OCALI NOW | Issue 27 • April 2021

Autism Acceptance Month. #KnowMoreDoMore. April 2021. OCALI logo across the bottom with colorful border of circles.

Shifting from Autism Awareness to Autism Acceptance

Since 2008, April has been recognized as Autism Awareness Month in Ohio. The intent was designed to bring awareness to autism and to encourage and empower individuals with autism in Ohio and their families.

Earlier this month, Governor DeWine signed a proclamation to recognize April as Autism Acceptance Month, which states, “the purpose of Autism Acceptance Month in Ohio is to spread awareness, foster acceptance, and identify the public policy improvements needed for people with autism to live fully across all areas of life.”

The transition from the word awareness to acceptance may not seem like a big deal. But, words matter and the shift to acceptance accounts for accommodating the feelings of others and accepting and celebrating our differences. Acceptance requires taking conscious action and shifting from not only seeing and recognizing that autism exists, but seeking to listen and learn, and then adapting our perspectives and behaviors. Just being aware of autism facts and information will not necessarily lead to acceptance or create inclusive and supportive environments in our schools, communities, and relationships. However, by intentionally moving toward acceptance, we can inspire confidence and a vision for possibilities that motivate us to continue to ensure that people with disabilities can live their best lives for their whole lives.

Acceptance is also the first step toward inclusion. Inclusion then leads to belonging, which is essential to truly connecting and relating to others. Unfortunately, acceptance and belonging are often the biggest barriers to inclusion that people with autism and their families encounter. At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been working hard to break down traditional barriers for people with autism and other disabilities and explore things that others may not have yet seen as possible. While we have made significant progress, we have more work to do and we continue to explore and learn new ways of listening, understanding, and modeling. Our words and work must then translate into action.

The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone. As leaders and practitioners, autistic and disabled people, parents, family members, neighbors, and community members, we ALL play a role in inspiring the change we wish to see. 

Throughout the month of April, we encourage you to seek out opportunities that promote acceptance—for yourself and within your own communities. Following are a few simple ideas to get started:

Learn more. Explore information and resources about autism. A few websites to check out:

The Autism Center at OCALI
The Autism Society of Ohio
Interagency Work Group on Autism

Show support. Many organizations are hosting Autism Acceptance Month social media campaigns. You can easily show your support by reviewing and sharing the information and using designated social media tags. This month, OCALI is using the hashtag #KnowMoreDoMore, as part of a month-long email and social media campaign featuring information and resources from our Lending Library. Each week, we are featuring information and resources suggested by the Autism Center, Family and Community Outreach Center, Center for the Young Child, and Lifespan Transitions Center on various topics, including social-emotional wellbeing, early-childhood, supporting family interactions, and independence

Connect with others. Acceptance is an ‘everyone’ conversation and we all have the power and ability to support acceptance. Simply showing that you’re genuinely open and interested in learning more about autism, particularly from autistic people or their family members goes a long way.

Now, more than ever, it is important to recognize the unique strengths, challenges, and experiences of each person with autism and their families. Rather than attempting to paint with a broad brush based on a shared label or diagnosis, instead we encourage everyone to thoughtfully engage and inspire. Have meaningful conversations about what is most supportive for each person, in each setting in that moment, and then do those things! It’s much easier to write it down than to actually do the work—especially when someone’s experiences don’t match your own. But, by working together to create truly accessible spaces and ensuring that everyone is supported, accepted, and included, that’s what inspiring change is about. 

Rewind OCALICON podcast series with an image of a microphone

The Smell of the Room is a Fire in My Nose:
A Conversation on Autism and Trauma

Trauma by its very nature is an incredibly personal and individual experience. There are many different forms of trauma and many different ways it can impact, shape, and define who we are and who we become. But, what about people on the autism spectrum—autistic people. What’s different about how they experience, deal with, and live with trauma?

