Beer&Wine Tasting Silent Auction

Over 100 people attended the Autism Society of Alaska’s first Beer and Wine Tasting Silent Auction

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Written by Denys Collins

Over 100 people attended the Autism Society of Alaska’s first Beer and Wine Tasting Silent Auction on October 5th, 2017. The money raised will go a long way towards helping Alaskan families impacted by autism. The auction and tasting, which took place at Roundup Steakhouse, made over $9,000 through ticket and auction item sales.

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This festive event was highlighted by an impressive amount of widely varied items generously donated including:

  • Fully stocked fishing boat rental
  • Cabin stay
  • Art by Alaskan artist Karla Morreira
  • Gift certificates for the Nutcracker Ballet
  • An entire table of homemade desserts

DSC_0124 While bidding on items, attendees were able to try numerous types of beers, wines, and spirits including  Alaskan made whiskeys from Arctic Harvest. The tasting tables and auction items began in the lower level of Roundup Steakhouse then flowed upstairs, stocking the second level. Sounds of friends and families engaging in lighthearted bidding wars and conversations filled the DSC_0077restaurant. We were even lucky enough to have Michelle Garcia Winner, the creator of Social Thinking and keynote speaker from this year’s Autism Conference, join the fun.

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The atmosphere of this event was unlike many of those we have previously held. This allowed for a new group of generous community members to help support local individuals that experience autism and their families. This was one of our most successful events yet. We were able to raise over $9,000 which will allow us to continue:

  • Holding trainings for first responders
  • Accommodate sensory friendly events
  • Hosting Community Enrichment Nights
  • Accessing resources for individuals and families

It truly was a community event from those that planned the event to those that ran it. It would not have been possible without the assistance of countless people.  Gene Lunney, the owner of Roundup Steakhouse’s hospitality and kindness are unsurpassed. He provided not only the venue but also the food and alcohol. The help of Paige Talvi, Stefanie Bell, and their crew of volunteers was invaluable. They were vital to the solicitation of amazing donations,  the beautiful set up, and the quick and painless check out. As a non profit, we are nothing without the community that supports us.  It was a beautiful night watching the community come together to support local families impacted by autism.

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*All photos courtesy of our amazing volunteer photographer, Chelsey Klos with Willow Photography

2nd Annual Autism Conference

Over 200 people gathered at Pioneer Park

Written by Denys Collins

On October 5th and 6th, more than 200 people gathered at Pioneer Park for the Autism Society of Alaska’s Second Annual Autism Conference.   The two day event saw people from all over Alaska including attendees from the Aleutians. Individuals with autism, professionals, educators, family members, and caregivers filled the Civic Center ready to learn and connect. Michelle Garcia Winner began Thursday bright and early with her keynote on Social Thinking and focused the day applying it to younger kids. On day two she  dug deeper into Social Thinking with application on teens and adults. Following her second day keynote began the 8  breakout sessions from local Alaskan speakers and a chance to visit the 15 exhibit booths to conclude the final day.

The Needs of the State

Vibrations of conversations filled the air with people making face-to- face connections. Those interested in networking and learning about products, resources, and services that address the needs and enhance the lives of individuals that experience autism were able to connect on a deeper level during the conference. One parent stated, “These past few days have been so impactful to me.I have learned so much and have received the gift of perspective.While being so informative it has also been a very emotional 2 days.”

“A beautiful connection between information and individuals blooms during the conference. We format the topics based on the overarching questions our organization hears come through our door from across the State. As an options based organization we see our role as being the platform for all resources, information and services for Alaskans. The conference gives us a stage to connect our community to the diverse resources available to help reach the needs of our families, ” expressed Danielle Tessen, the Executive Director for the Autism Society of Alaska.

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Attendees Registering (Photo Courtesy of Willow Photography)

This Alaskan focused information and interaction was made  possible because of  our generous sponsors and dedicated volunteers. In order for every Alaskan that experiences autism to have the highest quality of life, we must all do our part together as a community. This is precisely what was seen at the conference, Alaskans uniting to support those impacted by autism. It is also the reason the Autism Society of Alaska saw a need to host the first conference in 2016.

“Alaska has some amazing resources.  My intention with starting the ASA conference was to network at every level from parents to service providers and individuals who experience autism all under one roof.  Along with that idea is the reality that most of us can not afford to travel outside to seek additional information.  With everyone together, it’s another opportunity to enrich what Alaska has with some additional amazing outside resources like we have had the opportunity to do with Dr. Temple Grandin and Michelle Garcia Winner.  The power of shared information is an amazing catapult to impacting the lives of those who experience autism and the community of those who support and love them!” explained Brandy Raby, Board President of the Autism Society of Alaska.

