Question Palooza (with Song)!

In this issue (scroll down to see them all):

  • Sept 19 meeting
  • Stanford Conference Registration


At the September 19 AASCEND meeting we’re trying something completely different! As a further response to being cooped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, and inspired by the success of our Virtual Ice Cream Social, we are going to have another structured social event–a Question Palooza! There will be a virtual basket of questions people want to discuss. (You can suggest a question via email to info@aascend.org, or in chat during the meeting.) We’ll pick a question at random, and then invite all of you to share your thoughts about it. It should be fun, and a chance to connect during this time of social distancing.

Image of various questions

The Zoom meeting link will be sent via email.

AASCEND member Stacey Kennedy has also offered to entertain us with song during the meeting, and that is always a treat!

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat Sept 19, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.


Stanford Neurodiversity Conference:
Register now for the Stanford Neurodiversity Summit, Oct 17-21 online. The theme of the Summit is “Scaling Up the Neurodiversity at Work Initiative“. This conference will bring together neurodivergent individuals, employers, service agencies, educators and students, parents, and professionals from all areas of the field. It will be a groundbreaking event: Don’t miss it, and it’s FREE! Info and registration here.)

NEXT for AUTISM: Cutting-Edge Strategies for Autism Employment and Advancement

(...but first, be sure to register now for the Stanford Neurodiversity Summit, Oct 17-21 online. The theme of the Summit is “Scaling Up the Neurodiversity at Work Initiative“. This conference will bring together neurodivergent individuals, employers, service agencies, educators and students, parents, and professionals from all areas of the field. It will be a groundbreaking event: Don’t miss it, and it’s FREE! Info and registration here.)


On September 12 (NOT the usual 1st Saturday!) the AASCEND Job Club meeting via Zoom will feature Patricia Wright, PhD, the Vice President of Program Development for NEXT for Autism. NEXT for AUTISM is a nationwide organization that works with employers to implement autism employment initiatives. It has several initiatives here in California, including with Cintas, JP Morgan Chase, and other major employers. Dr. Wright will discuss these initiatives, the job opportunities during the pandemic and in the post-pandemic economy.

Patricia Wright

Dr. Wright has served the autism community for over 30 years, including as national Director of Autism Services for Easter Seals, and currently as Senior VP at NEXT, where she develops innovative program options to increase employment, education and healthcare options for adults with autism.

As usual, attendees on the spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program. Bring your questions! The Zoom link will follow in an email a day or two before the event.

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat Sept 12, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

Helping Teachers of Autistic Kids

On August 15 AASCEND will do something a bit different. (via Zoom, see below.) We have offered to help two Bay Area high school students, Vikram Iyer and Deepesh Aggarwal, develop their fledgling science teaching program, Science for the Bay. Their online program brings high-quality learning experiences to autistic children as well as to children in low-income communities. They offer lessons in Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Python Programming, Physics, and Math. Vikram writes, “Right now, people with special needs or disabilities are not getting the attention they deserve because a lot of places that they rely on for either social interaction or learning are closed. Our classes can provide a way to keep students engaged and learning during this global pandemic.” They were inspired in this project in part by Vikram’s older brother, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was a child.

The task: Creating this experience online

At the AASCEND meeting Vikram and Deepesh will demonstrate a simple teaching exercise. They would love to hear to our feedback, suggestions, general encouragement, and also offers to collaborate. Let’s pitch in to help with this good-hearted project!

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat Aug 15, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom. The link and password will be emailed a day or so before the event.

Microsoft and Updates on Autism Hiring Initiatives

(See Employment Survey Request Below.)

The August 1 AASCEND Job Club will feature Microsoft’s Neil Barnett. Since the announcement at World Autism Day in 2015, Neil Barnett has been responsible for the program evolution of the Microsoft Autism Hiring Program. He leads the inclusive hiring strategy for people with disabilities across Microsoft. Neil is also responsible for the strategy and operational performance of Microsoft’s consumer and enterprise Disability Answer Desk. Neil also leads the Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable of more than 30 employers across industry that have active hiring initiatives. Prior to joining Microsoft, Neil worked at a start up in San Francisco.  He is graduated from Georgia Tech.

As always, attendees on the spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program. Come share yours!

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat Aug 1, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.


Survey Request
Autism Career Pathways is currently gathering information to help create an App or web platform assembling autism-friendly community jobs, including remote jobs, in businesses. We want to get input and ideas from the neurodivergent community about their experiences in job seeking. Please take a short survey here. No personal data will be stored.

