[Title slide: A background image of a woman and a child exchanging a high five. Over top of the image is the title of the webinar "Empowering the next generation of neurodiverse talent." In the top right hand corner is the CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo in white. The four panelists' videos are in a column on the right side of the screen.] 00:00:07 - 00:01:03 Anthony Pacilio Welcome everyone to today's webinar, Empowering the Next Generation of Neurodiverse Talent. My name's Anthony Pacilio, Vice President of Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI. And a little bit about me, some of my responsibilities here are to help organizations build neurodiversity programs and to lead our global expansion efforts of CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. My expertise lies in managing neurodiversity recruiting efforts, developing candidate pipelines, and ensuring best practices for onboarding, support, training, and organizational success. I am also neurodivergent. I have extreme social anxiety disorder and depression. So a few things before we begin. I'd like to take a moment to go over some housekeeping items and if you have any questions to submit during the discussion, we ask that you use the Q and A feature found on the bottom bar of your Zoom app. There's going to be a time at the end of the discussion that we'll address as many questions as we can. 00:01:04 - 00:02:01 Anthony In addition, you're going to find more information on the event in the chat box, so be sure to follow along with that as well. And lastly, I want to let you know that we are recording this session today for future viewing. So first, let's take a brief look at today's agenda. [Agenda slide: A white background with "Today's agenda" in black text is written in the top left hand corner. Below that in the middle of the screen there are four boxes. The top left blue box has a number 1 on it. Beside that the text reads "5 min.| Introduction." The bottom left dark blue box has a number 2 on it. Beside that the text reads "35 min.| Discussion." The top right light blue box has a number 3 on it. Beside that the text reads "15 min. | Audience." The bottom right green box has a number four on it. Besdide that the text reads "5 min.| Wrap up."] You're going to see the estimates of timing for each piece of our discussion, and we're going to be sharing with you each question visually as well. And now on to today's guests. I'd first like you to meet my good friend Brian Freedman. [Meet our guests slide: A white background with the words "Meet our guests" is in the top right hand corner. In the middle of the slide are the three speaker headshots with their names written below, and below that their titles and companies. From left to right the speakers are listed out as: Brian Freedman, Director, Swank Autism Center, Nemours Children's Health. TingTing Chen, Founder and Executive Director, Code the Spectrum and Professor of Computer Science, Cak Poly Pomana. Lenny Rutecki, Founder and President, LennyLifts.] Brian is the director of the Swank Autism Center at Nemours Children Health, overseeing clinical services, training and research. He's a clinical psychologist with expertise in designing innovative programs and system change initiatives from early childhood through college and adult services. His work is conducted in collaboration with autistic people and family members. And thank you Brian for being here. I truly appreciate it. 00:02:02 - 00:02:03 Brian Freedman Thanks Anthony. 00:02:04 - 00:02:47 Anthony And next up we have Dr. Tingting Chen. Tingting is a professor of computer science at California State Polytechnic University Pomona, and also the founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization Code the Spectrum. Her work in big data research and STEM education has been sponsored by the US Department of Education, National Science Foundation, a couple companies you might know like Google and Microsoft and other federal funding agencies. And at Code the Spectrum, she's leading the program's accessible K through 12 computer science instructional course-ware designed for neurodivergent students and Spectrum IT career pathways supported by multiple funding partners. So welcome, Tingting. It's good to see you again. 00:02:48 - 00:02:50 Tingting Chen Thank you Anthony. I'm glad to be here. 00:02:51 - 00:03:21 Anthony Great to have you. And lastly, meet Lenny Rutecki. Lenny is the founder and president of his nonprofit organization, LennyLifts for his full-time job. Lenny's an autistic support teacher at Central Mountain High School in Keystone Central School District located in Central PA where they're probably getting some snow. Lenny has over 25 years of experience within a wide variety of educational settings, specifically educating neurodivergent children and neurotypical children. He founded LennyLifts in 2018, so I hope we can welcome Lenny. 00:03:22 - 00:03:23 Lenny Rutecki Thank you, sir. It's a pleasure to be here. 00:03:24 - 00:03:49 Anthony It's great to have you as well. And thank you all for being here with us today. Now, let's get started. The next generation of Neurodiverse talent is currently children who are experiencing some of the most influential years as they learn how to navigate their lives. And when a neurodivergent child grows up in a supportive environment with access to resources and tools that are designed to empower them, they're able to embrace their authenticity and learn how to self-advocate. 00:03:50 - 00:04:40 Anthony Some businesses that play an instrumental role in providing this kind of support are nonprofit organizations. And in the 60-minute webinar, each guest with us today will share how their nonprofit organization focuses on cultivating support for neurodivergent children as they begin their lives. Our guests will also discuss the mission behind why their nonprofit organization does what they do, why it's important to provide additional resources and tools to neurodivergent children and their families. The role they play in the lives of neurodivergent children as they grow older, and the importance of empowerment and self-advocacy for the next generation of neurodiverse talent. So let's kick off today's discussion by sharing a bit more about all of your organizations. And Brian, I'm going to lead off with you. Can you tell us a little bit more about the Swank Autism Center and your role there? [Question slide: A blurry background is displayed with the text in white in the center reading "Can you tell us more about the Swank Autism Center and your role there?"] 00:04:41 - 00:05:57 Brian Sure. Thanks Anthony and I really appreciate you having me today. The Swank Autism Center is a comprehensive autism initiative that supports the autism community across the Nemours Children's Health Enterprise. It includes offering services through our interdisciplinary clinic. Specifically, we offer diagnostic evaluations, treatment planning and consultation, as well as short-term intervention. We also support access to services across the Nemours enterprise. That includes having autism friendly services in our inpatient units and emergency department as well as in primary care settings. We conduct training here at the Swank Autism Center so that we can help build capacity for future leaders and among future professionals as well as supporting and empowering voices of autistic people and family members. We collaborate with the community in building partnerships with community leaders to support continuous systems' improvement, and we conduct a range of research from lab science to community practice that promotes conversations between researchers, practitioners and community members. 