Autism Ambassador Aaron Likens Returns to SUNY Canton, Oct. 13
Aaron Likens was first diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 20 following a childhood filled with inexplicable behaviors. Now, Likens presents across the country so that others can decode and understand autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
The nationally recognized “Autism Ambassador” will hold three presentations at noon, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13 in the SUNY Canton Richard W. Miller Campus Center’s Kingston Theater. All three sessions are free and open to the public. Guests will need to adhere to the college’s COVID-19 protocols and wear masks inside college buildings.
There has been a growing demand for public education about autism. Likens has become one of the most preeminent speakers on the issue and its impact on education, law enforcement, employment and medical care. He authored the book “Finding Kansas,” about living and finding peace with this form of autism and emphasizes the need to find ways to “celebrate, not separate” those with ASD and other disabilities.
“It’s crucial for police officers to understand how autistic individuals behave or react,” said SUNY Canton Chief of University Police Alan P. Mulkin, who began inviting Likens to campus several years ago to present to the David Sullivan-St. Lawrence County Law Enforcement Academy. “Beyond police and emergency personnel, we can all learn more about spectrum disorders.”
Likens discusses growing up with undiagnosed ASD, including his obsessions with the weather and automotive racing. He recalls seemingly inexplicable outbursts at menu changes during family dinners and how his reactions have affected his personal relationships.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in 59 American schoolchildren is on the autism spectrum. Almost half of children identified with ASD has average to above-average intellectual ability. Autistic adults make up a large and extremely diverse minority population.
One of the common problems for autistic people is sensory overload, according to Likens. “We in the spectrum pick up every sound, every smell, confusing lights,” he said. “We don’t have the ability to filter that stuff out.”
Likens’ presentations are sponsored by the Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership Office and the division of Academic Affairs as a part of the college’s diversity programing.
As Northern New York's premier college for career-driven bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs, SUNY Canton delivers quality hands-on programs in digital design, engineering technology, health, management and public service. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. As SUNY's leader in online education, SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as 23 online degree programs. The college placed first in 14 categories in a SUNY-Wide Student Opinion Survey, most notably in career services, tutoring, library resources, and classroom facilities. The SUNY Canton Kangaroos 15 traditional athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level as part of the North Atlantic Conference. SUNY Canton also features varsity esports and cheerleading.