The Autism Council of Utah (ACU) is an independent council working to foster collaboration, communication, and learning among families and agencies. Our aim is to promote access to resources and responsible information for individuals of all ages who have or are affected by autism, or related conditions.
The ACU is comprised of voluntary members, has virtually no overhead, and is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization. Please donate now and help us build support for our many families in Utah who are affected by autism. Your gift will help support awareness, education and programs, research, and other autism related services.
Our History & Who We Are
The ACU has worked diligently since 2005 to establish an effective organization that can benefit Utah’s families and agencies. Although we are an independent council, we have support from the Governor as well as the executive departments of the State. The ACU’s focus is on supporting other organizations and agencies, maintaining and improving services and resources for people with autism throughout Utah. The membership of the ACU consists of a core group of parents and many professionals, organizations, and agencies across the State of Utah.
Some of our projects include:
Sponsoring and co-sponsoring several autism conferences, trainings and workshops.
Representing ACU in several arenas such as the Utah Autism Initiative, Governor’s Commission for Early Childhood Development, DSPD Lifespan Respite Coalition, Special Care Advisory Board, Special Educator, pediatric grand rounds and the Utah Council for Exceptional Children (to name a few)
Initiating special projects such as the Autism Specialty License Plate, DVDs such as Autism and Faith and Law Enforcement Training, as well as legislative education.
We are excited about our continuing progress and achievements. We are always looking for new ways to partner with organizations, parents and others. You can join our efforts today by becoming a member.
The leadership team of the ACU consists of parents and agency support, and meets monthly to direct and support the different committees. The annual ACU meeting is held in April where project status updates are given and updates are highlighted from the autism community.
Our current leadership team is:
Calleen Kenney ~ President
Pam Grover ~ President Elect
Cheryl Smith ~ Past President
Tanya Semerad ~ USBE, Agency Support
Colin Kingsbury ~ Community Partner Representative, Agency Support
Julia Hood ~ Research Chair
Michelle Hiles ~ Public Relations
Natalie Castro ~ Fundraising Chair
Jessica Kerr ~ Coordinator
The Autism Council of Utah is a parent initiated and run organization. We strive to get at autism problems and opportunities from many different angles. Some of the things that set the Autism Council apart from other organizations is that although we are a parent led Council, we have full support from the Governor and Executive Directors from the State. Many of our Council members are from agencies across Utah, including the Health Department, Human Services, Medicaid, Utah State Board of Education, Valley and Wasatch Behavioral Health, Baby Watch, Division of Services for People with Disabilities, The Children’s Center, Easter Seals, Utah Autism Research, U of U, USU, UVU, and BYU, along with other organizations and many dedicated parents.
Other contributing members represent the Autism Society, Utah Autism Coalition, Utah Autism Initiative, and the National Autism Association on the Council. We want to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on in Utah, get the information out, support autism initiatives and programs, work at filling the gaps in services and provide the opportunity for families to find resources. Think of what we can do together to make things better in our communities!
Calleen Kenney has worked with the autism community in Utah for over 20 years. She has volunteered with the Autism Council of Utah for the past 15 years and is the current ACU President. Calleen also works as a Parent Consultant for Utah Family Voices at the Utah Parent Center.
Pam Grover graduated from the University of Utah with her Bachelor’s of Science in nursing degree. She has worked at the University of Utah and Primary Children’s hospital for the majority of her nursing career. Currently a full time mom to Andrew (22), Joshua (18), and Avery (6), she has been involved in autism advocacy since her middle son Joshua was diagnosed with autism at 22 months of age. She previously served as president of Utah FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment) and on the government affairs committee with the Autism Council of Utah.
Cheryl C. Smith, a longtime autism advocate, is Past President and a founding member of the Autism Council of Utah, serves on the board of Valley Behavioral Health and the Pingree Center for Children with Autism, is a founding member of Utah FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatments), and is appointed by the Governor as chair of the Autism Treatment Account Advisory Committee. She has received the Autism Advocacy Award from Autism Speaks, the
Mental Health Advocate Award, the Council for Exceptional Children’s Ben Bruse Distinguished Service award, and was instrumental in passing the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship legislation of 2005, which is named after her son, and makes state funding available for private school scholarships awarded to Utah students with disabilities.
USBE, Agency Support
Tanya Semerad is currently the Autism Specialist at the Utah State Board of Education, working in the special education department. She has worked with students on the autism spectrum for the last 27 years, teaching all age ranges in specialized classroom settings as well as inclusive settings. She has supported students who demonstrate significant cognitive, language and social deficits, and students who would be considered to have higher skills. Tanya’s greatest accomplishments come in helping parents, teachers and students work toward positive school and post school outcomes.
Community Partner Rep., Agency Support
Colin works for the Integrated Services Program in the Bureau for Children with Special Health Care Needs as the Autism Systems Coordinator. The Integrated Services Program provides care coordination for families of children with special needs, including Autism.
He received his Master's of Science degree at the University of Utah in 2011. He has worked with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities for the last 6 years. His previous work experience includes gathering autism prevalence rates with the Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, the social stigma associated with medical conditions, and educational outreach. He enjoys working with health and education providers to get families and children with Autism the services they need.
Julia Hood, Ph.D., BCBA-D, NCSP received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Westminster College and her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Educational Psychology from the University of Utah. She is one of the published authors of Superheroes Social Skills, a program that has been used and researched internationally. Previously, Julia worked as Chief Clinical Officer IDD at Valley Behavioral Health, Adjunct Faculty at the University of Utah, and as a Psychologist in Granite School District. She has a passion for working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. In addition to her work with ASD, Julia has had experience working with substance use treatment, international humanitarian work, refugee populations, and gang and substance use prevention. She enjoys living in Utah and spending as much time as possible outdoors with her husband and two kids camping, hiking, boating, kayaking, biking, and snowshoeing.
Michelle is a Support Coordinator
As an Autism sibling and guardian to my sister, Angie, I have dedicated my personal and professional experiences towards Autism education. The experience has provided me the perspective of a family’s lifestyle within their home and community. Adapting and designing the home to integrate sensory needs, self-regulation resources, communication and social skills while promoting a positive family dynamic is what helped Angie in her journey with Autism. Experiencing the different lifestyle stages of our family and Angie’s needs has inspired me to create something unique tailored to offering real estate and design services with a background in educational and therapeutic resources in Autism. I am excited to give back to our community by serving on the board of Autism Council of Utah as their Fundraising/Events chair. Together as a community using the gifts we have learned in our Autism journeys, we can spread more awareness, education and love to support the needs of our special loved ones.
Jessica H. Kerr
Jessica H. Kerr is a mother of 5 children ~ Sterling, Nathan, Amley, James, and Isaac. Her 2nd son Nathan is 20 and has autism. She has been involved in the Autism community here in Utah for over 16 years and currently is on the Carmen B. Pingree Center & Autism Council of Utah boards
The Autism Council of Utah is an independent council working to foster collaboration, communication, and learning among families and agencies. Our aim is to promote access to resources and responsible information for individuals of all ages who have, or are affected by autism, or related conditions. The Council will accomplish this by supporting statewide partnerships to collaborate on special projects, research, and training.
To provide a website where you will find:
• Resources and available Service Providers
• Evaluation and Treatment Options
• The Fast Start Checklist for the newly diagnosed
• Grant Information
• How to get involved
• Info on the Autism Specialty License Plate