00:05:58 - 00:06:35 Anthony So listen, I used to work about three seconds across the street from the Swank Autism Center in Delaware, and I've been to the center before. And I think the coolest thing is when you walk through those double doors down the corridor is that as you're walking, the colors are awesome, but on the floor, there's sensory pieces that make it so welcoming as you walk through it. Is there a way to give us a little bit of a feel for how the building design was developed? 00:06:36 - 00:07:34 Brian Sure. So I was not at Nemours at the time that the building was redesigned, although I was a part of a group that participated in conversations about it. And as you described, it's very intentionally designed to be a warm and welcoming place to children on the autism spectrum as well as their family members. We know that those children and their families are often walking into environments that were not built with their needs in mind, that were not built with an understanding of the sorts of sensitivities that they might have. Historically, we've only thought of those who are neurotypical. So you'll see at our center, as you mentioned, there are areas for kids to relax and to play, that are mindful of the lighting and of the colors that are used all in order to create a warm atmosphere where everyone feels welcomed. 00:07:35 - 00:08:08 Anthony Yeah. And I think my favorite part when I walked into the center was that they have these egg shaped chairs. When you sit in those egg shaped chairs, all of the outside noise is just gone. It's the most peaceful and meditative chair I've ever been in. So it's very cool. I'm sure that the children and parents alike enjoy that too. And I'm going to switch to Tingting. So we talked about Code the Spectrum in the intro. What's the organization's mission, Tingting? [Question slide: A blurry background displays the question in white text in the center reading "How did you begin Code the Spectrum and what is your organization's mission?"] 00:08:09 - 00:09:11 Tingting Thanks Anthony, for the question. So this nonprofit, Code the Spectrum was started last year in summer. [Presentation slide: The left side of the slide has a blue background. On it at the top right hand corner is whie text that reads "Code the Spectrum." Below that in smaller white text is text that reads "Code the spectrum is a registered California non-profit organization (IRS 501(c)3) founded in June 2021." Below that in smaller text is a link https://codethespectrum.org. On the right side of the slide with a white background has two blocks of text. The left text reads in black text the mission statement "To provide computer technology training to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders, and to connect them to the IT industry." The left text reads in black text the vision statement "An education and career pathway for neurodivergent students to enter the workforce of the IT Industry, unleashing their greatest potential and creating values for the society."] And I'm going to tell you a little bit story of how it started and then we're going to talk about our mission. So last summer, I was teaching my nine-year old's autistic son and a couple of his friends how to code because that's what I do every day and that's also the age that my colleagues are starting teaching their kids how to code. So very quickly, we noticed that the similar needs are there from many other families. They're coming to us to see if they can send their kids to our coding classes. And that's the moment when we considered to grow that program further. We were very lucky actually, to get supports from a local K-12 coding academy called Coding Minds Academy and also a local high schooler volunteer organization called Coders Cafe at that moment. 00:09:12 - 00:10:12 Tingting And it looks like our coding classes are ready actually to grow into a nonprofit organization. And then when we start planning the organization, as a parent, I ask myself usually, eventually what do I really hope to do for this nonprofits? I know my ultimate stress for my son is worrying about his life quality after he enters adulthood. Is he going to do some meaningful work based on his skills and do his contributions to the society? So that's why we are tying the long-term goal of this nonprofit organization to the possible meaningful implement in the end. So at the Code Spectrum, our mission is to provide computer technology training for kids with neurodivergent conditions and to connect them with IT fields for possible careers opportunities. So that's our mission. 00:10:13 - 00:10:43 Anthony And I'll tell everybody, I attended your Code the Spectrum event in California just what? Three or four weeks ago I think, at this point. And what I saw was it wasn't just myself from CAI there, you had big names, so you had Microsoft and SAP, but the other piece that you had is I think the keynote and the couple other speakers were from the university. So were they from UC Irvine? 00:10:44 - 00:10:45 Tingting Yes. Yes. The professor was from UC Irvine. 00:10:46 - 00:11:13 Anthony Yeah. And I think listening to them talk to the audience, and it was a packed house, weren't just talking to the kids in the audience. There was a ton of parents and family members there too. So I think a lot of these nonprofits start at the grassroots level, and then they build. How did you get the UC Irvine's to come in and participate as well? 00:11:14 - 00:11:56 Tingting Yes, great question. So basically, we got generous support from multiple partners and one of our sponsors was Access Computing, which is a National Science Foundation sponsored program at University of Washington. And Dr. Stacey Brennan, which is one of our keynote speakers at the Inclusive Coding Festival, she's associate professor at UC Irvine. She's a co-PI of Access Computing and that's why we have the opportunity to talk to her. And she was so excited and enthusiastic about this topic, which is diversity in AI and also in tech fields in general. 00:11:57 - 00:12:52 Tingting And also similarly for big companies like Microsoft and SAP, they are leaders in their programs such as Neurodiversity Hiring and Autism at work. So we are very fortunate to have board members working in those companies and they are able to access to those wonderful seniors, executives to speak at the conference to raise awareness of the importance of neurodiversity talents in their own environment. And also we're very fortunate to talk to Anthony and to get the opportunity to invite him to our inclusive coding festival and also to share with families such, to let them know there are great services and companies available such as CAI at the conference. So we're very fortunate to have those connections. 00:12:53 - 00:13:08 Anthony Yeah, and connections are one person knows somebody else and it turns into a network and that's how those programs grow. So I'm appreciative of your efforts and I thank you for having Code the Spectrum. Hopefully, you invite me back year after year. It was a great time. 00:13:09 - 00:13:10 Tingting [unintelligible]. 