June 2020






Virtual Chips Chocolate
and Chat Gathering

Chips, Chocolate and Chat is a group of adults on the autism spectrum (ages 18+), 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. For the past few years, parents and caregivers also have been meeting in a separate room to discuss various issues and provide support to one another. 

Chips, Chocolate and Chat gatherings have been offered through a partnership of the ASCEND Group and the Ruttenberg Autism Center. There is no charge for participating in these gatherings. 

Since we are unable to gather in person at this time, we are offering a virtual meeting on Sunday, June 14 at 4:00 p.m. via Zoom conference call. 

If you are an adult on the spectrum or a parent/caregiver who wants to participate in this virtual gathering, please send an e-mail to [email protected] to receive the Zoom links. 

ASCEND Professional Events


Upcoming Events


1) Camp Pegasus @Home Virtual Open House & Information Session

Parents, Caregivers, Educators & Therapy Professionals are Invited

Thursday, June 4, 7:30-8:00 PM

Safety is our top priority for everyone in our immediate and extended community during the Coronavirus pandemic. Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to transition Camp Pegasus to a home-based, online program this summer. You're invited to learn about Camp Pegasus @Home!

Click this link to register (required) for this Zoom meeting

Visit Camp [email protected] for information about [email protected]

Questions? Email administrative director Aviva Moore 


2) Individual Therapy with Parent Support & Training

Therapy will be available both in-person & telehealth to meet your family's medical and comfort needs.

CFATC's unique therapy approach treats a wide range of childhood emotional, behavioral, and social challenges. We help clients at four levels: 1) Teaching CBT-inspired coping skills, 2) Unblocking stuck emotions with creative art-play and verbal therapy, 3) Forming & practicing relationships with healthy attachment & boundaries, and 4) Training caregivers in supportive structure & strategies. Info about individual therapy

3) The Art of Friendship Social-Coping Program @Home

The Art of Friendship Social-Coping Program @Home counteracts social distancing
isolation & skill regression
It isn't safe to gather in groups just yet, but our social skills group therapists innovated creative ways to make virtual social skills therapy engaging & successful.  Visit our social skills site.
4) Presentation: Enhance family harmony & boost your child's resilience with Mike Fogel's tips.

Overwhelmed and Under-coping? Learn how young people of all ages can regain their calm & succeed at anything.

Does your child get overwhelmed, shut down, and melt down-- or avoid tasks, people, and places? Instead of fretting about the past or worrying about the future, in this presentation, discover the mindset and habits your child requires to regain self-regulation and remain grounded in the NOW.


Mike Fogel, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, is passionate about childhood, parenting, and playfulness in therapy. Inspired to create a better world, Mike innovated award-winning child therapy programs and businesses: the Art of Friendship Social-Coping Program® (2000)Child and Family Art Therapy Center (2007), Camp Pegasus (2013), and the BetterWorld Affordable Art Therapy Program (2019). Mike's work is supercharged by heartfelt faith that every person has the innate capacity to heal, grow, and progress towards their vast personal potential. Mike recently authored his first book, The Social-Emotional Guidebook: Motivate Your Child to Master Social & Emotional Coping Skills, due for release in 2020).

Wednesday, June 3 from 7:00 to 8:00 PM EDT

This is a free online event by registration only. Register here.

The Zoom login information will be shared on June 2 and again on June 3.

Connect Plus Therapy: Camp In A Box

CAMP IN-A-BOX is an exciting summer solution created by Connect Plus Therapy for children on the Autism Spectrum. Your child deserves the best. With expert clinical knowledge from BCBAs and super fun Behavioral Technicians we will provide CAMP IN-A-BOX customized for your child's needs. Insurance based program, Check eligibility today

We Have Your Box!

