August 2019






ASCEND's Upcoming Events 

Come join us for a fun night of bowling where you can meet new friends, enjoy some friendly competition, and have fun! The event is free to attend and lanes, shoes, and some food will be provided. 
The venue is fully accessible with dim lighting in the bowling area, and there is typically background music playing in addition to the noise from the bowling balls thrown on the lanes.
Tuesday, July 30 from 6:00  to 8:00 PM

Lucky Strike Philadelphia, 1336 Chestnut St · Philadelphia, PA

How to find us: We will meet near the front entrance

For any questions or concerns feel free to reach out to Nuriya:   [email protected] .  RSVP on (it's free!) and do a search for ASCEND Group.


Join us for this group outing to the Wilmington Blue Rocks game! Tickets are $10 and include an opportunity for kids to run the bases and meet members of the Blue Rocks team at noon. Great opportunity for a fun family-friendly activity!

Sunday, August 4 from 1:35  to 4:00 PM
Price:    $10.00 per person 

How to find us: We will meet at the front gate - more details will be provided closer to the event.



*Free ASCEND Game MeetUp for Tweens & Teens

Attendees: 10-17 years old
Social Enrichment Center, 542 Wesley Rd., Springfield, PA 19064
When: Sunday, August 18 from 2-4 PM
This event is for kids age 10 to 17, and we will have Legos, board games, WII video games, Nintendo DS and other video games, foosball and air hockey. We encourage participants to bring their favorite games to share and for parents to stay and socialize. Light refreshments will be available.
How to find us: 
The Social Enrichment Center is located at Hancock Methodist Church in Springfield. Entrance has green doors.
*Free event but RSVP required via  (free) and SEARCH for ASCENDGroup Event.



Chips, Chocolate and Chat Adult Social Group
A group of adult self-advocates who with the help of a facilitator, discuss topics chosen by the group. Topics that have been addressed include dating, co-workers, break-ups, meet-ups, interviewing for jobs, etc. In the past, we have had a few guest speakers who have addressed the group as well. 

Attendees: Adults on the autism spectrum, ages 18+

Sun., Sept, 22  from 4-5 PM 
Ruttenberg Autism Center
1740 Walton Road, 1st Floor, Blue Bell, PA 19422


Discussion Group for Caregivers
Runs simultaneously but in a different room than the adult social group.

Attendees: Caregivers of adults on the autism spectrum

Sun., Sept 22 from 4-5 PM 
Ruttenberg Autism Center
1740 Walton Road, 1st Floor, Blue Bell, PA 19422

ASCEND Professional Events


Mike Fogel's Art of Friendship: Open House for Professionals and Educators  

Meet founder Mike Fogel, MA, ATR, BC, LPC,
d iscover the secrets behind effective  social skills therapy  and h ow YOU can help children with Social-Emotional Cognitive Challenges

Open houses will be held rain or shine on 8/6 from 8:45-11:00 AM at  Camp Pegasus:
You are cordially invited to attend one of three open houses for professionals and educators at  Camp Pegasus , the therapeutic social skills day camp on the Main Line. Camp Pegasus, the brainchild of Mike Fogel, founder of the  Art of Friendship Social-Coping Program , is starting its seventh year full of joyous campers, grateful parents, and rave reviews!
  • Tour the picturesque campus at Barrack Academy
  • Experience an Art of Friendship Social-Coping Skill lesson taught by Mike
  • Witness fun activity-based therapy that provides real-time social practice
  • Observe the highly trained staff providing an ultra-positive reinforcement system along with social coaching and self-regulation opportunities
  • Stay for an optional question/answer period with Mike from 11:00 to 11:30
Space at each open house is limited. Please RSVP to Camp Pegasus Office Manager, Debbie DeBenedictis, at (610) 649-1080, x1 or [email protected].



