On January 16, I had a nice lunch with Dan Torisky and Heidi Hess of the Autism Society of Pittsburgh (http://www.autismsocietypgh.org). Mr. Torisky is the president of the Autism Society chapter (or "affiliate") and Ms. Hess is the coordinator of community outreach. I look forward to working with the local chapter, because I respect the Autism Society of America (http://www.autism-society.org) and the work it supports.
The ASA annual conference is going to be hosted by Pittsburgh this summer, July 10-13, 2013. I look forward to helping the local chapter host this event.
I encourage parents, caregivers, educators, and support specialists to join the Autism Society chapters in their states and cities. ASA and its affiliates try to keep a local focus, something other organizations do not do well or entirely ignore.
As readers know, I am uncertain of what might be ahead for me. I do not know if I will be teaching next academic year, working in private industry, or finding some other adventure. (We hear the economy is improving; let us hope it truly is.) Yet, finding the regional Autism Society means that I will have supportive colleagues and hopefully new friends in Western PA. Having a social network and purpose beyond "work" reduces my stress significantly.
I also continue working with organizations in Minnesota, and elsewhere, via email and video-conferencing. Technology has made it possible to be engaged nationally without traveling. Admittedly, I love that I can stay at home and answer questions — but there is still something special about interacting with students, parents, and educators in person. If you are in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, West Virginia, or parts of New York, I am willing to meet with local groups and attend regional events.
Again, I thank Mr. Torisky and Ms. Hess for welcoming me into the local autism support community.