When Acree decided to start the group, she talked to Linda Tortorelli, who heads The Autism Program in Champaign, and she was eager to help. Tortorelli introduced her to Sheila Krein, a parent liaison. The word got out and the group was formed.
Originally it was geared for parents and caregivers, she said, but since has expanded to include professionals, as well. Danville District 118 and VASE, for example, have been wonderful this year with spreading the word about activities and meetings, as well as attending and speaking at meetings, she said.
The goal is to provide support and outreach, which Acree does with the group, as well as through emails, phone calls, and Facebook. Other goals are to bring awareness and activities to the area, have services in the area and provide a network.
Puzzled Minds has speakers most months on various topics, and this past summer partnered with The Autism Program of Illinois to provide a session on toilet training individuals with special needs, not just autism.
“I have also spoken to many groups about my journey,” she said. “So many people have offered their time and talents to speak, which shows that we have the same goals — awareness, services, and support.”
In March, Acree won the Vermilion County Hero award for community service. She plans to further expand the group and hopefully create a large network in the county for families to navigate services and support.
For more information about Puzzled Minds-Vermilion County, e-mail Lori Acree at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s also a Facebook page.