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Inclusive Communities. An Autism Journey.

My professional journey with autism began during my graduate school clinical days, long before I became a nurse practitioner. I vividly remember shadowing a nurse practitioner at an autism clinic in St. Louis, MO. Those 50 hours immersed in diagnostic evaluations and heart-wrenching interviews left an indelible mark on me. One evaluation, in particular, where a child was diagnosed with autism, stirred emotions I couldn't quite explain. Back then, autism wasn't a personal part of my life, yet I found myself moved by the family's struggles and profoundly respectful of their journey.


Post-graduation, as a newly minted primary care nurse practitioner in Washington state, I was struck by the stark reality of limited diagnostic resources for families in need. It was a frustrating realization, feeling like I couldn't provide the support these children so desperately required. That frustration fueled my decision to pursue certification as an "Autism Center of Excellence" in June 2018. By October of that year, I had diagnosed my first patient with autism.


Since those early days, my passion for serving the autism community has only deepened. Forming the "Tri-Cities Autism Coalition" alongside fellow professionals, parents, and advocates was a turning point. We came together with a shared purpose: to create a sanctuary, a beacon of understanding and support, for families navigating the challenges of autism.


The new coalition's inaugural community autism event, "Our Autism Journey", was more than just a gathering; it was a testament to resilience and compassion. With over 2600 attendees, the event overflowed with accessible love and a palpable sense of belonging.


As the event unfolded, small adjustments and acts of kindness spoke volumes. These moments affirmed our commitment to an empathetic and inclusive approach, fostering an environment where everyone felt seen, valued, and embraced. It was a day demonstrating that true intentionality can break down barriers and disability-related isolation can be a thing of the past, if we all agree it's simply worth it. 


Seeing all of my families and joining in activities with you meant more than I have words for. For me, that day wasn't just another event in my career—it was a culmination of dreams, struggle and an unwavering dedication to creating inclusive communities. 



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