Summer Season Scale Back

The Autism Society of Alaska gives their deepest appreciation to all board members, volunteers, mentors, sponsors, and partners that have supported the growth of our organization. Together we have accomplished so much. We successfully hosted the first autism specific conference and followed it with another, held our 5k for Autism the past 10 years, as well as numerous community enrichment events and safety trainings. These were the success of a full board of dedicated volunteers and a paid part time executive director. Our goal is to continue these once we have our positions filled again.

These past few months our board has been impacted by considerable medical, family, and work crises all at once. During these summer months we are scaling back in order to recruit staff and further build our board. Through our seasonal community enrichment events, Facebook support groups, continued work with our partnerships, and information and referral, the Autism Society of Alaska will remain dedicated to their mission.

We regret to inform you that our board has voted to not host the Alaska 5k for Autism and Autism Conference this year. Our staff roles will not allow us to support these events in the manner they need. We are devastated that these decisions had to be made. We know they will continue in the future once our staff and board has been filled, but we need your help to do this. If you are interested in helping, please consider sharing your time, talent, and energy with us. We are currently seeking an administrative assistant as well as additional board members who can contribute to our active board. 

Moving forward we are committed to a smooth transition of change. With the dedication of those involved with the Autism Society of Alaska and the support of the community, we are confident in the future success of our organization. We know this change is hard on our families who rely on our support during this time of transition. The new opportunities it presents will bring a new energy to the mission, within the next 3 months. The best way to reach us is by email at We thank you for your patience and apologize for our delayed responses. Please look to our Facebook support groups, subscribe to our newsletter, and check our Facebook page and website for updates and upcoming events.

Thank you for your understanding. We appreciate your willingness to work alongside us and ask for your grace during this time.


Sensory Santa 2018

The holiday season is a special time and no child should be left out of family traditions.

Sensory Santa 2018

Written by: Denys Collins

On December 8th, 2018 the Autism Society of Alaska hosted their 5th annual Sensory Santa event. This event provides families with individuals on all spectrums of special needs a more controlled and welcoming environment to visit with Father Christmas. Simple adjustments are made to reduce sensory stimuli  and to create a calming environment.

The Autism Society of Alaska (ASA) kicked off the holiday season with their annual Sensory Santa Event.  For many with autism and sensory processing disorders, visiting Santa can be difficult. ASA offers all families the opportunity to get their picture taken with Santa Claus. They take out all of the stress and leave behind all the magic. This means no lines, no loud noises,  and dimmed lights all in an accepting environment.


This year, families were greeted in the waiting area with Christmas lights, light music, and the welcoming faces of volunteers. Children were able to make their own ornament, play with toys, and eat yummy treats. For those that needed space, a tent to get away was provided. Sipping Streams tea and Superior Alaska Coffee was donated for parents to enjoy. Once they were ready, families were brought back to a separate room to meet Santa. ASA’s Father Christmas is a kind gentle man that quickly soothes all with his soft voice in a separate room, and their very generous photographer captures the entire moment .

This year, ASA was able to also provide families with safety kits thanks to the GVEA Good Cents grant. This kits included items such as door alarms, identification shoe tags, a safety brochure, and more. They are planning to make these available to more families in the future. Safety is the number one concern for the Autism Society of Alaska and is vital to their mission. This year was about gift that is not only wanted but needed.

The holiday season is a special time and no child should be left out of family traditions. The Autism Society of Alaska loves being able to offer the Santa experience with a few accommodations to make it accessible for all children. We are thankful for our title sponsor, Greer Tank and Welding, our helper elves, our photographer, our Santa and his wife, and all of our attendees for letting us share this special day with them.

Thank Y-O-U

We would like to thank everyone that has positively impacted ASA with their generosity.


As a non profit, we rely heavily on resources. One of our most limited resources is time. Here are just a few amazing people that spend theirs helping the autism community of Alaska:

Caitlin Frye, Grant Writer

David Spindler, Videographer

Brian Schlumbohm, Photographer

George and Amy Viltrakis, Mr. and Mrs. Sensory Santa

& many, many more

*If you would like to volunteer your time, talent, or treasure to ASA please connect with us. It takes every type of skill to keep an organization running.

Click here if you are interested.

Board Members

We want to thank all of our board members from the past and all of our current members:

Leah Kovall, President

Brandy Raby, Past President

Briana Brooks, Vice President

Denys Collins, Secretary

Bonita Brees, Treasurer

Joshua Kamerick, Board Member that experiences autism

Alana Frazier, Board Member in the professional field

Heidi Haas, Founding Honorary Board Member

Paige Talvi, Honorary Board Member

*We are always seeking additional board members who can contribute to our active board with specific knowledge, skills, and/or personal connections to autism.

Click Here for more information.


We are thankful for the Alaskan businesses that choose to help advance our mission and support our work!