00:13:11 - 00:13:26 Anthony Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think sticking with that, Lenny, your name's in your nonprofits' organization. So can you share a little bit with how you started LennyLifts back in 2018 and what your organization's all about? [Question slide: A blurry background with white text in the middle reading the question, "Can you share with us how you started LennyLifts back in 2018 and what your organization is about?"] 00:13:27 - 00:14:14 Lenny Yeah, so I'd love to. It's just one of my passions. I'd been teaching at that time, 20 plus years, always looking at how I can support my students more in a classroom, just getting more funds to do things. So the computer teacher helped me with my logo and I talked to some of my best friends and at the time, I was in the power lifting and strongman and there's just a groundswell of support and then in that community, and it's one of those overlooked communities because you have all these monstrous people lifting these huge weights, but they also have a connection to the autistic community. And that started from there. And then social media just exploded everything where I make connection and education advocacy, LennyLifts is a conduit for that. Not only awareness, but acceptance. 00:14:15 - 00:15:23 Lenny We all like to think awareness is out there and it is. I've heard of that, but what does that acceptance mean and what does that actually have to do with those who are neurodivergent? Lots of gyms stepped up that I attend, I interact with people and LennyLifts is a boots on the ground grassroots organization. I'm there to meet people, to talk to people, to do whatever I can to advocate. And then I think, a huge thing that helped LennyLifts was the last two years, only the 10th person to do it two times in years, is Tom Stoltman is now the world's strongest man and he was diagnosed as being autistic at the age of five. So all of a sudden, he brought that spotlight onto the strong man community. So I do anything with any physical activities, now I've included jujitsu and things like that. So I go to these events and I get people to talk. And once again, it's just that interaction to educate and awareness and acceptance as much as I possibly can. 00:15:24 - 00:15:31 Anthony There's going to be a couple questions I think on this one. So how many students are active participants are involved with LennyLifts right at the moment? 00:15:32 - 00:16:21 Lenny No, I have my own classroom. So there's a Lenny Rutecki and a LennyLifts and there's really no separation. They are one and the same. So I have my classroom and I support at my high school all levels on the spectrum. So I don't necessarily have a number of students, but the number, once again going back to social media has been phenomenal. My reach has gone from the UK to the West Coast of the United States where people will just reach out, "Hey, I saw this," and the biggest thing is just getting more and more the neurodivergent physically active. And if you can take care of that one part of you and you're healthier, then you can also branch out to start, these are my strengths, these are my weaknesses, because starting to physically and healthy, feel good about myself and then I grow from there. 00:16:22 - 00:16:40 Anthony Yeah. And I think one follow-up question to that, the health part. So students or participants are coming into the program. Have you seen a change when the health becomes a little bit more structured, feeling a little bit more healthier? Do you see that change and the impact in those young kids? 00:16:41 - 00:17:39 Lenny I do. It's huge, Anthony. It's just the body awareness is something we all struggle with, is body awareness. And when you're starting to feel healthy, you're starting to feel better, then you can start actually thinking about other things that are important in your life other than I don't feel well or something isn't right. So I see that and you just see the demeanors in the school day and they love to come here and they see those kind of things. And I have people bringing their kids to the events who are neurodivergent who may have not brought them before, but LennyLifts is going to be there, so let's go meet this guy, who is he? What's he about? And then all of a sudden, they're able to bring their child to an event that, yeah, this is what it's for and they're there because it's what I do. It's also now I can start bringing my my children however old they are, with me, to whatever we're doing and get them involved. So now we're starting to see more neurodivergent kids, teenagers involved, the more physically active activities. 00:17:40 - 00:18:05 Anthony Yeah. And I think what you're doing is great because it is universal design. So parents who may not have gone to the gym or maybe not have exercised, but now watching their children who are neurodivergent get a little bit healthy and see the impact and the change, that flips the script a little bit for the parents to join in and become healthy as well. So it is universal design, introduce it and let it roll. 00:18:06 - 00:18:07 Lenny Thank you, sir. You're absolutely right. 00:18:08 - 00:18:25 Anthony Well, so Brian, we're going to switch gears a little bit. So talking about medical resources and tools for neurodivergent children and their families, why is it important to provide those additional tools and resources? [Question slide: A blurry background showing the question in white text "Why do you feel it's important to provide additional medical resources and tools to neurodivergent children and their families?"] 00:18:26 - 00:18:59 Brian So it's important because autistic people and families face significant barriers in getting access to services and supports that could improve their lives. And it's especially the case for people of color. And these barriers really start with identification of autism. As most families can tell you, a diagnosis as early as possible can help families get access to early intervention and supports like Medicaid in order to help pay for expensive therapies that often are recommended down the line. 00:19:00 - 00:19:55 Brian However, we know that many families, especially families from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds report that they don't feel listened to by medical professionals when they first discover that their child is not developing typically. And of course, these types of resources are also needed as children get older because their needs and their families needs change. Also, the systems change. So learning how to successfully navigate in a preschool environment is very different than learning how to navigate successfully in elementary, middle, and high school, which of course is still then very different than learning how to navigate successfully in a work environment. As an autistic person grows up and develops their interests and perspectives and faces, new challenges, resources from the medical community, excuse me, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, parent training, counseling can all be really helpful. 