xMindsWire June 2024

Don’t Miss the Final Installment of Our Bullying & Autism Series


You’ve seen the statistics and learned ways to keep your kids safe — now hear from autistic self-advocates themselves as they share their powerful stories involving bullying in school, the workforce, and their community. This free webinar, "The Annual Autistic Self-Advocates Panel: Bullying — What We Can Tell You" on Tuesday, June 18 at 7- 8:30 p.m. will feature three autistic adults offering their unique perspective and insights into the challenges of being bullied.

This event marks the final installment of the xMinds and Autism Society of Maryland’s four-part Bullying & Autism series. Throughout the series, we’ve explored various aspects of bullying and its impact on autistic individuals, but this session promises to be especially impactful as we hear directly from those who have lived through these experiences.

Our moderator will be autistic therapist Jennifer Glacel, LCSW, RPT-S, the owner and founder of Seven Corners Psychotherapy in Falls Church, Virginia. Jenn also serves as president of the Washington Interdisciplinary Neurodivergence Group (WING) and The Heart Leaf Centeran organization dedicated to improving access to low-cost, high-quality play therapy and mental health services for children and families.

Don’t miss what is sure to be an inspiring discussion.


We know by now that children with ASD are bullied at higher rates than other children. Because social skills differences are so prevalent, autistic kids may not be able to understand that they’re being bullied at all. To help the parents of bullied kids, we have compiled resources to create an anti-bullying page on our website. To take a deeper dive on this topic, click HERE.

School's Out for Summer!


Children are finishing up their last days of school this week. What now? Let the kids kick off the fun of summer break by running wild in a top-notch, fully-enclosed adaptive playground. 

And while the children play, parents can share stories and information about their IEP annual review meetings and placement decisions. 

The xMinds Preschool and Elementary Parent Outreach Committee will be hosting its monthly meetup for parents of young autistic students on Saturday, June 15 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the playground behind Ivymount School, 11614 Seven Locks Rd., Rockville, MD 20854. Snacks will be provided.

The whole family is welcome -- including older and younger siblings. As always, xMinds Executive Director Melanie Carlos and board members will be there to welcome you and answer any questions you might have.

Mark your calendars for the upcoming playground meetups:

  • Saturday, July 20, 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, August 17, 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, September 21, 10-11:30 a.m.

Registration is not required but sign up here for reminders and notifications of rain dates.

Cool Off at South Germantown SplashPark!


They don't call it the dog days of summer for nothing. Just when you think you can't take the heat, come join the xMinds BIPOC Outreach Committee for summer fun at South Germantown SplashPark, Sunday, August 4, 10 a.m. – noon. All local families with an autistic child are welcome.

Preregister HERE by 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 3, for a limited number of free passes on a first-come, first-served basis, courtesy of xMinds. Otherwise, admission is $6.50 per person, ages 2 and up. When you arrive, please let the staff know you are with xMinds. The park is located at 18056 Central Park Circle, Boyds, MD. xMinds will provide snacks and drinks, and a concessions stand is available.

If we need to postpone due to the weather, we’ll email all registered participants and will post any updates here by 9 a.m. on August 4 and on the xMinds Facebook page. Remember to RSVP in advance to receive free admission and to get any email updates.

Not familiar with the xMinds BIPOC Outreach Committee? The committee connects with families in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community in Montgomery County who can benefit from the fellowship of other families with autistic children and from xMinds resources. Check out the xMinds BIPOC page, and register for the online monthly parent discussion group, which meets next on Monday, July 1, at 7 p.m...

Get Involved in Bike to the Beach 


Team xMinds on a recent

Sunday training ride

There’s still time to get in gear and join a training ride for xMinds’ 2024 DC Bike to the Beach fundraiser on Friday, August 2. Bike to the Beach is xMinds' biggest fundraiser, a fun and challenging ride from DC to the Delaware beaches. You can get involved in several ways, but if you want to participate in the ride itself, you can choose a  25-, 50-, 70-, or 100-mile leg of the route. For more info, visit the xMinds website or register now HERE.

