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.

March 21 Meeting Canceled

In an abundance of caution regarding the Covid-19 virus, AASCEND is canceling its scheduled March 21 general meeting. We’ll keep you up to date on upcoming programming as we monitor developments…and as we persevere through this challenge let’s keep each other in our thoughts, wash our hands well, and cover our mouths when we cough or sneeze. We’ll see each other before long!

A New Approach to Autism Hiring

Register now for the (FREE!) March 14 Stanford Neurodiversity Summit, including a Job Fair with Bay Area employers specifically interested in hiring autistic adults.
                    Conference Information and Eventbrite Registration


At AASCEND‘s February 15 general meeting Maisie Soetantyo, director of Autism Career Pathways, will talk about her groundbreaking approach to autism employment, and describe the upcoming Autism Goes to Work Career Expo to be held in early April in Redwood City. (Details below.) The free event will feature Bay Area businesses already benefiting from hiring autistic workers, as well as Q & A with autistic adults. Don’t miss this opportunity celebrating Autism Awareness Month!

UPDATE: Maisie spoke to a rapt overflow crowd February 15. Here are videos she shared at the talk: Video1 Video2 Be sure to attend Maisie’s Career Expo on April 2 (details below)!

Maisie Soetantyo is the founder of Autism Career Pathways, a new non-profit committed to removing obstacles to neurodiverse hiring. As part of this project, she created an all activity-based Career Screening Tool to better summarize strengths, interests, aptitudes and areas of needs for differently-abled individuals. During the presentation this Saturday, she will showcase a few participants’ video summary, ongoing job training and their progress today.  As always, attendees on the spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program.

Meet Maisie at the AASCEND meeting Feb 15:
Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat Feb 15, 10am – noon
Where: The Arc of SF 1500 Howard St. @ 11th St. SF, CA 94103 map

Parking is usually available in the garage at 255 12th Street, with a reasonable flat rate for Saturdays. There is also metered street parking for $2.25/hr.


Redwood City event details:


News at the bottom:

AASCEND received a request for participants in a research study about Societal Attitudes About Disability. It looks legit, pays a bit, and you might want to participate.

Thomas Iland to Speak

Mark your calendars for the Stanford Neurodiversity Summit, emphasizing employment, to be held at Stanford University March 14. Attendance is free and registration will be required. Details will be posted here as they become available.


This month the usual first-Saturday Job Club will be combined with the AASCEND General meeting January 18, when veteran and erstwhile conference speaker Thomas Iland will be discussing his experiences from numerous jobs, his changes in career over the course of his journey to permanent, gainful employment, and what he does today to help people find their niche and become productive and happy members of society.

Thomas Iland (pronounced like “island”) was diagnosed with autism at 13 years old. Thomas left his career as a certified public accountant in 2015 to become an author, keynote speaker, diversity & inclusion consultant, and certified human potential coach.

Thomas is the author of the award-winning, best-selling book, “Come to Life! Your Guide to Self-Discovery” and recently became the only Toastmasters International Accredited Speaker with autism in the world.

Thomas has spoken at the United Nations twice in the past year, once on World Autism Awareness Day in April, to share his knowledge and firsthand experience about assistive technology and successful law enforcement interactions for people on the autism spectrum…and again in December for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, where he discussed practicing diversity and inclusion in employment.

You can also see him on the TEDx stage in his talk titled, “How To Come To Life.”

Thomas currently lives in Santa Clarita, California, with his dog, Bridget, and, having run two marathons, is currently training to run his first half-Ironman triathlon.

As always, 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 Jan 18, 10am – noon
Where: The Arc of SF 1500 Howard St. @ 11th St. SF, CA 94103 map

Parking is usually available in the garage at 255 12th Street, with a reasonable flat rate for Saturdays. There is also metered street parking for $2.25/hr.

Holiday Party! (after Job Club featuring Autistry)

Next up for AASCEND is the December 7 Holiday Potluck Party! (following a Job Club presentation by the Autistry. ALSO check out the neurodiversity CONTEST—details below). Come join our community for food, conversation, music and good cheer. There will be Entertainment, Music, Games, Santa D.J., food, an available low-sensory space, and a selfie booth. It’s a potluck, so bring food to share if you can — but if you can’t, show up anyway!

Be there and be cool like the reindude!

When (Party): Sat Dec 7,   1 – 4 pm
Party Setup:    noon – 1:00 
Party:                  1:00 – 4:00,   Food: 1:30 on
Cleanup:             4:00 – 4:30

Where: The Arc of SF   1500 Howard St. @ 11th St.    SF, CA 94103   map


The Job Club meets at 10am before the Holiday Party, and features Autistry Studios, a program in San Rafael to help youth on the autism spectrum transition into greater adult independence. Autistry was co-founded and is run by Janet Lawson and Dan Swearingen. Janet also has a private practice as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in issues arising from autism spectrum disorders in teens, adults, couples and families. She is a frequent presenter on topics concerning ASD individuals. Janet is on the steering committee of the Marin Autism Collaborative and is a member of the board of directors of the Autism Center of Northern California.

Dan Swearingen is the Chief Operating Officer of Autistry Studios. He was educated in astrophysics and had a successful career as a software engineer and as a director of engineering guiding and overseeing large teams of software engineers. Dan was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was in his late 30’s.

Known for their humor and honesty, Dan and Janet share lessons learned as they created programs to support autistic individuals build strong, resilient identities.

When (Job Club): Sat Dec 7,   10am – noon

Where: The Arc of SF   1500 Howard St. @ 11th St.    SF, CA 94103   map

Parking is sometimes available in the garage at 255 12th Street, with a reasonable flat rate for Saturdays. There is also metered street parking for $2.25/hr.


NEURODIVERSITY CONTEST!

The Stanford Neurodiversity Project is planning a Neurodiversity Unity Event on Monday, March 16, 2020 to bring together advocates and allies in the workplace and on various campuses. For the Neurodiversity Unity Event, we are inviting the community to submit a creative expression of what neurodiversity unity means to them. The winning Expression of Neurodiversity Unity will be shared virtually and in person as a central feature of Neurodiversity Celebration Week at Stanford University on Monday March 16, 2020.

If you’re interested in participating, you can get details and submit an entry here.

Jobs in the Gaming Field

Advice from a Veteran of Electronic Arts and Zynga

On November 9 the AASCEND  Job Club hosts Serena Lam, General Manager for Endless Mobile Inc, a STEM-based product that inspires kids to code. In her current role, she oversees product management, design, engineering, and operations. 

Serena is a 16-year gaming veteran creating fun experiences for millions and millions of users. As a pre-IPO member of the social gaming pioneer, Zynga, she worked on multi-million revenue games such as Words with Friends and Farmville. She’s also an alumnus of the game giant, Electronic Arts, working with the legendary Will Wright on Spore and the ever-popular James Bond franchise.   

Serena holds a Masters in Entertainment Technology and Bachelors in Business from Carnegie Mellon University. In her spare time, she loves to exercise, hike, cook, and research about interior design. Come get an inside look at work in this fascinating field. Bring your questions, and needless to say, 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 Nov 9, 10am – noon
Where: The Arc of SF 1500 Howard St. @ 11th St. SF, CA 94103 map

Parking is sometimes available in the garage at 255 12th Street, with a reasonable flat rate for Saturdays. There is also metered street parking for $2.25/hr.