Professional Member Ongoing Groups:


Registration Open for Adolescent Groups Developing Social and Emotional Coping Skills

Center City, Plymouth Meeting, Paoli, and Haverford, PA - Enrollment is now open for social-coping skills groups designed especially for the social developmental needs of teens between the ages of 12-18. Girls-only and boys-only middle school and high school groups are available. Mike Fogel's Art of Friendship Social-Coping® Curriculum (also used at Camp Pegasus) launches participants on a "Reputation Project" with perspective-taking and the hidden rules of socialization at its core. 


Day Camp for Children with HFA Provides Structure, Fun, Friendship, and Social-Coping Skills

Bryn Mawr, PA  --  Summer vacation can be a harrowing time for the child and family touched by Autism. Although parents and children depend on them, mainstream camps are sometimes a source of stress with young, undertrained staff, inconsistent structure, frequent changes in routine. Battles over video games and smart phone usage are unwanted summer passtimes. Camp avoidance, meltdowns, or expulsions from camps are the most painful challenges of all. There is a solution for summer structure and fun nestled 10 minutes west of Philadelphia. Please click on title link for more information. If you have any questions or needs please contact Aviva Moore or at (610) 649-1080 x3.


 Autism Spectrum Diagnostics & Consulting

1) Tech-Based Vocational Skills Group 
Research has shown that individuals with ASD can not only perform proficiently in the workplace, they can do so independently if the job matches their personal strengths and capabilities and specific job tasks are taught to mastery. The goal of this group is to not only develop participant proficiency in technology use, but to also teach key "soft-skills" such as; job searching, understanding workplace norms, routines and etiquette, social communication at work and workplace problem-solving skills. If interested, contact Reggie Candio at [email protected]

2) Lego®-based Social Skills Group
Doylestown, PA 
Openings for Children ages 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, & 13-15. Children will be grouped by age, language abilities, and social skills goals.
Lego®-Based Therapy, or Lego®-Club as it called by group members, is an evidenced based treatment where children develop skills through collaboration on group projects through the use of Lego®. Group members collaborate on building sets, free style projects, and creating and producing short stop-action films. Children with ASD, ADHD, anxiety, and other social challenges are welcome!


Kristina Vacha's Groups
Kristina Vacha, Clinical Social Work/Therapist, LCSW, LBS, MSS, MA

I am a good listener and will give you time and space to share your concerns. I specialize in supporting transitioning teens and adults with ASD and parents/caretakers. I offer a comprehensive strengths-based approach that also utilizes evidence-based interventions to address issues related to anxiety and depression, life transitions, family and relationship dynamics, self-advocacy, work/employment, co-morbid mental health issues, healthy lifestyle, independent living, contact with law enforcement, and sexuality/dating. I work across the spectrum including nonverbal individuals to high functioning professionals.

Adults on the Autism Spectrum Group
This group is a therapeutic support group where you can talk about your experiences as an adult with autism. We address concerns with social isolation, developing more meaningful relationships with others including improving family dynamics, developing friendships and dating, succeeding at employment or education, coping with anxiety and depression, improving self advocacy and developing a better understanding of the autism diagnosis. The group is for adults ages 25 and up who are employed or enrolled in higher education. More about this group

Adult Support Group
This group is for adults on the autism spectrum who are struggling with feeling stuck in significant areas of adult life. If you would like to be working but are currently unemployed or underemployed, socially isolated, unsure about how you would like to become a more independent adult, use or hope to use state funded adult autism services, then you may find this group helpful. More about this group

Women with Autism
This group is for women with autism 25 years and up. Whether diagnosed in childhood or recently this group will give you a place to meet other women and talk about your experiences as women living with autism. This group is targeted for women who are employed and/or pursuing higher education. More about this group

If you or an adult with ASD you know is interested in this group (or in one of the other groups Kristina meets with) please contact Kristina: [email protected] or 484-274-8957.

ASCEND's Member Cybrary:

Our ASCEND members can take advantage of our Member Cybrary where they can listen to an audio recording and/or view the slides of online webinars and in-person educational sessions we have presented. 
The list now includes: 

  • Key Considerations and Concerns for Teens with ASD Presentation
  • SAP: Autism at WorkCollege Panel Night 
  • Autism and Employment Webinars with Barbara Bissonnette: Networking & Interviewing
  • ASCEND Enews archive

If you would like to join ASCEND and gain access, please click here.


