Catherine Pall – Director of Programs, Richmond Autism Integration Network
Catherine Pall is the Director of Programs at the Richmond Autism Integration Network (RAIN). She developed a passion for Autism Spectrum Disorder while working at an inclusive summer camp for students with special needs. RAIN is located in Richmond, Virginia, at Bon Air Baptist Church, their ministry partner that has been supporting children on the autism spectrum since 2012. Catherine and her team are focused on helping adolescents and their families with autism learn social and life skills through recreational experiences.
Catherine says, “We help our students to find their voice, who they are, what they feel, how they can best experience life and deal with things that may be difficult -- such as uncomfortable socialsituations, peer pressure, bullying, fitting in, making friends, or other things that might happen in a normal teenager’s life.
We look at our programs and our space as a place where autistic students can be themselves. We embrace their likes and their interests and use them to fuel our projects and activities.” During RAIN’s summer camps, it isn’t unusual for students and instructors to be out in the community four days a week, experiencing recreational activities, absorbing local history, or doing a community wide service project. “We teach our students that they have an impact on the community that they live in as much as anyone else. Working with this population has been a blessing because there is always more to learn. The perspective of a teen with autism is very unique and insightful. They are some of the most empathetic people I have ever met. To be able to see the world through their eyes and see them learn and grow is one of the best things in the world.”