xMindsWire May 2024

Keeping Kids Safe Online


Kids on the spectrum can have challenges recognizing someone's intentions, so they can be easy targets for bullies. On social media platforms, those challenges are multiplied. How prepared are you if your child is the subject of online harassment? 

Chad Rose, Ph.D.

Join us May 14 for the third installment in xMinds’ Bullying & Autism Series, Virtual Vigilance: Safeguarding Autistic Students from Cyberbullying,” featuring Dr. Chad Rose, an expert on cyberbullying and how to combat it. Dr. Rose is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Missouri and director of the Mizzou Ed Bully Prevention Lab. His work covers evidence-based bullying prevention with an emphasis on those who are most vulnerable. Sign up to hear this dynamic authority give you practical insights into cyberbullying.

Save the Date: June 18 


On June 18, hear from autistic self- advocates themselves for the last of the Bullying & Autism series: The Annual Autistic Self Advocates Panel: Bullying — What We Can Tell YouThree autistic individuals will discuss their experiences of being bullied in school, the workforce, and their community. 

Get ready to be inspired by this group of resilient young adults discussing this challenging topic.

Visit the xMinds Anti-Bullying Webpage


Children with ASD are especially vulnerable to bullying, and may have a harder time responding to it. This makes it vital for adults to guide them in handling bullying situations, and xMinds has created a special page on its website to do exactly that. 

Here you can find anti-bullying resources, valuable techniques to combat cyberbullying, and MCPS procedures for reporting incidents. You can also find links and information on xMinds’ Bullying & Autism Series. Be sure to check it out HERE. 

Join Us For Outdoor Fun


Spring is in full swing, time for the kids to get outside. Why not let them play in a fully-enclosed playground, with the added benefits of parents mingling and sharing resoures on raising autistic children? 

The xMinds Preschool and Elementary Parent Outreach Committee will be hosting its monthly meetup for parents of young autistic students on Sunday, May 19 from 2:00 to 3:30pm at the playground behind Ivymount School, 11614 Seven Locks Rd., Rockville, MD 20854.

(Note the change in day and time for the spring season.) 

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

Mark your calendars for the upcoming playground meetups:

  • Saturday, June 15, 10:00 - 11:30 AM
  • Saturday, July 20, 10:00 - 11:30 AM
  • Saturday, August 17, 10:00 - 11:30 AM 

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

Chat with Local Police Officer Laurie Reyes


People of the Global Majority is a discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of autistic students who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), hosted by the xMinds BIPOC Outreach Committee Chair, Daria Hall.

Join the next discussion group June 3 with special guest Montgomery County Police Officer Laurie Reyes.

Officer Laurie Reyes

Officer Laurie Reyes has been with the Montgomery County Police Department for twenty-six years. She is the creator/coordinator of the Montgomery County Police Department's Autism and Intellectual Developmental Disabilities (IDD), Alzheimer's, Dementia Outreach Program.

Register here to receive your Zoom link. 

MCPS FY25 Special Ed Budget Update


The Montgomery County Council Education and Culture Committee held a work session April 29. During the hearing MCPS disclosed that it requested a $14 million increase to its special education budget for FY25 but only had $9 million earmarked to meet that target. Education Committee members questioned the central office staff about the shortfall and the budgeting process.  

In addition to the budget shortfalls, special education continues to suffer from staff vacancies, reporting 280 open positions. The Council underscored that the solution to filling these vacancies lies in increased pay and benefits.

Meanwhile, the teacher's union representative reports that the fallout from these unfilled positions has resulted in teachers who are stretched too thin, working long hours to try to keep up with the increasing number of special education students. As a result, staff morale is low and turnover is high. 

MCPS administrators asked the County Council to make up for the $5 million budget shortfall, warning that going without would mean a reduction in services that the school is legally required to provide. The Education Committee agreed and will recommend that the county fund the additional $5 million. However, Council Members stressed to MCPS that they need to be more transparent in their budgeting process. xMinds will continue to monitor this and share the final budget outcomes.

Join Team xMinds for Bike to the Beach, Aug 2!


Team xMinds at the 50-mile start

As it gets closer to summer, you can just taste the beach, can’t you? xMinds is in full gear, training for this summer's 2024 DC Bike to the Beach fundraiser on Friday, August 2. 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!

Here’s how you can support this critical xMinds fundraiser, whether or not you bike:

If you want to “bike to the beach," sign up here to join Team xMinds and ride with us on August 2. It's a very friendly group, and we span the full range of biking abilities. You can choose a 25-, 50-, 70-, or 100-mile route. To help you prepare for the big event, join other team members for our optional training rides throughout the spring. Many of our cyclists find training together offers a fun way to meet other xMinds families. Find out the details here.

If you want to raise funds without biking, register as a volunteer with Team xMinds, and encourage your family and friends to support you in your fundraising efforts.

If you want to make a donation, please show your support for xMinds by donating here. Your contributions help fund all of xMinds’ important work to improve education for autistic children in Montgomery County.

Find out more about this fundraiser on the xMinds website, where we spell out all the details about this fun and important event.

Always a Good Laugh With xMinds


Comedian and TV host Quincy Carr headlined two special shows at the Give a Hoot Comedy Club in Gaithersburg, Maryland May 3 and May 4 all for the benefit of xMinds. 

The xMinds community showed up to enjoy great food and bottomless margaritas from La Mexicana Restaurant.

Thank you to Give a Hoot Comedy Club and the more than one-hundred people who enjoyed the shows over the two nights. 