Local ASD News & Events

New Avenue Cafe at the Kelly Center Now Open!

We are a non-profit community space open to everyone to come in and have a smoothie, cup of coffee or some of our delicious sweets. We are currently planning some events, so stay tuned!

Our non-profit helps benefit individuals with disabilities by offering volunteer positions and potentially employment in the future. If you are interested in volunteering or just coming in to hang out we are open for business!
We are currently looking for employees. Please visit  and download the job descriptions.

Legoland Sensory Night

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Philadelphia has teamed up with The Ruttenberg® Autism Center and MusicWorks® to provide a sensory friendly LEGO® experience on select months below from 5-7 pm each date. 

Special accommodations include the below:

  • Tickets now only $8.00! 
  • Staff training by The Ruttenberg® Autism Center
  • Music therapy information from MusicWorks®
  • Reduction of sound and light levels in certain areas
  • Quiet spaces
  • A reduced Center capacity
  • Social Stories created by The Ruttenberg® Autism Center are available below and will be available onsite


 Philadelphia Autism Project

The goal of the Philadelphia Autism Project is to support and connect individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Philadelphia using resources and through innovative programs. To view their calendar of events, click here.


FREE Kamp for Kids Autism Family Retreat 

Campfire, games, carnival games, movie night, sports, sensory friendy activities and more.

Arrival: Friday, August 16 between 6  - 7 PM
Departure: Sunday,  August 18 at 2 PM


Meet at First Baptist Church/Solid Rock Youth Center, 150 Harrison Ave. Morrisville, Pa 19067
- Pick up is Friday, August 16 at 5 PM sharp
- Drop off is Sunday, August 18 at 4 PM

Camp packing list.
Camp application form.

Fathers of Children with Autism Support Group

The Autism Institute is excited to offer a support group for fathers with children on the autism spectrum in partnership with Dr. Robert Naseef, clinical psychologist at Alternative Choices, and Dr. Michael Hannon, Assistant Professor of Counseling at Montclair State University.

The group will meet on Saturdays from 10:00-11:30 AM on September 21, October 19, November 16, and December 21 at the offices of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute on 3020 Market Street.

Space is limited! RSVP here.

For more information, see the attached flyer, or contact: [email protected].


Disability Quality Index

A joint initiative between the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN®.

The Disability Equality Index (DEI) is the most comprehensive benchmarking tool for disability inclusion. In today's world-class economy, all talent drives innovation, productivity, and growth. Designing workplaces that are truly inclusive and tapping into the skills and gifts of every individual, including people with disabilities, is a business imperative. In order to achieve these goals, senior leaders across business sectors continue to advocate for organizational structures, policies and best practices that are recommended by experts and advocates in the field. This is precisely how the Disability Equality Index was created, and why it is trusted by so many of the nation's top corporations.



Research Studies

In the interest of promoting autism awareness, we feel it is important to help spread the word about autism spectrum research studies that are being conducted in our area. Use this Research Study Form to submit If you would like to submit your study.


NEW: Suicide Prevention and Autism
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are conducting a study on suicide prevention in adolescents and adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. You may qualify to participate if you are the family member of a teenager or adult with ASD.  Participants will complete a 1-hour interview with a member of our research team and will be compensated $30 for their time. Please call Dr. Shari Jager-Hyman at 215-746-3944 for more information. Investigators: Shari Jager-Hyman, PhD, Brenna Maddox, PhD, and David Mandell, ScD.


NEW: Suicide Prevention in Adolescents and Adults
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are conducting a study on suicide prevention in adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. You may qualify to participate if: you are 12 or older; you have a diagnosis of ASD; you have struggled with thoughts of suicide in the past; and you have the verbal abilities to complete an interview. Participants will complete a 1-hour interview with a member of our research team and will be compensated $30 for their time. To see if the study is a good fit for you, please take our brief screener survey by going to this website. Investigators: Shari Jager-Hyman, PhD, Brenna Maddox, PhD, and David Mandell, ScD.


