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In This Issue
Make a Donation to AGI
Beets & Jams
AGI's Own Nutrition Column
Kelcey Hostetler Nutritionist

Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a staple in the diet of most children. It is the pinnacle of comfort foods, even for adults. But what if you can't eat gluten? Or dairy? Suddenly this cheesy go-to is off limits. For many reasons, special diets can be a huge challenge for individuals and families to implement. My goal is to work with dietary restrictions and create delicious recipes for the classics that everyone loves. Cutting out allergens shouldn't mean you cut out flavor. These are two tried-and-true mac and cheese recipes one eliminates gluten and the other gluten and dairy. They have become a favorite of the AGI staff at their annual retreat. I hope these will leave you feeling like you haven't eliminated anything from your diet.


Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

(Gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free)



4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground mustard

2 tsp nutritional yeast

4 tablespoons gluten-free, all-purpose flour

3-4 cups milk

8 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

4 oz Monterrey Jack cheese (about 1 cup)

4 oz shredded Gouda cheese (about 1 cup)

16 ounces, al dente cooked gluten-free macaroni

Gluten-free Panko breadcrumbs for topping



Preheat oven to 350°. Spray three-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente (beginning to soften but still somewhat firm to the bite). While pasta is cooking, shred cheeses and make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat, cook garlic and shallot until they begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes, add spices. Whisk in flour and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium and whisk until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, stir until cheeses melt and mixture is smooth and creamy. If necessary to fully melt cheese, return pan to low heat. Slowly add cheese sauce to the noodles until they are coated to desired amount (you may have excess sauce) and then place in baking dish and top with gluten-free Panko breadcrumbs. Bake 30-45 minutes or until top is golden and cheese is bubbling. If the bread crumbs brown too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.


Mac and Not Cheese

(Recipe adapted from Engine2, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)



1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup cashews (unsalted, raw)

For a spicy version: 1 jalapeno minced, 1 small can green chilies, siracha, or crushed red pepper (optional)

½ cup lemon juice

1 1/3 cups water or gluten-free broth of choice

½ teaspoon sea salt

Cracked black pepper, to taste

4 oz jar roasted red peppers drained

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (plus more for topping)

Additional spices to taste (ground mustard, paprika, garlic powder, etc)

16 ounces gluten-free elbow pasta, cooked al dente

Gluten-free panko bread crumbs for topping (optional)



Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray, set aside. Place cashews, lemon juice, salt, pepper and water/broth in a food processor or blender to soak while cooking the onion and garlic. Sauté the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil, over medium heat in a nonstick skillet for 3-5 minutes, until translucent and beginning to soften. Combine onion and garlic with cashews, lemon juice, water/broth and salt and pepper. Gradually blend in the roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, and spices. Thoroughly toss the sauce with the pasta (you may have excess sauce). Top with gluten-free  Panko breadcrumbs if desired. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown on top. 


The world of special diets and food allergies can be daunting. The ARI website has a plethora of insightful articles and webinars. These are three that I find particularly useful as they pertain to implementing special diets and focusing on healthy gluten-free grains.


Nutrition Overview  

 Understanding GFCF Diets  

Alternative Grains - Quinoa
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


Contact Our Editorial Team
Valerie Paradiz Editor-in-Chief
Chloe Rothschild Managing Editor
Kelcey Hostetler Nutrition Editor
Greg Yates Technical Editor
Parting Shots
Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado
On the slopes in the winter program
Victory on the mountain
High ropes climbing
Making organic granola
Make a Donation to AGI
Next Issue: The State of Maine
In our May 2015 issue, guest editor, Brigid Rankowski will bring readers to her home state of Maine with features on innovative programs and thought leaders in adult services in that state. Stay tuned!

AGI eBulletin
Valerie Paradiz, PhD
Fostering the development of adults on the autism spectrum and those who work with and for them

Letter from the Editor


Hello Friends,

Our first 2015 issue of the ARI Adults with Autism eBulletin comes with a new look and a new approach to providing our readers quality information about leading programs and people devoted to building capacity in adult services. This year we bring you four issues of our newsletter, each dedicated to a specific region in the United States and hosted by guest editors from the Autistic Global Initiative, a division of the Autism Research Institute that is self-directed by a national committee of adults on the spectrum. We will also include a quarterly column from our nutrition editor, Kelcey Hostetler, who will provide recipes and useful resources for special diets.


As Editor-in-Chief, I'm happy to introduce you to this first issue with reports from my home state of Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley of the Rocky Mountains. "There's a lot of momentum in this valley," says Carbondale resident, Jill Pidcock, parent, autism community organizer, and board member of the Arc of Colorado. Jill is right. When I visited the programs available to adults with autism in this beautiful valley and met with community leaders there, I knew immediately how important it was to share it with you. I hope you enjoy your visit to Colorado!