00:19:56 - 00:20:58 Brian The other reason it's important is that autistic people also have a greater likelihood of some medical challenges like GI and sleep difficulties, seizure disorders, as well as mental health challenges. And so connecting with medical providers, building resources and getting the tools and developing really a team approach to help monitor these areas can be especially helpful to minimize their impact if and when they come up. These resources are also important because through research we can identify those services that are best supported by science and also develop services by listening to the community in a way so that they can be culturally responsive and meaningful to the person and their family. And this includes understanding the history of a given service or a resource or the use of a facility and how that history might impact the person's willingness to participate. 00:20:59 - 00:22:06 Anthony So a couple follow-ups to that. So if you get a diagnosis and your three or four years old, your needs potentially will change when you're 10, 11, and 12, obviously, it's almost imperative to recognize that and look to let's say the Swank Autism Center to go back and reconfigure what the pattern or the plan of action would be, right? So as your child develops X, Y, and Z over time, and maybe it's progressive, you need to go back in and look for tactics and practicalities that will either obviously help that pattern. And so as you talked about demographics and... What's the clientele? Meaning where across the geography is the Swank Autism Center seeing our children? Is it just on the East Coast in Delaware or is it across the country? 00:22:07 - 00:22:28 Brian So our clinic is based in Wilmington, Delaware, and the large majority of our patients are coming from Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. We have some patients coming from Maryland and some from other areas. Our services are offered here at the clinic in Wilmington as well as through telehealth. 00:22:29 - 00:22:40 Anthony So bring it into one more point, curve-ball time. So is it imperative to go see the doctor in person or is telehealth doing its job? 00:22:41 - 00:23:31 Brian Such a great question. So one of the outcomes from the pandemic is we have just learned a ton more about the benefits of telehealth and really, we've learned we do not need to see everyone in person here in our clinic for the kinds of things that they might need. In fact, there are significant benefits of seeing families in their home. For especially young children, it means that children can be observed in the comforts of their own home, playing with their own toys, interacting without a stranger being next to them in a strange place. And so this actually gives us the kinds of opportunities to observe kids and families in a real natural setting to give us the kind of information we need to make decisions and make some recommendations. 00:23:32 - 00:24:21 Anthony Yeah. And so families who struggle to either get to the doctor or it's a trip or things like that, or their children are shy or not going to be open in an environment that is foreign to them, being at home doing that telehealth is opening the box so to speak, to better diagnosis, better education, all of that good stuff that goes along with it. So I can definitely see the benefits with the telehealth for certain. And so going back to Tingting about your organization, you cater to a large age range of participants, could you express or describe the role Code the Spectrum plays in their lives? [Question slide: A blurry background with white text in the middle reading the question, "With an organization, like yours that caters to an age range of particpants, could you describe the role Code the Spectrum plays in their lives?"] 00:24:22 - 00:25:44 Tingting Sure, yes. So although we're serving students both from K-12 and also for post-secondary students, basically at Code the Spectrum, we're doing only three things, coding, cohort, and connections. [Presentation slide: a white background showing various graphics. At the top of the slide there are 3 horizontal images of people spanning from left to right and in the middle of the slide there are key words - Coding, Connection, and and Cohort shown in a circular pattern. Under the word coding reads "K-12 students, spark and sustain interests." Under the word connection is "post-secondary students. Train to be workforce-ready." Under the word cohort is "inclusive experience." To the right of the slide is a block of text that reads "What parents have said:​ “Great program for kids with autism!”​ “My child is very happy and very eager to learn coding and the cohort format is great as it provides children the opportunity to work together and socialize.”​ “Overall, I am extremely satisfied. My son has shown a lot of interest in the area of coding since attending this camp.” ] For K-12 students, we provide extracurricular coding classes for them and also summer camps to introduce programming to them to stimulate their interests in doing more computer-based activities. And we teach them coding in a way that's fits their learning needs and preferences. We apply a universal design principles in our course developments and also pedagogy. We had so many parents came to us saying their kids tried other coding classes in traditional classrooms that didn't work out. We do know there are challenges. We provide more visual supports in terms of worksheets that we have to work on every class. And also, we provide inclusive supports, social components in our classrooms. We try to encourage them to interact and communicate with each other, both verbal discussions and nonverbal communications. 00:25:45 - 00:26:44 Tingting For older students, post-secondary students, we focus on preparing them to meaningful employment opportunities by offering career connected technical skill training programs. So we are now teaching grade 13 and 14 students different courses such as website development system and administration. For both groups of students, we want to build cohorts among them to get them used to the teamwork environment and also we try to find every possible opportunities to pair them up with neurotypical peers so that they can learn from each other, they can be mentored by peers who may be a couple years older than them, so make friends with them, schedule play dates with each other. So that's the efforts we're doing as well to build cohorts among students. 00:26:45 - 00:27:17 Anthony And you talked about the mix of neurotypical and neurodivergent kids and you talked briefly about that mentor factor that comes with it, but for the neurotypical kids, do you see that they're growing with their empathy or understanding by working with somebody who thinks a little bit different? Is this an end goal as well? 00:27:18 - 00:27:55 Tingting Thanks so much for this question because I also want to emphasize that we are so lucky to have a board member with the resources of a local coding schools for K-12 students. They do have a lot of students who are doing so well in technical projects, coding, and who are also eager to learn about other people or to learn other kids who may be different than them. And we're able to actually engage both in your typical and your divergent students together in different projects. 