Exceptional Minds: Preparing for careers in animation, visual effects, 3D gaming & co.


The Stanford Neurodiversity Project needs you! If you are 18+, with a diagnosis of ADHD, Dyslexia or Autism, OR if you have served as a vocational training instructor for neurodiverse individuals, AND you are willing to take a 5-15 minute survey, please see below for details.


Many autistic young adults show an active interest and aptitude for visual arts of the sort employed in the entertainment industry. The February 5 AASCEND Job Club, will feature Exceptional Minds, a nonprofit academy and studio preparing young adults on the autism spectrum for careers in animation, visual effects, 3D gaming and related fields in the entertainment industry. Exceptional Minds provides technical and work readiness training customized to help students achieve their full artistic and professional potential. Exceptional Minds is comprised of a vocational academy, post graduate program, and professional post-production studios.

Executive Director David Siegel will present.

The Zoom meeting URL and password will be sent to people on our email list as the date approaches. No registration is necessary. If you are not on our email list, click here to sign up. 

David Siegel is a Disney veteran and advisor for media companies. His past clients have included marketing and licensing agencies, leading animation studios, Universities and technology start-ups. Siegel has advised and developed programs for The Television Academy/Emmys, Hershey, Dentsu, Panasonic, Blue Diamond, Abrams Artists Agency, Taubman Malls and others.

Siegel is an active philanthropist and social entrepreneur. In partnership with his author/philanthropist son Dylan, he helped raised $1.5MM and unprecedented global awareness towards eradicating a rare genetic disease (GSD) that promises to be cured in the next several years.

As usual at AASCEND meetings, attendees on the autism spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program.

This should be a very interesting program. We hope to see you there!

Who: Adults on the spectrum, family, professionals and friends all welcome!

When: Saturday, Feb 5, 2022 10 – 11 am (approx)

Where: Online via Zoom, URL and password will be emailed.


The Stanford Neurodiversity Project is conducting a study on relationships between vocational training and employability and employment metrics in neurodiverse/neurodivergent individuals. 

We are looking for adults at least 18 years of age who either:

  1. Have a documented diagnosis of ADHD, Dyslexia, or Autism
  2. OR serves or previously served as a vocational training instructor for neurodiverse/neurodivergent individuals

Participation in the study will involve:

  1. Completion of an online consent form
  2. Completion of a 5-15 minute online survey questionnaire

Benefits of participating:

  • May help benefit vocational training and/or employment of neurodiverse/neurodivergent individuals

To enroll in this study, please go to https://redcap.link/ajm4y4bo

For more information, please email stanfordneurodiversityproject@stanford.edu or call (650) 498-9392

For participant’s rights questions, contact 1-866-680-2906

Beat the Blahs! Stroll the Embarcadero with AASCEND: UPDATE

…and a grand time was had by all!

About 23 AASCEND members in front of the Willie Mays statue at Giants Stadium in San Francisco

Continuing AASCEND‘s fierce push-back against dreary pandemic confinement, we’ll all meet in person 10:30am Sat Jan 15 in front of the SF Ferry Building for a walk together along the beautiful and interesting Embarcadero, heading toward China Basin. The open air and masks will keep us safe from Covid and give those who want to a chance to talk. Again, we’ll meet at 10:30am this Saturday, January 15, in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building Clock Tower, on the street side (—> on the map). The meeting time is good for people arriving by ferry from Marin. Bring a lunch or a snack. The weather looks to be partly sunny with highs in the upper 50’s and only light winds. Dress accordingly. Let’s beat those pandemic blahs! Come revel together by the beautiful waters many autistic people enjoy.

Who: Adults on the spectrum, family, professionals and friends all welcome!

When: Saturday, Jan 15, 2022 at 10:30am

Where: Ferry Building, San Francisco (See above for details. —> on map)

Introducing Inclusively, a Firm Serving Job-Seekers with Disabilities and Chronic Conditions

At the January 8 AASCEND Job Club, we will hear from Inclusively, a tech-centered employment platform for jobseekers with disabilities. Inclusively’s brings together diverse people from various disability and employment communities, to drive inclusive hiring and best practices among employers who are committed to helping employees succeed from the start, based on their unique skills and required accommodations.