We can only truly make a difference when we come together as a community. Partnerships with a purpose lead to greater impact and achievement. Here are some of our partners from 2018 that help strengthen us:

• FLY Trampoline Park

• Alaska Autism Resource Center

• Stone Soup Group

• Arctic Harvest

• Hope Counseling

• Alaska LEND

• UAA Center for Human Development

• Regal My Way Matinee


• HooDoo Brewing Co

*If you would like to partner with us and collaborate, email The Autism Society of Alaska at


The following people are our amazing Autism Ambassadors. They are strong advocates in our community, and we are forever thankful for them!

  • Paige Talvi
  • Julie Lougee
  • Amanda Lash
  • Kelly Eggleston
  • Helen Renfrew


For the first time this year, we hired a race director for our Annual Alaska 5k for Autism. Ellen Binkley’s enthusiasm and great work ethic led to our most successful race yet! Thank you, Ellen.

This year we also said goodbye to our first executive director of 4 years, Danielle Tessen. She will always be ASA’s number one ambassador. She has had a great impact on the autism community, and she will always hold a special place in our organization’s history as she cheers us on into the future.


Safety is important to ASA’s mission. Without our fantastic safety partners, we can not achieve that. Thank you to both Alaska State Troopers Project Lifesaver and UAF CTC Law Enforcement Safety Training for partnering and connecting with us.

There are so many more sponsors, partners, and volunteers we would like to thank. Without each and every one of you, nothing we do would be possible. We also want to thank every event attendee, donor, and our entire community. As a non profit, we rely heavily on those that support us in many different ways. You are why we exist. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank YOU!

If you’d like to donate your time, email

If you’d like to donate to our organization, visit

Letter from Past President

On this day … Thankful Tuesday there is much to be shared about the Autism Society of Alaska and the time I have served as the President of the Board of Directors.

Thankful! On this day … Thankful Tuesday there is much to be shared about the Autism Society of Alaska and the time I have served as the President of the Board of Directors. There are two tenses of the word … past and present that are most commonly contemplated when defining thankful. For myself … I first am Thankful that ASA has a past and a vibrant future. I am thankful for those who served before me … for those who paved the way … for those like the founder Heidi Haas. She had a vision and a plan and set it in motion. When I first volunteered for ASA … I was a newer parent with a new diagnosis and was so thankful for a place of common knowledge and non-judgement, where my family and myself could join and not be so different … but surrounded by others who understood and knew much of the same.

As I gained my footing and momentum, I eventually had the opportunity to serve as the President. In my time in this position I am beyond thankful for the opportunities to host the first two Autism Society of Alaska conferences with the likes of Temple Grandin and Michelle Garcia Winner! To hear what they shared alongside other local experts in our State was thrilling. Launching Community Enrichments, where we can offer educational, social and sensory sensitive events like my favorite, Sensory Santa, extended the vibe set by the conferences. I’m thankful for the networking and sharing of ideas these types of settings make possible. I’ve so appreciated the partnerships concerning safety with the State Troopers through Project Life Saver and CTC with classroom time for training with the cadets.

There are so many memories and moments that I will carry with me for some time. With that … I am thankful for the opportunity to move into the Past President position. I can be a part of the past and that’s only possible because of those who have been willing to carry the torch towards the future. Being part of this amazing non-profit organization has been a team effort. I’ve worked alongside many brilliant individuals with amazing skills and heart. Now I can support them and smile as they successfully navigate what’s next. What programs will they make flourish, what impacts will they have in the lives of those we serve and our communities.

I am so excited to announce that ASA’s new Board of Director’s President is Leah Kovall. Her enthusiasm and positive outlook and vision will be so effective in her leading. Moving into the Vice President position is Briana Brooks. Joining us as the new treasurer is Bonita Brees. Denys Collins will continue as our secretary and Alana Frazier and Joshua Kamerick have also volunteered more of their time, energy and resources to the ASA Board. Paige Talvi has accepted our position of Honorary Board member which we are so pleased to share. Every one of these individuals have made it possible for our organization to not only exists, but thrive. I am so grateful and thankful for their willingness, eagerness, thoughtfulness and compassion in their service as well as the time they commit to their positions. All of those characteristics are why they are champions of advocacy, education, awareness, acceptance and change for so many … not only locally but across our great State!

I am so thankful to all of our organization’s supporters and volunteers. All of your time, skills, and financial gifts have allowed us to do what we do. Thank you for both your past and future generosity! When there are so many amazing non-profits doing so many great things, it’s humbling to receive all we do. Our deep gratitude in recognizing this makes us proud to let you know that every dollar stays in Alaska and every dollar matters and is helpful. As we wrap up 2018, I am excited to see what 2019 holds for the Autism Society of Alaska. Thankful!

Brandy Raby, Past Autism Society of Alaska Board of Director’s President

Brandy Raby and her family at 10th Annul Alaska 5k for Autism

If you’d like to donate your time, email

If you’d like to donate to our organization, visit

2018 Rewind

What Did ASA Do in 2018?