00:27:56 - 00:28:47 Tingting And you're absolutely right that the neurotypical students, K-12 students, grow so much out of this mentoring activities because they learn not only what neurodivergent students like to do, to learn the similarities among themselves and enjoy same video games sometimes. And also, they learn different challenges people are facing that grows their leadership skills so much. We do have a lot of examples of those kids, I can tell you on and on about that. But overall, I think it's really a great opportunity for both sides of the students to learn from each other and it definitely broadened their view of what's happening around them and in the society. 00:28:48 - 00:29:25 Anthony Yeah. And I think that's great that you're able to mesh neurotypical, neurodivergent and watch both sides build that growth of the human spirit. It's about empathy, it's about compassion, but it's also about understanding. So I appreciate what you're doing at Code the Spectrum. And flipping to Lenny, how would you say the work of what you and your organization does teaches empowerment, self-advocacy for the next generation of neurodiverse talent? Why do you believe this is important? [Question slide: A blurry background with white text on the screen showing the question, "How would you say the work LennyLifts teaches empowerpent, self-advocacy, for the next generation of neurodiverse talent? Why do you believe this is important?"] 00:29:26 - 00:30:24 Lenny I'm going to jump on what you just talked about with the compassion and understanding and empathy. I'll give you an example of the self-advocacy. LennyLifts and Lenny Rutecki once again, one and the same couple years ago, instrumental in our district in getting a unified bocce team through Special Olympics, Pennsylvania at our high school. Well, they had a kickoff event last week and one of my students from in my classroom went and he was just phenomenal. Advocated for himself, for our Center Mountain High School bocce ball team. So that's all all that's about. So he is getting physically active, he's advocating for himself, he's advocating for his teammates, and those things are amazing. And the support that LennyLifts receives from the high school students where I'm at, it has to be seen to be believed. They are just phenomenal, the support, the compassion, the understanding, the help that they want to do. 00:30:25 - 00:31:02 Lenny And then that's bleeding over to as LennyLifts expands, is bleeding over to other high schools and colleges and things like that where we're getting that support. And once again, I'm going to go back to the health benefits, just that stamina we're talking about how do they work when they get older. You have to have some sort of stamina to be able to do that. It can't be a five minutes and then I'm done kind of thing. So that LennyLifts advocates for that health and that physicality where you can work a little longer, you can do something, become more productive, and as you become more productive, you feel better about yourself, then you become healthier. And it's that never ending cycle where hopefully, that improvement and that talent. 00:31:03 - 00:31:43 Lenny So with the high school students, they're still trying to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and if I can do something to teach them, okay, here's your strengths and this is what I like, I can speak up about that because, now I see this crazy guy, Lenny Rutecki on there doing stuff, what he's lifting, and I can go and do those things at the same time. I can teach Tom Stoltman lifting ungodly weights. I might not be able to lift that, but I could lift a weight and I can go and do things and I can go beyond what anybody else ever thought was possible for me because now I've got a network of people advocating for me and what I can do and my end goal can be limitless. 00:31:44 - 00:32:14 Anthony Well, so two things I'm going to tell you. First, I love bocce. I'm Italian, so it works out well. The second piece of that is we were talking about empowerment and self-advocacy for the child, the young adult, parents may be a little bit hesitant to come in to do this. But have you seen parents become greater self or greater advocates for their children by understanding what your organization is doing? 00:32:15 - 00:33:15 Lenny I have phenomenal support and once again, I'll go back to social media. I jumped onto social media platforms much later than most people. And just that parents reaching out, this is a great thing, my kids involved in things. The bocce, you're getting people to come in and watch these athletes with neurotypical students compete as a team and are self-advocating. They're up there and it has to be seen. But when you have somebody standing up there cheering themselves on and then the crowd does the same thing, it's just contagious. And how can you not feel good about somebody feeling good about themselves? And you get parents that the students are getting a varsity letter. So they will have a banquet and they will earn a varsity letter. That's a dream come through for most people and for a lot of people. And so parents are supportive of that, community is supportive of that. Anything we can do to help people leave more happier lives, that's what the goal of LennyLifts is all about. 00:33:16 - 00:34:12 Anthony And you're talking about social media and I know social media can get a bad rep for a lot of things, right? But there is some good that comes out of social media. It's the breadth and depth of getting LennyLifts and Code the Spectrum and the Swank Autism Center out there. People understand who you are, what you're doing, the good work that you're doing, and then there's influencers who can help with some of that. They tag along and then all of a sudden, you blow up. So that is an amazing piece of social media. So we got to take the good, there's a little challenge in there, but there's mostly good. So I'm going to flip to Brian here. Switching gears, from a medical point of view, how do your services strengthen the quality of life for those that you work with? What are some of those benefits of looking at medical resources? [Question slide: A blurry background is shown with the question in white text over the middle of the slide reads "From a medical point-of-view, how do your services strengthen the quality of life for those you work with? What are some benefits of exploring medical resources like yours?"] 00:34:13 - 00:35:04 Brian So I think a lot of the benefits come from the way that we are intentionally delivering services. Our services are designed from a strengths-based perspective. We want everyone to understand that there are positive characteristics associated with being autistic or neurodivergent. And we start those conversations with families from the time of diagnosis and continue them through the time that we're working with their child and them. We also don't shy away from the challenges that individuals and families face because we know these can be incredibly limiting and prevent the person and their family from reaching their goals. But we don't think it's helpful to be overly focused on the deficits of the person. In fact, research tells us that this approach can be very defeating and lead to more stress for families and mental health challenges for the individual. 