Valerie Paradiz, PhD

Executive Director, Autistic Global Initiative

Leader in Outdoor Recreation and Adult Services Celebrates Its 11th Year

Outdoor climb at Extreme Sports Camp summer program

On February 15, 2015, Aspen Colorado will celebrate its annual Light It Up Blue Aspen for Autism fundraiser to benefit the Extreme Sports Camp (ESC), a non-profit organization headquartered in nearby Carbondale, Colorado. ESC taps into the region's extraordinary outdoor opportunities, making winter skiing in Aspen and Snowmass, hiking and rock climbing in the spectacular Rocky Mountains, and kayaking and rafting in the Roaring Fork River possible and accessible for people with autism. By teaming up athletes, outdoor educators and professionals in disability services, ESC has developed proven adult, summer, weekend and winter programs, serving approximately 200 adults and children on the spectrum both in Colorado and nationally.


Founder, Sallie Bernard, and her leadership team are gearing up for the Light It Up Blue fundraiser and their formal renaming of Extreme Sports Camp to Ascendigo, a name that reflects the breadth of services the non-profit organization is now offering in addition to their signature sports program. They are becoming, by necessity, a powerful web of opportunities and options for adults with autism in employment, housing, daily living, and community involvement. ESC/Ascendigo staff attribute this growth not only to the urgent national need for infrastructure to support adults on the spectrum, but also to the welcoming, community-minded residents of the Roaring Fork Valley.


By developing key partnerships with such organizations as the Aspen Ski Company and the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, ESC/Ascendigo provides expert 1:1 support on the ski slopes, completely redefining the traditional approaches of adaptive sports programs to include people with autism. "We touch a lot of the valley; we see so much improvement with the families," says Ashley Singiser, manager of the winter ski programs, adding, "that's where I find my passion." The sheer enthusiasm of the team is evident in the office where Ashley works alongside Ascendigo's Interim Executive Director, Ron Rash, with a flurry of ski instructors and program staff rushing in for their schedules and rushing out to the slopes to work.


"We go through a lot of training," says one of the instructors, Gerard Beattie, describing the fine social balance he was recently able to achieve on the slopes while supporting an adolescent named Brandon who was snowboarding for the first time. "My main purpose is to be there for him," says Gerard. "I made sure we didn't lose the ski school group but also made sure we separated from them for a while in the beginning so that Brandon could practice some basic skills without the additional social pressure."


Wakeboarding action


The summer months are no different when ESC/Ascendigo provides 8 weeklong camp sessions for youth and adults with autism who travel there from around the country to attend. Living in the dorms on the campus of Colorado Mountain College in Spring Valley, participants experience sports activities each day that include wake boarding, water skiing, tubing, biking, rock climbing, white water kayaking, climbing on a ropes challenge course, hiking, hut trips, horseback riding and swimming. Activities are repeated throughout the week to build skills and confidence and are supplemented with social activities such as yoga, games, movies, music in the park, and visits to the farmer's market. Participants work one-on-one with instructors during sports activities and are part of a team with skills trainers during other times.


The organization invests deeply in its staff, providing significant training prior to opening up the first camp session in June. Monthly professional training with autism experts leads up to the summer months and weekly follow-up training continues once the program gets underway. Staff is trained on autism-friendly approaches that utilize the principles of the Early Start Denver Model, combining elements of ABA with relationship-based interactions, positive supports, leveraging of autism-specific learning styles, and respect for developmentally-appropriate activities. The staff members are young, vibrant and athletic, and many who have journeyed to the valley to work at the camp for just a summer end up staying there, becoming managers and developers of new programming for Ascendigo. In the stories that follow, you'll learn more about these very committed experts and how a rural community in Colorado has become a leader in adult services for people with autism.


To learn more about the ESC/Ascendigo summer and winter programs, go to



To make a donation through the upcoming Light It Up Blue fundraiser in Aspen to support Ascendigo and the Extreme Sports camp, go to 

An Innovative Adult Day Program that Capitalizes on a Culture of Health and Fitness


Zach and Carly working out at the gym

Carly Knauf is the Adult Day Program Manager of Ascendigo, a Medicaid-certified agency located in Carbondale, Colorado that provides services to adults with autism and related developmental disabilities. I'm sitting with two young adults with autism, Carly and her staff in the program headquarters, an office share space that is also used by local business people and professionals. As I entered it for the first time, the mood of the center exuded positivity and active community involvement. Carly and her staff make sure of this all day long, as they move through the schedule of activities with their clients.


What makes this day program stand out most for me is the emphasis on physical activity and the joy and general well-being that results from being fit. This goes for the support staff as well as for the clients who are participating today, Bill and Zach. The morning began with a trip to the Olympic size hot springs pools in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. There the two young men warmed up for the day by treading water in the deep end of the outdoor springs and jumping off the diving board, an invigorating treat in snowy mid-January with outside temperatures holding steadily at 15 degrees.


Following this, the team drives to nearby Redstone, a small town nestled in the White River National Forest and the Maroon Bells Wilderness area, where they take a winter hike. After this excursion, they're back at the Ascendigo office in Carbondale. It's late in the afternoon, and the sun is low in the sky. The mood is mellow in the afterglow that results from such physical activity. Bill is working on a creative writing project, while Zach, who is non-speaking, practices his typing skills with Carly. Only two and a half months ago, Zach moved from his parent's home in New Jersey to Carbondale, his graceful transition to his new home in Colorado made possible by the quality programming of the Ascendigo day program. In fact, during his short tenure here, Zach has already lost several pounds, which he needed to shed. This fact inspires me, knowing that a majority of adults with developmental disabilities experience significant weight gain when they transition out of their family home to a new living situation. In fact, the CDC reports that obesity rates for adults with disabilities run 58% higher than for adults without disabilities.