These are the questions that Kim Clary and Kelly Mahler explore in Rewind, a new series within the Inspiring Change podcast that features conversations and connections from OCALICON—OCALI’s premier autism and disabilities conference. Rewind is the audio showcase of some of OCALICON’s best moments, the speakers’ sessions, and the stories that make it all happen.

Kim Clary is an occupational therapist in Bellaire, Florida and Kelly Mahler is an occupational therapist in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Kelly and Kim push us to expand our thinking beyond what we might consider to be traditional causes of trauma in a conversation about how people with autism experience different types of trauma in different ways, and in ways that ask us to think differently about what trauma is and the impact it can have. Kim further illustrates the effects of trauma by sharing some of her poems and journal entries.

Imagine that you are in the midst of a hurricane outside without protection. That you cannot seek shelter. Imagine that you are in a burning building and cannot leave. Or that your body is covered in angry fire ants. Imagine that you are suddenly attacked, suddenly blinded by sharp daggers in your eyes. Imagine this – is your life. You can imagine it, but I don’t have to. These things are my life.

“What we know about trauma is that it is a response to an event or a series of events that make someone feel unsafe, threatened, or severely distressed and trauma impacts your neurology—both your brain and your body,” explains Kelly. “Trauma also impacts your physiology. It’s important to point out that trauma is dependent on how a person experiences an event.”

“I think that it just goes to show that we really need to be good detectives and always think through a trauma-informed and an autism-informed lens and really figure out what’s going on with each individual person,” continues Kelly. “I think our main goal – besides offering hope and strategies of how to support – is to challenge the way that we’re viewing trauma in the autism field.”

What’s New at OCALI

Ask Abbey: Engaging Learners Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing Through Music, Art, and Gym. A free interactive, three-part learning series. Picture of Abbey Weaver in upper right corner.

Register for the last session on April 28! This interactive, three-part learning series is designed to provide practical, easy-to-use strategies on how to include learners who are deaf or hard of hearing in gym, art, and music classes. Each session will incorporate considerations to ensure each learner is safe, engaged, and challenged. Each 30-minute session will include a 10-minute webinar with simple tips and strategies, followed by 20 minutes of live Q&A with Abbey Weaver, an itinerant teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing in Ohio. The sessions are free, but registration is required. Certificates of completion are available for the series. Join us for the last session.

Unlocking the English Code: Literacy for Learners Who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing or Blind/Visually Impaired. A free webinar May 14, 2021 from 11am-3pm. Register now. Image of teachers and students working together.

Nationally, prioritizing language and literacy development for all learners has been a focus for many educators. This focus requires that we build educators’ capacity to support evidence-based language and literacy instruction, particularly for educators supporting learners who are deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or blind/visually impaired (B/VI), who access English and print in different ways.

To help those who are assessing and teaching literacy to these learners, the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI is pleased to offer this interactive, virtual professional learning event designed to explore and connect the areas of phonological awareness, phonics, writing, fluency, vocabulary, communication, language, and comprehension specifically for learners who are D/HH or B/VI. 

OCALICONLINE 2021 15 years logo Registration Opens May 3 Celebrating 15 years of inspiration into action November 16-19

Inspiration can come in many forms. A conversation, a connection, a bit of information that sparks a new perspective. Sometimes it happens gradually, and sometimes it happens in an instant. Inspiration opens the door to imagine new possibilities. And action breathes life into those possibilities that can bring about real change.

OCALICONLINE 2021 marks the second year of hosting the event exclusively online, but the 15th year of providing participants with ample opportunities to transform inspiration into action. As we reflect on the last 15 years, we take stock of not only how far we have come within the field of disabilities and as a conference, but as a society. Much has changed. Some for the better, some not for the better. We look back on the last 15 years knowing we have come a long way, but we look ahead to the next 15 years knowing there is still much work to do.

No matter where you are personally or professionally, OCALICONLINE 2021 is the place where you can gather, connect, rest, or regroup.

There’s a place for you here. And we’ve saved you a front-row seat. 