Kicked off the new year by welcoming the Autism Society of America President and CEO,Scott Badesch to Alaska. He ran our Vision Forward Strategic Planning Session and helped map out goals for the next two years.

Announced Regal Cinemas would be continuing My Way Matinee, Sensory Friendly Films


Selected as a non-profit for  McHenry Ball tournament at North Pole Middle school and funds were raised on our behalf from the students’ North Pole Champions for Charity bingo, dinner, and auction.

Received Golden Heart Meeting Ambassador Award from Explore Fairbanks Alaska. Our 2nd Autism Conference brought the community of Fairbanks over $25,000 from direct attendee spending.

Began a logo contest to celebrate our 10th Annual Alaska 5k for Autism


Hands-on workshop on strengthening communication between them and their adolescent or teen presented by Matthew Sena and Kylie Gore-Hall with Hope Counseling

Partnered with Fly Trampoline for a sensory friendly event


Annual Human Ribbon at UAF

Partnered with 2018 Alaska LEND Fellows for a Parent Cafe Tea Time Workshop on Strengthening and Supporting Families

Chosen as Papa John’s Charity of the Month

KTVF covered our sensory friendly events and partnerships

Board members attended Fairbanks Children Museum’s Sensory Friendly Day


Partnered with Stone Soup Cafe for a Cooking Life Skills Course for adults with autism


10th Annual Alaska 5k for Autism

Benefited from the Fairbanks Visitor Industry Walk for Charity


Sponsored one camper to attend Camp Yes in the Woods

Said goodbye to our first hired Executive Director of 4 years

Joined FRA for Disability Awareness at Golden Days Parade


Had a booth at the Tanana Valley State Fair


Presented to the CTC Law Enforcement Academy on safety with suggestions for positive and effective interactions with those who experience autism and their support systems


Partnered with Arctic Harvest for our first ever Sensory Friendly Fall Event


We welcomed in our new board president, Leah Kovall

New  treasurer welcomed to the board, Bonita Brees


We will host our 5th Annual Sensory Santa event sponsored by Greer Tank and Welding

We can’t wait to share with you our plans for 2019! If you’d like to donate your time, email

If you’d like to donate to our organization, visit

Halloween Tips for Children with Autism

Written By: Denys Collins

Halloween can be a fun day full of excitement, candy, and spooky decorations. For some, such as those that experience autism, it can be overwhelming and full of chaos, diet restricted treats, and scary costumes and decor. With a few accommodations and planning, Halloween can be an enjoyable time for all.

First, prepare ahead of time.

  • Try Costumes before Halloween to make sure your child is comfortable.
  • Create a visual story or schedule.
  • Practice trick or treating.
  • Walk through the neighborhood ahead of time.

Next, for the night of Halloween remember to be flexible.

  • Know  your child’s limits. Keep it short if necessary.
  • Throw your own sensory friendly party instead.
  • Have them help hand out candy.
  • Have an area of the house free of decorations and festivities, so they can escape and calm down.
  • Have diet approved snacks or toys at home to replace candy.
  • Have child wear a glow bracelet or have a glow stick  in case they elope.
  • Go before it’s too dark and crowded.

Last, don’t forget to have fun. Holidays should be enjoyable.  Don’t force your child to participate if they are not interested.  Plan alternative activities instead and make your own traditions. Make Halloween pleasurable for everyone.  Happy Halloween!


Sensory Friendly Fall

Written by: Denys Collins

On Saturday, October 6th, the Autism Society of Alaska partnered with Arctic Harvest and held their first Fall event. Individuals that experience autism and their families were given an opportunity to enjoy common autumn activities in a sensory friendly and welcoming environment at Arctic Harvest.DSC00060

On an unusually warm day for October in Alaska, families gathered together at Davies farm. While there, guests were greeted by goats. Then, they were able to go on hay rides, have their faces painted by the amazing Ms. Sally, and pick pumpkins. Some children chose to run through the field while others watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Afterwards, they were able to enjoy treats or food around the fire.

Because the event was before open hours at Arctic Harvest, everyone had a chance to enjoy themselves without the usual chaos, excitement, and crowds that often accompany such festivities. Many individuals that experience autism process sensory information such as sounds or smells in a different manner than those that are neurotypical. Just as autism is a spectrum so are sensory needs. With the help of community partnerships, accommodations can be implemented to make events and activities accessible to individuals that experience autism or have sensory processing disorder.

The Autism Society of Alaska would like to thank their board members, volunteers, Arctic Harvest, and all the families that attended for helping make their first fall event a success.

If you would like information on how to make your business, event, or activity more sensory friendly, please reach out the Autism Society of Alaska at To stay up to date on all of our events, follow us on Facebook or sign up for our newsletter.