Center for Autism Research reaches out to New River Valley with community, campus events
The Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research, in conjunction with Blacksburg businesses and campus organizations, is embodying the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) by working to make events friendlier for youth with sensory challenges.
Center director Angela Scarpa, an associate professor of psychology in the Virginia Tech College of Science, and Amy Azano, an assistant professor within the School of Education, part of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, are continuing to build their three-year-old SAFE: Supporting Autism Friendly Environments program throughout the New River Valley, with an eye toward further expanding it. The center is part of the College of Science.
The goal of SAFE is to promote a more inclusive community by organizing low-cost events and environments that will be more accessible to youth with sensory or communication challenges, said Scarpa. In coming weeks, vendors with the Virginia Tech Science Festival will undergo training to work with children with autism as part of the Nov. 4 event. This follows the center’s work with theHokie BugFest, which celebrates the science of entomology, hosted by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“Autism can feel extremely isolating, but with simple interventions and more understanding, it doesn’t have to that way,” Azano said. “When we have more inclusion and more awareness, we build a community of care. We don’t just teach acceptance, we practice it. We don’t just use Ut Prosim as a tagline. We embody it.”