Autism and LGBTQ+ Identity

The incidence of non-usual gender identities is much higher among autistics than in the rest of the population. AASCEND‘s June 25 program ( NOT the usual 3rd Saturday!) honors Gay Pride Month, respecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and other people. The AASCEND program (the day before San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade) will feature a panel of autistics in the LGBTQ+ community, responding to questions from erstwhile AASCEND chairperson Jack Fagan. If you are not comfortable with discussion of gender and related issues then please feel free to sit this one out.

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

Do you identify as autistic and LGBTQ+? Please share your experience. We particularly invite attendees on the autism spectrum to offer their experience and perspectives in discussion of this important topic.

Who: Adults on the autism spectrum, families, mentors and professionals all welcome. For more information, please contact: info@aascend.org
When: Sat June 25, 10am – 11am (approx.)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

Mental Health in the Pandemic, and in Autism

Here are the slides to Jan’s talk. Her contact information is on the last slide.
Paul Nussbaum is at it again! He’s back from the Pacific Crest Trail, having completed a 200-mile section heading north from the border of Mexico. Pictures soon. Startoff
here.


AASCEND‘s May 28 program (NOTE: NOT the usual 3rd Saturday!) honors National Mental Health Awareness Month. The Pandemic has affected many people’s mental health, and the neurodivergent have been hit hard, too. On May 28 AASCEND friend Jan Johnston-Tyler will be speaking about the impact the Pandemic has had on mental health both in the larger community and on the neurodivergent community in particular, and how everyone can get back on their feet again.

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

Jan Johnston-Tyler was talking about transition and autism employment way back in 2007, when these concepts were barely spoken of anywhere. That’s when she started EvoLibri in Silicon Valley, following a 20-year career in high tech. Being a parent, a business woman, and with a freshly-minted MA in counseling psychology, she began to take on corporate American, school districts an antiquated public systems to help neurodivergent folks find success in the neurotypical world. And she hasn’t stopped since!

Has the pandemic affected your mental wellbeing? Come share your experience. 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 May 28, 10am – 11am (approx.)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

How DOR Can Help Your Job Search Strategy

Supporting files from the May 7 meeting: DOR Information , DOR Application


On May 7 the AASCEND Job Club presents Theresa Woo, Regional Director of the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), serving San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties. For 26 years Theresa has assisted jobseekers with disabilities. In her long tenure, she has built employment collaborations with universities, community colleges, high school districts, county mental health programs, and community agencies. Prior to working at DOR, she work as a program coordinator at HOPE Services of Santa Clara County, serving adults with intellectual disabilities.

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.

Picture of Theresa Woo

The Department of Rehabilitation is a good resource for those enrolled in it. Theresa’s years of experience can benefit all autistic jobseekers.

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 May 7, 10am – 11am (approx.)
Where: Online via Zoom. URL and password will be emailed.

Hike April 23 is ON

UPDATE: The weather for the hike was sunny and perfect. We had welcome participation by the San Francisco Autism Society, and together we got to experience the natural beauty of Golden Gate Park’s wilder western end. Here’s a picture of the crew on the move:

AASCEND hikers in Golden Gate Park

The sun will be out and the hike is ON! sun will be out and the hike is ON! Greetings from AASCEND in honor of Autism Awareness-Acceptance-Advancement-Action Month! Continuing our initiative to bust out of pandemic isolation we’ll celebrate together with another hike on April 23, in San Francisco’s beautiful Golden Gate Park. (Note this is not the usual 3rd Saturday of the month.) We’ll gather in front of the Beach Chalet on the Great Highway at 10am * and then head to Stow Lake via trails — a distance of 1.8 miles as the crow flies. It’s pretty level the whole way. At Stow Lake we will energize at the snack bar and cafe, before looping back to the Beach Chalet. It will be great to be together in person once again! We look forward to seeing you.

* We’ll meet on the steps in front of the Beach Chalet, as marked by the X in this picture:

View of trail in Golden Gate Park, with a dozen or so people.