00:35:05 - 00:36:07 Brian Treatment shouldn't be designed to cure an individual's autism or attempt to take away who they are as people. Instead, we should be meeting them where they're at, understanding why they do what they do, and work diligently to understand what's important to them and their loved ones. But once we have that information, we can work with them to help them develop the skills they need to genuinely reach their goals. And simultaneously, we work with the community to try to reduce and remove systemic barriers and promote inclusion. So our resources are really designed to celebrate the person and their family, to celebrate their autism, to promote self-advocacy and parental advocacy, and also support the unique stressors that they and their families face. Some challenges of course, are going to require more significant support and might take a long time to improve, but we work hard to recognize the person in their family's strengths as they're working through these challenges and help them to understand how to utilize those strengths in order to reach their goals. 00:36:08 - 00:36:27 Anthony Yeah. And we've been talking about diagnosis, young children three, five, seven, 10. Have you found there's been more young adults like 17, 18 getting diagnosed in the last few years as we've grown the awareness, I guess? 00:36:28 - 00:37:18 Brian Yeah, absolutely. We are seeing more teenagers and more young adults who are discovering autism sometimes on their own, sometimes with their family's support. They're identifying with the autistic community and are seeking out services to see if a clinical diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder is appropriate. A lot of this comes from increasing awareness. A lot of this, to be honest, comes from a really bad history of not doing a good job of diagnosing kids of color. And so we are working hard to make sure that we can spread information about autism to all communities and to support those individuals who are looking to this community as a community of support. 00:37:19 - 00:37:45 Anthony Understood, understood. And I think we're going to talk about community in a second here. Tingting, I'm going to put this question to you. And you and I met because of my participation in the Inclusive Coding Festival. How does spreading awareness of the services that you provide make a difference in the lives of those neurodivergent children within your community as well as break the stigma in society? [Question slide: A blurry background showing the question in white text "How does spreading awareness of the services that you provide make a difference in the lives of neurodivergenet children within your community, as well as break the stigma in society?"] 00:37:46 - 00:38:49 Tingting Sure. So I think definitely within the community, our family members need to know those opportunities possibly for their kids when they grow older, they could do jobs based on their coding skills. So that's awareness we really need to raise. And we're organizing Inclusive Coding Festival [inaudible 00:38:08] month and one of our goal is to raise the awareness like that among families within the community. And we were able to do that because we have college students who have finished their projects together with their industry mentors earlier, and they did wonderful presentations of their technical projects on the conference day in front of those parents and family members. And I definitely think that it's a great boost of their confidence for some family members to seriously consider for their son or daughter, which are younger than college age. [Presentation slide: a white background displaying four images across the top horizontally. Below the images is text in the middle reading "Inclusive Coding Festival October 22, 2022. Orange County, CA. Showcase coding projects by neurodivergent students and demonstrate their abilities. Connect neurodivergent students with Tech Industry employers. Features Keynote talks and a Tech Career Panel on Neurodiversity by industry leaders from Microsoft, SAP, and CAI.] 00:38:50 - 00:40:08 Tingting And on the other hand, in a broader community, we want to raise the awareness or break the stereotyping thoughts where the ability of neurodivergent talents is limited, it's hard to work with, it's blah, blah, blah. We definitely showcase our neurodivergent talents' technical skills and their presentations are wonderful as well to let them know they are doing great job, they definitely should be considered for potential hiring plans and positions. So having Microsoft and SAP as a great examples to let other companies know that this is a great success, both beneficial for neurodivergent group of people and also for companies, tech companies and to be successful in the future to guarantee the diversity in their talents pool is critical. And we definitely want to raise awareness of this successful path for smaller companies. That's a second goal of our inclusive coding festival. 00:40:08 - 00:40:39 Anthony And when I was there, as I sat in the audience too, it wasn't just made up of moms and dads, here's the audience. It was brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, all of those individuals were supporting your students on stage or the participants on stage. Was that an offshoot of the organic reach that goes out to folks as well, right? Is that the community? 00:40:40 - 00:42:00 Tingting Yes, we definitely want to be as inclusive as possible. So we didn't really require for the audience to be one type of group of people. And we reached out to our partner network, which includes a local career academy for people on the Amazon spectrum, which is New Vista Career Academy and also our partner UC Irvine Health Center for Autism to that broader community know that we're doing this. So it's very organic I will say. And it's great to see those family members to show up to support their loved ones and also to learn more cool things about tech industry and also AI because we did have one keynote speaker from Microsoft, Maria did a wonderful talk on the power of diversity in AI and she mentioned multiple exciting projects at Microsoft for diversity purposes. So those are our approach for... Include more and more supporters from the community. And since Code the Spectrum, we're fairly new and we hope that we can grow the audience in the next few years to let more people benefit from this. 00:42:01 - 00:42:23 Anthony Yeah. I think you're going to need a different venue next year to hold all those folks. It was a great time, no doubt about that. And Lenny, I'm going to go to you on this one. So since you began LennyLifts, do you have a memorable story or experience with somebody who overcame some challenges and is now doing well? [Question slide: A blurry background displaying the question in white text reading "Do you have a memorable story or experience working with somebody who overcame challenges?"] 00:42:24 - 00:43:18 Lenny I think the biggest thing with a challenge is if you've worked with those on the spectrum, that daily grind and those small steps can be absolutely incredible that we see. And just that perseverance and that willingness to continue to get better, to improve no matter how difficult they might be. When I look at my students, I have one that now when he goes to the fitness center, he is pedaling like crazy or he's lifting weights or he wants to get healthier. And as you see the two pictures. Students that graduated. Graduating high school is huge. And then you have somebody like Tingting and if there's something like that in the area and somebody like Brian, so my goal is to get them in places where phenomenal people like them, can help my students along the way just to improve whatever they're doing and their quality of life. That is everything that LennyLifts is about. [Presentation slide: a slide with three photos of himself and students.] 