Building Capacity to Serve All Learners: Effectively Assessing Learners via Telepsychology. Part III: Administering Telepsychological Assessments. A free webinar May 20, 2021, 9-10 am. Register now.

The transition to remote learning left instructional leaders and educators little to no time to prepare and transition how they deliver instruction. Meeting and assessing the needs of all learners in this online environment has been challenging, particularly for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired.

To help school psychologists and district and building leaders build comfort and confidence in virtually assessing all learners, particularly those who are deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or blind/visually impaired (B/VI), OCALI launched a free webinar series, Building Capacity to Serve All Learners: Effectively Assessing Learners via Telepsychology.

Part III: Administering Telepsychological Assessments
Parts I and II of the series explored preparing for and completing telepsychological assessments with learners who are D/HH or B/VI. Expanding off of Parts I and II, Part III is designed to focus on the practical demonstration of specific aspects of telepsychological assessments, including how to administer a standard test battery to learners who are D/HH or B/VI.

Explore, rewatch and share past sessions in the InspirED Video gallery, photos of young adults using computers

Did you miss an InspirED learning session or want to go back re-watch or check out other sessions? Explore the InspirED Video Gallery. Here, learners can access all previously aired sessions, which include interactive transcripts, audio description, and session materials. This gallery is also a great resource to share with colleagues and others who may benefit from the information.

Don’t forget learners have the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each session. Did we mention that this is a FREE way to get professional development hours?

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series. Lifespan Transitions Center logo in lower left corner. Image of four young people overlooking sunset from top of building.

To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free webinar series, called The Journey, designed to explore important topics and feature resources and tools for transition assessment and planning, as well as student instruction and family engagement. Register for the upcoming May webinar:

What I Wish I Knew Then: Parents’ Perspectives Following High School
Monday, May 17, 2:30–3:00 PM
Parents of young adults with complex support needs offer insights and considerations after experiencing life after high school. This panel discussion is an authentic dialogue that provides educators, SSAs, OOD counselors, families, and others awareness about what was most helpful during the school years and what else might have been helpful in order to prepare for the future. 

Visit the archive of previously aired webinars and register for upcoming sessions.

OCALI Now | Issue 21 | September 2020

September is National Deaf Awareness Month

Banner image that reads September is National Deaf Awareness Month
September is National Deaf Awareness Month

At OCALI, we are grateful to be part of a community of people who are just as committed to inspiring change and promoting access for people with disabilities as we are. It’s what fuels our team and the work that we do every day.

As we celebrate Deaf Awareness Month in September, the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI is proud to share several free resources, including:

Throughout September, we encourage you to explore these free resources. By sharing them, you may help others understand how they can better promote access in their schools, workplaces, and communities.

To learn more about the Outreach Center, visit https://deafandblindoutreach.org or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Banner image that reads Did You Know...
Did you know…
  • There are over 300 signed languages? September 23 is International Day of Sign Languages. Celebrate by learning to sign your name in American Sign Language.
  • High-quality captioning provides access and information to over 30 million people who are deaf or hard of hearing, including young readers and individuals who are learning English as a second language? Be sure to use captions, and make sure they’re accurate.
  • Something as simple as taking turns can improve access? Whether you are working face-to-face or virtually, setting up rules for how and when people communicate makes things easier for everyone.

New: InspirED Virtual Learning Series

InspirED logo

As we continue to watch the COVID-19 pandemic evolve across the world, one thing we know for sure—the 2020-2021 school year will look different—for students, families, teachers, and administrators. Depending on the district, some, most, or even all instruction will be delivered online.

As an organization committed to promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities, OCALI and the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children are partnering to support educators, education professionals, families, and others during this pandemic and in a new, remote learning environment with the creation of—InspirED Virtual Learning Series.

Our vision for this virtual learning series is to fill a need and help educators, administrators, and families find the information and resources they need to support learning and successful outcomes for their students or children during a very unique time of learning.

