The Autistry Studios Mission

Helping ASD youth become independent adults.

At Autistry Studios we help teens and adults with Autism, Asperger's and other learning differences become successfully independent by leveraging their interests and talents while creating a community.

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Michael’s R3ptor – an OT Perspective

Posted By on August 15, 2016

On January 9, 2016 at Autistry Studios, we met Michael, a friendly young man, who was working on a project, building a Lego MindStorm R3ptor, with an Autistry mentor. Michael’s hands were shaky and he was easily frustrated when pieces did not immediately fit together. “I can’t do this. Help me.” This was a common phrase we would hear.

Michael needed 5 minute breaks after 10 minutes of working with mentors. Breaks included talking about animals and using a stationary bike to stimulate his senses. By the end of the month, we realized his frustration levels would decrease in quiet, well-lit rooms, so we retreated to the library to continue working on his project. Here we focused on orientation transference from the picture to the object. Many times, the object got turned around when brought close to his body.

IMG_6111Each week Michael increased the number of steps he was able to complete on his project over the course of a 4-hour workshop. We saw that frustration levels continued to decrease. As his project gradually but steadily neared completion, we were both excited to see all of the progress he had made. In addition to his actual project, Michael began to physically alter his posture. This allowed him to access his project with greater ease and with greater comfort so that each work session became longer.

michael at eventWith our project almost done, it was time to create a poster and prepare a speech because he was scheduled to present and speak at the annual Autistry Maker Banquet on March 19, 2016. Michael chose his favorite pictures, cut them out using a straight edge cutter, framed them, and independently prepared his own speech! We videotaped him, allowing him the freedom to practice on his own. “I feel good about presenting”, he said. On the night of the Maker Banquet, he looked around the crowded room and said “There are too many people”, so we used calming techniques and positive reinforcement, including practicing his speech. As a result, Michael was able to get up on stage in front of a large group of guests to demonstrate and describe all of his hard work on his project over the past three months.

Michael smilingLooking back these last 6 months, we were fortunate enough to spend time with Michael at Autistry Studios and it is difficult to truly fathom the amount of progress he’s made in such a short period of time. From an ergonomically biomechanical standpoint, his improvements in posture, with relevance to both sitting and standing activities, can be generalized to many different settings while engaged in meaningful activities. Earlier on during our working sessions, Michael constantly needed reminders to carry the boxes of Legos closer and perpendicular to his chest, as opposed to either further out in front of him or angled diagonally upward. These reminders became fewer and fewer as he gradually took to observing proper body mechanics with greater independence. Additionally, he began moving his chair closer to the table to allow for improved postural control. This proved incredibly helpful especially when working with and manipulating some of the smaller, more precise Lego pieces. Finally, he began using his legs more often when lifting heavier objects from the ground as opposed to using the muscles in his lower back.

Selecting and working diligently on preferred activities at Autistry Studios has allowed Michael to not only make gains from a biomechanical perspective, but also from psychosocial and behavioral standpoints as well. As mentioned previously, we observed marked decreases in levels of frustration while working on his projects over a timespan of just a few months. Regulating himself appropriately while observing social rules of conduct during lunchtime was a strength of Michael’s, but being able to endure through times of difficulty and push onward while working on his projects was a remarkable feat to witness, especially when noting low baseline levels of activity tolerance when we first met him.

IMG_6058The duration and frequency of rest breaks while working on his project has decreased, indicating greater patience and ability to persevere through challenging obstacles. Michael has also demonstrated increased flexibility when receiving denied requests or when working with changes in routine. For example, when we discovered that his R3ptor projects was missing a piece, he was able to skip the step, work ahead, and patiently wait for staff to purchase the missing relevant Lego piece. Finally, daily conversational skills have also improved. Michael is better able to remain on topic and participate in social reciprocity with peers or staff during conversations while maintaining appropriate distance between himself and others.

