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Autism Society of Minnesota

Learn from AuSM Executive Director Ellie Wilson about ASD and how AuSM supports the Autism community

Accra Talks with AuSM about Autism Acceptance

As part of Autism Acceptance Month, Accra spoke with Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) Executive Director Ellie Wilson to answer questions about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and how AuSM supports the local autism community. Read on to learn about ASD and see answers to some of the most common questions about autism.

What is the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM)?

In 1971, a group of passionate parents founded the Autism Society of Minnesota to seek greater understanding and better school supports for their children with autism. A half-century later, AuSM continues its mission to improve the lives of people with autism, but with an expanded focus along the entire lifespan, from birth through retirement.

Whether you are the parent of a child with a new diagnosis, an adult with autism who needs guidance, an educator or healthcare professional who supports people with autism, or a company that wants to learn more about the talents of people with autism, AuSM offers the resources you need to help you accomplish your goals.

What is autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex, life-long developmental disability that affects social interaction, the ability to communicate ideas and feelings, imagination, self-regulation, and the ability to establish relationships with others. Autism is also a spectrum. Individuals have their own unique constellation of traits and their own strengths, preferences, and identities. Different people will have different levels of challenges, and these challenges are based on supports and environment.

How prevalent is autism?

In Minnesota, Autism is prevalent in 1 in 44 people. Autism knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of a person having autism.

What challenges do people with autism face?

People with autism may have challenges with organizational and attention skills; the ability to recognize and understand the thoughts of others and sensory processing. People with autism often rely on routines and schedules, so they can also struggle with change or being flexible. Many people on the spectrum find repeated behaviors – physical, vocal, or otherwise – comforting and useful for emotional regulation. Some people call these behaviors “stims.”

Someone with autism could also have challenges with expressive and receptive language. Expressive language is our ability to communicate our wants, needs, and feelings. Receptive language is our ability to take in information.

How does AuSM support the autism community?

AuSM seeks to serve the autism community in five different ways:

  • Advocate for legislation and policies that lead to improved services, increased opportunities, and greater self-determination for people with autism.
  • Educate and inform individuals, families, professionals, and the broader community about autism and effective strategies for support and inclusion.
  • Support individuals and families through quality programs, counseling services, and resource information.
  • Collaborate with organizations and individuals who share our commitment to enhancing the lives of those affected by autism.
  • Build community and provide a welcoming and accessible environment for autistic people to connect and form their own social bonds.

How can I learn more about and support AuSM?

As the autism diagnosis rate increases, so too does the need for programs and services to help people with autism thrive. As the state’s oldest nonprofit autism organization, AuSM relies on the generosity of our community to carry out our important mission. 100% of donated dollars stay local, benefitting Minnesota families and individuals touched by autism. You can learn more about AuSM and donate via our website at