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FAST FIVE: Jamie Jonz: Autism acceptance

by DEVIN WEEKS/CoeurVoice Contributor
| April 3, 2021 1:00 AM

Meet Jamie Jonz. She moved to Idaho 20 years ago after graduating from the University of Montana. She has dedicated her professional life since she moved here to working with adults and children with developmental disabilities. She most recently was elected as the board president for the Panhandle Autism Society, a local nonprofit focusing on providing support and inclusion for all individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

Generation: I technically fall as a Gen X. I find that to fit pretty well but if you ask my Gen Z daughter – I am a millennial.

Career and community involvement: I have worked in social services my entire adult life, primarily with adults and children with disabilities. I am the current president of the Panhandle Autism Society Board and formerly was on the board of Pediatric Stroke Warriors. I write plans for adults and children with disabilities to ensure they get the support they need. It is a job I love as I get to see the difference I make on a daily basis.

Parental status: I am raising two kids – Addison, 15, and Aidan, 12.

With World Autism Day just behind us on April 2, what is happening locally with the Panhandle Autism Society to raise awareness and education regarding autism?

PAS is working closely with the National Autism Society to make the shift from “Autism Awareness” to “Autism Acceptance.” We recognize words matter and acceptance is one of the biggest barriers to being valued and finding and developing a stronger support system. With that acceptance comes improved opportunities in education, employment, housing, health care and long-term supports and services. We will be focusing on #CelebrateDifferences on our Facebook and web page and invite others to share their stories. We are so grateful to be partnering with the Donut House in Hayden on April 17 as they sell Autism Awareness donuts to help fund our ongoing support and services (support groups, sensory lending library, referral services, grant program). This is such a fun, easy (and yummy!) way to support our programs. Lastly – our former board president, Jennifer Cork, and Detective Gus Wessel (former board member) will be offering a Disability and Law Enforcement Forum for individuals, parents and caregivers on April 10 at 10 a.m. The focus of this online training will be how individuals and supports can facilitate safe interactions with law enforcement and those with disabilities. Registration is on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/415142796450295/

Why is this a cause you care about, and why should the community care?

I have both a personal and professional interest in this cause. I love working with individuals and their families and playing even a small part in their success. It is amazing to know the work I do helps my clients have the highest quality of life possible. My son, Aidan, is also diagnosed on the spectrum. I hope what I do is making the world a better place for him.

What are a few things about autism that people in general may not know but should be aware of?

Just like the rest of us, a person with autism is unique. The old saying goes – if you have met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. Everyone is different. Different strengths. Different interests. Different challenges. Different needs. It is our responsibility to accept those differences and meet that with support.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am not typically an outdoorsy person but I really enjoy kayaking. It is something I just started a couple of years ago. It is great. I think it is the only time I can truly shut my brain down and relax. Bonus points because I get to do it with those I love.

If you could write a book, what would it be?

Let’s see…. How to work at home full time while teaching two kids and running a nonprofit in a pandemic? Maybe that is too specific. The world has a funny way of forcing us to learn balance and what is important in life.