our support and for providing an environment that is welcoming and accepting of this exceptional group.
As we look towards an exciting future we aim to make every guest’s experience extraordinary. We stay true to our mission and our goals by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences for all guests, including those with special needs.
If you would like more information on Conner Prairie’s Autism training materials please contact me at Medlen@connerprairie.org.
Jane Grimes - Guest Blogger: Founder and President-Hamilton County Autism Support Group
April is Autism Awareness Month
and I wanted to take the time to express my sincere thanks for all the support and training that Conner Prairie has invested and continues to invest in their overall Conner Prairie experience for children with autism and other special needs
. Many of you know that I am genuinely passionate about autism and our community with the role that I play as Founder and President of the Hamilton County Autism Support Group
. I was humbled to be involved in the autism training and with my firsthand experience as a parent of a child with autism, I have to say that our experiences on the grounds have been much more fun. Simple things like quiet areas and staff realizing that our children with autism may need to learn things a bit differently or have smaller groups to incorporate learning has been great!
One thing that I have been in awe about over the past months is how our young adult and adult community with autism has increased and experiencing their feedback. Many people with autism are visual thinkers and need visual experiences to learn. Conner Prairie naturally has this in many of their experiences on their grounds; however our adult population has just discovered how great a place Conner Prairie is for them. I often wonder how other organizations can make such small changes to adapt and collaborate together to strengthen their connection to the autism community.
Did you know that 40% of individuals with autism are non-verbal? Did you know that Indiana is the 7th highest state today with the highest prevalence of autism in the US? Social deficits are significant in most individuals with autism so they are challenged with one-on-one discussions as well as group discussions.
I work at The Applied Behavior Center for Autism where many of our children are extremely excited to be able to go to Conner Prairie on a regular basis and experience programs and activities. Our center works one on one with children with Autism and Down Syndrome to help increase language and decrease behaviors in a world that is already confusing-organizations like Conner Prairie help our communities become a better place in the world by including our children and individuals who have daily challenges.
I encourage Conner Prairie to keep doing what you are doing…..we so appreciate your support, encouragement and positive experiences. My advice next in thinking into the future: employ more individuals with disabilities and try to envision Summer Camps for individuals with disabilities to experience community. Thanks for all you do!!