Erin Chaffee and Bryant Luong

Oh yeah, Ian moved out…

Posted By on July 10, 2016

ian in truckIan always planned on moving out when he was 20. To Sausalito. To a houseboat. Or maybe a mobile home. Ian is always thinking about plans for the next step.

The summer of 2014, after Ian left high school he started reminding us it was time for him to move out. Janet and I were both “yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll get the paperwork started.” Ian was 19.

We have worked with other families to help their children move out of the family home into some sort of more independent living situation. It can take years to find the right situation. Here in Marin County we usually work with Lifehouse Agency. For living outside the home in California there are basically three places the funding comes from: state and federal funds from Social Security Insurance funds, the Regional Center (in our case the Golden Gate Regional Center), and support from the family.

The previous summer we had thrashed out Ian’s SSI situation. Ian is a medium verbal autistic and is considered 100% disabled. Other than a pile of paperwork and some office visits, our Social Security Administration experience went well. Your mileage may vary… Anyway SSI: DONE.

Ian had been a regional center client since he was 3 years old and we had kept his status up to date. This mainly entailed a home visit each year by his case worker(s). We never received any financial assistance from GGRC when Ian was a minor but Regional Center support is crucial once your child is an adult. Anyway, the annual meetings kept his account open. Regional Center client status: DONE.

The first step for supported housing is to contact the regional center. Janet made an appointment to get the process started. She also contacted Lifehouse Agency to get Ian onto their list. A year or so earlier, Lifehouse had opened a new residence less than a mile from our home that was specifically for young adult autistics and we hoped, one day, he might be able to move in.

ian and calendarWith all the phone calls made and paperwork submitted we settled in for the long wait. Given our experience with others and the stories we had heard, we fully expected to wait for a year or more before a residence opened up. On the waiting list at Lifehouse: DONE.

Less than two weeks after contacting Lifehouse a bedroom came available at the Corte Madera House with three other autistic men. It’s in a nice neighborhood, two blocks from stores with nearby bus stops. The house has a staff person on hand to help guide housekeeping and shopping and stays overnight. Only two miles away from our house, all downhill. We can be there in minutes. No excuses, it was a perfect first placement.

We had gone through the motions to appease Ian’s growing desire for independence but Janet and I were not really ready for this.

We thought perhaps the GGRC approval would slow the process down. But they thought the placement was excellent and fast-tracked the paperwork. So, two weeks after deciding to look for an acceptable new home for Ian, we were packing his bags.

ians bedroom
Ian was enthusiastic about every step. We wanted to keep his bedroom at our house intact as a safety net. We raided Ikea for his bedroom furniture: bed, desk, chair, and dresser. He took his clothes, PC, TV set, books, and a few movies. We put together a basic set of pots and pans. Dishes and such are shared at the house.

For Janet and me, all of this was another of those “this is what we should be doing ((but I don’t know if it will work) and I’d really rather things just stay the same)” moments. We had a swirling kaleidoscope of emotions and a long list of worries. And fears. And nightmares.

Will he starve? Will he eat nothing but junk?

Will he forget to shave? Brush his teeth?

Will he hate his roommates? Will they hate him?

Will he die in his sleep? (I did not claim these were rational fears…)

Will he remember to wear clean clothes?

Will he get enough sleep?

Will he be lonely? Depressed?

Will he overdraw his bank account?

Will he get scammed by somebody?

Imagining failure modes is one of my superpowers. I can probably brainstorm another hundred worries.

Moving Ian into the house was extremely hard for Janet and me. So hard and so upsetting that this is why it has taken nearly two years to write about it and share the experience. Meeting Ian’s roommates and moving him in was one of those times it was really forced into our face: our son is disabled and his adult life will be very different from other kids his age. In our bubble at home we could fool ourselves that all was normal and we could imagine the future. Reality hurt. Still hurts.

Four autistic adult men share a house. What do you think it looks like? Depressing. Silent. Ian’s roommates are all at least ten years older.

ian wavingFor us, moving Ian still hurts and worries us – it still needs our courage to continue. But we are also positive that it was the right thing to do and that it has been good for him.

