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In This Issue
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Beets & Jams
AGI's Own Nutrition Column
Kelcey Hostetler Nutritionist

Sometimes finding a hearty, allergen friendly side dish can be a real challenge. Sweet potatoes are a personal favorite of mine. Not only are they higher in fiber and lower in calories than regular white potatoes, but they are also full of Vitamin A and C, all of which play important roles in boosting the immune system. With this issue of the eBulletin focusing on Maine, I decided integrate Maine maple syrup into the recipe. Pure maple syrup comes in three grades, with B being the darkest and having the most concentrated maple flavor, that is what I used for the glaze. If possible, use pure maple syrup in place of maple flavored high fructose corn syrup. This recipe also includes roasted pumpkin seeds, adding additional fiber and protein as well as healthy fats; they can simply be omitted if an allergy to them is present. For a well rounded meal, these sweet potatoes would pair wonderfully with grilled or baked chicken and a green salad.  


Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Maple Glaze





½ cup roughly chopped, roasted and unsalted pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon coarse ground salt

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1.5 tbsp maple syrup (grade B will have more intense maple flavor)

4 small sweet potatoes, skin on, washed well

1 small shallot, sliced thinly

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Olive oil for cooking

Optional: Crumbled Goat Cheese (if no dietary limitation on dairy)

Optional: sliced jalapeno or chile, added to shallots and garlic for a spicy version



Preheat oven to 425°F

Cut sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces, toss with 2 tbsp oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 25 minutes or until tender, stir potatoes halfway through baking.

Meanwhile, heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tsp oil followed by the sliced shallots and minced garlic(If making the spicy version, add sliced jalapeno to the pan as well), season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until shallots begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan used to cook shallot mixture, combine apple cider vinegar and maple syrup over low heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the mixture thickens. Turn off heat and set glaze to the side.

In a bowl, combine minced rosemary, salt, and chopped pumpkin seeds. Set aside.

Once sweet potatoes are cooked through, transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle potatoes with the maple syrup glaze, sprinkle with shallot mixture followed by the rosemary, pumpkin seed salt. 
Serve warm. (If using goat cheese, crumble over the top of sweet potatoes before the shallot mixture.)

The world of special diets and food allergies can be daunting. The ARI website has a plethora of insightful articles and webinars. I find these particularly useful as they pertain to the importance of a healthy diet as well as strategies for implementation for individuals with ASDs.
ARI Launches Employment Portal

The Autism Research Institute announces its all new Employment Portal This compendium of resources was specially developed by autism employment experts, including AGI partner, Jay Collins, to provide the most up-to-date information for job seekers, job coaches and support people, family members and job providers. The new portal also features a searchable resource database, so that users may be targeted in their information gathering regarding employment. To visit the portal go to

AGI Offers Free Leadership Curriculum
This curriculum shows participants how to host leadership summits in their communities. A free curriculum download provides you with all the tools you need to foster citizenship, self-advocacy, and giving back to your community. You may also access a previously recorded webinar that guides you through implementing the curriculum so that youth and adults with autism can develop self-advocacy and citizenship skills, while giving back to their communities. To learn more, go to

Host "Trauma Warriors" in Your Community

The Autistic Global Initiative (AGI) of the Autism Research Institute offers a film hosting opportunity to communities. The feature-length video, "Trauma Warriors", produced by Anthony Morgali and Valerie Paradiz, includes adults with autism as they discuss the effects of trauma in childhood and their survivorship stories as adults. Many people with autism experience trauma and are bullied at school or as adults, harassed at the workplace or in public, often leading them down the difficult path of developing other disorders such as PTSD. This important film explores these challenges faced by individuals with autism. For more information about hosting the film in your organization or community contact AGI at


Response to the Autism Indicators Report

by Lydia Wayman

I was inconsiderate, maniacal, and even the simple but gut-punching "rude" as a child. I knew this because my teachers told me.  "You're smart enough to know better!"  They didn't know what to do with a kid like me.

