April 3, 2023

Arrow’s D&I Speaker Series: An Autism Awareness Conversation with Professor April Regester

Category: D&I Series

Author: Charlie Johnson

Professor April Regester, Department Chair at the College of Education University of Missouri –
St. Louis, met with Larita Kaspar, Arrow resident, with a 30-year background in nursing
education, for a discussion about autism. Professor Regester’s focus at the University is on
educator education and leadership, with a background in special education and supporting
individuals with autism.
According to Professor Regester, there is still a lot to figure out about autism, which is
considered a developmental disability. In diagnosing autism, a healthcare or mental health
professional would look for these three things – is the individual having difficulty with
communication, are there differences in social interactions, and are there restricted interests or
repetitive behaviors that might limit them from interacting with other people. All three of those
identifiers are required for the diagnosis of autism.
People often refer to the autism spectrum. Regester says she doesn’t like to think of it in terms of
degrees, but rather in terms of presentation. Individuals present differently on all the categories
from which they were diagnosed. “You often hear ‘low functioning and high functioning.’ That
is not the best way to think about it,” she commented. “If you’ve met one person with autism,
then you’ve met one person with autism. There is not one specific person with autism that can be
compared with another one. Every person is different.”
The Professor says a medical professional would likely say autism is caused by a combination of
genetic components and environmental exposure, but they are not quite sure what that
combination is or if one triggers the other. There is no genetic marker for autism; however, if a
family has one child with autism, they are more likely to have another child with autism. The
research continues.
If you have a family member or someone close to you with autism, you should be “presuming
confidence,” according to Regester. You should assume that the family, including that child,
wants to be engaged and a part of the family activities, just like everyone else in your family.
Presume confidence and inclusiveness of that family. You do not want to isolate the child or the
other family members because you are unsure how to interact. She also says not to be afraid to
ask questions but reframe them. Examples of proper questions might be – “How can I help you?
What can I do to accommodate you? What can I do to help you participate in this event?”

“The people I know who identify as having autism, that’s the beautiful part of them. There is
something awesome about the students that I teach. They view that as a strength to who they are
because they may have a restricted interest in a certain area, which makes them excel in that
area. It helps them to be the best at what they do. Very cool things come out of having that
identity,” Register recalls.
The Professor commented that we are in the middle of the movement that is shifting from a
medical view to a positive service oriented and support oriented view, highlighting the great
things about individuals with autism.
Watch the full D&I interview here

Saint Charles, Missouri-based Arrow Senior Living manages a portfolio of communities that offer varying levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Each and every senior living community supports residents by focusing on dignity, respect, and quality of life. The programs and amenities offered are selected to provide only the highest standard of quality and comfort.

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