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Autism license plate nearing goal

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 7, 2014 at 9:24 PM

The Autism Society of America’s three Tennessee chapters are zeroing in on their goal to put a new autism awareness specialty license plate on the road to advance autism awareness and help families of children on the autism spectrum statewide.

The two-year drive to put the specialty plate into production kicked off in January 2012 and is currently less than 150 plates away from the mandatory 1,000 pre-sales needed to the complete the project.

Fifty percent of the funds generated by the plate will help the chapters connect families with children on the autism spectrum with each other and with resources available in their communities.

The Autism Society is reaching out to all corners of the state for help to make the plate a reality and is in special need of more East Tennessee drivers willing to purchase the plate and volunteers to help with its advance sales.

Kim Howell of Lenoir City is one of four Tennessee mothers who joined to lobby the state legislature for the release the autism license plate early in 2012.

Howell said it was the Loudon County Autism Support Group that helped her find the therapist her 9-year-old son Drew needed, connected her with other parents who understood the extraordinary challenges they faced and gave her the opportunity to hear from experts in the many and varied areas of autism treatment and research.

To help other families with children on the autism spectrum access the same kind of resources and support, Howell joined forces with other mothers from each of the state’s three grand divisions in the push for a specialty plate to advance the work of the Autism Society’s Tennessee chapters.

“We’re really close. We only have 136 plates to go,” she said. “But we only have until June or July and if we don’t have (1,000), we have to start all over.”

The plate’s design features a ribbon of puzzle pieces, the universal symbol of the mysteries and complexity of autism, multiple colors representing the diversity of people and families impacted by autism and brightness to signal the hope held out by autism research and increasing awareness.

The cost of the license plate is $35. For every plate sold, the state will forward $17.50 to the three Autism Society chapters to raise autism awareness and help provide support and educational opportunities for families in their communities.

“I’m excited,” Howell said. “I can’t wait to have it on the back of my family’s car.”

Melissa Meadow with Autism Tennessee said help with the license plate drive from more East Tennessee families living with autism could make all the difference. She encourage those who would consider purchasing a plate to visit licenseplate.autismtn.org or call the chapter’s Nashville office at 615-385-2077 to learn more. The plates may be purchased online at web site or order forms downloaded to submit by mail to Autism Tennessee, 955 Woodland St., Nashville, TN, 37206.

A sticking point in the drive has been the 100 or so people who have pre-ordered the license plate without payment as required by that state to put the plate into production. “If you don’t pay for them, they don’t count,” Howell said, encouraging everyone to make the advance payment.

When the pre-sale goal is met, the plate will become available at county clerk offices statewide and those who purchased the plate in advance will receive notices that their plates are ready for pick up.

Volunteers interested in to helping sell the plates in East Tennessee may contact Melissa Meadows at 615-636-3119 or mmeadows@autismtn.org for information.

More information about the Autism Society of East Tennessee is available online www.asaetc.org or may be obtained by contacting the chapter at 865-247-5082.

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