DHS student gives back to his school and community

 Austin Althouse is a 17-year-old student at Douglass High School who enjoys going to school, driving a car, and attending church and school events.  While he seems like a typical teenager now, it took years of hard work to get here.  He was diagnosed with autism as a toddler and was highly aware, and painfully sensitive, to certain sounds, textures and tastes.
His parents, Kiffany and Terry Althouse became dedicated to helping their son.  They sought help and advise from experts for therapy.  Kiffany stayed home to work full time with Austin.  The couple decided that their son should attend public schools, a decision that they never regretted.
“The entire community rallied around us. Everyone was great,” Kiffany explained, “Both Mr. Dunham and Mr. Menard at the high school have gone above and beyond for Austin. They get him.”
Along the way, Austin overcame many challenges and made tremendous gains.
“Austin’s hearing is sensitive, but he learned to control the sensitivity and he’s turned it into a positive,” Terry said.
What started out as a passion for weather created an opportunity for Austin to share his weather knowledge and make presentations.    Next he began helping out with the sound system at baseball games.  He enjoyed filling the “gaps” between games with music and announcements.
Eventually the DHS junior was given charge of the sound  at sporting events and at all programs in the high school auditorium.
Austin has an exceptional ability with sound  and electronics. “I’m good at problem solving,” Austin said, “When I’m in the auditorium, it’s like I can see a map of the wires in my head.”
His method of visualizing the map gives him a special ability at solving problems. His classmates and school administrators depend on his ability.  That’s a big part of why Austin has recently been named the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) Heart of the Arts Award Winner.  He will receive a plaque and recognition at an upcoming basketball game.
Austin was pleasantly surprised at the award notification, but he appears to take it in stride.
 Not only is Austin active at school with forensics and stagecraft - all things technical with stage productions, but he is also active at the Douglass United Methodist Church.  He helps out with the sound system and has even researched a new system for the church, complete with a bid listing the needed equipment and prices.
“He researches all the time. He’s really passionate about it,” Terry said.
Mom added, “We’ve always believed that knowledge is power.”
Several months ago the Kansas Department of Education Technical Assistance System Network (TASN) produced a video that featured Austin, his parents, and Jason Menard, DHS assistant principal.  The subject was Austin’s contributions to DHS.  
Menard explained how Austin’s fascination with weather and helping with the sound system at the baseball games, evolved into his accomplishments with audio and sound.
“If something’s not working right in the building, we go get him out of class,” Menard continued, “Anything in the auditorium - concerts and programs - that’s him.  He just runs with it.  I want him to take ownership.  We’re almost like business partners.  That’s the relationship now.  He does an awesome job and solves lots of problems.  He has taken everything we’ve given him and taken it to another level.”
For now Austin is enjoying being in high school and hopes that he’ll be able to continue working with audio engineering.
His future looks bright.
If you would like to learn more about Austin and Douglass High School, you can view the  KSDE TASN video at: http://vimeo.com/234737176.