00:43:19 - 00:44:24 Lenny It's that community, it's that working together, it's that perseverance. It's just making them feel better, more confident and willing to try things. So we all have that daily grind and we have to do this. Well, sometimes, you have more struggles than what you consider than other people and you just continue to hammer away at that. Boy, I can't be more proud of my students and those within LennyLifts that I've come in contact with. And now I have neurodivergent people coming to competitions and lifting and you have a small niche, strength athletes is a small, small community. So you want to talk about sometimes people in a spectrum perseverate about things. Well you put them in a room with all these strength athletes, everybody's perseverating about strength. So it's just one big family and that's just that close-knit. So then they can advocate and then they can talk about things that everybody else is also enjoying. And I'll repeat it again, just that quality of life for where they go to the next level is what I'm all about. 00:44:25 - 00:45:02 Anthony All right, so I'm going to tell you. Listen, it's a struggle for me to drive to the gym and to do that. But you are getting kids, young adults and maybe the parents have to take them there and maybe they're hanging out watching, but they're watching that young adult do their thing and be successful. And I'm sure there's got to be a smile across the parent's face going, I never thought that Tommy or Sally was going to go to a gym and work out and do all this good stuff. Have you seen that piece of it come across? 00:45:03 - 00:45:41 Lenny And it goes back to what you said earlier in the conversation, then all of a sudden the parents, they have to drive them there. Well, if I'm going to be here for an hour, I might as well start getting in shape myself instead of sitting here watching Tommy or Sally get in shape and I'll go back to this, healthy families grow together and it allows them to do other things about worrying about their health. Yes, there's always going to be health issues with comorbidities and things like that that Brian talked about earlier. And when we take care of those things, hopefully, that health, it's not going to eliminate but alleviate that and allow them to do other things to grow closer as a family. 00:45:42 - 00:46:20 Anthony That's great. Listen, I need to get healthier myself. So I applaud everybody who gets to the gym every day and does a little workout. Well, so now we're to the part of this webinar where it's the fun part. So our audience gets to submit their questions for our guests. So we actually have a few. So Tingting, you get the first one, matter of fact. So the question is, does your organization work with neurodivergent students that may be nonverbal or have limited verbal abilities? [Audience Q&A slide: blue background with "Audience Q&A" written in white.] 00:46:21 - 00:47:42 Tingting Thanks for the question. So the answer in general, is yes. We don't turn out students based on their ability level. So for different students on the spectrum, everyone is different on the spectrum first of all. We definitely recognize their different needs. Their goals will be a little different. For nonverbal students, usually, the way we work with them is that we really want to talk to the parents to see what they expect us to do. And also, we will meet the students before the class starts. Usually based on our observation, the computer literacy is one of their main goals to learn how to do search on Google, on YouTube and how to use mouse, keyboards. And that's what we experienced before. And also if the parents, it's okay to share more with us about the students, for example, therapies they are receiving and other goals, they're working with other teams so that we can see how our [inaudible 00:47:31] classes can play a role as a whole child's principal. So that's what we do for kids, especially with nonverbal or with challenging behaviors. 00:47:43 - 00:48:04 Anthony Excellent. I appreciate that, Tingting. And we go to Lenny, there's one for you. What occurs at the high school level to assist neurodivergent students with transitioning to post-secondary life? I'm going to see if Lenny is on mute maybe. 00:48:05 - 00:48:06 Lenny I was on mute. I'm so sorry. 00:48:07 - 00:48:09 Anthony Oh, that's the best. That's quite all right. I do it all the time. 00:48:10 - 00:48:10 Lenny Almost made it to the end, right? 00:48:11 - 00:48:13 Anthony Yeah, exactly. You're good. You're good. 00:48:14 - 00:49:12 Lenny So we have outside agencies that we coordinate with and a lot of that also is based on what the legislature gives us from the state, some requirements. But then there's outside organizations. And the big one in this area is I'm about half hour outside of Penn State and there's an organization called the Acres Project, which is designed for students transitioning. So we try to get my students hooked up with that organization and [inaudible 00:48:41] also called the 4C's in town. We take community outings to get them involved to see what is out there, not only them, but also their families so they know what is there, what is available, what kind of roads. There's a college, Hiram G. Andrews in Johnstown for neurodivergent students. So that's an option for our students who are always looking at what they view as their strengths and how we can accommodate them to getting onto their next stage or next goal in life. 00:49:13 - 00:49:34 Anthony Oh, that's great. And as we continue the barrage of questions here, which is awesome, one is, how has the growing empowerment of neurodivergent leaders influenced your organizations? I don't know which one of you wants to take that first, but I'm all for it. I don't know. Brian, do you want to give it a shot or? 00:49:35 - 00:50:23 Brian Sure. I'm happy to tackle it. It's interesting because the large majority of the community that we serve are children and their families, and yet, we know it's really important to listen to autistic voices. And it's been wonderful having more autistic voices out there that are readily accessible either through social media, through literature to be able to speak to. We're in the process of forming our family advisory committee and it's important to us that we have not just family members who are sharing their thoughts on the services we offer, but also having autistic people be able to share with us too. So it's been an incredible development in our field and community and really a long time coming. 00:50:24 - 00:50:24 Anthony Okay. Anybody else have- 00:50:25 - 00:50:27 Lenny [Unintelligible] that question as well, if you don't mind? 00:50:28 - 00:50:28 Anthony Yeah. Yeah. 00:50:28 - 00:51:04 Lenny And I'll go back to my students as they know who LennyLifts is and they've gotten involved in, once again, going back to social media and promoting who they are, what LennyLifts is, what it does. And so once again, that information, that acceptance, that awareness, that advocacy where they're out there promoting themselves through LennyLifts and your organization and what I stand for for them. So it's a collaboration with myself and my students and when I can get them to make those little 30 second social media promotions, that says more than I could ever do in hours on social media. 