For Ian, moving out has been amazing. His confidence has grown. His functional independence has grown. He refuses to ever spend the night back home and has relented only when he was recovering from getting his wisdom teeth pulled, down with a cold, or during the holidays when his house is empty and the staff are away. We are planning more major dental work so we can see him more. Ian calls us every night before he goes to bed and he’s used Face Time to do things like have us help him find the right settings on the washing machine.

animal houseWe see Ian nearly every day at Autistry. Ian continues to attend College of Marin and as the second anniversary in his first house comes up he is starting to think about what the next house will be.

He keeps reminding us that “Animal House” is still what he thinks is ideal housing while attending college.

Ian goes to college part 4: Math and English classes

Posted By on June 22, 2016

Earlier posts:

Ian goes to college – The plan for his education (November 17, 2014)

Ian goes to college part 2 – His first day (August 26, 2014)

Ian goes to college part 3 – Drama Class Results (February 6, 2015)

We went in to this whole “Ian will take classes at the local junior college” with no idea how or if this would work. Ian is a medium verbal autistic and did not complete a high school diploma.

Would the college accept us inserting an aide into the situation?

Would Ian be able to do the work? Ian had spent all of his public education in Special Education programs where the level of challenge was low.

We knew we should try – we really had no idea if it would work.

We have been amazed, relieved, and inspired by how well it has all turned out. Ian has established a solid start on his college education. For Ian’s second and third semesters he took introductory math classes at College of Marin (hereafter COM): Math 085 (Arithmetic Skills) and Math 095 (Basic/Intermediate Math Skills). We had an aide attend with Ian for the first week or so and after that Ian attended independently. Ian has earned B’s and B-minuses.

In the most recent semester (Spring 2016) Ian is taking a remedial English ENGL 062 (Developmental Reading/Writing) for six units.

With Ian attending independently the main issue becomes whether Ian has understood assignments correctly and is he keeping up with all the work. In his math classes this was not an issue because math classes tend to have one thread of work building upward. However, English classes are squarely in the heart of his disability and he has often slightly misunderstood assignments. The complexity of college English classes is also much higher.

Ian at bus stop

Above is Ian waiting to catch the bus home from school. It’s great how we can use Google Street View to check up on him.

We checked in with Ian almost every day on his homework. Over time Ian has become self-motivated on working on his assignments. On the math classes we would help with studying for the final exams and help Ian with which topics to focus on.

This semester’s English class has gone better than we ever hoped. The work is focused on writing, vocabulary, and reading. It is just at the edge of Ian’s ability. Ian is medium-verbal and we were worried whether Ian would be able to keep up. We are thrilled that Ian is making progress on this subject and Ian’s reading comprehension and writing ability are improving.

Ian did mostly well while Sara was away on her maternity leave but Ian did get a little off track. Ian missed some assignments given verbally in class and the web page for the class had not been updated. We ramped up making sure Ian knew about all assignments and the teacher was flexible about letting Ian turn in the missing assignments late.

The class was extremely challenging for Ian but he earned a B in lecture and an A in the lab and has achieved a solid 3.10 overall GPA.

Another win: during our semester meeting with Ian’s academic counselor to plan his next semester the counselor urged us to consider skipping a GED and instead have Ian work directly on earning an AA degree. Ian was happy about this plan. The GED has always felt like a step backwards but a college degree feels like progress to everyone.


What has worked. Some of these are “duh” but we have found all of these things important:

One class at a time. We feel the focus on one class at a time has been key to Ian’s success. In the English class there are reading assignments, writing assignments, and vocabulary/spelling assignments all with different start and due dates. It has been at the edge of Ian’s organizational skills to manage this and he has made some mistakes. If there was a second class’s assignments he was also juggling, we feel it would be too much for him.

Maintain good communication with the professor and the school. College of Marin has been incredibly supportive and has been flexible about allowing our aides to be in the room when needed. We helped Ian maintain contact with his professors by email and attending office hours.