My autism diagnosis came just before my final term as an undergraduate.  It was 2009, and I was the first known autistic student at my school.  My advisor forbade me from disclosing my diagnosis to anyone else.  They didn't know what to do with a straight-A student with no friends and a real knack for grating on professors.


After graduation, I tried my best at part-time, minimum-wage jobs but always totally shut down.  I struggled with anxiety, communication, and the sensory overload of public settings.  In 2010, I got the Adult Autism Waiver in my state, but service providers seemed confused about how to help me-I was verbal, not aggressive, didn't bolt, so what was the problem?  They had never had a client like me. 


I've never fit into categories.  I had a glimmer of hope when I was diagnosed that quickly sputtered out... too verbal, not enough independence, too sensitive, not enough social awareness.  I accepted that I was a lone anecdote, an anomaly, always the only one anyone has ever seen.  That was not an honor but a curse.




I love information in categories, perhaps because I never fit into them, so I was excited to see the Autism Indicators Report.  I didn't expect the results to fully capture my experience: minimal community integration, inadequate transition planning, under-employment, lack of social opportunities, barriers to medical care, stress on families....  Nearly every indicator showed that I am not an anomaly but one out of thousands each year who face these barriers.

I'm now just over the other end of transitioning and have finally found my niche.  One key to that success has been the stories, strategies, and support of others on the spectrum. The opposite of isolation-community-has empowered me more than anything else.

My transition years make me feel misunderstood, sometimes quite sad, and occasionally a bit indignant.  My failures tagged along the journey like dust clinging to my shoes. But if my story is happening some 50,000 times each year, then it's time to kick off that dusty shame and start speaking up as just one creative, determined, enthusiastic young adult captured within those numbers.  Transition age is hard, but it is even harder when we feel falsely isolated, as we are much more the rule for autistic youth than the exception.  This data is sobering, but now we know, so now we can start to make sure that the next group in transition might focus on developing their talents and choosing where to live without being trapped in worry, feeling like the only one in the whole world....

We owe a substantial thank-you to the team behind the Report for unifying and quantifying the trials of transition-age autistic youth.  And now, our passionate, capable, and fairness-focused community has a massive wrong to right-I think the first step should be to let these kids know they're anything but alone.


Read the Autism Indicators Report Here.


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Next Issue: The State of Ohio
In our August 2015 issue managing editor Chloe Rothschild will bring readers to her home state of Ohio with features on innovative programs and thought leaders in adult services in that state. Stay tuned!

Contact Our Editorial Team
Valerie Paradiz Editor-in-Chief
Chloe Rothschild Managing Editor
Kelcey Hostetler Nutrition Editor
Greg Yates Technical Editor
AGI eBulletin
Brigid Rankowski
Brigid Rankowski
Fostering the development of adults on the autism spectrum and those who work with and for them

Letter from the Guest Editor


Hello Everyone!


My name is Brigid Rankowski, and I am a member of the Autistic Global Initiative living in Maine. I also am a member of the Autism Society of Maine's Board of Directors and an advisor for the Health Care Transitions Research Network for Autism Spectrum Disorders. In my free time I perform with the award winning Vaudeville troupe Dark Follies. Maine became my home after a few moves with my family when I was younger and after graduating college I moved back to the state for "only a few months". Four years later I'm still here and happy to be a Mainer.


The resources and programs in my home state have come a long way in just the past decade. With our beautiful landscape, it comes as no surprise that Maine offers many different outdoor recreational options for people with disabilities. As guest editor of this month's eBulletin, I have decided to focus on these opportunities. In addition to outdoor recreation, the state of Maine has also witnessed increasing emphasis on creating and implementing comprehensive transition programs for people with autism, with special emphasis on the needs of individuals moving out of the school system into more independent living situations. I'm proud of the different options available in my state, and I'm optimistic we will see even more creative programing in the future. I hope you enjoy learning more about this region in this issue of the eBulletin.


Brigid Rankowski

Guest Editor 

Surf's Up at Aquaholics 

 Special Surfers

Surf's Up!


