Join us for our Autistic Authors Panel, Thursday, June 8

xMindsWire June 2023

Looking for Summer Books for Your Child?


Are you hoping to inspire your child to read more this summer? Join xMinds on Thursday, June 8, at 7:00 PM for a panel discussion with six creative authors of children's and young adult literature who center autistic characters — and identify as autistic themselves. 

Panelists will discuss their writing processes, their insights as autistic authors, and how they’ve incorporated autistic and neurodiverse characters into their books. Written in an authentic voice from the benefit of lived experiences, these are stories and characters that our children and teens can relate to. Our featured authors are:

Tiffany Hammond, author of A Day With No Words  (picture book), which is on the New York Times Best Seller list for picture books.Tiffany is the voice behind social media's Fidgets and Fries, focusing on family, Autism, and advocacy.

Ivelisse Housman, author of Unseelie (young adult fantasy), her debut novel. Fans of of this story will be pleased to know a sequel, Unending (Unseelie Duology #2) is already in the works! 

Sarah Kapit, author of Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen (middle-grade novel), The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family (middle-grade novel), and Second Chance Summer (middle-grade novel)

Mike Jung, author of The Boys in the Back Row (middle-grade novel), Unidentified Suburban Object (middle-grade novel), and the short story "Thrown" from The Hero Next Door anthology (middle-grade short story)

Lyn Miller–Lachmann, author of Moonwalking (middle-grade novel), Torch (young adult, historical fiction), and Rogue (middle-grade novel)

Sally J. Pla, author of  Benji, The Bad Day, and Me (picture book), The Someday Birds (middle-grade novel), Stanley Will Probably Be Fine (middle-grade novel), and The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn (middle-grade novel)

Click here for a closer look at some of the books these authors have penned.

The panel will be moderated by local author Meera Trehan, author of The View from the Very Best House in Town, a middle-grade novel that focuses on two autistic best friends. A Montgomery County resident, Trehan is a longtime xMinds member.

This free presentation will be over Zoom with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Register Here

See You at the Playground, Saturday, June 17! 


Celebrate the start of summer at our June playground meetup for MoCo families with elementary and preschool autistic children. We’ll meet Saturday, June 17, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM at the playground behind Ivymount School, 11614 Seven Locks Rd., Rockville, MD.

Our playground meetups provide a great opportunity to connect with other families who have autistic children — all while the kids enjoy some fresh air and a beautiful enclosed playground! We will provide snacks, and we always have Spanish-speaking volunteers.

Everyone is welcome, including siblings, and there’s no cost to attend. Registration is not required, so feel free to just show up. If you would like to receive event reminders and email notification if we are rained out, register here. We’re hoping for a sunny day, but if it rains, we’ll reschedule to Saturday, June 24.

Mark your calendar for our July and August meetups, which will also be at the playground behind Ivymount:

• Saturday, July 15, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

• Saturday, August 19, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

    Register to Receive Reminders and Updates

    Updated Online Resource: xMinds Guide to MCPS Special Education Placements


    Whether you’re searching for the right special education placement for your child for next school year, or looking ahead to what program will fit their needs in future years, check out the xMinds Guide to MCPS Special Education Placements for Autistic Students.

    You’ll find details about the type of students each program is geared toward, the learning environment, the staffing ratio, the location(s), and more. Plus, we’ve recently added video presentations of MCPS staff sharing all the latest information about each program. When your child’s IEP team addresses the important question of placement, you will be a more effective and knowledgeable advocate for your child if you understand all the options. 

    If you have additional questions about any of the programs, you can reach out to our volunteer advocacy team, who will provide you with a consult and work to put you in touch with a family who can share their experiences with you.

    Team xMinds Is on a Roll!


    Team xMinds is on the road to success! Team members are hitting the road and building up their stamina, all in preparation for the July 28 Bike to the Beach (B2B) fundraiser. This fun bike ride for cyclists of all levels provides more than half of xMinds’ annual budget — money that goes toward hosting speaker events, developing online resources, offering volunteer advocacy services, providing educator grants, and more!

    There’s still time to join and/or support Team xMinds as we prepare for our  fundraising ride to Dewey Beach, DE. Here’s how you can help make this fundraiser a success:

    If you want to contribute financially, please donate here. Every dollar raised will go toward xMinds programs, resources, and educator grants. We provide all our resources for free, making them available to all families. We rely on donors to make contributions, and ask that you donate at whatever level is comfortable for you.

    If you want to “bike to the beach,” sign up here to join Team xMinds. You can choose a 25-, 50-, 70-, or 100-mile route.

    If you want to volunteer, contact Marci Skigen to help with the xMinds rest stop along the ride route.

    For full details about participating in this important fundraiser, click here.