HillTop Prep Summer Adventures Online

We are happy to announce that we will be able to give our families a unique online summer program this year. While we hope that we will be able to have our summer programs as usual (or as close to usual as we can), we are fully prepared to offer a number of fun and exciting programs and activities online. We're also happy to share that due to various considerations, we will be offering a 30% discount to our camp tuition if we are providing our summer programs online. So we encourage you to sign up as usual using our registration portal. We've created a few payment options for families to have as much flexibility as possible. You may want to either pay just the deposit for now, or register without paying anything until we know exactly what we are able to provide. Below you'll find information about how to register, as well as a brief overview of what we're planning to do with our online programs.

Summer Camp Overview
Our regular summer camp program will feature a variety of activities. First, we'll have daily scheduled live activities, including STEM projects, arts and crafts, cooking, Minecraft, gardening, games, etc. We'll provide a list of supplies in advance. These will be led by our counselors as usual. We will also have weekly modules of guided activities that campers can complete on their own time, with support from our counselors as needed. Finally, we will be providing campers with access to an online library of self-guided coding and STEM projects and courses. Live support will be available if needed, too. These activities will be optional, so that campers can choose the activity or manner of participation that is best for them.

As in previous years, campers will have access to daily academic and writing support via Google Hangouts, as well as access to clinical support as needed. While we won't be able to enjoy field trips as we did previously, we will lead the campers through some virtual field trips. 

We're also introducing an optional, after-school Esports program for campers who would like to have the opportunity to compete in a formal gaming league. The games we're able to offer for now include Super Smash Bros, Minecraft, and Fortnite. This is an additional, but small, cost, so please contact me ([email protected]) separately if you're interested.

Pathways/Innovators Overview
Pathways To Independence and Summer Innovators will share some resources and activities. This program will consist of daily scheduled live sessions, and daily independent time to work on projects and other activities. These campers will also have access to our online library of online courses and projects with live support. Due to the nature of the program, the live sessions will be required so that students can get the effect of instruction.

Monday college visits will continue, but in a virtual manner. Mrs. Gillespie is planning to lead campers through 2 online visits every Monday. And like Summer Camp, clinical support is available as needed and the optional Esports program is available, too.

Please feel free to email if you have any questions for us. We've been working hard to create an online program that will still provide good benefits to our students and help them stay sharp over the summer and be more prepared for our return to campus. We hope you'll join us for this unique new program!

Thanks, and stay safe!

Navigating Relationships Webinar

The Philadelphia Autism Project, in collaboration with Lamar Hardwick, D.Min., is excited to announce our upcoming webinar series on this highly requested topic. Dr. Hardwick will speak about common barriers people on the spectrum face in navigating relationships, provide helpful strategies, and answer your questions during a live Q&A.  

A Beginners Guide to Building Relationship 
6/4 from11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Relationships and Sexuality
7/9 from 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Marriage and Children
8/6 from 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Register here.


Provides in-home and in-clinic ABA services to children with Autism. Our clinic is located in Malvern, PA but is closed at this time. Even though our clinic is closed, we are available for home services. If we can help you with requests from displaced clients or, on a very temporary basis, with your own services, please reach out. Council for Autism Service Providers (CASP) has confirmed that we are considered an essential service at this time and are taking all precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of all. They continue to provide guidance on the best ways to provide these necessary services during this time.
We can provide temporary or ongoing support to children with either in-home services or through tele-health. We also are able to do intake and carry out initial assessments for children who have an autism diagnosis and need to start receiving ABA services. These services are paid through private insurance and can begin immediately. For more information, call 610-316-5902 or email:   [email protected].

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

(Now accepting Cigna for outpatient therapy). Kristina is
providing teletherapy during the quarantine period in the form of individual and group sessions. She will waive the fee for each client's first individual session or group session.

