Inspiring Women with Autism – Leonora Gregory-Collura

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Leonora “Leo” Gregory-Collura is an author, dancer/choreographer, and president of ANCA® Consulting, as well as co-founder of the ANCA® Foundation. She is the mother of a son with autism, and is also on the autism spectrum herself.

She was born in 1958 in Apia, Western Samoa. Her family moved around frequently during her childhood, giving her a multi-national upbringing in several countries, including the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and S.E. Asia, the Middle East, North and West Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe, Russia, and the U.K. She started dance, music and movement lessons at the young age of two, after exhibiting an interest in the way the human body moved. She also showed her entrepreneurial spirit at an early age, babysitting, doing chores for the elderly, and volunteering at her church starting at the age of eight.

She went on to study ballet at Kirov Ballet School in Russia, Mara McBirney School of Dance in Vancouver, B.C, the Elmhurst Ballet School in Camberly, England, and the Royal Ballet School in London. During this time period, she also graduated from the Blanche McDonald School of Modeling, where she was offered a teaching position, which she turned down in order to study at the Royal Ballet School.

She was diagnosed with autism in the early 1990’s, when she was in her thirties. She founded ANCA® Naturally Autistic® with her husband,Charlie Collura in 1995, an organization dedicated to supporting the natural development of autistic people by providing education and training to individuals, families, and the community. ANCA® is unique in that all of their staff members are individuals on the autism spectrum, who understand autism from the “inside-out.” The focus of their training is on “The Autistic Paradigm” – a mental/cognitive processing map that is unique and distinct to all autistic people. The organization also publishes Naturally Autistic magazine.

The ANCA mission statement is as follows:

“ANCA focuses on “how” the autistic mind processes information, or what ANCA terms “The Autistic Paradigm – from the inside-out” – a mental/cognitive processing map that is unique and distinct to all autistic people – children, teens and adults. By understanding the communications process that autistic people naturally have to work with and supporting this unique, inherent process, inappropriate behaviors dissipate. These behaviors are often a form of communication in an effort for the autistic individual to communicate and express themselves.”

For fifteen years, ANCA® has worked with families and communities to help them understand and help their loved ones with autism. They provide workshops and training throughout North America to community living associations, school districts, and clinical professionals.

Leonora wrote Anthony’s Story: An Autistic Mother and Her Autistic Son in 2009, chronicling her personal experiences and how they led her to build the values and beliefs that are the foundation for ANCA®.

In 2013, she was the recipient of a B.C. Community Achievement Award for her work with families of autistic individuals in British Columbia.

For more information about ANCA®, visit their website at www.naturallyautistic.com.

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