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Two events planned to celebrate Autism Awareness Month

The art students at TTI learned about abstract art and expressionism recently. Their canvasses reflected on this subject are on display at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. Photo by Christine Pagano

A few events happening locally to celebrate Autism awareness during April are a “Sip and Support & Book Signing” at The Tailor Institute (TTI), and a psychedelic record party at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, both in Cape Girardeau.

The “Sip and Support & Book Signing” is a fundraiser for TTI, an organization founded in 2003 by the late David Crowe, the father of an individual with autism. Crowe sought to fill the gap by providing services for autistic individuals that enhance their lives through building strengths and independence.

The TTI fundraiser features a signed copy of “Maybe That’s Autism” by Taylor Crowe and Leah Ulrich; cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are $50 and may be purchased at the door. The event will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. this Friday, April 12, at 528 Helena, Cape Girardeau (additional parking at Montgomery Bank).

Sponsored by the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, the psychedelic record party will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at 16 N. Spanish St., Cape Girardeau.

Kelly Downes, executive director, said, “Every April, The Arts Council of Southeast Missouri partners with Spectrum Record Lounge to host a dance party for autism awareness. We like to invite persons with disabilities (all ages), as well as community members, to come to the Arts Council for food and fun. Thomas Shaner, who is a local artist on the spectrum, will be doing live art, selling copies of his comic book, and there will be light fare for all to enjoy. We will also have engaging art stations set up to encourage creativity‚”

Travis Tyson, Spectrum Record Lounge owner said, “Autism awareness is very important and personal for me. Having an 8-year-old son on the autism spectrum has changed my life in a very positive way. It has furthered my personal belief that everyone is unique and different, which makes this world an interesting place to live.

“My son, Alex, was definitely a huge inspiration for the name of our record store/bar, Spectrum Record Lounge. Our tagline at Spectrum is “Everyone Is Cool At Spectrum Record Lounge.” It is important to us to be inclusive to all at the shop.

According to the World Health Organization, about one in 100 children has autism, also referred to as autism spectrum disorder. Autism constitutes a diverse group of conditions related to development of the brain.

Evidence-based psychosocial interventions can improve communication and social skills, with a positive impact on the well-being and quality of life of both autistic people and their caregivers.

Care for people with autism needs to be accompanied by actions at community and societal levels for greater accessibility, inclusivity and support (

TTI aims to fulfill its mission statement with seven social communication groups, three independent living groups, two employment groups, two support groups and a Project Life Experience Summer Camp, available to all participants. TTI’s main focus is serving individuals aged 16 and older. Its mission is to empower individuals with autism spectrum disorder to learn the necessary tools needed to work and live more independently.

Angie Graviett, TTI executive director said, “We are assessing more and more individuals for autism spectrum disorder. The amount of clients we serve is continually growing. Since 2003 we have assessed over 2,000 individuals.”

Graviett worked as a special education teacher and school psychologist examiner for Central Academy and Central Middle School for 24 years before coming to TTI. She dealt with an increase in autism over the years. “There has been a big increase in autism in 24 years,” she said. “When we first started seeing autistic individuals, the extent of what people knew began and ended with the movie ‘Rain Man.’ Autistic individuals have unique abilities and strengths as well as unique needs that are important to understand.”

A four-year-old grandson has made Graviett’s passion for autism increase. “Even with my grandson, I feel I’m learning in a more personal way. It is important to understand autism so we can be more understanding because in the end we are all different and unique,” Graviett said.

Visit the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri to see the TTI participant’s paintings on display in Micro Gallery 1 during Autism Awareness month.

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