Autism & Self-Driving Cars

At the July 18 Zoom meeting AASCEND will explore how self-driving cars may effect and possibly benefit autistic people. Haley Morris, Director of Public Affairs at the self-driving car company Cruise, will lead us off with an account of Cruise’s efforts to make their products accessible to differently-abled people. At the AASCEND meeting Cruise hopes to hear our ideas and input.

Self-driving car internal parts

What are your thoughts on self-driving cars? Does your autism affect how or whether you might use a self-driving car?

Here are some Cruise design concepts:

Self-driving “stagecoach” design

Attendees on the spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program. Cruise is very interested to hear our thoughts and feelings about transportation of the future. This is your chance to be heard!

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat July 18, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom Link to follow in separate email.


Integrate Autism Employment Advisors is actively recruiting for a Fall internship program for a major motion picture company in the LA area. They are seeking autistic college students or college graduates with a GPA of 3.0 or higher for full-time (40 hours per week), paid internships.  Internships are located in Burbank, but given COVID-19, the internships will be remote and the company is willing to consider candidates in Northern CA.  The anticipated start date is September 14 and internships are about 10 weeks long. The application deadline is July 24, which is coming right up, so you’d need to act fast. If you are interested respond immediately to info@aascend.org and we will email you details and the application forms.

July Activities at AASCEND


In lieu of the July Job Club  AASCEND  invites our members to join in several projects and presentations by autism friends around the world.

There will be no regular Job Club in July. Instead, AASCEND invites you to hear a timely (and free) online discussion via Zoom, on July 11 at 11am, and titled:

BEYOND THE TALK: Tools to Safely Navigate the Intersection of Race, Disability, and the Police

AASCEND friend and presenter Tom Iland will be on the panel. To register for the event click here. Registration closes Friday July 10 at Noon.

We will discuss the topics raised at a future AASCEND meeting.


Stay tuned for a July 18 AASCEND meeting featuring a presentation by the self-driving car manufacturer Cruise, which seeks input from our community about transportation needs and design issues.
Research Opportunity
Sara Schiattone, a graduate student at a university in Italy, is continuing her study of creativity in autism, and want to recruit more autistic adults to take two short tests about creativity, and to respond to a questionnaire. Privacy standards will be observed. As a student she has no budget to pay the participants, but in participating you may help the world see how autistic people can contribute their creativity. If you are on the autism spectrum, 18 to 70 years old, and are interested in participating please email info@aascend.org and we will forward it to Sara.
Another Research Opportunity
The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) and the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network have partnered with researchers to start co-designing a potential diagnostic tool for autism based on the lived experience of the autistic community.
The work is in very early stages. Right now, they need autsitic beta-testers to test out the tool. They will use the results to figure out if the tool is reliable, and to help identify things we need to improve. Beta testers will be compensated for their time with a $20 e-gift card. If you would like to help with this critical work, you can find more information at this link
Yet Another Research Opportunity!
Gala Korniyenko, a Ph.D. Candidate at Ohio State University, is conducting a survey of the experience of autistic adults participating in public events and decision-making processes. The study is approved by the Institutional Review Board, and the survey can be found here.
Whew! We hope that’s enough to keep you busy and out of trouble during the pandemic!

Pandemic Creativity 2.0

(Research project seeks our opinions—plus URGENT message below.)


On June 20 AASCEND meets again online via Zoom. Inspired by last month’s speaker, Tom Iland, we are extending our discussion of creativity during the COVID-19 pandemic. AASCEND creatives Stacey Kennedy and Matthew McIntyre will lead us off with their experience and suggestions. They write, “During the pandemic some are left with nothing to do, while others are finding ways to not just cope, but finding things to do while alone. From communicating online, to recreational activities to even working from home, this discussion is a way to share what we are doing while the Shelter-in-Place is happening.” An email telling you how to join the Zoom meeting will be sent shortly before the meeting starts.

For a preview of Pandemic Creativity check out Nicholas Aczel’s Soundcloud music site!
https://soundcloud.com/nicholas-ac/sets/nicholas


As always, attendees on the spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program, and of course there will be an opportunity for you to share how you have been coping creatively during the last month.


URGENT need for State Budget support for disabilities! 