Attend EVERY class meeting. If the student attends EVERY class meeting it really helps! Amazing. This sounds easy but we know from working with others that just attending can be a challenge.

Work (a bit) on homework nearly every day. Only one class – easy, right? All of these classes caused Ian to need to look at fundamental material so the total workload was pretty high. After we established the daily homework routine, Ian began to own it and do his homework on his own.

Autistry Newsletter – May 13, 2016

Posted By on May 13, 2016

Spring is rushing into summer, schools are letting out, and vacations are being planned. But before we hit the beaches let’s celebrate some awesome achievements.

GradAcademic Milestones: Ross J. and Steven W. will graduate from Sonoma State University this month – both with degrees in Applied Mathematics. Ross will continue to work as a System Administrator for John Ash & Company as he figures out his next moves. Steven is enjoying his first break from school in over 16 years. He is developing his considerable artistic talents while he scans the horizon for career opportunities.

Chris D.
graduates from Terra Linda High School in June. Chris has a strong interest in history and will enroll in classes at College of Marin in the fall. So look out for that smiling redhead on campus!

Ian S. finished his fourth semester at COM with a B in his first college English class. But Danielle H. goes to the head of the class with an A in Math! We are so proud of all our students. We have watched them study hard, overcome obstacles, and keep their focus through piles of homework and endless exams. Well done!

006Employment: Finding a job is always a challenge but our Autistry students are having success. Alex and Danny started work at a local bookstore this week. They will be stocking shelves and ringing customers up at the register. Lots of new skills to learn.

April and Amanda continue to work at the preschool and they are finishing up their online course in Early Childhood Education. These credits will go toward an ECE certificate which will help them launch their careers.

Ian and MichaelIan and Lauren are interning at Renew Computers. Ian is learning the fine points of customer service from greeting clients to making change. Lauren has found a great outlet for her passion for taking apart computers and sorting all the parts.

I want to thank Michael Reynolds for the high level of support and instruction he is giving to Ian and Lauren. They are blossoming under his tutelage.

And a round of applause for Corey!! He has not only passed the one-year mark at his job in Novato, he is up for a raise. Corey is proof that if at first (second, third, or fourth) you don’t succeed, just keep on trying.

MF16_BA_300x300Coming up: Next weekend, May 20, 21, and 22 Autistry will be at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. This year ShopBot Tools, makers of our beloved CNC cutting machine, is sponsoring the Autistry Studios booth. The Maker Faire is a truly amazing event with attendance of over 150,000 throughout the weekend. Exhibitors showcase everything from high tech 3d printers to do-it-yourself marshmallow guns! There are enormous metal sculptures, roving bands of robots, and interactive booths of every sort. With our fundamental maker spirit, Autistry feels right at home. Visit us at the Faire where we will be creating a 10’ high archway of gears.

On Thursday, May 19, four Autistry students will be on a panel, Hearing Our Voices at the Marin and North Bay Lecture Series. Danielle, Ryan, Ian, and Steven will speak about their experiences living on the spectrum. The series is organized by Karen Kaplan of Offerings. The event will be held at the Marin County Office of Education, 1111 Las Gallinas, San Rafael. Tickets can be purchased online.

Lux MatchSupport Autistry: Do twice the good with one donation! Help us meet a $10,000 challenge from the Miranda Lux Foundation. To unlock this $10,000 grant we need to raise $10,000 to match. Your donations will be matched dollar for dollar. Donations can be made online.

