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Photo of ballet dancers on a softly blue lit stage in mid dance of the Nutcracker

A Brief History of Sensory-Friendly Performances in Pittsburgh, PA

Sensory-Friendly performances have become a relatively new tradition for many families in the Pittsburgh area. The venues offer a “relaxed” atmosphere that is calm and welcoming. The accessible performances emerged in 2013, and have continued to create lifelong memories for people with autism or sensory processing disorders ever since, and the Pittsburgh CLO has adopted the tradition with its sensory-friendly A Musical Christmas Carol. Autism Connection spoke with Vanessa Braun from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Lindsey Kaine from the read more

Judge Jennifer McCrady in sensory room next to bubble tube

Family Division of the Allegheny County Courthouse Initiates Sensory-Friendly Areas

Autism Connection of Pennsylvania is thrilled to announce sensory-friendly areas in development at the Family Division of the Allegheny County Courthouse. We explored the facility with The Honorable Jennifer McCrady, the judge who initiated the project, who also took time to answer our questions about the importance of sensory-sensitive spaces. Autism Connection: What prompted you to create the sensory-friendly areas? Judge McCrady: The Family Division is a chaotic environment and can be very overwhelming for members of the community to read more

Cover of Behavioral Health Commission Special Report

Behavioral Health Commission Special Report 2022

We are powered by an amazing board of trustees who actively engage in the work we need to in order to be a lifeline for families and adults, which is our mission. One of our unsung heroes is the Hon. William F. Ward (Bill) who serves on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). As PCCD’s representative, Bill was key in creating funding opportunities in this Behavioral Health Commission Special Report. Follow the link below to read the full read more

Final runner posing with four support runners in the party group

Gingerbread Man Running Company’s Labor Day Run for Autism Connection

We met up with some friends from the Gingerbread Man Running Company, who so generously donate proceeds from their annual half marathon to support you, the autism community in PA. Distance events – the rolling, swimming, bike, or running kinds – and autism may have more in common than you might imagine. They require practice, repetition, a slow building of endurance and technique to accomplish things over time. Sometimes we fall, get a sprain, strain, become overheated or freezing cold. We can read more

Renaissance style painting of a cat putting something in a jewelry box. The cat is wearing a peach toga sitting sideways and peering into the golden box.

The Most Important Thing

This is really important is usually that last passing thought I remember about the very important thing I was holding before my memory goes stark white. The phenomenon of blanking out after placing an important item (amusement park tickets in the upcoming scenario) isn’t uncommon. I mean, they even make memes about it. So when Autism Connection received an email from a parent in the aftermath of absentmindedness, we completely understood. Parent: “We were an hour into our drive to read more

Photo of Toy Story characters facing away from the camera looking toward a young boy with a Captain America backpack on in the background waiting for the school bus

Ways To Decrease Back-to-School Anxiety

By Sally Dean, M.S., BCBA, LBS Many children experience anxiety when it is time to go back to school. For kids with an autism spectrum disorder this can be especially true. Families can make this transition easier by doing a few simple things to decrease the worries and fears associated with the return to school. Parents and caregivers can reduce a child’s “back to school” anxiety by using the following techniques: Mark on the family calendar when the first day of school read more

colorful floating bubble with reflections of a landscape trees and water inside

Circle of Life

Recently we were reminded of how small the world can be, in a good way. A lovely family decided to choose us as an honorarium beneficiary at the passing of their very successful, graceful, and beloved father. We gratefully received contributions from friends and family for several weeks. More recently, one friend of the family sent a check to the man’s son, who then mailed it to us. The family noticed an astounding coincidence – our business address is the read more

Colorful image of five multicolored hands meeting in a circle. Autism Connection logo in bottom right corner

Familiar Voices: Autism Support Groups

One of the most comforting experiences is the sound of a familiar voice, especially one you haven’t heard in a long time. There are those who look for help, and in the process, help others. Nichole Givner leads the Grandmothers with Love Autism Support Group in Pittsburgh, and I met her five years ago when she was seeking help, not only for her family, but for grandparents experiencing the same struggles. We initially met in person at Eat-n-Park in the read more

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Afraid to Drive: Look to the Helpers

My daughter, 17 years old and autistic, was crying inconsolably last night. It’s one of the most difficult things for a parent to experience, especially when the reason for the upset isn’t readily apparent. “What happened?” I asked. Tear flooded eyes locked just past my gaze. “I’m afraid to drive.” And I knew what she meant. “Me too,” I said. “But I know that there’s people who can help.” The Helpers Times of despair such as we as a nation read more

golden flickering lights that seem to extend into an endless black voic

Editorial: Wings and Things

Note:  I am a slow processor, especially around trauma, in large part because I have PTSD from witnessing one murder, seeing news coverage of two friends’ murders, and being assaulted with the threat of being killed — all random stranger crimes. Lots of people have PTSD for lots of reasons – it’s not just for veterans! I didn’t know that for over 30 years and I credit my friend Kris Veenis and his amazing documentary for waking me up to my read more