The Experiences of Stigma, Stress, and Social Support Amongst Fathers of Children on the Autism Spectrum  
Are you a father of a child or teenager (ages 5-18) with autism? Have you ever felt that people don't understand what your life is like and how you feel? Have you ever been rejected, judged, or embarrassed by friends, family, or even complete strangers because you are the father of an amazing and wonderful child with autism? Your experiences as a father of a child with autism are unique and important. As a parent, you are the only person who really knows what it's like to raise a child with autism. You have experienced the ups and downs, the laughter and tears, the joy and pain. We are inviting you to participate in a research study and share your experiences of stigma, stress, and social support. Your perspective will increase our understanding of what your life is like. You can help us know how it feels to be a father of a child with autism.

What do you do in the study? 
Parents will be asked answer questions via an online survey about your experiences as a father of a child with ASD. The entire survey should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. As a small token of appreciation for your participation, you may choose to be entered into a raffle for one of four Amazon Fire 7 tablets.


SPARK for Autism 
We are enrolling any individual with autism spectrum disorder and their biological parents into the nation's largest autism study, called SPARK. The goal of SPARK is to speed up autism research and find the genetic causes of autism. All participants enroll online at and then provide a saliva sample via kits that are mailed to the home. Families who return the saliva collection kits will receive compensation and access to free webinars and an interactive and informational dashboard. For more information: 267-426-4971 [email protected]

Police Safety Study 
We are looking for teens and adults ages 12 and older with autism spectrum disorder to participate in a research study testing two different methods of helping people with ASD learn to interact with police officers. One method will use virtual reality (VR) and the other uses video modeling (VM). Participation in this study involves one to three visits to CAR for VR or VM intervention and complete questionnaires. Participants will be compensated for their time. For more information: Ashley Zitter [email protected]

Social and Motor Communication Study 
The goal of this research study is to better understand differences in the way children with autism move their bodies and faces compared to children who are developing typically. Children who are diagnosed with ASD or who are typically developing are invited to participate in this study, which will include a visit to CAR to complete simple social skills tasks, motor behavior and language tasks as well as an IQ test. Participants will be compensated for their time and effort and will receive a brief report of their behavioral and IQ tests results. For more information: [email protected] | 267-425-1192 

Orbiting- For Repetitive and Restrictive Behaviors 
No two people with autism are the same. And of course we wouldn't want them to be. We're looking for children and adults with autism between the ages of 5 and 17 to join the Orbiting Study. Orbiting will help us to better understand the different scales used to measure certain behaviors associated with autism. We'll also ask what wearable technologies can tell us about autism. For more information: 267-425-1179 Jessica Tschida.

Transportation Survey

We are looking for adults with autism ages 18 and older to participate in a study looking at the impact of travel training on use of public transportation to access the community (i.e., social events, medical appointments, work).

Participants receive group and individual travel training instruction from occupational therapists and peers on how to use public transportation such as buses and trains. 

Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS)
In an attempt to learn about patterns of brain development in children, we are studying the differences in brain patterns between children with autism spectrum disorders and typically developing children. Infants between 3-6 months of age with an older sibling who is diagnosed with an ASD are invited to participate. 

Research on Autism and Developemental Disorders (ROADD)

This study will observe young children to learn more about the biological underpinnings of ASD. Children ages 3-5 with or without a diagnosis of ASD may be eligible to participate. 

Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI) 
This ground-breaking study is looking at possible environmental and genetic links to autism. Mothers who have a biological child with ASD or who less than 28 weeks pregnant and who live in the tristate area are being invited to participate in this study. 

JAKE App Study
With the use of new mobile app technology, this study aims to develop a mobile app-based system to monitor clinical outcomes in children and adults with ASD vs. typically developing children and adults. Children and adults ages 6 and older with or without ASD may take part. 


In the Media

From the ASERT Newsletter

What is Emotion Regulation?

