TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Autism awareness month begins April 1, and throughout the month people around the world will recognize the unique presence of and contributions from neurodivergent individuals.
Autism is a broad set of challenges that affect the way people think, learn, and problem-solve.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, it affects one in 36 U.S. Children.
One of those children belongs to Obsessions Gift Shop owner Betty Proctor.
"My daughter has a lot of anxiety, and she was diagnosed with generalized anxiety as well as autism," Proctor said. She realized her daughter responded differently to loud noises and large active social situations. "For example, when she was younger, birthday parties, she didn't like the birthday song, so I avoided birthdays," Proctor said.
Since the diagnosis, she founded Obsessions Gift Shop. It's become a colorful hub of creativity and comfort for Tallahassee's neurodivergent community. "What I wanted to do was just be able to give an opportunity and a space so that people can be social, and also so that people can come in and have a place where they feel comfortable doing other things," Proctor said.
Things like experimenting with art. "Right now we have Kaleidoscope, the exhibition from the public library," Proctor said. "And so we have two of the pieces here." She even helps visitors dabble in entrepreneurship. "We just got this young man in here," she said, pointing to a picture alongside a candle display. "His name is Carter. And he is Justine, who is with the Craft House, he is her son, and he is on the spectrum. And he wanted to start a business, and so he and his mom have this candle business."
Through her shop, she sets the example of offering the acceptance and opportunity she says are at the heart of autism awareness month.
Lastly, Betty wants to help keep people on the spectrum safe, and she's doing so through a panel discussion at her Artscape event at the end of the month.
For a full list of Autism Awareness events happening in Leon County, click here.