To prep, you can join the xMinds team on a series of optional training rides. It's a very friendly group and we span the full range of biking abilities. Check out this xMinds event calendar link to find out when and where the remaining training sessions will take place.

If you're an xMinds professional member and want to support the ride from the comfort of your office, silver– and gold–level sponsorships are available with contributions of $250+ and $500+. It’s a great way to show your support for xMinds and MoCo autistic students. You’ll also receive recognition on xMinds’ social media channels, on the xMinds website, and in the xMinds newsletter. If you would like to be a sponsor, please contact executive director Melanie Carlos by July 24 at mcarlos@xminds.org.

xMinds relies on this event to provide more than half our annual budget — money that goes toward hosting speaker events, developing online resources, offering volunteer advocacy services, providing educator grants, and more! Find out more about this fundraiser on the xMinds website, where we spell out all the details about this fun and important event.

Happy LGBTQ+ Pride Month!


It's officially June, which means it’s time for rainbows and Pride flags and parades. You might wonder what this has to do with your autistic child, but did you know that people with ASD are more likely to be gender diverse? According to the journal Pediatrics, “A substantial proportion of autistic adolescents and adults are LGBTQIA+."

And the correlation (not causation) goes both ways. “Compared to neurotypical people, people with autism spectrum disorder are more likely to be gender diverse, and gender diverse people are more likely to have traits of autism,” according to Behavioral Innovations blog

Researchers also have noted that “those with ASD may report more gender diversity because their lack of social anxiety-social awareness makes them more likely to be true to themselves.” (Psychology TodayIn an xMinds program on Gender Diversity and Autism in April 2022, Zosia Zaks, an autistic self-advocate and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, cited what he called the “Accidental Freedom Theory.” “I think that autism frees people, to a degree of course… if conditions are right, it can free you from some of society's expectations.”

Calling All Wizards!


Is your child a fourth level wizard who is chaotic neutral? If you know what that means, or if it just sounds cool, xMinds is organizing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for the summer for high school-age students. The maximum number of players is six, so sign up now for your child's place at the table. The group will meet weekly for 5 weeks, on Sunday afternoons, and each session would last for 1 1/2 hours. Tentative dates are June 23 - August 18. Location TBD. Interested parties can contact Monica Martinez directly at mmartinez@xminds.org.

MCPS FY25 Special Ed Budget Update


On June 11, MCPS approved a $3.32 billion budget for 2024 - 2025. And despite it being the highest-ever amount of funding, the school district faces a $33 million deficit for FY25, prompting discussions of potential layoffs. “This situation means reducing services to meet the district's operational needs,“ according to Interim Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder. 

MCPS announced an increase of class sizes by one student next school year, endangering the jobs of up to 150 teachers. However, MCPS declared in a press release June 10 that no currently employed teachers will lose their jobs. "Current and anticipated teacher vacancies, including resignations and retirements, are projected to eliminate reductions in teacher positions due to the increase in class size guidance," the school system noted. Central office itself will lose 20 employees. 

Other repercussions include a halt to pre-Kindergarten expansion and closure of the Montgomery Virtual Academy (MVA). xMinds is concerned that this will disproportionately affect a large number of autistic students who rely on online learning to access their education. MVA parent Courtney Evans points out that MVA has a relatively small budget of $4 million even though its enrollment is larger than 68% of MCPS schools.

These measures, despite being part of a record $3.32 billion budget (an increase of 4.6% over current spending) have sparked criticism from councilmembers, teachers, and parents concerned about the impacts on student learning and program accessibility.

June 30 Deadline for Disability Funding


While you’re busy with end-of-school year activities, make sure you don’t forget important application deadlines for funding to ease costly expenses associated with raising an autistic child. The Developmental Disabilities Administration's Low Intensity Support Services (LISS) Program serves Maryland residents with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities and their families by paying for certain services and expenses that promote independence and greater quality of life. These might include awards of up to $2000 for assistive technology devices, summer camp, or respite care.