As some people are facing financial challenges during this time, she is offering behavior support/therapy at reduced rates based on your financial situation. If your child or adult child has a state waiver, the agencies should be allowing your assigned behavior therapist to provide teletherapy for the duration of stay-at-home order. This is currently being offered by the Devereux  CARES Community Adult Autism Partnership Program (CAAPP).
If you are a parent working from home, you should be able to set up online therapy with your regular therapist. If you don't have a regular therapist, your employer may be able to match you with a therapist providing online therapy through your Employee Assistance Program.
If you feel you need support and are not sure how to proceed, Kristina is available for a free phone consultation.
Kristina Vacha, LCSW
484-274-8957,  [email protected]

 C.A.S.T. Productions

Do you know about C.A.S.T. Productions? It stands for community of Actors Sharing in Theater. It is an INCLUSIVE and ACCESSIBLE theater company designed for people who may identify as disabled or having special needs.

Every weekday from June 14 to August 15, there will be a live virtual C.A.S.T. activity led by a team member at 4:00 PM.

Each activity will last roughly 30-45 minutes. Hannah will lead sing-a-longs on Mondays; Corri will help you create some fabulous crafts on Tuesdays; Sam will host a game on Wednesdays; Karalyn will lead an acting class on Thursdays; and Lisa will teach you some fun dances on Fridays. This will be in addition to our social hour at 2 PM on Saturdays. The attached calendar specifies what will be happening each day so you can plan ahead and decide which activities you'd like to attend. The activities themselves are not cumulative, so you are welcome to join in whenever you'd like, any days you'd like, all free of charge. You are also encouraged to invite your friends to join in virtually!


AECOM is Recruiting Qualified Individuals with Disabilities at its Conshohocken Office

AECOM is a premier, fully integrated infrastructure and support services firm. AECOM is ranked as the #1 engineering design firms by revenue in Engineering News-Record magazine's annual industry rankings and has been named as one of Fortune magazine's World's Most Admired Companies for the third consecutive year. The company is a leader in all of the key markets that it serves, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, oil and gas, water, high-rise buildings and government. AECOM provides a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering solutions that create, enhance and sustain the world's built, natural and social environments. AECOM has nearly 100,000 employees and serves more than 150 countries offering global expertise. For more information about AECOM please refer to our brochure or visit our website at www.aecom.com. To view our "How To Apply Online Guide," click here. You can view the Conshohocken job postings here. Some include intern, management and engineering positions. 
New positions in our area:

New! Project Manager - Dams Engineering 
Conshohocken, PA

New! Traffic Engineer
Philadelphia, PA

New! Traffic Engineer
Conshohocken, PA

New! Construction Inspector
Wilmington, DE

New! Civil / Geotechnical Engineer
Conshohocken, PA

Project Engineer / Project Manager - Water & Wastewater
Philadelphia, PA

Geotechnical Civil Engineer IV
Princeton, NJ

Transmission Line Engineer III or IV
Princeton, NJ


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.

In the interest of promoting autism awareness and research studies in our area, we are giving individuals and organizations the opportunity to advertise their research studies in future ASCEND e-newsletters and on our website, for a nominal fee without first becoming ASCEND members. Use this Research Study Form to submit your study today. 

PSU Social Games for Adolescents with Autism (SAGA) Team
Penn State Psychology is conducting a research study for adolescents with autism.Participants will play a video game to help improve social skills. compensation up to $430.
-Have a teen ages 10-18 with autism 
-Can fill out a confidential online screening form


PARSEC is an intervention done by phone aimed at helping young adults (18-25) with ASD increase their community participation activities in non-urban areas of PA.

Volunteers needed:

Are you a young adult with autism who would like to better engage with your community? 

This study will evaluate an intervention designed to help young adults with autism increase participation in their communities. 

Contact: Jayde Nagle 717-531-0003 ext. 285543 [email protected]

The Prevalence of Genetically Linked Autism & Vitamin D Deficiency in Hispanic Families

Contact Faith Hess, RN for Thomas Jefferson University Hospital at [email protected]

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. 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 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 Research Study

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).


Wandering Research Study
Researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center are conducting a new, national study about wandering in children with autism and other developmental disabilities. If you are the parent of a child who wanders, you may be eligible to participate. Participants will be asked to spend approximately 30 minutes completing an anonymous, online questionnaire about their child's wandering behavior. To take the survey, click on this link. For more information, contact Bridget Kiely.