Autistry Newsletter February 29, 2016

Posted By on February 29, 2016

Bryant and Michael

Bryant and Michael

So many new things happening at Autistry. We welcome two new mentors to our Autistry staff, Bryant Luong and Matt Glenwright.
Bryant has a degree in psychology from California State University, Fullerton and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in occupational therapy at Dominican University of California. He also plays the violin so there may be more musical projects in Autistry’s future!
Matt and Reed

Matt and Reed

Matt is a graduate of Cal Poly, also with a degree in psychology. He has experience as an ABA instructor working with autistic children. Both Bryant and Matt fit right in to the workshops helping build Lego Mindstorm robots and radio controlled cars. And the Autistry students were happy to teach them how! It is always fun to watch new staff as they come to realize how capable and knowledgeable our students are, and just how fun it is to learn alongside them.
Nat creates Stop-Motion Animation Movie

Nat creates Stop-Motion Animation Movie

New student projects
will be highlighted at the Maker Banquet on Saturday, March 19th. Students will give short presentations on their current works and show how they use high tech tools to create amazing films, dioramas, robots, artwork, and RC cars.
They are excited to showcase their skills with the laser cutter, the full suite of Adobe Creative graphic software, 3D printer, robotics, stop-motion animation, and much more.
Caroline with her RC Truck

Caroline with her RC Truck

This is a great opportunity to meet our Autistry students, tour the studio, and experience the excitement and pride of the Maker Spirit. And, to raise a glass to show our gratitude to Nathan Ballard (Keegen & Coppin) and Craig Scheidt (Independent Holdings) for finding us this wonderful new studio.
Please reserve your tickets online now so we can get a fair estimate of attendees – this helps us with our planning!

Janet and Rohan

Janet and Rohan

We welcome our newest addition to the Autistry Family: Rohan Gardner.
Born under a full moon, Sunday, Feb 21 to proud parents Steve and Sara Gardner. Sara is on maternity leave, returning to Autistry in April and we hope Rohan will be able to join her. At Autistry we believe in inclusion – and that includes babies!
We are all excited to have this new face at our lunch table. The changing table is stocked with provisions. The playpen is poised for action. The baby monitors are charged up. Rohan – we are ready for you!


MF16_BA_150x150Coming up:
ShopBot Tools will sponsor Autistry at Maker Faire 2016 in San Mateo, May 20 – 22. This is a fabulous event and a super experience for makers of all ages. ShopBot Tools is sending out a Desktop ShopBot for us to use at the Faire as our big guy doesn’t travel well. We welcome Autistry students to join us at the tent, help us with the maker demonstrations, and be Ambassadors for Autistry. Last year we had a great time and found that folks were really interested in our Maker program.

Autistry Newsletter – February 2, 2016

Posted By on February 2, 2016

Lauren reflectedAcknowledging Mastery at Autistry: Certification. We teach skills as an integral part of working with students at Autistry. If students want to make pillows, they learn to sew. If a student wants a bookshelf, he or she learns woodworking. A model tank? Learn model building, painting, decaling, weathering techniques, and usually a bit of history. If they want cookies, they learn a bit of cooking. Every project has a set of skills that go with it.

We were invited last week to watch a movie Programming Hope about a program called Nonpareil in Texas operating a school/software company as a way to train and employ people with autism. They grew in almost exactly the same timeframe as Autistry and there were so many ways their program echoes the goals and what we do at Autistry. There was a scene where they were giving out certificates for classes completed and skills achieved, and we were strongly inspired. (Dan will write a separate review of the movie in a blog post Real Soon Now.)

alex and danThere are so many skills we teach at Autistry. Dan and I quickly filled three pages with just the brainstormed list of broad skill areas — not even all the more granular particular skills. We are going to start drawing boxes around those skills and creating curricula to address each skill set. When a student has mastered a set of skills, he or she will receive a Certificate of Achievement. This will have many benefits. The list of skills acquired and the timeframe will provide direct measurements of student progress. The skills that students achieve will become line items on their resumes and things they can add to job or school applications. Simply codifying all the skills into teachable atomic units with a defined progression will make it easier to train staff and manage student projects.

library1Settling In:I had no idea when we moved from the large warehouse that the actual moving – boxing up everything, hauling it to the new studio, offloading the trucks – would be the easier part of this transition. The settling in, unboxing, creating new spaces and places for all our tools and equipment — this is the hard part. But it is so satisfying to see the 448 Du Bois warehouse transform into a warm, inviting, exciting, and versatile studio. This week the sofas arrived for the library — yes, we have an actual lending library. Our students now have a great place to study and browse an awesome collection of books, everything from The Making of Star Wars to Introduction to Calculus, with shelves of art books, modeling books, history, psychology… and, of course, graphic novels.

