A Hub for the Autism Community
A place where the Denver Autism community come together to stay connected.
The Autism Community Store (ACS) serves the Denver Autism community in more ways than its name may suggest. It is an inclusive center that offers tools, resources, information, and a home for the Autism community, its families, friends and providers.
“We have always naturally been a place people within the community feel safe and gravitate toward,” said Shannon Sullivan, Cofounder of the Autism Community Store. “They know this is a place they can laugh, cry, or bring their screaming kid and we won’t bat an eye, because we have been there too.”
The store sells a variety of sensory items, therapy tools, educational products, weighted blankets and everything in between. It also offers the largest selection of fidgets in the Denver metro area! (A fidget is a small, quiet toy that helps students concentrate and direct energy.) Each person who enters the store is greeted by a resource navigator to help ensure they are directed toward the solutions that best fit their needs, and presented with opportunities for trainings, events and other community connections.
Once inside, it is not uncommon to see therapists using the sensory cave for therapy sessions, day groups having lunch in the community space, or an overwhelmed parent who has come in search of a much-needed break. Whatever the impetus, the space is viewed as “home base” for many, and the environment is one that fosters organic interactions and connections. It provides an accessible and inclusive space that serves a neurodiverse audience and the communities that surround them.
Over the years, the organization has grown into more than just a home for the Denver Autism community. The center has a resource and support center where community members can talk to trained parent navigators who can guide them to the tools and resources that fit their needs.
In addition to the resources within the store, ACS also offers a variety of activities in the community, such as:
Monthly support groups for parents, siblings and self-advocates
Workshops and trainings for providers, parents and self-advocates
Social activities for the entire community
Colorado’s largest Autism Resource Fair
“We work hard to bridge gaps within our community by making sure everyone has a voice and an opportunity to participate and get the support they need,” said Shannon. “For instance, April programming is focused on Early Childhood and June will be focused on our Adults and Transition-age community members.”
Much of the Autism Community Store’s work is made possible through the powerful collaboration of the community. For example, specialty providers often join parent trainings to share their expertise and teach transferrable skills that can be implemented at home. Other ally organizations will also participate in support groups to share resources, play games and just connect with those who have come to participate.
One of the Autism Community Store partners, El Grupo VIDA, visits the center on Mondays and Fridays and offers assistance to Spanish-speaking community members. They connect parents with other resources and support available in Colorado.
“Autism is very personal to us because we all have lived experience with autism, as caregivers and people on the spectrum,” said Shannon. “Collectively, we believe people on the spectrum are ‘different, not less,’ as Temple Grandin says.”
The Autism Community Store has been funded as an RMHS Mill Levy Community Initiative since 2020. Through this partnership, they receive financial support from Denver mill levy tax dollars, allowing for increased bandwidth to better serve Denver’s intellectually and developmentally disabled community.
Click here to learn more about the Autism Community Store.