Inclusively currently counts 20,000+ jobseekers among its registered Candidates and ~40 Employers, from Accenture, Dell, Microsoft, and Salesforce, to small and medium companies across a growing number of sectors. You can get more information and register for free as a jobseeker at inclusively.com.

The speaker will be Meghan Smithgall, leader of Inclusively’s Strategic Partnerships team that seeks ways to better serve jobseekers and those who support them.

The Zoom meeting URL and password will be sent to people on our email list as the date approaches. No registration is necessary. If you are not on our email list, click here to sign up. 

Before joining Inclusively, Meghan consulted on program development for various women’s leadership and arts organizations, and she ran the Center for Health & Humanitarian Systems at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. In her early career, she spent 3 years in Madrid, Spain earning an MA and working for various arts organizations. Meghan is deeply committed to mental health advocacy, self-discovery and growth as someone with ADHD and an eating disorder. She resides in Atlanta, GA.

As usual at AASCEND meetings, attendees on the autism spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program.

Who: Adults on the spectrum, family, professionals and friends all welcome!

When: Saturday, Jan 8, 2022 10 – 11 am (approx)

Where: Online via Zoom, URL and password will be emailed.

Holiday Party December 18!

The next AASCEND event will be a Job Club on January 8. Stay tuned for details!


On Saturday December 18 at 2pm AASCEND will have the yearly holiday party online via Zoom —our new tradition bound to become someday a fond memory! The Zoom link will be sent in an email to all newsletter subscribers a day or two before the party. There is no need to register. 

The party will use Zoom breakout rooms, but first we will all meet in the “Main Room” or “Hub”, where a Welcome Party will continue throughout the day. We’ll all start there, and do a “holiday check-in” like our usual check-ins at AASCEND meetings, but with a focus on your holiday doings.

Next, the breakout rooms will be opened, and you get to choose which one you want to go to first. To see the list of breakout rooms when you are on Zoom you need to click or tap the icon of four little squares at the bottom of your screen. (If you don’t see it, then try putting the window in Full Screen mode.) Then click near the name of the room you want until the word “Join” appears. (You may have to move your mouse pointer to the right a bit to see the word “Join”.) Click that and in some seconds you’ll be in the room! You can move freely between breakout rooms, too.

After check-in, the Main Room will become a DISCUSSION ROOM, on Life with Autism, or on any subject of interest. 

The breakout rooms are: DJ Music, Whiteboard Games (popular last year), and Quiet Meditation.

There will also be “Spare Rooms”. Using the chat feature, people can arrange to meet each other in any unoccupied Spare Room (there will be a few of them) in order to have personal conversations.

At 3:30 in the Main Room there will be musical offerings by AASCEND members. Contact AASCEND (see below) if you want to sing or perform for 3 1/2 minutes or so at that time.

That’s about it! This worked beautifully last year, and we expect it to go even better this year now that everybody knows how to use Zoom! We invite you to dress up or decorate a little if you like. It should be a fun adventure, and remember that whatever happens AASCEND is very glad that you are here and wishes you the very best of holiday seasons!

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat Dec 18, 2pm – 5pm 
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

Disclosure and Reasonable Accommodations: Advice from Human Resources Professionals

Mark your calendar! On Saturday December 18 at 2pm AASCEND will host its yearly holiday party, online via Zoom. The Zoom link will be sent in an email to all newsletter subscribers a day or two before the party. There is no need to register. 


The December 11 AASCEND Job Club will feature Jeff Miller, CEO of Potentia, and Rebecca Beam, CEO of Zavikon, talking about if, when and how to disclose to an employer that you are on the autism spectrum, and how best to seek appropriate accommodations.

picture of rebecca beam and jeff miller

Potentia Workforce, founded by Jeff Miller, is a consulting firm that provides opportunities to skilled, yet often overlooked neurodiverse individuals. Zavikon, founded by Rebecca Beam, provides recruitment, workplace readiness, and job accommodation, identification and advocacy for individuals with disabilities or those who are neurodivergent.

The Zoom meeting URL and password will be sent to people on our email list as the date approaches. No registration is necessary. If you are not on our email list, click here to sign up. 

