Katie Vahey Gaebler
AutismNERD + ASC
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
The Autism Society of Colorado (ASC) is a chapter of the Autism Society of America (ASA). ASC was founded in 1993 and has consistently provided community, care, and support for Autistic individuals and their families. ASC’s values include “Dignity, Equity, Inclusion, Diversity, and Integrity.” As a member of the ASC Board of Directors over the past year, Katie has seen these values firsthand. She is proud to be a part of an organization that focuses so clearly on inclusivity and community. Everyone has a place at the table with ASC; anyone can join and be a part of their community. Katie is excited to be a part of an organization that intentionally gives back to her community with free resources and events.
When Katie first connected with ASC in 2021, she and her son, Bryson, attended a speaker’s presentation close to their home. They listened to the speaker from ASA (CO chapter is one of 75 nationally) discuss his journey with Autism through his achievements with basketball. Bryson, in his usual energetic fashion, paced the aisles until all of a sudden, he ran up front and waved his hand relentlessly- albeit not at a usual time for questions. Bryson exclaimed to the speaker, “Oh!! You have Autism?! I have Autism too!” Following the event, K+B waited to meet with the speaker and buy his book; fortunately, he stood and provided an empathetic and hearty handshake as encouragement. While waiting in line, ASC’s current executive director Leann walked up and gave Katie a reassured greeting that this was a totally appropriate setting for Bryson. She addressed Bryson directly in a way many adults had not, and patiently supported his response time. While a typical interview and election period is standard for non-profit Board of Director initiation, within a few days Katie became a part of the ASC Board.
Katie now assists with their 101 public education series and programming. This programming is on average 1 hour training course that provides education to “businesses, organizations, and schools that are interested in learning more about Autism and how to create an inclusive environment.” Some topics covered in the presentation included what Autism looks like, what Autism is and isn’t, and how to best support an Autistic person.
In September, ASC completed its first “Walk with Autism” since COVID. The event goals were exceeded and ASC raised over $44,000, had 300 walkers registered, and over 80 organizations participated in the Resource Fair. Following the event, affiliates agree it feels like ASC is not only bouncing back but growing (since many non-profit- including ASC- have seen challenges since COVID) and Katie with AutismNERD is excited to partner moving forward. Soon, AutismNERD will be moving to a new co-working space. With this, Katie has the goal of hosting one large community gathering a month and four other events a year. This is a growth opportunity as AutismNERD has the opportunity to be a sponsor and a space host. Looking ahead, Autism Acceptance month is in April. ASC has historically had an event to celebrate Autism Acceptance, and AutismNERD will be a primary co-host. Additionally, ASC will continue this upward trajectory of community partnership with their annual Walk with Autism in September 2023. Katie is excited for how next year AutismNERD can expand a presence to represent among the community. If you’re in the CO area and interested in connecting with ASC their Walk is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the organization and connect with resources.
In addition to the Walk and 101 groups, ASC hosts over 40 different support groups and social events a month. The current ASC board is committed to stretching out programming to periphery communities around the state. At ASC the community is you. It’s not an organization to raise money for research or split hairs over politics, it’s there to support and care for their community. They have support groups for Autistic adults ages 40+ on Tuesdays and for Autistic adults ages 20s and 30s on Wednesdays. They also had two monthly social gatherings for Autistic adults to build community. Additionally, they have support groups for parents/caregivers and spouses/partners monthly or bimonthly (group dependent). To learn more about social and support groups provided by ASC visit: https://www.autismcolorado.org/support-groups.
ASC has a lot to look forward to in 2023, and with AutismNERD she is excited to be a partner in the growth of the ASC network. ASC intentionally focuses on spreading a mission that is social justice minded and allows everyone a place of belonging. With that mission and commitment to the community, ASC has a lot to look forward to in the coming years.