ASAETC continues to garner support

Published 8:57 am Wednesday, September 21, 2016

While it may be a small operation, one local nonprofit organization is continuing its work of making lives easier for families across the state.
The Autism Society of East Tennessee (ASAETC) covers each of the 36 counties in East Tennessee, including Carter County, and continues their work of making access available for families that have a member afflicted by autism.
“In Northeast Tennessee, there’s around 100 to 150 families that have someone that is diagnosed with autism,” Melissa Keeler, ASAETC board member, said. “Our goal is to provide resources and activities for families.:
ASAETC will host a Social Scene activity on Thursday, Sept. 29, at Doe River Gorge.
The event will feature a train ride and free time on the premise. The train ride is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. while the time to explore the ground is set from 7 to 8 p.m. The cost for the event is $5 per person. The event is open to any family that has someone diagnosed with autism and individuals need to visit to RSVP.
“These are monthly events we have for families to have fun,” Keeler said. “We call them our ‘Social Scenes’ because with autism, there are times in public where someone will maybe get pressured and act out. But with this event, it’s a time where families can come together, have fun and not be judged. If someone does act out, a lot of the time families will be there to console and help out.”
Created back in 1989, the nonprofit only has one paid employee, based at the main regional office in Knoxville. Keeler is one of three local board members that work as a volunteer. Board members travel to Knoxville every other month to discuss plans and ideas for the future.
According to the ASAETC website, “The Autism Society promotes the active and informed involvement of family members and the individual with autism in the planning of individualized, appropriate services and supports. The Board of the Autism Society believes that each person with autism is a unique individual. Each family and individual with autism should have the right to learn about and then select the options they feel are most appropriate for the individual with autism. To the maximum extent possible, we believe that the decisions should be made by the individual with autism in collaboration with family, guardians and caregivers.”
Keeler looks back at her time associated with ASAETC with fondness.
“I actually got involved with the society in 2008,” she said. “My son was diagnosed with autism at 11 years old and I reached out to the group and was welcomed with all kinds of resources.”
After receiving help, Keeler looked to give it back to the Tri-Cities, first by taking over a support group.
“I actually inherited a support group in Kingsport back in 2011,” she said. “It has been great. We have people come in from Piney Flats and Bluff City. We always a have a great time.”
Keeler encourages individuals to visit the society’s website at for more information on upcoming events.
“We have a tab on the page that features all the different events going on each month,” Keeler added. “There’s also information resources available on the site that can help point families in the right direction.”

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