As usual at AASCEND meetings, attendees on the autism spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program.

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat Dec 11 2021, 10 – 11 am (approx) 
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

Holiday PARTY December 18!

On Saturday December 18 at 2pm AASCEND will have our yearly holiday party online via Zoom —our new tradition bound to become someday a fond memory! The Zoom link will be sent in an email to all newsletter subscribers a day or two before the party. There is no need to register. 

The party will use Zoom breakout rooms, but first we will all meet in the “Main Room” or “Hub”, where a Welcome Party will continue throughout the day. We’ll all start there, and do a “holiday check-in” like our usual check-ins at AASCEND meetings, but with a focus on your holiday doings.

Next, the breakout rooms will be opened, and you get to choose which one you want to go to first. To see the list of breakout rooms when you are on Zoom you need to click or tap the icon of four little squares at the bottom of your screen. (If you don’t see it, then try putting the window in Full Screen mode.) Then click near the name of the room you want to join until the word “Join” appears. Click that and in some seconds you’ll be in the room. You can move freely between breakout rooms, too. Remember, you must have the latest version of Zoom to use the breakout rooms.

The breakout rooms are: DJ Music & Dance, Whiteboard Games (popular last year), Quiet Meditation

There will be DISCUSSION ROOMS, too, possibly including such topics as Science Fiction/Fantasy, Anime,Video Game Talk, Comics & Manga, Cats & Pets, Life with Autism, Movies/TV, Music,Technology, Literature

There will also be “Spare Rooms”. Using the chat feature, people can arrange to meet each other in any unoccupied Spare Room (there will be several of them) in order to have personal conversations.

At 3:30 in the Main Room there will be musical offerings by AASCEND members. Contact AASCEND (see below) if you want to sing or perform for 3 1/2 minutes or so at that time.

That’s about it! This worked beautifully last year, and we expect it to go even better this year now that everybody knows how to use Zoom! We invite you to dress up or decorate a little if you like. It should be a fun adventure, and remember that whatever happens AASCEND is very glad that you are here and wishes you the very best of holiday seasons!

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat Dec 18, 2pm – 5pm 
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

Stanford Summit Recap & Insights

About 75 Summit 2020 speakers

At the November 20 AASCEND meeting online, we will share our experiences and thoughts about the Nov 7-9 2021 Stanford Neurodiversity Summit. To refresh your memory, or to see the conference for the first time, you can watch the Summit recordings on YouTube, linked below. If you wish to, pick a session and prepare to say something about it!

Here is a link to the highly recommended —> talk by Anand Prahlad, from Day 2 of the Summit.

Day 1 Recording , Day 2 Recording , Day 3 Recording

To find the sessions you’d like to see, here are the programs for the different days:

Day 1 Program , Day 2 Program , Day 3 Program

Here is a link to Temple Grandin’s talk, also excellent.

The videos aren’t indexed yet, so you’ll have to scoot around in them to find the session you’re looking for. You can read more about the presentations here, and see the conference exhibitor booths here.


The meeting URL and password will be sent to people on our email list as the date approaches. No registration is necessary. If you are not on our email list, click here to sign up. 

As usual at AASCEND meetings, attendees on the autism spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program. Be present to offer yours about this important Neurodiversity Summit.

Who: Adults on the spectrum, family, professionals and friends all welcome!

When: Saturday, Nov 20, 2021 10 – 11 am (approx)

Where: Online via Zoom, URL and password will be emailed.

Zavikon: A New Workforce Intermidiary for the Autism Community + Summit Sunday!

It’s coming right up! Register HERE for the Nov 7-9 Stanford Neurodiversity Summit (FREE online)! Info at the link. Keynote speakers include Dr. Temple Grandin, Sir Simon Baron-Cohen, and more. Be there or be square!

We will discuss the conference at the AASCEND General Meeting on November 20, so go to the conference, pick a few presentations, take notes, and be ready to join the discussion then!


At the November 6 AASCEND Job Club, we will hear from Zavikon, a new company that provides recruitment, workplace readiness, and job accommodation identification and advocacy for individuals with disabilities or those who are neurodivergent. They also provide education and guidance to employers to support a successful employment relationship.

