USU’s Autism support group to celebrate 15 years

Thomas Higbee, director of the ASSERT program at Utah State University shows some of the tools his staff uses in the classroom to help autistic preschoolers.

To celebrate the success of Utah State University’s Autism Support Services: Education, Research and Training (ASSERT) program, a fun run and potluck dinner will be held Friday Aug. 10, at 5:30 p.m. The celebration will be held just south of the new Sorensen Legacy Foundation for Clinical Excellence building.

Thomas Higbee, ASSERT program director, invited those attending to bring a side dish or treat to share. They have also planned games and other activities for families to enjoy that evening.

Along with the Friday evening celebration and dinner, there will be a First Dam Pancake Run Saturday morning. The race will have two heats, a 5K and a 10K. Both begin at Merlin Olsen Central Park (100 S. 200 E., Logan) at 9 a.m. but courses will go by First Dam. Packets can be picked up on Thursday, Aug. 9 at Runners North (555 W. 100 N., Providence) or at the Friday night celebration.

Last minute registrations will be from 8 to 8:45 a.m. the morning of the event. Prices will be $31 for the 5K and $36 for the 10K for morning-of registrations.

There will also be a raffle, and $1 tickets will be sold at both locations.

Higbee said there are plenty of reasons to celebrate. He and his staff have seen the program blossom over the last 15 years. It began with four preschool students and a handful of staff members. Now, they have a state-of-the-art program with 17 students and a staff of up to 48 full and part-time members.

Higbee estimates at least 100 students and their families have benefited from the program. He said they have seen growth of both students and families with the techniques they have developed over the years.

Lindsay Nix, Program Coordinator for ASSERT, said one of the reasons the program has been successful is the parental participation.

“Two times a week parents come to the classroom,” she said, “and watch what is going on and two times a month we visit the homes of our students.”

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