For Round 1 of the FY 2025 Random Selection, the online access link will close on June 30. Selection will take place July 17. For more information, see the LISS page.

What's New on the xMinds YouTube Channel?


xMinds and the Autism Society of Maryland hosted the third session of the Bullying & Autism Series “Virtual Vigilance: Safeguarding Autistic Students from Cyberbullying” May 14. Watch the recording HERE on the xMinds YouTube Channel. The event featured bullying expert Chad Rose, Ph.D., a special education professor at University of Missouri and Director of the Mizzou Ed Bullying Prevention Lab discussing cyberbullying and how to combat it. Dr. Rose walked through steps for ensuring your child’s safety online and looking after their well-being. “We want our youth to be able to live in both worlds — physical and virtual — seamlessly, and so we don't want them to become so consumed by the virtual world that the physical world becomes unimportant,” he said.

Welcome Meredith Gilston


Meredith Gilston

xMinds is pleased to welcome Meredith Gilston to our communications team. In her professional life, Meredith has always been drawn to the dual worlds of editorial and technology. After sharpening her pen covering trade news in the mid-1990s, she spent almost 15 years building large-scale consumer websites. Since 2010, she has been fully immersed in the editorial and communications side once again.

Most recently, she was the editor of a weekly newsletter and monthly magazine on international trade. As the parent of a now-adult with autism, Meredith is looking to use her talents to make the world a better place for our kids. In her personal time, Meredith enjoys collecting (and of course, reading) books, solving word puzzles and walking on freshly mowed grass.

Last Call for the xMinds Summer Camp Guide


Have your summer plans changed? Trips fallen through? There might still be time to check out the xMinds Summer 2024 Camp Guide to find some summer fun for your child.  Our guide features offerings that autistic children and teens have enjoyed in past years. We’ve been updating the guide as we hear about offerings, so take a second (or third?) look if you’re still searching for the perfect fit for your child.

Summer 2024 Camp Guide

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


Contact: administration@alliancepediatrics.com

ServicesSocial-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).

Providing innovative, fun and effective social emotional supports! We provide psychological counseling; social skills therapy; behavioral therapy; educational testing; behavioral support; neuropsychological testing; board-certified behavior analyst; athletics; and educational consulting.

Playful Therapy Connections 


Contact: Jaclyn Halpern, Psy.D. hello@playfultherapy.net, 202-750-1028

ServicesPsychological counseling, Social skills therapy, Behavioral therapy, Educational consulting

We are a neurodiversity affirming mental health practice offering therapy and testing for individuals of all ages. We offer individual, group, family and parenting support, along with comprehensive psychological evaluation. We are inclusive and welcoming to all.

SCI Educational Consultants,Inc.

Contact: Dr. Sheila Iseman, scikids@gmail.com

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.

Upcoming xMinds Events


Saturday, June 15, 10–11:30 a.m.

Elementary and Preschool Playground Meetup 

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

Tuesday, June 18, 7–8:30 p.m.

The Annual Autistic Self-Advocates Panel

Register here

Monday, June 24, 7–7:45 p.m.

Small Steps Together

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

Wednesday, June 26, 7–7:45 p.m.

Let's Talk Transitions -- Parent Discussion Group
Online discussion group for MoCo parents of an autistic student in middle or high school. Register here.

Monday, July 1, 7–7:45 p.m.

People of the Global Majority Discussion Group

Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of autistic children who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). Register here.

Wednesday, July 3, 7–7:45 p.m.

Hablemos Educación Especial — Grupo de Discusión de Padres

El comité de xMinds sobre el alcance del idioma español está organizando un grupo de discusión en línea mensual en español para los padres de un estudiante autista del condado de Montgomery. Regístrese aquí.

Sunday, July 14, 10–12 p.m.

AUSOM/xMinds Summer Pool Party

Swim, play, and mingle with the autism community at the Hillandale Swim & Tennis Assn. SAVE THE DATE! Registration opening soon. 

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.

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!

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For more information, call 301-444-5225, email info@xMinds.org or visit xMinds.org.