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Michelle Garcia Winner (Willow Photography)

Michelle Garcia Winner & Social Thinking

Michelle Garcia Winner guided attendees  through Social Thinking strategies and treatment frameworks during her interactive presentations. Those attending were able to learn and understand that socializing is more complex than they may have previously thought prior to the event. Winner broke up the multifaceted process into simpler steps and concepts to better understand and apply in day to day situations. She unpacked a topic most of us never think about to find the core social issue those with autism may experience. The message resonated with many, as we heard in the comments in our evaluations and public testimony. Those with the fortunate opportunity to listen  found the atmosphere to be “relaxed,” and the information to be “relevant” and “useful.” Winner answered questions and offered insightful workshop time among those present.  By the end, many left with a new mindset on social cognition and what it means to  socialize. A framework all attending can apply to day to day life to positively impact our community.

Keeping it Local

Most of the second day focused on  information and resources for Alaska. 15 exhibiting booths offered one on one time to discuss services, agencies, and resources in state. Speakers from around the area covered an extensive variety of topics.

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Christie Reinhardt (Courtesy of Abigail Paige Photography)
  • Feel at Home: Unlock the Door to Healthy Living and Leisure with Amiee C. Smith, M.A: Alaska Autism Resource Center.
  • Alphabet Soup: ABA, BCBA, RBT and EPSDT (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Behavior Analysis and How Medicaid is Going to Cover It) with Christie Reinhardt, Program Coordinator II: The Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education.
  • Microenterprise Grant Application Process with Larrisa Cummings, Microenterprise Grant Fund Administrator: UAA Center for Human Development.
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    Heidi Lieb-Williams (Abigail Paige Photography)
  • Functional Neurological Interventions for Autism with Dr. Daniel Costello, DC: Alaska Brain and Spine.
  • What Can I Choose? Exploring Devices and Equipment Commonly Used to Influence Sensory Needs with Derrick Cannon, PT, DPT & Traci Roon, PT: Building Blocks.
  • Living Puzzled: How Being Autistic has Shaped My Purpose in Life with Heidi Lieb-Wiliams: Speaker/Self Advocate, Mom, Self Employed Entrepreneur, Actress & Aspiring Filmmaker.
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    Traci Roon & Derrick Cannon (Abigail Paige Photography)
  • Building Emotional Awareness and Regulation Skills for Children who Experience Autism with Matthew Sena, MS LPC. & Bill Couthran, Psy.D.: Hope Counseling Center.
  • The New Dr. Brennan is a Woman and ECHO is a Community? What in the World is Going on in Public Health and What Does This Have to do With Me? with Christie Reinhardt, Coordinator II: The Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education.

If you were unable to make it to the conference, you can find handouts at here as they become available.

Wrap It Up

Alaska, a large state  faced with unique challenges and needs, makes it overwhelming to try to locate services, resources, and information related to autism. This conference offers a platform for people to discover local resources in Alaska and offers a community for support and networking. All attendees, presenters, volunteers, organizations and sponsors that come together for the Alaska Autism Conference are seeking and providing a level of connection, information, resources, and support. The Autism Society of Alaska is filled with gratitude to be able to offer this event for a second time. We continue to learn from each conference to grow and adapt to meet the needs of our state.  

Building Blocks: Eric Ahrns, Rebecca Schichtel, Briana Brooks Talkabout Inc: David Jamison AARC: Aimee Smith, Tara Maltby
(Willow Photography)

2nd Autism Conference Call for Papers

Alaska Autism Society of Alaska Conference Call for Papers

The Autism Society of Alaska’s 2nd Annual State Conference will be held October 5th and 6th in Fairbanks Alaska. 

If you wish to submit a proposal to present at one or more sessions at our 2017 conference, please note the following important information:

  • Submissions will only be accepted at our email address: autism907@gmail.com
  • All submissions must be received by August 8th, 2017.
  • A disclosure form (identifying potential conflicts of interest) will be required for all presentations. Please note the Autism Society of Alaska conference presentations cannot promote or advertise a commercial product or service without disclosure. All presentations will be permitted at the discretion of the Autism Society of Alaska.
  • All selected presenters will be notified by August 22nd, 2017.
  • All presenters must register for the conference.  Attendance fees will be waived for presenters. A registration code will be sent to speakers once approved.

