Jennifer Smith, Gardner, with Don Roberts, Edgerton mayor, at the Edgerton city council meeting on April 12 after a mayoral proclamation declaring April as Autism Awareness Month. Staff photo by Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special To The Gardner News
The Edgerton City council’s April 12 meeting began with Proclamation by the Mayor declaring April 2018 as National Autism Awareness Month in the City of Edgerton. Don Roberts, mayor, read the proclamation and then presented it to Jennifer Smith of Gardner.
Smith is mother of  two young adults with autism and a longtime autism awareness advocate.
Smith told the audience that one percent of the population is now diagnosed with autism. She said that autism affects people in many ways and is now being diagnosed in older people, not just the young.
“One of the main things that we really want to do is look at the pros – how to have positive opportunities, finding jobs, residential services, day services, college opportunities. We’re very lucky in our region here, Kansas and Missouri are very proactive in what we’re working on. The local colleges are creating programs – KU, JUCO, MU, UMKC, and there are some in Iowa that have been going on for quite a while, so we’re really starting to develop these programs,” she said.
Smith commended the ‘Take Me Home’ program, which allows families that have members with cognitive disabilities to submit a photo and information about that individual into a database utilized by law enforcement and first responders.
“The Take Me Home program in Johnson County is very vital, not only for those with autism, but also Alzheimers, dementia and any cognitive disability,” she said.
“So if a loved one has gone missing or we don’t know where they are, we can immediately call 911, say they’re in the Take Me Home program and boom, it comes up, so all first responders, all law enforcement, anybody that’s searching knows what to do, what to look for and where to go,”said Smith.