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Editor’s note: This is the second piece in a series about Western North Carolina children and adults living with autism. Read about an Asheville program offering social activities to local people with autism, a proposed bill that would, if passed, require all North Carolina insurers to pay for the diagnosis and treatment of autism and consult a list of resources for more information and help.
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Over the past several months, photojournalist Mike Belleme has spent many hours going to gatherings held by The Spectrum, an Asheville-based nonprofit that offers social outings and opportunities for children and adults living with autism. From technology groups and cooking group and urban outings and after-school programs, the groups have one thing in common: they’re all about having fun.
It’s a space where they can be who they are, said Becca Wilson, a 16-year-old Fletcher resident and is a participant in the after-school program. “Truthfully, I’d rather go to something like this rather than going to a party,” she said. “That’s what we wanted,” said Michele Lemell, parent to another girl in the program. “A safe space.”
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Read the whole story here about The Spectrum, how many children in Western North Carolina are living with a form of autism, and what parents and volunteers say about the power of fun in these children’s lives.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this photo essay reported that Chris Fryar was a staff member with The Spectrum. He and Patrick McCormick are filmmakers who partnered with The Spectrum to offer “Autoism,” a media initiative focusing on autism and technology.