Coastal southern Maine is well known for its picturesque beaches. These beaches are not just tourist attractions, but also gateways to amazing summer adventures. People enjoy many different activities on the beach, from romping in the sand, to collecting shells, to playing in the water. For those in the disability community, some of the summertime activities can be challenging or almost inaccessible, but one program has the goal of making summer fun an opportunity for everyone.


Located in Kennebunk, Aquaholics Special Surfers is a program designed to help individuals with disabilities participate in surfing. Initiated in 2004, the program has grown steadily the past decade, primarily due to active community support. Once each month in June, July and August, any child or young adult with a special need can sign up to enjoy a fun time learning to surf or to simply be in the ocean on Special Surfer Night.


Now a community tradition, surfers and other volunteers gather annually on Kennebunk Beach in the early evening to host this memorable night. Staffed by a team of dedicated volunteers, the program has become streamlined over the year, making it easily accessible. For example, families and individuals my register for the event in advance online, and then show up, ready to surf, with no worries.


To cater to all needs, novice surfers are provided options, including accommodations for sensory differences such as wanting to get into the water but not wanting to get your face wet. The surf teams work together marvelously to ensure every single person's accommodations are taken into account. This helps participants let go of concerns and have the opportunity to enjoy the moment and think only about the thrill of catching the next wave. And the surfer instructors are known as Super Surfers, and that really is what they are. They arrive at the beach with infectious optimism for the ocean waves, ready to enter the "surf zone" with participants and the volunteer teams.


This program has become such an integral part of Kennebunk that its positive influence reaches beyond just those who get to ride the waves. It extends to the entire community, which continues to run the event successfully year after year.


To learn more go to



Learn the Steps, Get Employed


by Chloe Rothschild


The Autistic Global Initiative of the Autism Research Institute has partnered with uptimize, an online education company, to create a course called "Learn The Steps, Get Employed." The course is an important resource for young adults with autism like me who face serious systemic challenges when it comes to becoming employed. A new research guide about transition to young adulthood for young adults with autism, recently released from Drexel University in April, reports that only "58% of young adults on the autism spectrum worked for pay outside the home between high school and their early 20s-a rate far lower than young adults with other types of disabilities." (Key Findings National Autism Indicators Report: Transition Into Young Adulthood, Drexel University 2015)



The new online employability course contains 17 learning units that are all video based. While lessons 2-9 focus on preparing before your interviews, lessons 10-15 focus on during your interviews, and lesson 16 and 17 focus on after your interviews. Each video module varies in length from approximately 2-5 minutes, depending on the lesson you are on. The course also includes access to useful downloadable resources including examples, visuals, and forms that are referenced during the video lessons. The entire course lasts a little over an hour in length, but can be repeated in segments as many times as you like. This is a big plus, since it supports learning through repetition of important concepts.


The lessons are sequential in order, but can be viewed out of order as well, in case you want a refresher. Each lesson follows the same overall structure. Each has a golden rule, followed by key points, and ending with a takeaway message. I personally liked that each lesson followed this same structure so I knew what to expect, there weren't many surprises. The instructor starts each lesson by explaining why the skill is important, which I think is beneficial, because once you know how relates to you personally, you want to keep watching.




I took the course and learned new information that I look forward to using in the future as I fill out job applications and attend interviews, which is something that will likely occur throughout my life. One piece of information I learned was that it is best to fill out fewer job applications and fill them out right than it is to fill out more job applications and do them wrong. I learned to focus my effort on a job that I really want, and on what really suits me, versus applying for just any job. I liked how the course showed examples, verbally explaining them and showing them visually. This will be helpful for different kinds of learners.


Another young adult with autism, Lydia Wayman, also had the opportunity to participate in the course; here is what she had to say: "The course gives great tips to finding not just a tolerable job but a great match that will let you follow your interests and use your unique skills in a way that benefits you and the employer, too. Instead of a long list of random rules, the videos have autistic thinkers in mind and give practical tips, alongside explanations of why and how. This transforms arbitrary rule lists into a setting and social world that starts to make sense and wont be nearly as hard to remember at the next interview."




