A new opportunity for connection and community awaits for autistic adults in Carrollton, thanks to Tanner Medical’s learning and development coordinator Laura Nelson. The last Friday night of each month, Laura hosts the “Creative Minds Adult Autism Group” through Tanner Medical Center’s program of classes and events. Its members include people across the entire spectrum, including Laura’s son, Benjamin.
The mother-son duo moved from Nevada where they were a part of a strong support group for Benjamin and his friends. Upon moving to Carrollton, they noticed a lack of community for autistic adults in the area and resorted to traveling to a Newnan group until Laura decided she would take the initiative to create her own group for her son.
“I asked [Tanner] if they would let us do that and they felt like there was a need in the community,” said Laura.
These sessions offer structured socialization for attendees, including an art project, a movie and a dinner.
“We ask that parents or some kind of family member attend with the person to make sure they’re successful, especially just to get started because people need different levels of support,” said Laura. “We try to make the art projects so that any person whose functioning at any level is able to participate, be successful and have fun.
“It’s neat because the family members come and we get a chance to talk to the parents, guardians or significant others of the people who come so that we’re making connections,” continued Laura. “It’s not just about the art, but the art is what brings us together.”
The group is reserved for adults who are an underserved population, according to Laura, who said that support for autistic people disappears once they age out of the school system.
“In Nevada, we had people who had very little speech all the way up to people who were attending college and driving themselves,” said Laura. “What was great was that when we were all together, they all got each other because they had the same struggles. We had this rule where when we’re together, you’re allowed to do your autistic thing. You don’t have to suppress yourself.”
While the group is still young, Laura has plans to expand the group and keep things exciting, such as trying a new art project each week.
“Even if I have to find YouTube videos or whatever I need to teach us how to do it, we’ll do it together,” said Laura, although the coordinator is toying with the idea of inviting guest art instructors to teach the class on occasion.
Laura has had funding come her way througha GoFundMe account and plans to seek support from the West Georgia Autism Foundation to keep the group completely free for its members. She hopes that the group can expand to other activities besides art and meet multiple days of the week.
Creative Mindsmeets at 115 Robinson Avenue in Carrollton. The space is an old house with an open and calming workspace, which is perfect for individuals with sensory issues. Registration is easy on Tanner.org under the classes and events tab.
The group will have its next meeting on March 31 from 6-8 p.m.
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