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  • Writer's pictureKatie Vahey Gaebler

Founding The NERD Network

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

After 18 years of working on college campuses, and nearly 7 years of juggling college student administration with family life, I'm ready to focus on my better life balance for the needs of my littlest students: Bryson: age 6.5, and Wesley: age 16 months.

The first time a pre-school teacher mentioned Bryson might be a little "different", he was around 18 months old. As my first child, and with limited familiarity in child development for that age, I didn't see him to be different than any other kiddo. He was hitting all the standard age development markers, and looked like any other child we encountered. And, over the next year, any transition (daycare dropoff/pickup, going shopping, changing clothes) led to total tantrums. I counted down the days until the "terrible twos" might end, although they never did. His caregivers started calling me daily to have him picked up after nap time (usually 2pm) as he was regularly agitated, hyperactive, difficult to soothe, and struggled to engage with the self-care techniques (feeding himself, toileting) that was apart of daycare's daily routine. As a busy working mom who was adamant to maintain commitment to my career, I was frustrated with the school(s), and convinced myself the child they saw was not my same little boy I knew at home.

Fast forward 5 years, and Brys has now attended 7 schools before the age of 7. He is now in a great school environment and we have access to many essential support resources, but it has been a ride to get here. Following blog posts will account our family's winding roads and milestone encounters with various social workers, therapy plans, products, home routines, and work/life balance strategies.

In May 2018 when a formal diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) came in, we had a mix of relief and grief to have a name for our experience. In the past year we also added another little boy, Wesley, to make our family complete. With all that requires so much attention on my home front, this past month is has been a mix of emotion as I make a career transition away from working on a traditional higher education campus. I need more flexibility then the traditional weekday 8am-5pm that my Academic Advisor jobs could ever be.

It is finally with clear recognition of my values and experience that I launch what I aim will help those who need it: The Neurodiverse Education Resources of Denver (NERD) Network. This is an account of what Sensory and ASD resources, primarily in the Denver area, provided the most support for my son and our family.

I hold a PhD in Education and 18 years of experience working with young adults on college campuses, so I aim to use a researcher's lens to objectively highlight effective strategies and support systems for students of all ages who identify with ASD. I want to further public conversation around ASD, provide recognition for wonderful work happening among intentional organizations, and for local clients who need my service I offer direct support for young ASD adults experiencing the transition to and through college. The NERD Network is here!

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