IMG_7060Welcoming the World: The new studio has a wonderful large room with a stage, wall-mounted monitor, and refrigerated refreshment drawers that make it perfect for all sorts of occasions. In the past 6 months we have hosted an author talk, a presentation on setting up special needs trusts, a CPR training, and some great parties. We also regularly host the monthly Marin Autism Collaborative Parent Support Group.

669906-250Autistry annual fundraiser: Mark your calendars and buy your tickets! “The Next Lap” Maker Banquet on Saturday, March 19 will feature a custom-built obstacle race course for remote controlled model cars, catered food stations with something for everybody, open bar, tech and tool demos given by staff and students, amazing student projects, and a silent auction. The Autistry students have been building cars and honing their driving skills getting ready for the challenge. If you or your company would like to sponsor a car please see our sponsorship page.

2016 – off to a great start!

Autistry Newsletter – December 22, 2015

Posted By on December 22, 2015

You rock. Really. We met the $5000 Gear Wall Challenge!

With your generous donations we met the Roberts Shoes Fund $5000 Matching Challenge! Our 2015 Autistry Gear Wall is still growing and with that growth comes new opportunities for our students. New tools, new programs, and new scholarships. And we couldn’t have done it without you. 2015 Autistry Gears will be going up until Dec 29th, so there is still time to join the chain!

IMG_0044I’m a little choked up thinking about the year that has just flown by. We had a lot to celebrate at the Autistry Family Potluck this past Saturday night:

Steven Waite, one of our very first Autistry students, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Sonoma State University. Steven has blossomed into an expressive sculptor with one of the sharpest, wryest wits I know. Like most graduating college students, he is a bit anxious about what the future has in store for him. But I know his intelligence, his wit, and his creativity will carry him wherever he chooses to go. And the Autistry community will support him and encourage him all along the way.

Sara and Ian studyOur son, Ian Swearingen, passed his math class at the College of Marin—the third college-level course he has taken! We are so proud of how independently and conscientiously he studied. Next semester he will take an English class. Ian graduated high school with a certificate and he is determined to get his GED. Sara Gardner has mentored Ian through these early college semesters. And together they are pioneering and prototyping how Autistry can support continued education for our students.

Amanda and April at preschoolAmanda Meeuwsen and April Evans both passed their first online college course, Theories of Personality, an introduction to psychology. They have shown us another way that Autistry can support adult education and we will be hosting more online learning in 2016. Amanda and April also successfully completed a semester internship at a local preschool and they will be taking an online course in Early Childhood Education in the spring semester. At Autistry, we believe that learning is a lifelong endeavor and we encourage our students, our staff, and ourselves to keep turning the pages of the book of knowledge.

If you weren’t able to join us on Saturday night—and especially if you were—here are some photos from the party.

party pix

We are so thankful for you! It takes lots of hands to build and sustain a high-quality program like Autistry Studios. Thanks for the many ways you cheer us on.

With much gratitude,
Janet, Dan, and the Autistry Team

Autistry Newsletter – November 11, 2015

Posted By on November 10, 2015

We are still getting settled into the new studio. So many boxes to unpack and tools to find places for.
The kitchen is looking good, the library shelves are going up, the digital arts studio is pretty much up and running, and the shop is back online. A lot of work but the move was a good one. The space is warm and welcoming – very homey.

Steve Silberman and Ian

Steve Silberman and Ian

The large workroom also allows us to host public events. Last month 65 people joined us to hear Steve Silberman discuss his new book, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity with Dan Swearingen. The talk, interview, and question session afterward were fabulous. Chikara Motomura and Rupert Stechman videotaped the entire event – nearly 2 hours.

