North Dakota Autism Center Helps the Community Support Families with Children with Autism

they have trained 14 businesses throughout the metro already

MOORHEAD, Minn. —  The North Dakota Autism Center is trying to train business leaders and employees at places like Cash Wise on how they can create a more autism-friendly community.

While many people had their eyes glued to T.V. screens last Saturday to cheer on the Bison, Darcy Kasprowicz’s brother, Tyler, only wanted to be one place: the grocery store.

“Ten o’clock is his grocery shopping time. We couldn’t go because we were watching the Bison game and he had a meltdown because he wanted to go to the grocery store because he enjoys it,” Kasprowicz said.

But Kasprowicz’s brother didn’t always love the grocery store.

He’s 15–years–old with autism, which makes him react to sounds, packed rooms and places he doesn’t know well.

Many times it results in him having a meltdown, which at first, Kasprowicz says, made her family feel like they couldn’t go anywhere.

“We felt very isolated from the community. We couldn’t go out and do things that other families were able to do. Couldn’t go to restaurants, grocery stores, the movies,” Kasprowicz said.

Kasprowicz says many families who have children with autism experience those feelings of isolation, which is why the North Dakota Autistic Center is now training business leaders and employees on how they can create a more friendly community.

“It just increases that awareness for us as a group, as a store and as a team and makes us more prepared to just handle those things much better,” said Tony Walls, store director at Cash Wise.

If a child with autism has a meltdown, staff at Cash Wise are prepared to help the parents by finishing the shopping for them or starting the checkout process sooner.

Walls says he believes those kinds of small gestures will really have an impact on parents.

“They’re going to realize that hey, they actually know what’s going on here a little bit and they’re going to appreciate it a lot,” Walls said.

Because it’ll show them they’re in a community that really does care about all kinds of people.

“It’s just knowing that you can go out into the community and have safe places that you won’t be judged and that there’s supportive people out there to help you through some of the difficult times you may have when out in the community,” Kasprowicz said.

Since last year, the Autism Center has trained more than 14 businesses, including Chuck E. Cheese and the Cass County Jail, on how they can be more autism-friendly.

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