Autism Awareness and World Autism Month

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex developmental disability. Signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism spectrum disorder is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a spectrum condition because it affects people differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness, early diagnosis, intervention, and access to appropriate services and supports lead to significantly improved outcomes.

Each April is a worldwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person living with autism spectrum disorder is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. This year we want to go beyond simply promoting autism awareness to encouraging friends and collaborators to become partners in movement toward acceptance and appreciation; ensuring acceptance and inclusion in schools and communities that results in true appreciation of the unique aspects of all people. Autism Awareness Month represents an excellent opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year.

Possible signs of autism

Babies and Toddlers:

  • By 6 months, no social smiles or other warm, joyful expressions directed at people
  • By 6 months, limited or no eye contact
  • By 9 months, no sharing of vocal sounds, smiles or other nonverbal communication
  • By 12 months, no babbling
  • By 12 months, no use of gestures to communicate (pointing, reaching, waving, etc.)
  • By 12 months, no response to name when called
  • By 16 months, no words
  • By 24 months, no meaningful, two-word phrases
  • Any loss of any previously acquired speech, babbling, or social skills

Any Age:

  • Avoids eye contact and prefers to be alone
  • Struggles with understanding other people’s feelings
  • Remains nonverbal or has delayed language development
  • Repeats words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Gets upset by minor changes in routine or surroundings
  • Has highly restricted interests
  • Performs repetitive behaviors such as flapping, rocking, or spinning
  • Has unusual and often intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights, or colors

Research shows that early intervention services can greatly improve a child’s development. In order to make sure your child reaches his or her full potential, it is very important to get help for an autism spectrum disorder as soon as possible.

If you are concerned

If you think your child might have autism spectrum disorder or you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, contact your child’s doctor, and share your concerns.

If you or the doctor is still concerned, ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your child and make a diagnosis. Specialists include:

  • Developmental Pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs)
  • Child Neurologists (doctors who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
  • Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists (doctors who know about the human mind)

Qualification for Services

At the same time, call your state’s public early childhood system to request a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for intervention services. This is sometimes called a Child Find evaluation. You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or a medical diagnosis to make this call. Where to call for a free evaluation from the state depends on your child’s age:

If your child is not yet 3 years old, contact your local early intervention system.

  • You can find the right contact information for your state by calling the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) at 919-962-2001. Or visit the ECTA website.
  • In North Carolina, contact Jill Singer, Early Intervention Branch, Women’s and Children’s Health Section, Division of Public Health


If your child is 3 years old or older, contact your local public school system.

  • Even if your child is not yet old enough for kindergarten or enrolled in a public school, call your local elementary school or board of education and ask to speak with someone who can help you have your child evaluated.
  • If you’re not sure who to contact, call the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) at 919-962-2001.
  • Or visit the ECTA website.

Get up, dance, walk, shout, or sing!  Don’t miss the next Sensory Friendly Film!

AMC is proud to partner with the Autism Society to offer unique movie showings where they turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing! The Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. Ticket costs vary depending on location and can be purchased online or at a participating AMC location. Please check your local theatre listings for specific showtimes, and don’t forget to share your family fun with #AMCSensoryFriendly.

AMC Theatres and the Autism Society teamed up to offer the “Sensory Friendly Films” program as a special opportunity for individuals living with autism and others to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. In order to provide a more accepting and comfortable setting for individuals on the autism spectrum, the movie auditorium keeps their lights turned slightly up (dim lights will remain on) and the sound turned slightly down. Because some have strict, special dietary needs, families are permitted to bring their own gluten-free, casein-free snacks from home. Additionally, audience members are welcome to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden” policy will not be enforced unless the safety of the audience is in question. Being able to relax and enjoy quality family time without worrying if someone will complain or be disturbed by noise or movement is a wonderful experience. Many others, not on the autism spectrum, also enjoy Sensory Friendly Films – it’s a great opportunity for families to meet, siblings of children with autism to get to know other kids, and anyone to enjoy a movie in a climate of acceptance and understanding.

Enrollee Navigator – What is Care Coordination?

Care Coordination is an administrative function for Partners Behavioral Health Management designed to proactively ensure optimal care for high-need, high-risk individuals.

People often have multiple problems requiring different services and supports. Due to convenience, easy access, and having providers aware of all your needs, you can benefit from getting your care and treatment in one place.

Our Care Coordinators work with you and your chosen providers to arrange for you to get as many as possible of the services you need at one time, in the same place. Not all members get care coordination.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Care Coordination

Our IDD Care Coordinators want you to get the best care possible. Care Coordinators work with you, your guardian, your family, and your other supports to:

  • Monitor your services and their results
  • Make sure you get proper assessments
  • Make sure you are involved in making a complete Person-Centered Plan
  • Make sure you get the services you need

You can find out more on the resources page to get information on other services. To make a referral to IDD Care Coordination or IDD services, call 1-888-235-HOPE (4673).

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder (MHSU) Care Coordination

With the help of a care coordinator, you develop a plan to meet your treatment, recovery, and life goals. You also get help accessing the behavioral and physical health care services you need. Working together, you and your care coordinator identify what is important to you and create a plan to achieve it. You may be selected to participate in care coordination if

  • You have more than three crisis services in 12 months
  • You get inpatient or hospital services for detox or a crisis
  • You have high behavioral and physical health care needs
  • You are a child or adolescent in a Level III or Level IV group home, or in a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility
  • You are a child or adolescent released from a youth development center or detention center

You can find out more on or view the resources page to get information on other services. Or you can call 1-888-235-HOPE (4673).