We posted the video in a series of short (9 – 12 minutes) segments on YouTube. At the head of each segment is a brief outline of the topics covered.

Nghi and CarolineAutistry has developed a strong relationship with Dominican University Occupational Therapy Department. So much of what the students do at Autistry involves fine motor skills, self regulation, and sensory integration and we are always open to learning new approaches to support them. Last month Nghi Tran, DU OT grad student joined us and brings, not only OT knowledge, but an enormous amount of enthusiasm.

d0a08b_3375bc2f8aa64863a02eff37c8d23273Autism in Love, a documentary film by Matt Fuller will be screened by the California Film Institute in San Rafael. “Four adults at different places on the autism spectrum open up their personal lives as they navigate dating and romantic relationships. Eye-opening, first-person portrayals show that despite many challenges faced by those with autism, love can find a way.”

Janet will moderate a panel of autistic adults – Dan Swearingen, Ross Jacobs, and Tamsin Kearns. They will share their response to the film and their own experiences with relationships. Monday, November 30 at Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael 12:00pm – 1:30pm. Tickets available online at Eventbrite (price = FREE)

Radio Controlled vehicles are popular in the studio right now. A group of our Saturday students are building cars and trucks and having a blast driving them around the parking lot. They will be building the custom vehicles for sponsors of our March 2016 Maker Banquet and Racetrack Gala – stay tuned for more info.

Victoria builds RC 1Alex James RCcaroline and lauren rc

Or, email Sarah Horowitz today, send in your donation, and give our students more time to build you something special!


With so much going on in the studio I don’t get much time to write newsletters. But we do regularly post photos on Facebook as a way of staying connected with the community. Please join us to follow the progress of student projects, get info on upcoming events, and generally stay in touch.

Autistry Newsletter – September 21, 2015

Posted By on September 21, 2015

013Autistry has moved! We have found a fabulous place at 448 Du Bois in San Rafael, just 3 blocks away from the warehouse, that fits us to a T. We have dedicated rooms for the Shop, the Digital Arts Studios, the Fabrication Studio, the Library/Chill Room, and, of course, the kitchen! As well as offices and a large Resource Room for storing the crazy odds and ends we have collected over the years. Oh, did I mention we now have air conditioning – with the heat these last few weeks that alone was worth the move.

025But this move would not have been possible without the help of our Autistry families. They packed boxes, lifted boxes, loaded boxes, unloaded boxes, and unpacked boxes – all with a smile. We perfected the Conga Line Moving Method. There is still a lot of work to do before we are totally settled in.

The new space also includes a large presentation room where we can host events. Last month the Autistry Support Network hosted three financial experts for a wonderful and very informative evening on Financial Planning for Special Needs. The ASN will be hosting more events on issues we are all dealing with. If you would like to be kept informed of these events, email Sarah Horowitz to be put on the mailing list.

Steve with coverUpcoming Events: Steve Silberman, New York Times bestselling author of NeuroTribes: the Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, will be at Autistry on Saturday, October 17th. Dan Swearingen, co-founder of Autistry and an Aspie himself, will interview Steve and take questions from the audience. Seating is limited and tickets are selling quickly so order your tickets online soon.

MAC - OctoberMarin Autism Collaborative Parent Support Group will be held at Autistry Studios on Thursday, October 1st, 6:30 – 8:00 pm. This meeting will be facilitated by Julia Wilbarger, PhD, OTR/L, Associate Professor at the Occupational Therapy Department at Dominican University. The general topic will be Sharing Sensory Solutions, though other topics may be discussed depending on parent input, discussion, and questions. For more information see the Marin Autism Collaborative website.

Workshop Projects Abound: The moving slowed down project production for a week or so, but we are bouncing back. There are amazing stop-motion films being made, as well as Halloween costumes, RC cars, quilts, dioramas, swords, and all the other cool things Autistry students dream up!