 

BEFORE YOU SUBMIT – THINGS TO CONSIDER

 

The Autism Society uses People First language and encourages you to do the same. When preparing your proposal, keep in mind the audience is professionals, individuals on the autism spectrum, family members and advocates. Your presentation must encompass something for everyone and language should reflect the diversity of our conference attendees.

 

Presentations should include how your topic would help the audience to learn more about or help achieve one or more of these according to the lifespan topics indicated:

  1. Adult topics: Self-advocacy, transition, relationships, self-identity, housing pathways.
  2. Employment: What are options for employees & employers?
  3. Alaska Insurance: Medicaid, Alaska required insurance & social security.
  4. Financial: Abel Act, setting up a trust, care when primary providers are gone.
  5. Communication: Alternative communication options for nonverbal individuals, as well as the providers. Caregivers and support systems.
  6. IEP/504: What is an IEP, how do I get one, what does it allow, is this just for education or for college and employment as well?
  7. Healthy Lifestyles: How to spark interest and get started and what is available in Alaska?
  8. Diagnosis: Who can diagnose in Alaska. How to get a diagnosis as a minor as well as an adult. What is the next step after receiving a diagnosis?
  9. Services: What agencies, services and therapies are available in Alaska? What are the programs (i.e care coordination, STAR, mini grants, wait list, waivers, TEFRA, tri-care ECHO (military) respite, day habilitation, in home support , job coaches)
  10. Home therapies: What are things that can be done at home to help with sleep, eating, transitions, family and community engagement and interactions?
  11. Families: How can we support our siblings? How can we maintain healthy relationships, friendships and marriage? What can I do when I feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed about being a primary caregiver? How can we manage through everyday stresses?

STEPS & INSTRUCTIONS: Presenters

Biographical Sketch

In addition to contact information, please provide a biographical sketch for each presenter, in 50 words maximum.  Presenter(s) and co-author listing must include credentials (Ph.D., etc.)

Example bio

Temple Grandin, Ph.D. 

Dr. Temple Grandin is an internationally respected specialist in designing livestock handling systems. She is the most well-renowned individual with autism in the world today. Dr. Grandin is a best-selling author and activist.

Note: presenters submitting a presentation for a Continuing Education session must include a CV/Resume, 100 words maximum

Title of Presentation

Come up with a good, intriguing session title.  It’s the first and perhaps only impression you’ll make on a potential attendee. The primary purpose of a title is to get the attendee to read the first sentence of the description. Here is an example of a session title, and how it should be written:

Example 1:  A Long and Winding Road: An Examination of the Transition Process for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Example 2:  Peer Mediated Supports for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

Learning Objectives 

(maximum 50 words for each learning objective: minimum two, maximum three) Craft strong learning objectives. Please complete two (2) out of three (3) Learning Objectives for each proposal in your submission. Any submission with fewer than two will be declined. It is crucial that you follow the guidelines for writing learning objectives as described below. There is a limit of 50 words for each learning objective. Strong Learning Objectives have three distinguishing characteristics: (1) observable, (2) measurable, (3) must match the content of your proposal as described in your title, description, and content plan. Encouragement of using active verbs that indicate what will be taught, demonstrated, or experienced. Here are examples of action verbs: Identify, summarize, list, describe, differentiate, discuss, compute, predict, explain, demonstrate, utilize, analyze, design, select, create, plan, assess, compare, critique, write, apply, demonstrate, prepare, use, compile, revise.

 

The following are three examples of well-written learning objectives using active verbs.  Participants who attend this presentation will be able to:

 

Example 1: List three attributes of autism spectrum disorder.

Example 2: Compare and contrast the characteristics of night terrors versus nightmares.

Example 3: Describe three clinical techniques to use when an individual with autism is suffering from disturbing nightmares or having sleepless nights.

 

Description of Presentation

(50 words maximum) The description must provide and be reflective of your title and your content plan. A session description should get the reader to say, “Hmm, that sounds interesting.” Choose the right words to accurately describe the session, pull readers in and get them to commit to attending the session and see the benefits of the presentation. This description is what attendees will see in the conference program.

 

Content Plan

This description must provide information that is essential to the review process. The content plan should include: details on the content that will be provided and sufficient information to determine how the session contributes to best practice and advances the field of autism spectrum disorders.  Abstracts are limited to 500 words maximum.

 

Social Thinking, It is Everywhere

An Introduction to Social Thinking

By Denys Collins

July 14, 2017

Quick Look

  • Social thinking (lower case) is what we do when we share a space with others.
  • Social Thinking (capitalized) is a framework that breaks down complex social situations into easy to understand and easy to teach concepts.
  • It is best for ages 4 to adult that have  social learning challenges with or without a diagnostic label.

