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Region Ten Hosts First Autism Conference in Albemarle County

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Temple Grandin (left) Temple Grandin (left)
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Hundreds of people from across the commonwealth came to a conference in Albemarle County Saturday to work together to better raise awareness of autism and its effects.

The DoubleTree hotel was filled Saturday with more than 400 people for the 2016 Autism Conference.

It's the first conference of its kind organized by the Region Ten Community Services Board.

"We realized there's a need in our communities for more awareness, more connection, and more education regarding autism," Genhi Whitmer of Region Ten said.

The conference featured Temple Grandin, who shared her expertise on how to better pave the way for children with autism.

 "Take what that kid's good at, and build on it," Grandin said.

Grandin, who lives with autism, is a professor at Colorado State University and the author of numerous books.

"I was good at art when I was in third grade, my ability in art was always encouraged, and that became the basis for my design business," Grandin said.

Experts say that as more people in Virginia are diagnosed with autism, the need for more training becomes a must.

"More police and fire rescue are learning about autism, but we can’t expect them to diagnose it in the field," Dennis Debbaudt, a presenter, said.

"One in 68 people in the country is affected by autism, and so we wanted to bring together some of the best minds in our community," Whitmer said.

Region Ten hopes to strengthen advocacy and raise awareness about one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the United States.

"Our hope is that people will leave first of all feeling like they've learned something new," Whitmer said.

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