Processes that we use to modify emotional reactions. We can be aware of them or not, purposefully trying to do them or not. Emotion regulation problems are common in people with ASD. These problems can be associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, problem behaviors, and social difficulties, both in people with ASD and without ASD.
How do problems with emotion regulation show up in ASD?

  • Issues with recognizing emotions in one's self.
  • Overuse of maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, like rumination, shutting down, avoidance.
  • "I go from 0-100"-not noticing an increase of emotional intensity.
  • Being stuck- like feeling unable to let go of a feeling.
  • "Meltdowns." 


Some people with ASD have meltdowns. They occur when a person is totally overwhelmed and can become out of control of his or her actions. It is not a temper tantrum! This is not the same as misbehaving, which often has a goal (like avoiding a command). Signs include screaming, crying, kicking, lashing out, biting, engaging in self-injury, and running away.
How to avoid:

  • Help the person understand that emotions are natural, even 'bad' or uncomfortable ones.
  • Ask the person if they know when they are about to have a meltdown. 
  • Identify triggers.
  • Try to minimize common triggers.
  • Use fewer verbal instructions.
  • The person may be continuing to process the situation long after the meltdown has ended.

How to respond:

  • Have a plan in place, especially if meltdowns are common.
  • Try to redirect attention early if you notice any warning signs.
  • Give them space and time.
  • Reduce environmental stimuli.
  • Use calming strategies.
  • Develop a system to help cue the person to use calming strategies.
  • Acknowledge the feeling and model an accepting mindset about emotion. Help the person recognize when emotions are getting intense. 

Susan White, Caitlin Conner, Kelly Beck, & Carla Mazefsky


Stimming, therapeutic for autistic people, deserves acceptance
By: Steven Kapp: Research fellow, University of Exeter for

Rhythmic,repetitive behaviors are a hallmark of autism. Hand-flapping, spinning in circles, body rocking, vocalizations such as grunting and muttering, and other habits can be disquieting to people unfamiliar with them. Scientists and clinicians have long puzzled over what these behaviors mean - and how to respond to them.


2020 Presidential Primary Candidate Survey on Disability
Posted by Disability Rights Center NH

"In an effort to inform individuals with disabilities about the 2020 presidential primary candidates twenty-four New Hampshire based organizations joined together and requested that each campaign answer five disability related questions. You can view candidate responses below, either by selecting a particular candidate or by selecting a particular question."

Parental Support is Key When Autistic Adolescents Want to Learn to Drive

Autistic adolescents need the support of their parents or guardians to prioritize independence so that they are prepared for learning to drive, according to a study of specialized driving instructors who have worked specifically with young autistic drivers. These findings were compiled by researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and recently published in the journal Autism in Adulthood.


Senior Life: How to Plan for a Child or Grandchild with Special Needs

Posted in Delcotimes by Rebecca A. Hobbs, Esq. CELA and O'Donnell, Weiss, and Mattei, P.C.


For grandparents and parents of a child with special needs, estate planning needs to be more than just a simple Will. All parents worry about how their children would be provided for in the event of their deaths. However, for a parent of a child with a disability, the worries are even greater. Children with disabilities often have increased financial and care needs. Because of this increased financial and care need, it is vital for parents and grandparents to have an estate plan that addresses these needs.

Legal Disclaimer: ASCEND maintains the Professional Services Resource Directory and e-newsletter as a service to families and professionals as a reference tool. ASCEND does not endorse or claim to have personal knowledge of the abilities of those listed. The resources listed on this page are not intended as a recommendation, referral, or endorsement of any resource or as a tool for verifying the credentials, qualifications, or abilities of any organization, product or professional. Users are urged to use independent judgment when considering any resource associated with diagnosis or treatment of autism, or the provision of services related to autism.

ASCEND Group Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. We do not endorse any specific professional or therapeutic treatment. We are not meant to be a replacement for medical or legal advice. Our mission is to raise public awareness about Asperger Syndrome and related disorders, to advocate for improved education and services, and to provide support and information to the Asperger and autism community. This web site is for informational purposes only. Any link or mention on our web site should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation. If you have questions about Autism or Asperger Syndrome, please consult with a qualified medical professional.