September 2019






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ASCEND's Upcoming Events

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


SAVE THE DATE: Wednesday, October 16

Preparing for College: Supports and Panel Discussion
for Students with Asperger's / Autism Spectrum Disorder
& Their Caregivers

Wednesday, October 16, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Bucks County Community College
Gene and Marlene Epstein Campus at Lower Bucks
1304 Veteran Hwy, Bristol, PA 19007

Bucks County Community College and Kutztown University are confirmed so far; stay tuned for info on additional colleges participating in this event.

ASCEND Professional Events

  Upcoming Fall Workshops


Our complimentary workshops are focused on empowering and educating families who have dependents with special needs giving them clear, actionable information that can be used to understand and build a responsible financial lifestyle. Our small and interactive seminars will be led by popular financial speaker, Pat Bergmaier, and will provide a comfortable setting in which attendees can learn how to take control of their present and future financial planning. As a follow-up, individual meetings may be scheduled to focus on your personal financial situation without distraction.

1) Saturday, September 14, 9:00 AM

2019 Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation Annual Conference at Loews Hotel Philadelphia
** Breakout session 9:00-10:00 AM, Conference registration link

2) Thursday, September 19 6:00 PM
Hosted by: ABA2DAY, 3744 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, PA 19073

Interested in hosting a workshop for your families? Should your employer be offering something similar? Please reach out to Pat!



Family and Peer Support Groups

New Program by Vision for Equality

Led by Darcy Elks from the PA Family Network, this new workshop will explain and discuss the STAR Power Program. Vision for Equality's PA Family Network is supported by the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) as part of Pennsylvania's Community of Practice: Supporting Families throughout the Lifespan. Topics:

- The importance of having a Vision

- Brief introduction to the LifeCourse Framework 

- Learn how using the Integrated Supports Star can assist families in 

- finding and developing supports

- Learn how the STAR can address needs as well as problem solve

Bring your child (18 and over) to a simultaneous social skills peer support group. Refreshments served.

Peer Support Groups ... every Tuesday!
Date: Tuesday, September 3 Time: 6:30-8:00 PM Social Skills: Family Feud
Date: Tuesday, September 10 Time: 6:30-8:00 PM Independent Living: Cooking Class - Breakfast for Dinner
Date: Tuesday, September 17 Time: 6:30-8:00 PM Creativity and Teamwork: Decorations for Firefly Dance
Date: Tuesday, September 24 Time: 6:30-8:00 PM Creativity and Social Skills: Cartoon Drawing with KFS's Artist & Puppeteer, Pete

Free and open to the community! Family Support Group is free however there is a $5 fee for the social skills support group if you are not receiving waiver services from Kaleidoscope. Refreshments and Coffee Served.

Tuesday, September 24 from 6:30 - 8:00 PM
Bethel AME Church, 50 S. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(parking in the front and rear)

RSVP: Pam Frebowitz at [email protected] or call


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. 



 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

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].

New Central Bucks School District Parent Support Group: BSE United 

Support and information for the CBSD community. The mission of this parent coordinated/parent support group is to improve special education communication, to make information more accessbile while building a support community that will last past the school years. 

Inagural meeting: Tuesday, September 17 at 6:30 PM at the Educational Services Center, 16 Weldon Drive.

For more information: [email protected]


Webinar about the PA ABLE Savings Program!

A PA ABLE Savings Program account gives individuals with qualified disabilities (Eligible Individuals), and their families and friends, a tax-free way to save for a wide range of disability-related expenses, while maintaining government benefits. The state and federal tax-free investment options are offered to encourage Eligible Individuals and their families to save private funds to support health, independence, and quality of life.

To help you learn about the important features and benefits of PA ABLE, the Pennsylvania Treasury Department is hosting a free webinar: Tuesday, Sept. 10 from 12 Noon - 1:00 PM

Below is an article on overview of ABLE, the state sponsored, tax-advantages savings program that is similar to the 529 college savings program. According to the ABLE National resource Center, about 8 million people could qualify for the account. However, as of June 2019, only 46,000 people have an ABLE account.
More info:

PMHC After School Program

PMHC has an After School Autism Program from September 3 to June 4, Mondays through Saturdays for two age groups: 5-12 years and 13 & up.

Please contact Thelma Bryant 215-598-0223 ext.123 or email: [email protected]

The 12th Annual Pennsylvania Autism Training Conference (PATC) "PATC: Interact 2019"

- Learn about topics like autism and the justice system, skill building, and challenging behaviors.
- Attend an interactive mentoring breakfast with experts from the field to learn about training, skill development, health, and more!
- Networking reception with live music and cash bar on Thursday evening for all attendees.
- Can't attend in person? Tune into ASERT's Facebook for live interviews with presenters!