Community Calendar

2018 Summer Camp Directory: A Free Resource Guide for Families With Children Who Have Special Needs

Welcome to the 2018 Summer Camp Directory! Summer camp provides a unique opportunity for growth and development, and provides a period of summertime respite for parents and caregivers. The camp experience may be especially valuable for children who have special needs, as they can be isolated from some of the social experiences that other children take for granted. The camps in this directory are organized alphabetically by county for camps in North Carolina, and alphabetically by

state for camps outside the state. Each entry includes contact information for the camp, type of disability it serves, a description of camp activities, cost, and dates for 2018. Check out the online directory.

Connect Burke Resource Forum

The quarterly Connect Burke Resource Forum is on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, from 1-3 p.m., at Foothills Higher Education Center, 2128 S. Sterling St., Morganton, NC. The topic for the April forum is “Understanding Poverty in Burke County,” a framework of understanding poverty, how it impacts Burke County and what we can do to lift people out of poverty. You will hear from agencies and programs that provide services and resources for people living in poverty in our community and how to connect those you serve. The ultimate goal is to improve the ways our community accesses the important services you offer. It is the hope that everyone will have an easier time being CONNECTed to Burke County services and resources! Please register online by April 13.

Youth Leadership Summit on Opioid Misuse

This Youth Leadership Summit will teach high school students about the opioid problem and discuss how they can help confront the issue at home. The summit will focus on raising awareness and building advocacy skills. The interactive and hands on event will also introduce ideas and toolkits for community action and charge the participants with developing a community project that confronts the opioid epidemic.  Leading to Change, a nationally awarded training agency will help to facilitate the event. The summit is on Saturday, April 21, 2018, from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1385 Lenoir Rhyne Blvd. SE, Hickory, NC. Please register online. Paid lodging options may be provided for the night of April 20 (Friday) on a limited basis. All hotel reservations must be made through the TTA Center. Please do not contact the hotel for reservations. Contact the TTA Center directly at to discuss hotel options by April 9, 2018.

Please register your group together. Adults should register themselves and their youth participants. Ages are only requested for youth participants. Once you click to register, you can add multiple names and “tickets” within your registration that will include each youth/adult coming with your group. If you have questions about registration or the summit, please reach out to

This Summit is being facilitated by the North Carolina Prevention Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Center.

Vendors Needed-Annual Market on the Lawn

Connections will be hosting their Annual Market on the Lawn event on Saturday, April 21, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at 1679 Southwest Blvd., Newton, NC. They are seeking vendors for the craft and pottery event. They should contact Beverly at 828-466-0030 to reserve a space at $20/booth. Connections promotes and provides opportunities for adults with mental illness in the Catawba Valley region to lead meaningful and productive lives of their choice in the community. We achieve this goal by providing meaningful work, meaningful relationships, and the chance to feel a sense of belonging to a welcoming community. For more information visit

2018 Foothills Veterans Stand Down

All homeless and needy veterans in western North Carolina are invited to attend the 2018 Foothills Stand Down on Friday, April 13, 2018, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at Catawba Valley Community College-Tarlton Complex, 2550 U.S. Hwy 70 SE, Hickory, NC. The day will start with a home cooked breakfast provided and served by area veterans. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to meet with Veteran’s Administration personnel and County Veteran’s Services Officers to talk about the opportunity to receive and apply for benefits. For more information about volunteering for or attending the Stand Down, visit the event website.

Join the Movement: Youth Mental Health First Aid

Attention teachers, coaches, social workers, faith leaders, and any individuals who regularly have contact with young people ages 12-18! A young person you know could be experiencing a mental health or substance use problem. Learn an action plan to help. Sometimes first aid isn’t a bandage or CPR or calling 911, sometimes, first aid is YOU. Register today for a Youth Mental Health First Aid training on Thursday, April 26, 2018, from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., at First Plaza, 1985 Tate Boulevard SE, Hickory, NC, in the downstairs Multipurpose Room. *You must be at least 18 years old to take this training. Register online by is April 24, 2018. For more information, contact Kim Rhoads at 828-323-8049 or

Consumer & Family Self-Direction Training

Self-Determination refers to a characteristic of a person that leads them to make choices and decisions based on their own preferences and interests, to monitor and regulate their own actions and to be goal-oriented and self-directing. Attend this training for an overview of Agency With Choice and Employer of Record philosophies versus Provider-Directed Services.

The same training is being offered 4 separate times to accommodate consumer and families. It will be video-conferenced from Gastonia to Elkin, Statesville, and Hickory:

  • Wednesday, May 2, 2018—9:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 2, 2018—5:30-8 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 3, 2018—5:30-8 p.m.
  • Friday, May 4, 2018—1-3:30 p.m.

Please register with Ellisa Kincaid at

This is my BRAVE: The Show

Promise Resource Network presents “This Is My Brave Charlotte” on May 19, 2018, from 4-6 p.m., at Warehouse 242, 2307 Wilkinson Blvd., Charlotte, NC. Come out to support local heroes during an inspiring evening of storytelling featuring their stories of overcoming mental illness through creative expression such as essay, poetry, comedy, and music all aimed at ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. Find out more about the event and Promise Resource Network, and buy tickets online.

Behavioral Health Focus is published on the first and third Tuesday of each month and is intended to be a source of information for those working or interacting with behavioral health care in Burke, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Surry and Yadkin Counties. If you would like to contribute, contact Jeff Brucato at 704-884-2564 or Items should be submitted by Wednesday at 3 p.m. for the next week’s issue.

Volume 3 – Issue 17
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