Julie Short and the Autism Center at OCALI: Connecting Her Personal and Professional Lives to Serve Others

“As the mother of a daughter with autism and someone who works for an organization that supports individuals with autism and other disabilities, I have been able to connect my personal life with my professional life. Because of this, I have a beautiful lens from which to view life with my daughter and with the individuals and families I support through my job.”

Julie Short from the Autism Center at OCALI with her daughter.

Julie Short, a former 14-year general and special education teacher, has been a regional consultant for OCALI’s Autism Center since 2008. The Autism Center at OCALI serves as a clearinghouse for information on research, resources, and trends to address autism spectrum disorder. The Center offers training, technical assistance, and consultation to build professional and program capacity to foster individual learning and growth.

In her role, Julie provides training and consulting mostly to educators and other professionals, but also to families of individuals with autism and other disabilities. Her background in the classroom, paired with her personal experiences, have provided her the opportunity to authentically connect with those she serves. “I truly understand these families because I walk their path every day. I know their struggles, their worries, and the small victories. I know what parents and caregivers want and need to hear.”

One of the things Julie enjoys most about working with the Autism Center is the passion and commitment of her colleagues to make a difference in the lives of individuals with autism. “I am proud to work at OCALI. What a privilege it is to work with people who are dedicated to providing opportunities to individuals with autism to ensure they have a good quality of life. Our mission is to inspire and support all people with disabilities and those who care for them.”   

Over the past 10 years, Julie has had the opportunity to see the impact of the Autism Center’s work in action. “Through our coaching and consulting, I have seen people try strategies we recommend and give up too soon if they aren’t getting the results they were expecting. If they don’t see immediate impact, they think the strategies aren’t working. We help them understand that it takes time for strategies to work. By partnering together, we are building the capacity of those we are training and helping them to grow their own staff.”

“When I hear teams say that they now get it or that they’ve seen so much progress with their students, it drives me to do the work. I love to hear about the impact—not just with the students, but also at the school and district levels. When a district says that their culture has changed because of our trainings, it is so rewarding.”

April is Autism Awareness Month. When asked what Julie would want others who aren’t familiar with OCALI’s Autism Center to know, she was quick to share—“We need to bring more awareness to autism. Awareness then leads to understanding, which leads to acceptance. Diversity should be celebrated and it’s an important message to promote.”

“Many people want to change individuals with autism because they don’t understand what autism is all about. Through OCALI’s trainings and resources, we explain that it’s not about changing the individual, it’s about looking at how we view and change our own behavior. It’s such an important message for educators and families to hear.”

When asked about how she is helping to share and spread OCALI’s mission of inspiring change for people with disabilities, she was reminded of a quote that a former colleague shared: “Your greatest test is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm.”

“This quote is so special to me because being the parent of a child with special needs can sometimes be challenging. Some days are harder than others, and I’m human, and I get tired and frustrated. Reading this quote reminds me that it is important for me to help others even while I’m going through my own struggles. What a beautiful gift that I can learn from my daughter and then share that with others.”

Outside of OCALI, Julie loves spending time with her husband, Scott, two daughters Carlin and Jalyn, and their golden retriever, Sadie. The family enjoys traveling, hiking, attending church, cheering Carlin on as she runs cross country, and watching Jalyn play various sports, dance, and theater. Julie and Scott speak together at conferences to help educate others about autism and share what they’ve learned through their personal experiences.

For more information about the Autism Center’s resource gallery of interventions, visit https://www.ocali.org/center/autism. From online modules for professional development to downloadable factsheets and videos, there are resources for everyone.