Thursday, Sept. 5 & Friday, Sept. 6 at The Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square 25 South Queen Street, Lancaster, PA  717.239.1600

Enjoy Free Admission to Ten Philly Museums on Smithsonian Museum Day

The Penn Museum is among 100 cultural attractions across the tri-state region that will offer free admission as a part of the annual Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Celebration. One downloadable ticket per email address, provides free general admission for two people. 

Saturday, September 21 from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM


Special Olympics for Young Athletes

This sports and play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities (ID), ages 2 to 7 years old. Special Olympics is hosting three FREE innovative sports play program for children with and without ID at three locations and will run for 8 weeks, September 8 to October 27 as part of the Young Athletes program. 


Second International Conference on Disability Studies, Art & Education

Thursday, October 3 to Saturday, October 5 from 4:00 - 6:00 PM at The Moore College of Art & Design, 1916 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103



Sprout's programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Penn Dutch  Tuesday Sept. 3 - Friday Sept. 6

Atlantic City   Wednesday Sept. 25 - Friday Sept. 27

Williamsburg, VA   Monday Sept. 30 - Sunday Oct. 6

Vermont  Monday Oct. 21 - Thursday Oct. 24

Philadelphia  Tuesday Nov. 19 - Thursday Nov. 21

Mystic, CT   Friday Nov. 22 - Sunday Nov. 24

For your viewing pleasure here are two shorts recently added to Sproutflix:

100% Myself   6 ½ min. (

Climbing has helped Georgia, a young woman on the autism spectrum, to confront her issues and realize that, for her, 'normal' just isn't.

Wojtek  2 ½ min.  (in Polish with English subtitles) (

Wojtek is a fan of Star Wars with dreams of becoming a pilot. Together with his dad they work hard to achieve what only a few accomplish.


7th Annual Autism Awareness Event in Autumn

Exceptional Families of Exceptional Children (E.F.E.C.) and Elmwood Park Zoo are teaming up to bring the community an Autism Awareness Event in Autumn to expand the community's understanding of autism and Exceptional Families of Exceptional Children is looking to showing families all the wonderful resources available in this area.  

Saturday, September 21 from 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM at The Elmwood Park Zoo.

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 one-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 one-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] 

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:
Jessica Tschida, 267-425-1179


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

'It wasn't in his job description': Metro police officer escorts a mom and her tantruming autistic child home
By Allison Klein for

Taylor Pomilla had just picked up her 4-year-old son, Andrew, from school Friday and they were heading home on the Metro when Andrew decided he wanted to run around inside the car while it was moving.

Pomilla told him that wasn't safe, but Andrew, who has autism, insisted. She tried all the tricks in her bag for 20 minutes to get him to sit. Soon, Andrew became agitated and started a tantrum. It was rush hour.

Eagles Sensory Room for Fans
By Dave Zangaro for

With the creation of their state-of-the-art sensory room inside Lincoln Financial Field, The Philadelphia Eagles have yet again demonstrated their commitment to the autism community. Their Eagles Autism Challenge, in only its second year, has raised over $6 million for the purpose of funding innovative research at leading institutions and providing services and support to families living with autism. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 59 people under the age of 21 in the United States lives with this developmental disorder.

How to Disclose a Disability to Your Employer (and Whether You Should)
By Lizz Schumer for

If you, like thousands of others, live with a visible or invisible disability, here's what you need to know if you want to tell your employer.


Transition from Pediatric to Adult Care 
From the PEAL Center


Labor Dept rules IEP meetings a valid reason for family and medical leave
By Linda Jacobson for

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued an opinion letter stating parents and guardians are allowed to use the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) intermittently to attend Individual Education Program (IEP) meetings with teachers, school administrators and others involved in planning education services for children with special needs.
  • The letter was in response to a family's complaint that the mother's employer allowed her to use FLMA time for her two children's medical appointments, but not for meetings at school. Cheryl M. Stanton, a DOL administrator, wrote that a child's doctor does not have to be present at an IEP meeting for the parent to qualify for FMLA leave.
  • IEP meetings, Stanton wrote, "help participants make medical decisions concerning your children's medically prescribed speech, physical and occupational therapy; to discuss your children's well-being and progress with the providers of such services, and to ensure that your children's school environment is suitable to their medical, social and academic 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.