Stepping Out Friday Night 

 with STRIVE


PSL is a Maine-based organization that serves the developmental disability community throughout the state. Its biggest and most well known program is STRIVE, which is headquartered in the city of Portland. A multidimensional program geared toward teenagers and young adults, STRIVE addresses a variety of needs through its nine different programs, including improving academic and work skills, fostering leadership skills, and developing career and social opportunities.


Each week, the organization hosts the STRIVE Friday Night Social from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, offering a variety of activities, such as dancing, playing video games or watching TV with friends, enjoying card games, and purchasing food donated by local stores or made by STRIVE participants. Once a month the Friday Night Social offers a theme night with decorations, costumes and prizes. It is a favorite among participants and provides a wonderful venue to meet and connect with peers from across the state.


For those in the 11-14 year age range, a tween social group meets earlier in the day prior to the social. This program emphasizes weekly events designed to promote community engagement, such theater workshops with Portland Stage Company or exploring marine science through touch tanks. The group consistently meets at the STRIVE location to keep activities based in a familiar place.


On Wednesdays at STRIVE the focus is on education, with classes arranged into sessions centered around a specific topic, such as "Career Exploration and Job Preparation" or "Community Connections". Like any course in community college or university, a syllabus is provided for participants to know which topics will be covered and when assignments are due. Classes are affordable and last two hours each week, with new topics cycling through monthly for learning important life skills.


In addition to the organization's weekly programs, STRIVE offers the innovative, two-year STRIVE U program that encompasses many important independent living skills, ranging from employment, to transition and education. During their two-year period of study, students attend classes at nearby Kaplan University and hold down a job, while living in off-campus housing with resident assistants who help to provide real-world learning opportunities like money management, independent travel, and self-care. The program also emphasizes all the activities that a college campus has to offer, including an orientation course that assists students in transitioning into a college educational environment. Additionally, STIVE U students receive support from an academic advisor to assist each person in addressing and realizing individual educational goals.


For more information go to


Disability Pioneers in Bath


Pine Tree Camp in 1945

In 1936, a pioneering organization called Pine Tree Society established itself in Bath, Maine, to provide opportunities and supports for individuals with disabilities in the state. Fast-forward more than 80 years, and the organization continues to promote innovative programs that support individuals by addressing the many different needs that arise in the community.


Pine Tree has recently begun to offer a new program specifically targeting individuals who are just beginning or already involved in the transition process. The six-week Autism Transition Program for students aged 16-21, assists individuals in learning and applying a variety of skills and exploring job interests. Classes emphasize limited enrollment, allowing participants to receive personalized support and to expand on their individual strengths. The Autism Transition Program presents a variety of learning topics. An upcoming session, called "Healthy Foods, Healthy Bodies," supports participants in working on skills related to food preparation and healthy eating.


To learn more go to



News Notes Offers Online Resources for Students with Disabilities


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 700,000 college students - or 3.5% - have some type of disability. While students with disabilities may face unique challenges, they're entitled to the same quality of education as any other student. This online guide walks readers with both physical and learning disabilities through their legal rights, where to find assistance on campus, and provides an extensive list of websites, apps and software resources designed for specific needs. The online planning tools and academic resources are presented to help students and their families advocate for quality education. College Resources for Students with Disabilities can be found here:


Autism Speaks Launches New Job Search Portal for People with Autism, a newly launched job search portal, connects employers with employable individuals with autism and other disabilities. Similar to or, the site is designed specifically for jobseekers with ASDs and other disabilities. 


Job seekers register for the site and use a simple tool to upload/create a resume, skills and interests. They will also have tools to upload videos of themselves performing job-related tasks.

Employers will also have tools to upload photos/videos of their workspace, along with a traditional job description.

Job coaches and other employment service providers are encouraged to register as well. If an individual with autism or another disability indicates that they would like to use (or are interested in learning about) support services, they will be connected to these providers in addition to the employers in their area who have openings.