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Network promotes inclusion for people with ASD

May. 3, 2018, 10:25 AM


The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorder (TRIAD) is bringing some of Nashville’s most prominent community organizations together to promote acceptance and inclusion of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

TRIAD has formed a network of arts, education, athletic and entertainment organizations that together make up the Inclusion Network of Nashville (INN).

Through the INN, these organizations come together for training to learn how to create resources and modify events in ways that enable them to increase their ability to include and support individuals with ASD and other intellectual disabilities and their families.

“The Inclusion Network of Nashville is meaningful because it sends the message that in Nashville, we’re all in this together and we want to make it better and more inclusive and accepting of everyone,” said Lauren Weaver, MS, BCBA, LBA, coordinator of community engagement for TRIAD and behavior analyst in Pediatrics. “Parents of a child with a disability often worry about every interaction, so for a parent to be able to bring a child to an inclusive event provides such joy for them. I think family members are so grateful to enjoy these activities.”

Participating organizations in the INN have six opportunities per year to come together for training and collaboration.

Topics covered include an overview of ASD and other disabilities, how to communicate with families, how to implement effective strategies and support and how to respond to challenging situations.

“Often, people come to us for these trainings without a lot of experience working with people with disabilities,” Weaver said. “Sometimes people don’t know what to do so they don’t do anything because they don’t want to do the wrong thing, so by providing these trainings, we’re helping organizations set themselves up for success when working with people who have unique needs.”

Although the INN is in its infancy, TRIAD has been working individually with community organizations for more than five years in order to help identify accessibility challenges and solutions for individuals with ASD and other intellectual disabilities.

The Nashville Zoo is one such community partner who has worked with TRIAD for six years.

“Working with TRIAD has been invaluable, and provided our staff and volunteers with the skills required to facilitate meaningful experiences for all lovers of wildlife,” said Chad Fifer, education director for the Nashville Zoo.

“Working with individuals and families that had once seen Nashville Zoo as a challenging environment full of obstacles, and watching them not only become more comfortable but also become advocates for organizations like ours, has been incredibly humbling.”

For a complete list of participating organizations, visit

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