Library plans events about Asperger's

To celebrate the debut of the book “Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s,” by John Robison, the Menominee Tribal/County Library, N172 State Highways 47/55, Keshena, will host a kick-off event from noon to 2 p.m. Aug. 25.

Copies of the book will be given away, and food and music entertainment will be available for students and community members. Additionally, a presentation will be given by Special Collections to help identify people and places from Menominee Restoration photos.

“We’re trying to promote in the community literacy and expand knowledge of everything in the autism spectrum by giving away the book and holding book discussions,” said Debbie Downs, circulation coordinator at the library. “(Asperger’s/autism) have been a growing problem in the last 15 years or so, and we want to make people more aware of it.”

In 2000, 2,130 or 1.7 percent of children ages 3-21 who received special education services in Wisconsin had autism, according to Easter Seals disability services. The number of children more than tripled to 6,951 by 2008-09.

Lesley LaLuzerne, co-founder of the 501C (3) non-profit group Bridge the Gap for Autism, said she helps between 50 and 60 families in the Shawano area.

“Shawano County has a very compacted amount of children and adults affected by autism,” LaLauzerne said, noting she works in five neighboring counties. “Before we started Bridge the Gap about five years ago, there really wasn’t a lot of resources close by to help families.”

LaLauzerne explained the Bridge the Gap purpose is to decrease financially related stress, increase understanding and strengthen familial ties through education, and raise public awareness of autism and autism spectrum disorders. Bridge the Gap is helping to support the events at the library

“Look Me in the Eye” is a memoir detailing Robison’s struggle with Asperger’s, which is an autism spectrum disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.

Book discussions will be held at the library at noon Sept. 19, 5 p.m. Sept. 20 and 3 p.m. Sept. 22.

Robison will visit the College of Menominee Nation campus at 4 p.m. Sept. 28. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m. at the Menominee Casino Resort. Robison will give a presentation from 7-8 p.m. at the casino, which will be followed by a book signing.

To further promote knowledge, the library is hosting three free informational forums relating to Asperger’s next month. Each session will meet noon to 1 p.m. in classroom L203 of the library.

“What You Need to Know” on Sept. 1 will have specialists discussing symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of Asperger’s syndrome.

“Main Stream Integration” on Sept. 8 will have members from CESA 8 or the area school district presenting on what resources are available in school once a child is diagnosed with Asperger’s.

A panel of parents who have children with Asperger’s will meet Sept. 15 to discuss family dynamics.

Chad Waukechon, who has a 14-year-old son with Asperger’s, is among the speakers.

“I hope to encourage people to understand the rich talent of kids like mine and what they have to contribute to the rest of society,” Waukechon said. “Sometimes I think with an autisim spectrum disorder might unknowingly violate some norms in communication and people have a hard time getting past that.”

“These folks have so much to offer to society in general, but yet they find it so difficult to work with society in general. People need to be more understanding of them in order to better work with them,” he said.

The library is also organizing a special showing of the Hollywood film “Running with Scissors” at The Crescent Pitcher Show in Shawano at 7 p.m. Sept. 22. The film is an adaptation of Robison’s brother, Augusten Burroughs’ memoir by the same name. Burroughs also has Asperger’s.

Tiffany Wilbert
Author visit, forums scheduled
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