 

What is social thinking?

People  spend their whole life learning social skills without ever realizing it. As babies, people begin to observe others, and then they begin to communicate and interact.  The more people socialize, the more they are able to understand people and situations in order to act accordingly. Social thinking is our innate ability  to think through a social situation by “interpreting thoughts, beliefs, intentions, emotions, knowledge and actions of another person along with the context of the situation to understand that person’s experience.” We then apply this information and respond. Our response affects how the other person will respond which then affects our emotions. Everyone does this all day long:

  • At home: Your spouse gives you the silent treatment, you have to figure out why
  • At work: Your boss calls you into their office. While you walk over, you try to discover her intentions.
  • Reading a book: You look at the connection between the characters and their influence on each other.
  • Texting: You need to detect sarcasm before you respond.
  • Flirting: You try to pick up on hints of interest that aren’t being directly stated.
  • School: Your best friend is playing with someone else, and you try to determine why they aren’t playing with you.

Those that  have social learning challenges may find the practice of social thinking to be confusing and complicated. This has nothing to do with intelligence. Some people born with developmental disabilities do not soak up social information as intuitively  as others. They will need to learn social skills and actively think through social situations. This can be done much easier with someone to help them through different scenarios. This brings us to Michelle Garcia Winner.

Who is Michelle Garcia Winner?

Michelle Garcia Winner is a speech language pathologist (SLP). She focuses on helping individuals with social learning challenges.

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In the mid 1990s she became a SLP for a public high school district. She began to see a trend with many of the students she worked with. They had strong intelligence and language, but their social communication skills were lacking. Social Thinking was born. A few years later she opened her own private practice for Social Thinking. She started a company under the same name and began public speaking on the topic, publishing books, and creating products.  She has won many awards including:

  • Congressional Recognition Award, 2008
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, the Prentice School, 2012
  • Outstanding Achievement Award, California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA), 2012
  • Community Partner Award, Massachusetts Association for the Blind (MAB) Community Services, 2016

What is Social Thinking?

Social Thinking is a framework  created by Michelle Garcia Winner. It is targeted at helping those with social learning and communication challenges. People are taught to think about their thoughts and emotions and of those around them. Social Thinking takes the complex steps of social skills and breaks them down into steps. Ideas are stated in an easy to understand way. For example, instead of being told to “make eye contact, they are taught to think with their eyes.”  Social Thinking is a three-part process:

  1. Learn to closely observe the social world we live in.
  2. Learn to adapt social skills to meet social goals by becoming self-aware, self-monitoring, and having self-control.
  3. Become more aware of your emotions and better predict and relate to the emotions of others.

Who is it for?

The concepts and strategies can be helpful for anyone. One can find them being  used in:

  • Homes
  • Schools: Public, Private, Charter (Special Education, Mainstream)
  • Private Programs
  • Clinics
  • Community Programs (Sports, Clubs)
  • Therapy Offices
  • Places of Employment
  • Universities

The most common target audience is:

  • Those with social learning challenges
  • Ages four to adulthood
  • Average to above average language and cognitive skills
  • With or without a diagnostic label
  • Some of the many diagnostic labels:
    • Aperger’s Syndrome
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • Social communication Disorder
    • PDD-NOS, ADHD/ADD
    • Non-verbal learning disability
    • Specific Language Impairment
    • Learning disabilities
    • TBI-Traumatic
    • Down Syndrome
    • Brain Injury
    • Velocardial Facial Syndrome
    • Social Anxiety
    • And many more

Wrap It Up

As you can see, social thinking is a major part of our life. It is practiced every time we enter a space where other people are. Even with all the intellect in the world, a lack of social skills can lead to struggling through many daily activities. This is not just about having friends and relationships; this is also about succeeding at work and school.

If you or your child is struggling with social skills or you are a teacher or therapist and  would like more information, please go to socialthinking.com where this information was found. You can also attend the 2nd Autism Alaska Conference. It is October 5th and 6th, 2017 with keynote speaker, Michelle Garcia Winner. This is an event you won’t want to miss.

Holidays & Autism

.::Happy Holidays from the Autism Society of Alaska::.

The Autism Society of Alaska held a Sensory Santa event in Soldotna and a second Sensory Santa event in Fairbanks this December.  ASA provided an opportunity for families to enjoy a quiet, sensory friendly Santa visit for children who often times find themselves overwhelmed with Santa visits. This event is designed to assist individuals with various disabilities, including autism, who have a difficult time waiting in line, staying calm, dislike loud noises or lights, but wish to enjoy the Christmas spirit and create memories with their family.

