Champions for Charity 2018

The North Pole Middle School Community joined together from early February to early March for the 6th Annual Champions for Charity Tournament.  Champions for Charity is a fundraising competition that started six years ago as a way to honor a student tragically lost in an accident. Including this year’s donations, C4C will have donated over $59,000 to locally tied nonprofit organizations.

This year twelve teams of staff and students raised $18,100 for the local nonprofit organizations of their choice.  The team “Algebros” chose to represent the Autism Society of Alaska and in one month, they raised $1428.

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Danielle Tessen, ASA’s executive director attended an assembly at  North Pole Middle School on Tuesday, May 1st. She had a chance to meet the team of students who raised money for ASA.   Then at the assembly she had a chance speak to the student body about our organization and how the money students raised will be used. “I loved that they invited me out to talk about autism and the team was so accepting and kind. It was such a blessing to experience,” expressed Danielle Tessen.

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Sensory Friendly Jump Time

On March 31, 2018 the Autism Society of Alaska partnered with FLY Trampoline Park in Fairbanks to provide a sensory friendly jump time. The event was full of smiles, laughter, and of course jumping. Parents made sure not to let the children have all of the fun.

FLY opened an hour early to accommodate the sensory needs of the jumpers. The number of attendees was kept low, and the music was turned off. The staff went above and beyond. They were helpful, friendly, and played too. There was even a surprise visitor that showed up… The Easter Bunny! It is amazing what can happen when organizations partner and set up accommodations.

If you’d like to help fund programs such as this, register and donate to our 10th Annual Alaska 5k for Autism at asagoldenheart.org. We need YOUR help!

This presentation was brought by the Autism Society of Alaska’s Community Enrichment program. This program was created to solve some of the community’s most common requests, access to information about networking with other families and leisure activities for individuals with autism. The Autism Society of Alaska (A.S.A) partners with local businesses to provide leisure opportunities to those who experience autism, while also providing networking, socializing, and referral services to the whole family. A.S.A. also hosts community presentations and workshops on a range of topics affecting individuals with autism.

Want to learn more about the Autism Society of Alaska Community Enrichment Program? Visit A.S.A’s website to see more events to come.

Building Communication for Teens with Autism

The Autism Society of Alaska Partnered with Hope Counseling Center to present a hands-on workshop: “Building Communication for Improved Listening and Compliance in Adolescents and Teens who Experience Autism.”

On Thursday, March 22, 2018, the Autism Society of Alaska Partnered with Hope Counseling Center to present a hands-on workshop: “Building Communication for Improved Listening and Compliance in Adolescents and Teens who Experience Autism.” It was presented by two therapists for Hope Counseling,  Matthew Sena, MA LPC, the Clinical Director and Kylie Gore-Hall, MS at the Autism Society of Alaska Office.

During this workshop, professionals, parents, and individuals participated in activities that offered firsthand knowledge to the difficulties adolescents and teens who experience autism might encounter while conversing. Participants partnered up and acted out different scenarios. Here they learned many skills, strategies, and tips:

  • Communication involves a speaker, a listener, and a message
  • What each role entails
  • How to minimize distractions
  • The importance of paraphrasing and more

Everyone left with tools to help build the listening skills of not only their child or clients but also themselves. All of this was achieved in a comforting environment full of conversation and networking.

This presentation was brought by the Autism Society of Alaska’s Community Enrichment program. This program was created to solve some of the community’s most common requests, access to information about networking with other families and leisure activities for individuals with autism. The Autism Society of Alaska (A.S.A) partners with local businesses to provide leisure opportunities to those who experience autism, while also providing networking, socializing, and referral services to the whole family. A.S.A. also hosts community presentations and workshops on a range of topics affecting individuals with autism.

Want to learn more about the Autism Society of Alaska Community Enrichment Program? Visit A.S.A’s website to see more events to come.

For more information on Hope Counseling Center and the services they offer, check out their website.

Autism Society of America President/CEO Visits Alaska

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Last week, Scott Badesch, the President and CEO of the Autism Society of America, braved the negative temperatures to come visit Alaska. His advice and guidance are invaluable as the Autism Society of Alaska embraces growth and change during strategic planning.

We enjoyed sharing with him some fun information about our great community such as plugging in vehicles and moose sightings.

Here are a couple comments that made us smile:

“The kids actually go outside for recess in this weather?”

“Won’t someone take your car if it’s auto started?”

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We appreciate Badesch and local Fairbanks Mayor, Jim Matherly, for taking the time to sit down with us and discuss ways we can better reach out to those in our community and across the state.  We love serving the state of Alaska and helping with the unique challenges our community faces.

Please reach out if you are interested in joining us on this journey. You can offer your skills and time in any capacity, big or small.
Autism907@gmail.com

Also consider making a donation to help support autism education, awareness, advocacy, research, and most importantly, enable us to assist families living with autism.

http://www.asagoldenheart.org/donate

Sensory Santa 2017

On December 2nd, 2017, the Autism Society of Alaska hosted their 4th annual Sensory Santa event.

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By: Denys Collins

On December 2nd, 2017, the Autism Society of Alaska hosted their 4th annual Sensory Santa event. This provided families with children on all spectrums of special needs, a more controlled and welcoming environment to visit with Father Christmas. Simple adjustments were made to reduce sensory stimuli  and to create a calming environment.

It is December, and the holiday season is in full swing. The trees are being set up and the gifts are being purchased. In malls across the country many children are lining up to tell Santa their Christmas wish list, but for some this tradition does not come easily.  For many with autism and sensory processing disorders, visiting Santa can be difficult. The problems are not all on Santa though, many of the issues lie in all that comes with him. These meetings usually take place in busy places with long crowded lines, loud music, and bright lights. This process can be uncomfortable for many children and for those with special needs, it can quickly become unbearable. The Autism Society of Alaska has joined many other communities by offering sensory friendly Santa experiences each year.

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Last weekend, we held our 4th annual sensory Santa event.   We allowed all families to have the opportunity to get their picture taken with Father Christmas. This year we utilized time slots to manage the flow of traffic more effectively and reduce the need to wait. Families were greeted in our waiting area with dim Christmas lights, the light smell of cinnamon, and morning snacks. Children were able to make their own ornament to take home or play with provided toys such as trains and a light table. For those that needed a space to get away, a tent with a sound machine and pillows was provided. Many children were more than content just to play with the trains and eat cinnamon rolls.

Once they were ready, families were brought back to a separate room to meet Santa. Our Father Christmas is a kind gentle man that quickly soothes children with his soft voice in a separate room.  Being a grandfather himself, he has knowledge of the commonly asked for items which children love.  Every family is allowed time to get comfortable with Santa with no pressure to rush.  We were very lucky this year to have an amazing photographer volunteer his time and talent and capture the special memory for families.

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, Brian Schlumbohm; our Santa and his wife, George and Amy Viltrakis; and all of our attendees for letting us share this special day with them.

Beer&Wine Tasting Silent Auction

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

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)