    Join us for our next practice ride on Sunday, June 4. This is a special Ride-and-Dine event! If you’re not a bicycling enthusiast, you can meet us at Chalkboard Wings & BBQ at 8723 Cooper Rd., Alexandria, VA, from 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM for some good food and good company. Chalkboard will donate 10% of the day’s sales to Team xMinds’ B2B fundraising. 

    Cyclists will meet at 8:00 AM by Chalkboard Wings & BBQ, and we’ll head out to the scenic Mount Vernon Trail for a 30-mile ride. Please email our captain Patrick Quigley if you plan to bike with us, so we'll be on the lookout for you.

    Team xMinds hits the road at a recent practice ride in Washington, DC.

    Meet New Executive Director: Melanie Carlos

    Melanie Carlos

    We’re excited to welcome Melanie Carlos into her new role as xMinds executive director, as of June 1. Melanie is a familiar face to many in the xMinds community. She served as board vice president for the past year and leads the Preschool and Elementary Parent Outreach Committee’s Small Steps Together discussion group and in-person meetups. She also headed xMinds’ recent advocacy efforts supporting the burden of proof legislation in Maryland, and chairs the new xMinds Policy Advocacy Committee.

    Melanie has a long history serving xMinds. She was part of the original xMinds board from 2010 to 2012, and has remained a valuable volunteer since then. A professional documentarian, Melanie is an active advocate on behalf of her son, who is in the MCPS Aspergers Connections program. Feel free to reach out to Melanie at

    Melanie is taking over the reins from Sue Keisler, who led xMinds for the past four years. While Sue is retiring from the executive director position, she will continue on with xMinds in her new role as vice president. We’re grateful for all we accomplished under Sue’s guidance, and look forward to continued growth under Melanie’s leadership.

    The Discussion Continues!


    Parenting never stops, and neither do our online discussion groups for MoCo parents of autistic students. Our four discussion groups will continue to meet throughout the summer. These targeted groups provide a great opportunity to connect with others who have shared interests and concerns. If you haven’t had a chance to try out a group during the school year, summer could be the perfect opportunity.

    Discussion groups are always free and operate on a drop-in basis. Join us whenever you have a chance! Register where indicated to receive the Zoom link. Here’s the summer schedule:

    Hablemos Educación Especial. For Spanish-speaking MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child. Typically meets the first Wednesday of each month, 7:00 – 7:45 PM. Summer meeting dates will be June 7, July 5, and August 2. Register here.

    Let’s Talk Transitions. For MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child in middle or high school, approaching the transition to adulthood. Typically meets the fourth Wednesday of every month, 7:00 – 7:45 PM. Summer meeting dates will be June 28, July 26, and August 23. Register here.

    People of the Global Majority. For MoCo parents/guardians of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students. Typically meets the first Monday of every month, 7:00 – 7:45 PM. Summer meeting dates will be June 12 and July 10. (Dates have been adjusted for holidays and scheduling conflicts. There will be no discussion group in August.) Register here.

    Small Steps Together. For MoCo parents/caregivers of autistic elementary or preschool students. Typically meets the fourth Monday of each month, 7:00 – 7:45 PM. Summer meeting dates will be June 26, July 24, and August 21. (Date adjusted because of scheduling conflict.) Register here.

    Last Call for Summer Camps!


    Summer camps will be starting in just a few short weeks. If you're still looking to fill your kiddo's summer calendar, check out the xMinds Summer 2023 Camp Guide.

    Our guide features a wide range of camps and programs that autistic kids have enjoyed in past years. Some programs still have openings, so check out our guide today!  

    Farewell to Board Member Carolina Harp

    We bid a fond farewell to Carolina Harp, who served on the xMinds board for nearly five years. Carolina brought a deep passion for helping and educating all parents. She worked tirelessly to translate xMinds communications into Spanish and to provide individual special education consults to enumerable Spanish-speaking families. Carolina established and chaired the xMinds Spanish Language Outreach Committee and welcomed Spanish-speaking families through the Hablemos Educación Especial parent discussion group and the xMinds en Español What’s App Group

    Carolina Harp

    Always the dedicated and spirited advocate, Carolina will be greatly missed. ¡Gracias, Carolina!

    Did You Miss Our Self-Advocates Panel on Starting a Career?

    Are you looking for some inspiration and information about how an autistic young adult can get started in the workforce? Check out the video from our recent Self-Advocates Panel: A Discussion of Starting Careers on the xMinds YouTube Channel. Our three autistic panelists share how they embarked on their career path, what challenges they encountered, and what insights they’ve gained. A Spanish translation is available.

    For more career and employment resources, see the Employment section of our online Transition to Adulthood guide, where you’ll find a listing of programs and organizations that provide job placements, training, internships, and job support to autistic individuals.   

