AUSTIN, Minn.- It’s a disorder that impacts millions of Americans. Now a discussion is underway at Riverland Community College about what are called “Invisible Disabilities,” which includes autism.
The Phi Theta Kappa at Riverland is kicking off their annual Honors in Action project. This year their project is called, “Don’t Dis-ability.” So they’re hosting a guest speaker to talk about autism.
“I understand autism from two capacities,” said Dewey Schara, guest speaker. “One as a principal someone who works in the school district and also has a parent.”
As principal of Neveln Elementary School in Austin, Schara works with children who have autism and his own 13-year-old son Jackson also has the disorder.
That’s why Schara has made it his mission to educate others.
“I would not necessarily say that I am an expert,” said Schara. “I would say that I have expertise experience in this topic.”
Autism is a developmental disorder that impairs a person’s the ability to communicate or interact. It’s the focus of Phi Theta Kappa’s annual project.
“We also wanted to present some of that research to the community to see what the community ideas are about invisible disability and how they better serve people with invisible disability,” said Suzette Overby, Human Services Instructor at Riverland Community College.
She believes knowledge is power.
“I hope they learn more about invisible disabilities and learn more resources that they’ll be able to use for students who have invisible disabilities or even family members or friends with invisible disabilities.”
Schara is sharing his own experiences as a father and as an educator.
“It’s easy when you’re sitting in front of a group of students and you know that there are special needs out there and it’s very easy to maybe not look in depth into what individual students might need,” said Schara. “So what I am hoping to do today is personalize this.”
He’s spreading an important message along the way.
“As we go through life we will meet thousands of people who approach us differently and who are interacting life differently and understanding that there might be hidden disabilities is something very important,” said Schara.
Schara says presentations like this one give him the opportunity to reach out to the community and share his story.