Juliette Gudknecht, founder and CEO of the Autism and Neurodivergnecy Advocacy Association, works to champion for the rights of the neurodivergent community and challenge stereotypes present in society.

By Ava Benedict

“We are not just an advocacy organization; it is a community of individuals passionate about creating positive change,” said Juliette Gudknecht, founder and CEO of the Autism and Neurodivergency Advocacy Association.

The Autism and Neurodivergency Advocacy Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that focuses on providing resources for individuals who are neurodivergent through a variety of events, including career fairs and support groups. These events are primarily virtual or hybrid and feature several guest speakers. The organization also raises funds for other programs located in the Tampa and New York areas that seek to mentor those with neurodivergent conditions.

Gudknecht, who is autistic herself, aims to empower those who are neurodivergent and educate the public on neurodiversity. She has worked with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Education and NASA, and she is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in special education with a focus on autism and intellectual disability at Columbia University. Her advocacy work has changed lives by providing job counseling, peer advocacy and mentorship to autistic adults. She created the Autism and Neurodivergency Advocacy Association in 2021 to “promote the acceptance, empowerment and inclusion of neurodivergent individuals,” said Gudknecht.

The association hosts a Neurodiversity Awareness Day at Columbia University each year, which includes informational sessions about ethics in researching neurodevelopment, accommodations in schools and workplaces and neurodivergent students speaking on their experiences. The Comprehensive Archive of Autism Legislation, its most recent project, is a digital archive of the detailed history of autism and disability legislation that was formed through extensive research. The organization has also created Neuroconnect, an AI chatbot designed to help neurodivergent people practice social situations. Now, the program is working to distribute Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (tablets) to autistic students in need. These devices help people who are nonverbal or who have limited verbal skills to effectively communicate, making them necessary in school settings.

Other upcoming events include the back-to-school event at North River Ranch in Parrish, where it will be running a booth on Friday, August 4.

To learn more about or donate to the Autism and Neurodivergency Advocacy Association, visit its website at https://autismandndadvocacy.com/ or email info@autismandndadvocacy.com.

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