    Top row: panelists Abraham Sanchez and Kiana Fok; bottom row: moderator Zosia Zaks, M.Ed., C.R.C., and panelist Abigail Alexis 

    Now on YouTube: Restorative Justice in MCPS

    If you missed our recent webinar “Restorative Justice in MCPS,” you can catch it on the xMinds YouTube Channel. Floyd Branch III, an MCPS restorative justice instruction specialist, updated us on this new approach to building community, self-care, and conflict resolution in our schools.

    Mr. Branch discussed how traditional disciplinary policies — like suspensions and other exclusionary practices — disproportionately impact students in special education and students of color. The restorative-justice philosophy emphasizes restorative approaches to discipline, aiming to limit the use of exclusionary practices. To find out more, watch here.

    Floyd Branch III

    Upcoming xMinds Events

    xMinds events, resources, & services are always FREE

    Sunday, June 4, 8:00 AM 

    Training Ride for Bike to the Beach

    Come bike with us as we train for this summer's fundraiser. This is a Ride-and-Dine event; join us for lunch at Chalkboard Wings & BBQ. See the details here.

    Wednesday, June 7, 7:00 – 7:45 PM 

    Hablemos Educación Especial

    Online discussion group for Spanish-speaking MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child. Register here.

    Thursday, June 8, 7:00 – 8:30 PM 

    Autistic Authors Panel: Inspiration for Summer Reading

    Online panel discussion with autistic authors of literature for children and young adults. Register here.

    Monday, June 12, 7:00 – 7:45 PM 

    People of the Global Majority

    Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of a BIPOC autistic child. Register here.

    Saturday, June 17, 10:00 – 11:30 AM

    Elementary and Preschool Playground Meetup 

    Meet other elementary and preschool families with autistic children. See the details here

    Sunday, June 25, 9:00 AM

    Training Ride for Bike to the Beach

    Come bike with us as we train for this summer's fundraiser. See the details here.

    Monday, June 26, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

    Small Steps Together 

    Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic elementary or preschool child. Register here.

    Wednesday, June  28, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

    Let's Talk Transitions 

    Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child in middle or high school. Register here.

    Community Calendar

    Our community calendar is FULL of great offerings not only from xMinds, but from professional service providers located in Montgomery County. Check out the programs and events posted on our Events Calendar.

    Plan Ahead!

    Note: Our Events Calendar shows events on their start date, but some community programs require you to apply before the start date, so please look ahead!

    Professional Member Spotlight

    As a benefit to both our families and professional members, xMinds publishes information about our professional members here in the xMindsWire as well as on our website. Inclusion does not constitute our endorsement. This month, xMinds would like to highlight the following new and renewing professional members:

    Alliance Pediatrics

    10810 Darnestown Rd., Ste 201, North Potomac, MD 20878

    Contact:  Linda Quinones;; 240-252-4105

    Services: Social-emotional programs year round for elementary-aged children through adolescents; caregiver support; individual therapy and school consultations. Licensed clinicians available for services (psychologist, social worker and licensed behavior analysts).

    We provide innovative, fun and effective social and emotional support to children and adolescents! Our empathetic and highly skilled clinicians collaborate with children, teens and their families to become empowered with a toolbox of skills that can apply to everyday circumstances. We enjoy consulting with students, teachers and school administrators in educational settings. We provide 1:1 support when additional guidance benefits students in reaching their values and independence in school and community settings. In our summer program our #1 goal is for children to have fun while learning about social-emotional well-being and improved quality of life.

    Integrated Living Opportunities

    5603 Potomac Avenue NW, North Entrance, Washington DC 20016

    Contact:  Founder and Executive Director Maedi Tanham Carney;; As of July 1, 2023 new Executive Director Tait Danielson Castillo;; 202-248-7113

    Services: Independent living support; coaching

    Integrated Living Opportunities is a non-profit organization that is devoted to helping families with special needs build supportive, integrated communities that enable safe, productive, independent living options for their young adults with developmental disabilities. ILO helps families create networks of support for adults with disabilities by developing teams of paid and unpaid individuals for our self-advocates as they move out of their family houses into their own homes.

    SCI Educational Consultants, Inc.

    8800 Quiet Stream Ct., Potomac, MD 20854

    Contact: Dr. Sheila Iseman;; 301-996-4124

    Services: Special education consulting, ages from Pre-K through elementary, secondary and transition years to age 21

    Dr. Iseman, with 50 years' experience in the area of special needs, provides services to students and their parents to achieve appropriate educational programming and/or placement in public and private schools. Consulting services include case management, IEP development, support at all meetings, programming and placement, and referrals for evaluations and community services.

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