(Click the map to see a larger view.) The Beach Chalet is marked in orange at the left of the map. The Muni 5 Fulton and 38 Ocean Beach buses stop nearby. We will not necessarily be following the blue dotted path on the map.

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

When: Saturday, April 23, 2022 at 10:00 AM to noonish

Where: Beach Chalet, GG Park San Francisco map

Autism in Girls and Women

For a recording of the March 19 talk on Autism in Girls and Women, by Suzanna Curtis, click here. The PowerPoint slides are here.

For a recording of the March 12 Job Club presentation by Kris Stadelman, click here.


On March 19 AASCEND addresses the important and timely subject of autism in girls and women. Presenting on the topic will be AASCEND board member Suzanna Curtis. Suzanna is an autistic graduate student in special education in a joint program between the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University.

Historically, autism has been regarded as an overwhelmingly male condition. However, early researchers clearly identified the condition in females as well as males, but the research was largely overlooked. Now many autistic women are seeking to correct this oversight and to have their experiences acknowledged and validated so that autism-related services are no longer directed away from them because of their gender. Suzanna will address the questions of how autism can present differently in women, what services can help autistic girls and women, and also other questions.

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.

Picture of Suzanna Curtis

Suzanna Curtis’ research interests have included autism and giftedness, special interest areas, neurodiversity and neurodivergence, and the intersection of autism and femaleness. Suzanna is an alumna of the University of Chicago and also a martial arts instructor.

As usual at AASCEND meetings, attendees on the autism spectrum will offer their experience and perspectives throughout the program. Please come with experience and your questions, particularly if you are an autistic woman! All autistic adults are welcome at AASCEND, regardless of their gender.

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

Why Today is One of the Best Times Ever for Job Search

On March 12 the AASCEND Job Club presents Kris Stadelman, one of California’s experts on job search and placement. She is based in Silicon Valley and will talk about job opportunities in both tech and non-tech fields.

Kris is the former Executive Director of the NOVA Workforce Development Board in the Silicon Valley, where she led a high performing team that connects unemployed and laid-off talent with recruiters and employers. NOVA serves job seekers and employers in seven northern Santa Clara County cities and all of San Mateo County. Previously, Ms. Stadelman was the founding CEO of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, Washington.

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. 

Kris Stadelman

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, Mar 12, 2022 10 – 11 am

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

Parents’ Experience with Housing & Supports for Autistic Adults

Here is a link to a video recording of Mary Nisson’s February 19 presentation.

Here is the DDFP-CA website.

Here is an email address to contact Mary: Contact


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.


On February 19 AASCEND will explore the ins and outs of housing and supports for autistic adults requiring high levels of support. Mary Nisson will describe her own experience as a parent, and her work in forming the Developmental Disability Future Planning Group of CaliforniaDDFP-CA, also on Facebook — created in response to the statewide crisis caused by the dearth of supported living situations for adults with intellectual disabilities and/or developmental disabilities. The group specifically helps other families troubleshoot together the complicated process of completing their Caregiver Succession Plans and Independent Living Arrangements.

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. 

Mary Nisson is the 61-year-old parent of 33-year-old autistic AASCEND member, David Nisson, pictured here with Mary. David’s profound level of autism requires that he receive 24/7 protective supervision (1:1 staffing ratio), so his Home and Community Based adult living arrangement requires Supported Living Services (SLS), rather than Independent Living Services (ILS). Mary exhausted her financial, emotional and other resources collaborating with David and his agencies in the struggle to obtain for him an affordable, yet desirable, independent SLS living arrangement in their housing-limited hometown of Davis, Yolo County, California. In the process she and David learned how fortunate they were to succeed in this goal, and that our nation suffers from a “perfect storm crisis” of families suffering roadblocks to completing their Caregiver Succession Plans and Independent Living Arrangements. This often leaves adults with autism and similar disabilities without living arrangements when their parents die. So, Mary has started the Developmental Disability Future Planning Group (DDFP) to help other families troubleshoot together this complicated process.

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

Parent, caregiver or autistic…all are welcome. We hope to see you there!

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

When: Saturday, Feb 19, 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

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.