Each year families with children, who experience autism or other special needs, find it quite challenging during the holiday season. The Sensory Santa event allows children with sensory sensitivity to enjoy meeting Santa, in a much calmer and less overwhelming environment.

What about events other than visiting Santa?

The holidays can provide numerous challenging situations for families who experience autism or other special needs. We often envision the holidays as a Hallmark movie or a picture perfect greeting card. In the end, remember to celebrate what makes your family happy because it is a time to cherish those we love. Start new traditions and adjust the season to make the holidays “picture perfect” in a way that makes sense for your family. Get messy, laugh, and enjoy this time of year the way YOUR family knows how. Whatever it looks like. Send out the photo that truly captures your family and not one that looks like it came with the frame.

Although that sounds good, sometimes we need more. Visit the link below for more guidance on how to survive this holiday season.The Autism Society of America created a list of holiday tips for you to print out and live by!

http://www.pathfindersforautism.org/docs/Holiday-Tips-for-Families-Living-with-Autism.pdf

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Crisis Intervention Training with UAF CTC Law Enforcement Academy

On November 2nd the Autism Society of Alaska’s Board President conducted a Crisis Intervention Training to the UAF Community and Technical College Law Enforcement Academy.

“This training is part of the Law Enforcement Academy’s ongoing effort to provide cultural awareness training with the goal that students will be able to assess a situation and perform a reasonable and appropriate response.”

Community and Technical College

The Autism Society of Alaska’s partnership with UAF CTC Law Enforcement is to inform the academy on what autism is, statistics about autism, identifying autism, and providing them with a variety of suggested responses when interacting with an individual on the spectrum. Through a training such as this, we at ASA can better equip the officers with de-escalation techniques for when they encounter an individual on the spectrum.

“Our goal of inclusive participation in all areas of life is being realized. As a result it is our responsibility to make as many education opportunities available to help ensure that these moments of interaction are positive, appropriate and as safe as possible for everyone.”

Brandy Raby, ASA Board President

The other side of the safety process is training families on the programs available. There are safety measures families can take in order to help First Responders and Law Enforcement. Families can take part in The Yellow Dot Program and the Smart911 Program.

Yellow Dot Program

Alaska is the 23rd State to join the Yellow Dot Program. This program is designed to alert first responders and officers that someone in the vehicle has a medical condition and provides detailed medical information that can be crucial following a crash. The purpose of the program is to alert law enforcement officers, and medical first responders of any special information to better assist the situation. Participants of the program receive a “Yellow Dot” decal, a “Yellow Dot” folder and an information form with the participant’s name, an identifying photo, emergency contact information, personal physicians’ information, medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies and medications being used. We encourage all families with an individual on the spectrum to become part of the Yellow Dot Program to help first responders.

http://www.adn.com/article/20120214/alaska-becomes-23rd-state-yellow-dot-med-alert-program

Smart911 Program

Smart911 allows citizens to create a safety profile of vital personal and household data. Specifically to autism, this profile allows people to including details on medications, medical conditions, and any information that is needed in order to effectively assist or interact with people during an emergency situation. This information is automatically available to 9-1-1 call takers when a citizen places an emergency call and can be sent to first responders in the field, enabling them to act precisely, save valuable time and further reduce tragic outcomes and save lives. The autism society of Alaska strongly encourages families to set up a profile with this program.

http://www.fairbanksalaska.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Smart911-Press-Release.pdf

The Autism Society of Alaska’s procedure for safety is a twofold process: we inform both parties by educating first responders and law enforcement along with families of those on the spectrum. We believe through each training we can make a positive impact in Alaska.

Do you know of a training opportunity for ASA?

Contact the Executive Director, Danielle Tessen, at autism907@gmail.com

What Does The Autism Society of Alaska Actually Do?

As the executive director of The Autism Society of Alaska, I am constantly asked:

“What does The Autism Society of Alaska Actually do?”

The goal of our blog is to answer this exact question.

We have created a space to keep the public informed on events, programs, conferences, and the simple day to day activities we are involved in. Our goal is to connect on a personal level with our audience by sharing tips, resources, and answering your blog topic requests.

This space is created for you.

I will leave you with our mission statement to begin answering the question,

 “Who is the Autism Society of Alaska?”

Our Mission

To improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research, and advocacy.

I look forward to connecting with you.

Danielle Tessen
Executive Director
The Autism Society of Alaska