Zach and Joseph typing

In this way, Ascendigo goes against the grain of traditional day programming, turning the tables on the serious health, social and employment issues that are faced by adults with autism today. Interim Executive Director of the agency, Ron Rash, has brought significant experience to the table as former Senior Field Instructor of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and co-owner of Aspen Alpine Guides, a professional backcountry guiding service. With a degree in theology, Rash has the keen ability of tapping into the Roaring Fork Valley's culture of health and community-mindedness, inspiring his young staff of athletes and support providers, and combining these elements into an exciting model that many of us can learn from for our own community-based programs for adults with autism.


When Bill is done with his creative writing project and Zach has completed his keyboarding practice, Carly recaps the day and previews tomorrow's agenda. Visual schedules are posted for clients to see, including skiing at Snowmass and shopping for ingredients to make homemade, organic granola, an entrepreneurial endeavor Ascendigo clients have decided to test out after completing a market study for potential buyers in the area. Carly ends the day with some music, turning on one of Bill's favorite songs by the Doors. Bill begins to sing along, and we all join in. The sun is setting, and it's time to go home. Bill and Zach put on their coats and walk with staff a few blocks away to the shared residence where they live. It has been a good day.


To learn more about the Adult Day Program at Ascendigo, go to



Made by Design: A Model Group Home Built Specifically for Adults with Autism Opens in Rural Colorado


The Yellow House in Carbondale

In October 2014, a new home in Carbondale, Colorado designed specifically to support the sensory, social and communication differences of people with autism spectrum disorder opened its doors. Situated right across the street from this friendly mountain town's community park, the Yellow House promises to be a model for innovative residential options and services. The renovation of the house alone-which is occupied by three autistic residents, two house managers and their baby-is pioneering in its use of materials and design principles, both aimed at reducing sensory stress while providing a rich variety of choices for socializing with others (including solo time) and maintaining safety.


Jim and Jill Pidcock, co-owners of High Mark Construction, a family business that specializes in construction of quality homes in the Roaring Fork Valley, completed the renovation. As parents of an 11-year-old son on the autism spectrum, much of their community life in the valley is focused on developing supports for the region's families. Jill serves on the board of directors of the Arc of Colorado and is the director of the Roaring Fork Autism Network (RFAN), a satellite program of the statewide, Denver-based organization, The Living Spectrum, a nonprofit that provides unbiased support to families of children with ASD through mentorship, community meetings, resources and education. 


Working on the Yellow House was a natural extension of Jill's rich and varied community development activities. "I could see my 11-year old son living in that house one day," she says, commenting on the special features it provides. These include the open space design that provides easy visual and auditory connection between the residents and house staff at all times, while still maintaining a sense of private space. In the remodeling plans, says Sallie Bernard, founder of Ascendigo, "we emphasized both safety and freedom." A staff office on the ground floor, for example, is outfitted with windows on all sides that look out on the shared living spaces and kitchen. All windows throughout the house are made of tempered, double-paned glass, reducing sound as well as eliminating the possibility of injuries due to shattering.


Upstairs, all the bedrooms have soundproof walls and blackout shades to seal out excessive noise and light during sleeping hours. Each resident has a punch key combination to enter his room, making them private but also impossible to get locked into. Around the beds in each bedroom is a green zone, meaning the area is electrical-free, thereby reducing EMF exposures.


Bathrooms are beautifully yet practically designed, with drains in the floors for easy cleanup and flat cabinets that require no dusting. All appliances, including the toilets, are mounted off the floor on the walls, and the water tanks for toilets are embedded inside the wall. Bathrooms also feature automatic faucets, so that water is never left turned on or wasted. Additionally, lights turn on and off automatically as you enter or exit.


The house is energy efficient. The soundless LED lights throughout the rooms were chosen among many options for their efficiency, but also to eliminate distracting background noises. The floors offer radiant heat and the entire house is highly insulated. It's a "sealed box," says Sallie, adding that they have also added a clean air exchange system to the building ensuring fresh, filtered air is always present.


The house and its spaces provide a feeling of calm and safety, and there are dedicated spaces for sensory up- and down-regulation too, including an exercise room and a trampoline outside in the yard. When the renovation was planned, "we wanted to take the issue of sensory stress right off the table," says Sallie, remarking that her son Bill in his recent move from his family home to the Ascendigo Yellow House, "is much calmer and has fewer behavioral difficulties." She attributes this to the mindful planning of the environments created in the house. "It has a lot of bells and whistles," says Jill Pidcock remarking on the construction, "It is our work in progress, and we see it as a model for future homes that can be achieved on lower budgets, too."


To learn more about the Yellow House, send an email to

To learn more about High Mark Construction, go to
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