Epic Star Wars Party on May the Fourth


In collaboration with Slush & Krust Productions, xMinds hosted an out-of-this-world experience at our May the Fourth Be With You party for autistic middle and high school students on – you guessed it – May the 4th

Thanks to the 100+ teens and parents who joined in on the fun, dressed up as your favorite characters and made it such a blast.

A HUGE shoutout to our awesome co-sponsors who helped make everything run smoothly — you are the real Jedi Masters! 

As this was our first teen social event, we are looking forward to many more. Stay tuned for more exciting events coming your way. 

Until then, may the Force continue to be with you!

What's New on the xMinds YouTube Channel?


The second part of our Bullying & Autism Speaker Series, "My Autistic Child is Being Bullied: What Should I Do?",  hosted by xMinds and the Autism Society of Maryland on April 24, is now available on the xMinds YouTube Channel.

Our speakers, psychologist Dr. Christine Waanders and educational attorney Ashley VanCleef, walked us through how to support, guide, and advocate for your bullied child.

During the presentation, Dr. Waanders noted that up to two-thirds of autistic children report a bullying experience, and Ms. VanCleef shared strategies on developing a school safety plan for your child, advocating in your IEP, and taking legal action to keep your child safe. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month


In addition to their extraordinary minds, many of our kids have multiple diagnoses and undiagnosed mental health issues, including ADHD and depression. As we turn our focus to mental health this month, a look at the numbers affecting autistic children can be daunting. Anxiety rates for children with ASD are between 42-79% (Kent and Simonoff, 2017) while the prevalence of children overall (ages 3-17 years old) is 9.4% according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC, 2023). And a 2019 study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology showed that compared to their neurotypical peers, individuals with ASD are four times more likely to experience depression in their lifetime.

But there is hope, as clinicians move to a more person-centered and strengths-based model. In a recent article in Psychology Today, “the shift toward a neurodiversity-affirming approach represents a critical step in addressing the mental health crisis among autistic people. By recognising autism as a natural variation of the human brain and focusing on strengths-based, person-centered care, we can create more inclusive and supportive environments" (Psychology Today, 2024).

For more resources on mental health, the Children’s Mental Health Matters Campaign offers materials and resources for your family, school, or community. And the xMinds webinar, "Anxiety and Autism: Anything But Neurotypical" featuring Dr. Jonathan Dalton, founder and director of the Center for Anxiety and Behavior Change, explores the ways individuals on the autism spectrum frequently struggle with anxiety.

Bidding Farewell to Beth Panitz


Beth Panitz

As Beth Panitz concludes her tenure as the xMinds Communications Specialist, we take a moment to reflect on the profound impact she has had. Using her exceptional communication skills during the last three years, Beth has elevated our organization's reach through our expanded newsletter, social media posts, and YouTube channel, and played a pivotal role in researching and drafting many of the most important online resources we offer on the xMinds website.

Beth was responsible for creating our pages on Homeschooling, Transition to Adulthood, Social Development, Reading Recommendations, Guide to MCPS Programs, and our annual Summer Camp Guide. She also regularly updated and added to other important pages. Though her time with us has come to a close, Beth’s contributions to our expansive online resources will continue to benefit the community of families we serve.

We extend our deepest gratitude for Beth’s excellent work. As she transitions to a new opportunity as Communications Coordinator at the University of Maryland, we wish her continued success.

Check Out the xMinds Summer Camp Guide


Even if you’ve been putting it off (and haven’t we all?), summer camps and programs that serve autistic children may still have room. Check out the xMinds Summer 2024 Camp Guide to find offerings that autistic children and teens have enjoyed in past years. There’s something for everyone, from surf camps to art therapy! We’ve been updating the guide as we hear about offerings, so take a second look if you’re still searching for the perfect fit for your child.

Summer 2024 Camp Guide

Get Involved with xMinds


As xMinds expands its supports and services, we welcome and urge families to join our growing community. We could not do our work without the important contributions of our volunteers.

Are you ready to give more time to the xMinds mission of improving the education of autistic students in MoCo? Contact executive director Melanie Carlos at info@xminds.org to learn about volunteer opportunities and discover how you can give back to your community.

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:

H2D Counseling


Contact: Sumaiya Olatunde; sumaiya@h2dcounseling.com

H2D Counseling provides educational advocacy and school admissions services for all students (K-12, college and graduate level). We participate in IEP and 504 meetings, connect families and students with resources, and help identify needed supports in the areas of education, mental health, therapies, and other needs as they arise. Our approach is very individualized and student-centered with a focus on balancing short-term needs with long-term goals.

Upcoming xMinds Events


Tuesday, May 14, 7:00 –  8:30 PM

Virtual Vigilance: Safeguarding Autistic Students from Cyberbullying

Online presentation by bullying expert Chad Rose, Ph.D. on practical strategies parents need to know to keep their kids safe online. Register here.

Sunday, May 19, 2:00 – 3:30 PM

Elementary and Preschool Playground Meetup 

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

Monday, May 20, 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, May 22, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

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, June 3, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

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). Guest speaker: Officer Laurie Reyes of the MCPD. Register here.

Wednesday, June 5, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

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

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!

Just a shout out  to all the moms of autistic children. You are often misinterpreted, judged, and disregarded. But you know who you are:  You’re the ones who create a  home where neurodiversity is cherished and hidden strengths are nurtured. You are providers and advocates and coaches. For all you do, your children thank you. Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.  

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