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WVU unveils new autism resources directory during World Autism Month

Graphic showing two side-by-side headshots. Lesley Cottrell is pictured to the left wearing a blue and white striped sweater. She has long, brown hair. Cortland Nesley is pictured on the right wearing a blue plaid shirt. He has dark hair.

The West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities is unveiling a new and first for the state autism resources directory, and interactive map of available services during April’s World Autism Month and Autism Acceptance Month. Lesley Cottrell (left), CED director, and Cortland Nesley, program manager for the CED Traumatic Brain Injury program, are available to talk about the importance of the directory and map. (WVU Graphic)

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To help connect autistic people and their families to important resources more efficiently, the West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities has developed a new autism resources directory and interactive map focused on available Mountain State services.

Lesley Cottrell, CED director, and Cortland Nesley, program manager in the CED Traumatic Brain Injury program, are available to discuss the importance of the directory and map, which are the first of their kind in West Virginia and allow users to filter their searches by county and specific services.

April is World Autism Month and Autism Acceptance Month, and represents a time to foster support for autistic people and their families, support that is at the core of the mission of the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities.


“While resources for individuals who are neurodiverse and their families are increasing, the number and variety of services are limited in our rural state. Families often experience long wait times to learn of a diagnosis or receive treatment. This is a difficult situation as the needs do not stop for services to be found.

“With this new directory, our team is hoping to supplement important resources in a state that has heavy waitlists. We also want to help families navigate services when needed. This includes supports for the individual of any age and family members who provide support. 

“Our new online autism resources directory will be helpful to families throughout the state. This work has also produced ‘while you wait’ services for additional families who may not have a diagnosis yet. These resources link families to services across the state and navigate a system that quickly becomes complex.

“Individuals do not live in a vacuum. They influence others and are mutually influenced by those around them. Providing person-centered services that are flexible, accessible, and supportive of the larger support group is imperative. It’s not enough to identify resources. Providing a support line that helps navigate and connect brings our communities together. This is particularly important in a rural state like West Virginia.” — Lesley Cottrell, director, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities, professor, Department of Pediatric Research, WVU School of Medicine

“I believe tools that foreground and facilitate agency are of the utmost importance for the autistic community. Opinions about what resources are most useful vary greatly in the field. It is important to stay as person-centered as possible to ensure autistic people can access the types of resources right for them. A tool like this directory allows people to navigate what is available themselves without getting caught in overly siloed information streams.

“April is a great time to take stock, reflect and engage in critical dialogue about the autistic community and its needs. It is important to make sure autistic voices are at the center of autistic discourse. Lived experience knowledge is legitimate knowledge. Assume competency, even if communication occurs in a different way.

“Addressing complex access needs isn’t easy. Interrogating and changing systems that fail to account for them is even harder. But the work is possible. It is all too easy to focus solely on the barriers and challenges that face us. But during this month, I would encourage people to celebrate a wide array of neurocognitive differences, and small moments of autistic joy, such as the pleasure we get from a favorite stim (self-stimulating behavior). Autism is beautiful, and taking the time to frame it as such is critical.” — Cortland Nesley, program manager, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities Traumatic Brain Injury program, and member of the autism community

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