Village Northwest Unlimited Promotes Autism Awareness in April

April is Autism Awareness month and Village Northwest Unlimited is using it as an opportunity to raise awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in support of individuals and families who are living on the Autism spectrum.

Throughout the Sheldon community, you may notice homes featuring blue light bulbs in their front porch lights as blue porch lights in April may represent their support for Autism awareness. The Village is hosting a coloring contest for anyone interested in participating. Entry pages can be found on the VNU website or by stopping at the Wansink Center. Entries are due at Noon on Friday April 14 and winners will be announced that afternoon.

"We are happy to join with the national organization, Autism Speaks, in their 'Light It Up Blue' campaign," says Lisa Johnson Director of Development with Village Northwest Unlimited. "As a provider of services to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, we think it important to increase awareness of Autism. We offer programs and services for adults with ASD and believe we can help individuals make significant strides to improve their social interactions and positively impact their ability to work in the community."

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ASD. Over the next decade, a growing number of individuals with ASD will be transitioning toward the need for adult services and supports.

Village Northwest Unlimited offers services to adults with ASD that support individuals in developing social and life skills for maximum independence. Many adults with ASD possess high potential, but experience difficulty navigating social relationships, community settings, pursuing additional education, seeking employment, and maintaining employment due to struggles with transitions, communication, and social interactions. "The Village launched their ASD program in January 2015 and since that time have doubled the size of the program," says Ryan Groeneweg, Director of Autism Services. Part of the new programming options include a PEERS (Program for Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills) program.

"We currently offer an outreach program for socially motivated young adults with high-functioning ASD," says Groeneweg. "Our PEERS training program offers opportunity for individuals to learn skills to help them make friends and to navigate complex social situations. It incorporates both classroom setting and real-world experiences where participants practice their learned skills. The PEERS program is unique in that it also partners with parents who attend classes separate from their student so they learn how to support their son or daughter."

For more information about the PEERS program offered at Village Northwest Unlimited, contact Ryan Groeneweg at Village Northwest Unlimited at 712.324.5417.

Download a coloring contest page.