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Autism Society of Pittsburgh, ASA Conference

Having moved from Minnesota to Pennsylvania in 2011, I have not been directly involved in autism advocacy and education for the last 18 months. I was busy enough moving and navigating my new workplace that I decided I was busy enough without volunteering to help others. Now that we are settling comfortably in Western PA and the job is now focused entirely on research (no teaching this semester), I want to do more.

On January 16, I had a nice lunch with Dan Torisky and Heidi Hess of the Autism Society of Pittsburgh ( 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 ( 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.


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