For people living within the autism spectrum, being able to express their feelings verbally can be a serious challenge.
So what happens when a person with autism has to deal with emotional trauma?
The Roaring Fork Autism Network, the Aspen Hope Center and the Extreme Sports Center Speaker Series is hosting a film screening with the 40-minute documentary titled “Autism and Trauma” at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Following the film, there will be a panel discussion with Dr. Valerie Paradiz, of the Autistic Global Initiative; advocate Paul Nussbaum, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as an adult; and regional panelists Michelle Muething from the Aspen Hope Center, Meghan Hegberg from the Roaring Fork School District and Allison Johnson, co-founder of the Roaring Fork Autism Network.
“This is a really important film and discussion for anyone working with someone on the autism spectrum,” Johnson said.
One of the myths surrounding people with autism is their apparent lack of empathy, when in reality it’s often the opposite.
“People with autism often see things so deeply, they simply can’t express those feelings,” Johnson said. “It becomes extremely difficult for them to access and process those emotions that it becomes traumatic and can lead to a stress disorder. When you’re already dealing with communication issues like so many people with autism do, which makes them uncomfortable because it doesn’t come naturally, it can lead to more anxiety, another common component of autism.”
Muething, the executive director of the Aspen Hope Center, also will hold two hour-long training workshops that help recognize depression and thoughts of suicide. The workshops will begin at 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley Campus auditorium. The workshops are free and open to the public.
Jill Pidcock, the development director for Extreme Sports Camp, helped organize the event and hopes anyone directly or indirectly affected by autism comes to the event.
Pidcock said the film is an eye-opener in many ways, especially when viewers see how easy it is for people with autism to be misdiagnosed and misunderstood.
“The more we educate our community about autism, the better,” she said. “For people with autism, ordinary stress becomes extraordinary. The depression/suicide workshops are really important as the suicide rates for people with autism and their families have been steadily climbing for the past decade. I hope people can come and learn from this film. It’s wonderful to celebrate the triumphs and successes at the end of the screening.”