Pittsburgh Marathon 2022: Water

Autism Connection’s team joined forces with a slew of dedicated volunteers at the 2022 Pittsburgh Marathon. It was 6:00 in the morning, and we were surrounded by water; gallons and gallons of water waiting to fill paper cups. There were heavy clouds weighted with water above us. Under Fluid Captain, Norm’s, direction, volunteers quickly assembled paper cups, filled them, then placed cardboard slats on them so we could layer the cups in stacks three layers high. We were cold. Large read more

A Reason to Run by Rachel Sivley

I love running, but there are still many days I wonder why I punish myself by running non-stop for hours at a time.  When I get discouraged or lose my motivation, I remember my daughters and how I want to be an example of not only a healthy lifestyle for them, but I want them to challenge themselves. That looks different for each of them as Lydia is a neurotypical, outgoing 10-year-old who has a heart the size of a read more

Reverent Gratitude: Saying Goodbye to Curtis Upsher, Jr. 1949 – 2022

Our dear friend and brilliant board member, Curtis Upsher Jr., died suddenly a little over one month ago. A person’s value and their connection to us is in part measured in how many times we reach for the phone or think of sending an email to check in with them, hear their thoughts, and listen to their latest story about their family or a project.  By that measure, we hold Curtis in very high regard, he being a key figure read more

Monday’s Spontaneous Promise

This post-Easter Monday morning started with grey skies and a black cup of coffee, but things became colorful in an instant. What I thought would be a quiet beginning to my fourth week as Director of Operations for Autism Connection turned out to be delightfully busy, and quite literally, energetic. I was settled at my desk, setting priorities for the upcoming week, but the morning had other plans. We had an unexpected visit from a local father and son who read more

Back To School Tips For Children With Autism

Luciana Randall of Autism Connection of Pennsylvania stops by to talk about helping children with autism adjust to going back to school.

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More Evidence That Parents’ Ages Could Influence Autism Risk

Lots of factors may affect a child’s odds of ending up with autism. Researchers around the world have been striving to fully understand how biology, genetics and environment play roles.

Microsoft set to hire people with autism

Microsoft has announced plans to hire people with autism. Working with specialist employment agency Specialisterne, which trains and finds positions for people diagnosed on the autism spectrum, the pilot program begins in May with 10 full-time positions in the company’s Redmond, Wash., corporate headquarters. READ MORE

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Essential Pittsburgh: Placing Pittsburgh Adults with Mental Health Issues in STEM Jobs

In commemoration of World Autism Awareness Day, Lu Randall, Executive Director at Autism Connection of PA, and April Artz, Coordinator for the EmployAble program at the Squirrel Hill Career Development Center, are working to place adults with mental health issues in STEM jobs. The EmployAble program, which provides supportive services along with their job placements, acquired the funds to include services for adults on the autism spectrum in 2014. READ MORE

KDKA

Expert tips for hosting children with autism

Executive Director Luciana Randall with Autism Connection of Pennsylvania stops by KDKA to talk about some tips for hosting children with Autism in your home.  WATCH HERE  

Baby-Kerry

The Letter I Would Have Written for My Parents When I Was Still Nonverbal

Dear Mom and Dad, I know it’s breaking your heart to see me as I am now. Most of the kids we know are starting to talk while I’m just making sounds. I’m lashing out because I’m struggling. I can’t communicate my needs, and things are just not going the way I wish they would. I scream and fight with you every time you try and bathe me because I can’t stand the feeling of water. I cringe anytime I read more

Understanding: teachers appreciate having more information about autism spectrum disorder.

Website teaches schools, parents about autism

A new website will give teachers information and guidance to understand, help and deal with students on the autism spectrum. A new website is providing a free one-stop shop for teachers and parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), offering guidance about how best to manage the learning disability in schools. The website, called Amaze Online Classroom, is the product of a joint initiative by Amaze, the peak body for ASD in Victoria, and the Department of Education and Early Childhood read more

Temple Grandin, one of the leading experts on autism in the U.S. and autistic herself, spoke on the subject on Monday at JSU’s Mississippi e-Center.
(Photo: Joe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger)

Temple Grandin: Don’t give up on children with autism

She’s not finished. “Now, I’m seeing the bolts on the ground that they cut off the mailbox I have now. They moved the mailbox across the street, but the post office doesn’t have keys for them. I have to pick up my mail at the post office (in Fort Collins, Colorado), and now I see myself standing in line at the post office and the guy is going, ‘We don’t have the keys yet.’ It’s really stupid.” Grandin has written read more

Measurable IEP goals that address Executive Functioning deficits

Another post by popular demand! If you are visiting here for the first time, make sure you check out my 500 SDIs post. That post took forever to do, but it is gets used so I’m happy that it was worth the effort. But as a result of that post, I have heard many times from readers and friends, “great! Now please do one for an IEP goal bank.” That to me is just such an overwhelming task, I can barely read more

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