Battlefield is Missouri's first 'Autism Friendly' city

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BATTLEFIELD, Mo. (KY3) Trey Brand is a 14 year old from Battlefield. He loves bowling, and he's autistic.

"It's hard for a parent when they first get a diagnosis of autism cause they kinda feel isolated," says Trey's mother, Patricia Brand. Patricia has spent several years educating herself on autism and how best to work with her son's symptoms. She says while Trey struggles with communication, he is high functioning when it comes to physical activity.

Trey isn't just good at bowling, he's amazing at it. By 13, he already bowled multiple perfect games, an astonishing feat for anyone. However, his autism means he behaves differently in social settings than other kids his age. Other kids don't always respond with understanding to Trey.

It can create awkward situations which the Mayor of Battlefield, Debra Hickey, can relate to. Her grandson is also autistic, but on a different range of the spectrum than Trey.

"My grandson flaps. It means he slaps himself on the back frequently for stimulation. So if you're in public, and you see a child doing that, most people think 'oh my goodness what's wrong with this kid' and you get stares, people say things that are not kind," says Hickey.

On Tuesday, the City of Battlefield declared itself Missouri's first autism friendly city.

"We want to show the world that in Battlefield, we are committed to autism awareness and education every day," says Dr. Linda Barboa, founder of the non-profit Stars For Autism, which is based in Battlefield.

Organizations like Stars For Autism and Steps Care Inc. will give autism training to
Battlefield city workers, local businesses and churches.

The city will also apply for grants, and spend money in ways that are sensitive to the autistic. For example, the city will to try to purchase more sensory and interactive playground equipment which is more engaging for autistic children than static playground equipment.

"It's incredibly exciting for us because we can be a leader to the rest of the state of Missouri and beyond, to say, don't forget these people who are living with autism," says Mayor Hickey.

If you are interested in learning more about autism, there will be an 'Autism Info Blast' at the Battlefield Mall on April 30th from 11am - 5pm.