The past few months have totally upended life, and the state’s Budget is no exception.  In the next few days (by June 30), please consider telling Gov. Newsom that you strongly support a Budget that protects the developmental disabilities service system and its funding. Go to the Governor’s website. You can either email him, or call directly at (916) 445-2841. When you do, tell him you strongly support a Budget that protects the developmental disabilities service system and its funding.  If you email him through the governor’s website, choose subject “Budget Proposal 2020-21”.


Research Project Questions

The Stanford Neurodiversity Project continues during the pandemic. One of its workgroups is curious about our thoughts on these questions. Time allowing, we can discuss them together:

  • How might the projected economic downturn affect autistic adults?
  • Can autism offer anything especially helpful during these times?
  • How do you feel about working virtually, e.g. via Zoom?
  • How does the national discussion of race relations affect us, and how might we respond?
  • Is there anything in particular we want our legislators to hear from us in these times?
Come with your constructive ideas!


If you have not used Zoom all you will have to do is click the link in that email and follow the prompts. If it asks you to download Zoom software, then go ahead and do that, following the prompts. Zoom makes this all pretty easy because that’s how they stay in business!

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat June 20, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

The Bay Area Job Market Today

On June 13 (NOT the usual 1st Saturday!) the AASCEND Job Club will meet via Zoom (link to follow in later email). The online presenters will be Lauran Acevedo of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and Chase DiFeliciantonio with the SF Chronicle—giving us a look at the SF Job market today as it affects autistic job-seekers in the pandemic era.

Lauran Acevedo is a Senior Business Services Specialist at the Office of Economic & Workforce Development with the City & County of San Francisco. The Business Services team provides no-cost support services to ensure the long term prosperity of both workers and employers in San Francisco. Lauran works closely with employers to learn about their job opportunities and promotes them to San Francisco´s workforce community partners to find local talent.

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a business reporter at The San Francisco Chronicle, where he covers tech culture and labor issues in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and beyond. His coverage has focused on workplace safety and issues around unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic. Chase has degrees in journalism and history from Loyola University Chicago and is a fifth generation San Franciscan.

Naturally, attendees on the spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program. Bring your questions! Zoom instructions will follow in a later email, which will also contain the needed link.

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat June 13, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

Tom Iland on Creating in COVID

Autistic Creativity Research Opportunity

Sara Schiattone, a graduate student at a university in Italy, is beginning a study of creativity in autism, and is recruiting autistic adults to take two short tests about creativity, and to respond to a questionnaire. Privacy standards will be observed. As a student she has no budget to pay the participants, but in participating you may help the world see how autistic people can contribute their creativity. If you are on the autism spectrum, 18 to 70 years old, and are interested in participating please email sara.schiattone@hotmail.it


On May 23 (Once again NOT the usual 3rd Saturday!) AASCEND will meet online via Zoom. This time we’re calling on the considerable talents of autistic speaker Tom Iland to hearten us during the pandemic with his talk on “Maximizing Productivity & Creating During COVID-19“. An email telling you how to join the meeting will be sent shortly before the meeting starts.

Many of you will recall Thomas Iland (pronounced like “island”) from his recent popular visit to AASCEND. Tom was diagnosed with autism at 13 years old. He left his career as a certified public accountant in 2015 to become an author, keynote speaker, diversity & inclusion consultant, and certified human potential coach. Tom is a Toastmasters International Accredited Speaker.

We look forward to Tom’s words of encouragement. As always, attendees on the spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program, and there will be an opportunity for you to share how you are coping during this unusual time of pandemic.

If you have not used Zoom all you will have to do is click the link in that email and follow the prompts. If it asks you to download Zoom software, then go ahead and do that, following the prompts. Zoom makes this all pretty easy because that’s how they stay in business!

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat May 23, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

AASCEND to Meet Online

On April 25 (NOT the usual 3rd Saturday!) AASCEND will host its general meeting online via Zoom. At the meeting longtime AASCEND friend Liz McDonough, a clinician and drama therapist working with autistic teens and young adults at the Helix School, will lead us as we talk about healthy ways we are coping with the challenges of life during the Covid19 pandemic. An email telling you how to join the meeting will be sent in the morning before the meeting starts.

If you have not used Zoom all you will have to do is click the link in that email and follow the prompts. If it asks you to download Zoom software, then go ahead and do that, following the prompts. Zoom makes this all pretty easy because that’s how they stay in business! Naturally, attendees on the 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 Apr 25, 10am – 11am (approx)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.