About 100 members of the community gathered inside the United Way conference room Wednesday afternoon for a session on autism services in the monthly Taste of United Way luncheon series.

More than 100 community members attended the June Taste of United Way luncheon on autism Wednesday.

Each month the Taste of United Way luncheon focuses on a topic of interest and allows United Way partner agencies to talk about their expertise on the topic, explained Renita Neville, United Way campaign director.

“It’s important because there’s a lot of work being done in our community to assist individuals on the autism spectrum as well as the families that need support in working with them,” Neville said.

Representatives from the Center, which provides autism spectrum testing, United Cerebral Palsy and Speciality Industries were on hand to explain their services and answer questions.

Carolyn Paden, Center executive director, said the first step is getting a referral from a pediatrician if you suspect your child has autism.

Testing can be done as early as three years old she said.

“We have to have a referral from a pediatrician so get that referral and have them tested by someone that’s trained to test for autism and then they’ll know for sure what spectrum and what to do after that,” Paden said.

The Center has Dr. Susan Shuman on staff who is a psychologist trained to do autism testing.

“It’s only been in place for one year, and we’d thought we’d maybe have 30 referrals and we’ve had over 65 referrals. So, it’s a very big issue in our community,” Paden said.

Neville said the next month’s Taste of United Way topic will be on volunteerism.

“Each month we focus on a certain topic of interest to the community and we provide a free light lunch,” Neville said.

For more information on the Taste of United Way series and a list of upcoming luncheons call the United Way offices at 816-364-2381.

Alonzo Weston can be reached at


Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.