[ezcol_1quarter]Claire 150[/ezcol_1quarter] [ezcol_1quarter]nats150[/ezcol_1quarter] [ezcol_1quarter]Michael smiles[/ezcol_1quarter] [ezcol_1quarter_end]fastcar150[/ezcol_1quarter_end]

We have also added Online College Course Support. This semester we have a cohort of students taking an online college course together at Autistry. Sara Gardner is helping with homework, study skills, and test preparation. Many of our students have difficulty with large classes at college and the feeling of being lost in a crowd. By doing the courses at Autistry, they can help each other through the hard times and celebrate the good times together! We will be doing more of these courses next semester.

BTW – the summer camps were fabulous, and we will do them again next year. Ian is dreaming up new places to explore so stay tuned.

Hope to see you at Autistry Studios soon!

The Autistry Team

ASN Presents: Financial Planning for Special Needs

Posted By on August 6, 2015

The Autistry Support Network is pleased to invite you to attend a special panel discussion on Financial Planning for Special Needs to be held at Autistry Studios’ new location.

Date: Thursday, August 27, 2015
Time: 7pm to 8:30 pm
Where: Autistry Studios, 448 Du Bois Street, San Rafael (Directions)


Parents must plan carefully to provide the best future possible for their children with special needs. Most families want to maximize their child’s eligibility for government programs like SSI and Medi-Cal, but also want to use tools like Special Needs Trusts to maintain a certain standard of living for their child. During this panel discussion, experts from various fields will address questions such as:

• How might a Special Needs Trust be used most effectively in an estate plan? Is the ABLE Act a useful tool?
• How do I know if I have set aside enough assets for my child, and how should these assets be invested?
• How should I think about naming a family member versus corporate trustee for my Special Needs Trust?
• Under what circumstances should I consider using insurance to fund my child’s Special Needs Trust?
• Under what conditions should I consider a limited conservatorship for my child?

ASK AHEAD OF TIME! What are your most pressing questions about financial planning for your Autistry student? What do you wish you knew?

Send questions to Susan Ansberry.

Our panelists will be:

[ezcol_1third]jennifer cunneenJennifer Cunneen, an attorney specializing in estate planning. Jennifer advises individuals, families and closely held businesses on estate planning, family foundations and other wealth-transfer related issues. Jennifer earned her BS and JD from Santa Clara University, where she graduated cum laude. Jennifer works with many families with special needs children, including establishing special needs trusts and limited conservatorships, which is a very gratifying part of her law practice. She enjoys her free time with her family, and her community involvement with the Rotary and other nonprofits. Jennifer is a mother to two children, including her son Nick who is on the autism spectrum.

[ezcol_1third]greg finnGreg Finn, the Trust Relationship Manager for Fremont Bank’s Trust Department, which specializes in serving as trustee for family’s Special Needs Trusts (SNTs). Greg has over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, the last 10 years focusing on SNTs. He and his team help family members with bill paying, investment of trust assets, public benefits, estate planning and tax planning. Greg has a BSC in Finance and an MBA from Santa Clara University and is a graduate of Cannon Financial Institute’s Special Needs Trusts School.

[ezcol_1third_end]Karen ParkKaren Park, a Principal at Bernstein and a mother to three boys, including one who has complex special needs. Karen joined Bernstein in 2004 and is based in the firm’s San Francisco office. She advises high-net-worth families regarding their investment plans, wealth transfer goals and related issues. Prior to joining Bernstein, Karen was a vice president with Morgan Stanley’s technology investment banking team and a financial analyst with CS First Boston. She earned a BA, magna cum laude, in social studies from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

What is the Autistry Support Network?
The ASN is the booster group for Autistry Studios. It coordinates auxiliary activities such as field trips, speaker events, fundraisers, social get-togethers, and more. If you are the parent or guardian of an Autistry student, congratulations—you are automatically a member of the ASN! There aren’t any dues, but the ASN does provide opportunities to network with other parents who “get it” and the chance to support all Autistry students.