The speaker will be Rebecca Beam, founder and CEO of Zavikon. Prior to launching Zavikon she was a founding advisory team member launching MindSpark, Inc. whose mission was to train and employ adults on the autism spectrum in technology careers.

The Zoom meeting URL and password will be sent to people on our email list as the date approaches. No registration is necessary. If you are not on our email list, click here to sign up. 

Picture of Rebecca Beam

After MindSpark’s acquisition by Auticon, Rebecca became President of the US operations leading the US expansion and driving growth. As a veteran of the tech sector, Rebecca’s career has included senior leadership roles sourcing and developing human capital with high-demand skill sets for the area’s leading tech firms, including Fortune 100 and 500 brands. Rebecca believes there is a job out there for everyone to apply their talents and skills in a meaningful way and she is dedicated to being a bridge to an inclusive working world. In 2019, Rebecca won the prestigious Milestones Visionary Employer Award.

As usual at AASCEND meetings, attendees on the autism spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program.

Who: Adults on the spectrum, family, professionals and friends all welcome!

When: Saturday, Nov 6, 2021 10 – 11 am (approx)

Where: Online via Zoom, URL and password will be emailed.

Again! Again! Another walk together! — at Crissy Field THIS SUNDAY Oct 17 11am

Register HERE for the Nov 7-9 Stanford Neurodiversity Summit (FREE online)! Info at the link. Keynote speakers include Dr. Temple Grandin, Sir Simon Baron-Cohen, and more. Be there or be square!


Last month AASCEND‘s hike at Land’s End met such a strong need to get together in person after the pandemic shut-in that we’re doing it again! We’ll meet at 11am this Sunday, October 17, at the St. Francis Yacht Club parking (X on the map), for a hike in beautiful bayside Crissy Field, and perhaps beyond. NOTE: The hike is SUNDAY, not the usual Saturday, and 11am, not the usual 10am. This will give those of you who missed the last hike a second chance, and the rest of us an opportunity to talk to the people we missed during the last hike. We plan to sit down together to eat along the way, so bring a lunch. Snacks should be available at the Crissy Field Warming Hut. The weather looks to be partly sunny with highs in the upper 60’s and only light winds. Dress accordingly. Come revel together by the beautiful waters many autistic people enjoy!

Map to
 St. Francis Yacht Club Parking

Who: Adults on the spectrum, family, professionals and friends all welcome!

When: SUNDAY, Oct 17, 2021 at 11:00 AM

Where: Crissy  Field, San Francisco, Meet at St. Francis Yacht Club parking (X on map above)

On Disclosure and Accommodations + New ARC Employment Team

REMINDER: Register HERE for the Nov 7-9 Stanford Neurodiversity Summit (Free online)! Info at the link.


At this month’s AASCEND Job Club, Michael Bernick will lead a discussion on disclosure and the related topic of reasonable accommodations. AASCEND members will discuss their experience with both, and how they have handled them. We’d welcome hearing of your experiences.

Additionally, this month we’ll hear from the new employment services team at the ARC, Ulises Zatarain and James Kealohi. They will speak on job openings in the post-pandemic economy, and their services available to our members.

The Zoom meeting URL and password will be sent to people on our email list as the date approaches. If you are not on our email list, click here to sign up. No registration is necessary.

Ulises Zatarain was Executive Director for 42 Silicon Valley, a free international coding/software engineering school.  In that role Ulises oversaw the overall operations of the school, with a focus on recruiting and retaining minority students. Ulises also served as Director of Program Operations for Saint Vincent De Paul Society of San Francisco, Development Director for Puente de la Costa Sur in San Mateo County, VP of Community Programs for The Resurrection Project in Chicago, and as an Adjunct Faculty professor teaching Literature, History, and Humanities courses at St. Augustine College in Chicago. Ulises is passionate about social equity, and views education as the great equalizer to create a more just and equitable society. 

As usual at AASCEND meetings, attendees on the autism spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program.

Who: Adults on the spectrum, family, professionals and friends all welcome!

When: Saturday, Oct 2, 2021 10 – 11 am (approx)

Where: Online via Zoom, URL and password will be emailed.