Autism Awareness Subject of Next 'Soapbox' at SCC | SCC

Autism Awareness Subject of Next 'Soapbox' at SCC

Autism awareness will be the topic of the next edition of SoapBox, Somerset Community College’s panel discussion series.

“Across the Spectrum: Understanding and Embracing Autism” will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, October 25 in the Community Room of the Rogers Student Commons on SCC’s Somerset Campus.

The event is co-sponsored by SCC’s Division of Humanities, Fine Arts, & Social Sciences and The Bridge, SCC’s student newspaper.

About 1 in 59 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. ASD refers to a broad range of neurological conditions characterized by challenges with speech, social skills, and repetitive behaviors.

“Autism has become one of the major health issues for children across the world, yet as a society we still have so little awareness of what it is, who is affected, and how they are affected,” said Jeff Harris, Professor of English at SCC and one of the organizers for SoapBox, along with James Taylor, Associate Professor of Political Science.

“With greater understanding comes greater compassion, and that is exactly what we are hoping to foster with this discussion,” Harris said.

Ray Hunter, Managing Editor for The Bridge, is the mother of a child on the autistic spectrum – her son, Cash. She will be serving as a panelist for “Across the Spectrum.”

“I think it’s important to talk about autism every day, not just during Autism Awareness Month” each April, Hunter said.

Those living with autism often deal with feelings of frustration, not only from autism itself but in dealing with other people's ignorance and prejudice, Harris said.

“That is true for relatives and caregivers of autistic people as well,” he said. “They face these frustrations on a daily basis.”

Along with Hunter, the panel for this edition of SoapBox will feature Valerie Allen, APRN, a Family Nurse Practitioner for Lake Cumberland Medical Associates in Somerset; Dana W. Speck MA, CCC-SLP, co-owner of Brighter Futures Therapy Center in Somerset; Darian Vanover, a personal trainer who works with autistic clients, and Meghann Burnett, an Early Alert Specialist at SCC who is on the autism spectrum herself. Both Allen and Hunter are mothers of autistic children.

“No matter what age they are, people on the spectrum want the same thing as everyone else,” Hunter said. “They want to be loved.”

“Across the Spectrum: Understanding and Embracing Autism” is free and open to the public.

For more information on SoapBox, now in its seventeenth year, contact James Taylor, Associate Professor of Political Science, at, or Jeff Harris, Professor of English, at


autism awareness poster