Photos by Travis J. Garner
Photos by Travis J. Garner

Autism: Piece by Piece

Link to project site

If you’ve seen one person with autism, well, you’ve seen just one person with autism. Each individual is unique. And a team of multi-platform media specialists from Western Kentucky University spent half of 2010 assembling their unique stories.

The result is “Piece by Piece,” an integrated newspaper-TV-radio-web-mobile-social network production of Western iMedia at the WKU School of Journalism & Broadcasting. Having been built up throughout April, which was Autism Awareness month, the project is now live on the interactive media hub at (since changed to

Using innovative digital collage technology, visitors to the site experience the stories of an artist working through her autism to make music, of a mother overcoming hurdles to raise two autistic sons, of a young journalist with Asperger Syndrome trying to explain autism to others, and of nearly a half dozen more people coping with the condition. Among the profiles is also the story of Victoria Kelly, namesake and inspiration for WKU’s unique Kelly Autism Program.

The Kelly Autism Program, founded by John and Linda Kelly after their daughter was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, is a privately funded program that seeks to individualize therapy to those affected by the disorder. KAP Director Marty Bowman said the program is unique because it focuses on the particular struggles each person has since no two people with autism are the same.

The Piece by Piece site links the digital autism profiles to all the other aspects of the story presented by Western journalists, including articles in the College Heights Herald, segments on NewsChannel 12, service announcements on Revolution 91.7 FM, a mobile web app and many video, audio, photo and multimedia presentations. An interactive Flash presentation explores the technology used by people with autism. A real-time Autism IQ survey measures community attitudes. And Piece by Piece community members, including California First Lady Maria Shriver, interact through the project’s linked Twitter and Facebook pages. Western iMedia even engineered a public showing of the 2009 major motion picture “Adam,” about the life of a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome, to generate audience participation.

“Our goal has been to not just tell a story but to create a story environment that integrates all available and appropriate formats – print, video, online, mobile and more – each to its very best advantage, in ways best suited to how contemporary and rapidly evolving consumers intersect news and information,” said iMedia coordinator Kerry J. Northrup of the School of Journalism & Broadcasting faculty. “Our thousands of viewers, readers, visitors, fans and followers mark our success at that.”

Western iMedia staff members are selected from among the top-ranked degree candidates in WKU’s news/editorial, broadcasting, advertising/public relations, photojournalism and mass communications sequences. The staff for Spring 2010 was comprised of graphic designer Jan Deihm, a senior from Springfield, Tenn.; videographer Regina Durkan, a senior from Elizabethtown, Ky.; audience specialist Emily Frankenburger, a senior from Lexington, Ky.; podcaster and audio specialist Stacie Hewitt, a sophomore from Nashville, Tenn.; social network specialist Kelly Higgins, a senior from Atlanta, Ga.; broadcast operations manager Aaron Holmberg, a junior from Louisville, Ky.; newswriter and editor Christina Howerton, a senior from Jeffersonville, Ind.; broadcaster Derek Irvin, a junior from Louisville, Ky.; and newswriter/editor Caralyne Wright, a senior from Cub Run, Ky. Numerous other of Western’s journalists-in-training also contributed to the project and are credited on the site.

See the staff on the iTeam page on the ‘Piece by Piece’ site.

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© 2016 Western iMedia/The Newsplexer Projects