Montcalm County One Book series ‘a blessing’


By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 2:35 pm on Friday, October 28, 2011

The One Book One County panel included, from left, Gary Hauck, dean of instruction and faculty at Montcalm Community College and co-presenter at event; Dr. Scott Koenigsknecht, superintendent of the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) and his wife Jenny Koenigsknecht; Leslie Kinnee, public information officer for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department and her husband, Jamie; Dr. Amy Matthews, associated professor of Psychology and Statewide Autism Resources and Training Project (START) project director; and Maureen Burnes, founder of One Book One County Montcalm and co-presenter of event.

GREENVILLE – The end of this year’s One Book One County campaign marked a celebration of new beginnings and hopefulness.
Diana Jewell of Fenwick attended the One Book One County finale Tuesday evening at Greenville High School because she read this year’s book, “Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s” by John Elder Robison and she has a son, Christian, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

Diana Jewell said the book is very helpful and she is happy to see more support and awareness today than when Christian, 21, was younger.

She said her son’s Asperger’s diagnoses were common in her son’s generation but support was lacking. Diana Jewell said Tuesday’s event was helpful and she was happy to know there are more outlets available for families.

“I wish they had something like this for us,” Diana Jewell said. “I am really happy there are these things now.”

One Book One County’s closing event included a 35-minute video by Robison about his struggles with not knowing he had a form of autism until he was 40. He walked through his challenges at school, being a “misfit” and his career choices that eventually led him to writing a book about his life.

After the video, a panel told their stories about being parents of children with a form of autism and to answer questions from the audience.

The panel included:

• Scott Koenigsknecht, superintendent of the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD), and his wife, Jenny. They have a son, Cooper, who was diagnosed with autism.

• Leslie Kinnee, public information officer for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, and her husband, Jamie. They have a son, Braden, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

• Amy Matthews, associated professor of psychology and Statewide Autism Resources and Training Project (START) project director.

The panel answered questions about what the first signs of autism were in their children, their denial and acceptance phases, how they proceeded to get treatment, insurance disadvantages and what helped them through rough times.

Matthews addressed questions about behavioral characteristics, support groups, research and data related to autism.

“The whole series was a blessing for the community,” said Judy Blanding, a Greenville resident who has a grandson who was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

She learned a lot about the different aspects of autism throughout the series.

Blanding is happy to see information about autism being brought out to the public, such as why things happen when the families are in public, difficulties the families go through in public and in private.

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