00:51:05 - 00:51:24 Anthony That's a great answer. And Brian, I have one for you here. What advice do you have for a parent of a neurodivergent child when deciding which kind of additional support would best fit their child's skills it needs? 00:51:25 - 00:52:23 Brian So that family's probably connected with a number of different potential providers. Honestly, I would start with the ones that have helped you to feel most welcomed and supported you the best. There are lots of great services that can come from meeting with a psychologist, meeting with a speech pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a psychiatrist. I think it's going to change over the course of time as the child gets older. So often, a comprehensive approach is really helpful. Working with a social worker can also be especially helpful because social workers are amazing at helping to keep services coordinated. I know a lot of families get really overwhelmed with the number of different recommendations that they get that from different providers. So I would say, pay attention to what it feels like being there with that provider and how your child does in meeting their goals. 00:52:24 - 00:53:03 Brian If you're meeting with a provider that's giving you a boatload of recommendations that feel overwhelming, that's not good. And if you can't give feedback to that provider, I would say find a different one because... And fortunately, now there are growing number of experts in this area and look for autism centers that are located in different regions of the country where you can talk to experts who can give you a sense of what is best practice in the field. Even if they can't offer you those services, they at least should be able to give you at least a sense of the kinds of questions you can ask of providers in the community and also at school. 00:53:04 - 00:53:45 Anthony All right. And I love that answer and piggybacks on this, I guess the young adult or child. Lenny or Tingting, this might go to either one of you. The question posed was how do you navigate a scenario where the parent's pushing for the child to participate in your program, child isn't really invested or wants to do that program. You're doing the what's best scenario for my child, but that child may not be willing and I will go with Tingting Lenny. Either one. 00:53:46 - 00:53:46 Lenny I'll go first. 00:53:47 - 00:55:16 Tingting I can chime in. So yeah, I do observe these kind of situations, especially for grade 13 and grade 14 students, post to secondary. A lot of times, parents do hope that they can explore other opportunities which can lead to permanent position later, but the topic may not be the one that students are interested in. At other times, students have concerns or frictions not because they don't like it, it's because they're suffering from anxiety, from depression and other conditions. So it's not meaning that this direction is not for him, maybe because at that moment, during that week or that month, he's suffering from something else in his life. So it is really hard to say that this decision will be the best one for these kids for the rest of his life because everything is dynamic, could change. So I would say that even if the students is showing some pushing back, we still want to engage them as much as possible, give them some time to try it out, then maybe they will change, maybe their other frictions in their life can be solved. So yeah, that's what I observed, for sure. 00:55:17 - 00:55:19 Anthony Lenny, you had some thoughts as well. 00:55:20 - 00:56:28 Lenny And I was thinking my situation when I look at my students that I work with directly, a lot of communication because I spend a lot of time with my students. Some of mine, I will see them six hours a day. So it's a small incremental steps. So just like Tingting was saying, I might be able to tease out what it is that might be preventing them as to why they won't want to do something. Is it something else other than the activity? And I thought that was a phenomenal answer from Tingting. And I think this that time and this that relationship, I'll have some of my students for years, just the way it's set up, five, six years. So I know them and that gives me advantage that way. And then also, when it comes to the other activities outside, very few people do it individually. We go into the gym, it's a group activity. So those other people will have those insights where they'll see them a lot more frequently and we can figure out what actually it might be. Hopefully, we can answer that or help them answer that for themselves. 00:56:29 - 00:56:39 Anthony Yeah. Brian, I'm going to go to you for this last one as well, that same question. Do you have any thoughts on that? 00:56:40 - 00:57:51 Brian Well, yeah, as Lenny was saying, I thought Tingting's answer was really great because you do want to consider what's at the core of why the person doesn't want to participate and create an opportunity so that the person can share that if they're able to communicate that and leave open the possibility that it might not be the activity itself. I think also, depending on the age of the person, if they're a teenager, autistic teenagers are like neurotypical teenagers in that they're often not going to like what their parents are suggesting to them. And so I think anytime you can offer an opportunity, one, to offer a slow start into things and to give them a on-ramp into doing it so that they don't feel forced to consider their preferences and sensory needs and things like that in that particular activity. All of those things. And then of course, if it can come on the recommendation of somebody else who's not their parents, I think it can also go a long way. 00:57:52 - 00:58:56 Anthony Yeah. That's a good way to finish this whole webinar. You got to take into account the young adult and their wishes as well, right? It makes a world of difference. Well, our time is over today, unfortunately, but I'd love to thank Brian Tingting and Lenny for joining us today and sharing their insight with us. It's been an absolute pleasure chatting with all of you. I'd like to also thank our audience for your attention and participation. Great questions. But later, we'll be sending everyone that attended a recording of this event to share with your colleagues and peers or peers. But in the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about CAI Neurodiverse Solutions or know somebody that is, visit our website at cai.io and fill out our wonderful contact form. Thank you all for joining us today and have a great rest of your day. [Closing slide: a background image showing a photo of a woman and a boy exhancing a high five. The title of the webinar "Empowering the next generation of neurodiverse talent", is displayed across the center of the slide. Thank you for attending is written in white text below the title. Below that text reads "To learn more, visit www.cai.io/neurodiverse-solutions." The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is displayed in the top left hand corner.


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