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‘Autism Friendly Austin’ Is Making Its Autistic Residents Feel At Home

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May 5, 2018

Star Tribune

Austin, the southern Minnesota city of 25,000 best known as the home of SPAM, has become one of the first cities nationwide to launch a concerted communitywide effort to make itself more welcoming to citizens with autism. The Autism Friendly Austin project has enlisted schools, businesses and residents in working to accommodate people with autism.

Autistic people often focus intensely on a topic or a hobby. So the Spam Museum has invited autistic students to make presentations on their areas of interest.

“We had topics ranging from historic cameras to bugs to Matchbox cars,” said Savile Lord, the museum’s executive director. “They set up their own little tables and told our visitors about their areas of interest.”

The museum also has a “Spambassador” who’s a high school student with autism. He coaches the museum on the needs and wants of autistic people, such as a quiet room to retreat to when a situation becomes overwhelming.

“Lots of these things affect our patrons and our customers and the people who walk through our doors,” Lord said. “So for us to be aware of those things and be ready to accommodate them is important.”