Initially, the learning series will consist of 15 Zoomcast sessions or recorded, facilitated conversations that are approximately 30 minutes each. Over time, additional sessions will be added to the library. All content will focus on increasing successful engagement of diverse learners in a remote/virtual instructional environment, linking users with appropriate resources and tools. Learners will have the ability to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each learning session.

The series will kick off with three Zoomcast sessions hosted by OCALI and Ohio Department of Education staff:

  • September 24: Accessible Educational Materials (AEM): An All-Access Pass to Success
  • September 29: Welcome to Homeroom! Tips for Creating a Learning Environment at Home
  • October 1: Supporting Positive Behavior at School and at Home: Strategies to Reduce Interfering Behaviors, Part I

What’s New at OCALI

AT Conference and Vendor Fair logo

Virtual Assistive Technology (AT) Vendor Fair: September 29

Assistive technology (AT) are tools and supports that provide access to the curriculum and aspects of everyday life for individuals with disabilities. The AT Conference and Vendor Fair’s mission is to build capacity in the regions by providing learning opportunities about the latest assistive technology to provide access to the curriculum for individuals with disabilities. Join us for a one-day virtual event where 20+ vendors will share a variety of virtual sessions showcasing state-of-the-art assistive technology and remote learning options. Experience 1:1 vendor consultations and explore from the comfort of home. Learn more and register.

OCALI and Autism Internet Modules logos
OCALI AIM Autism Internet Modules logo

New & Updated AIM Modules

New: Motor Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Learn about the body systems which work together to give us motor contact and about typical motor development. This module also highlights some of the most common motor differences we see in individuals with autism.

Updated: Assessment for Identification

Quality assessment is the key to accurate diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. Assessment is also a foundation of a strong intervention plan. This is no quality evaluation without trained and experienced team members. Learn more in this newly updated module.

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series banner

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series

To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to and from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free webinar series, called The Journey, designed to support topics, such as:

  • Creating structure,
  • Improving self-determination,
  • Planning for transition, and
  • Supporting literacy.

The webinars highlight different websites, videos, printable documents, and other resources. Additional webinars are planned for the following:


OCALICON Award Nominations Due September 30

There’s still time to submit your nominations for the Margaret Burley Family Impact and Kathe Shelby Leadership Awards! Do you know someone who has done extraordinary work to support and improve outcomes for people with autism, sensory disabilities, and/or low-incidence disabilities? Don’t let them go unnoticed! Nominations are due by September 30, and can be completed online. Learn more.

Ohio Interagency Work Group on Autism logo
Ohio Interagency Work Group on Autism logo

Webinar: Multi-system Youth with Autism — Ohio’s System Change Efforts

Friday, September 25, 2020, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EDT

Youth and young adults with autism frequently experience co-occurring mental and behavioral health conditions, and are increasingly served by multiple systems in Ohio. These youth are more likely to visit an emergency department for psychiatric reasons, have more outpatient and inpatient hospital visits, primary care and psychiatric visits, health care claims, and higher health care costs than youth with other disabilities, and are at greater risk of suicide.

In this month’s webinar, the Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA) is joined by parent, Mark Butler, and members of the DeWine administration. Panelists include:

  • LeeAnne Cornyn, Director of Children’s Initiatives, Office of the Governor
  • Sarah LaTourette, Executive Director, Ohio Family and Children First 
  • Maureen Corcoran, Director, Ohio Department of Medicaid

Join us Friday, September 25 from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM to hear about the challenges faced by Ohio’s families and efforts to make change. Register now.

Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities Logo
Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities logo

Resources & Reminders from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD)

DSP Recognition Week is September 13-19. We are encouraging families to share short videos showing their appreciation for their DSPs. They can tag DODD on social media or send an email to: communications.team@dodd.ohio.gov.

Virtual Transformation Summit Day 2 is September 22. Learn more and register.

Trusting the Team Process: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people with developmental disabilities and their teams have been challenged to make adjustments to the routines, services, and supports that help people live and thrive in their homes and communities. In recent weeks, those discussions have become more complex as people balance the increasing opportunities as Ohio reopens with ongoing risks of COVID-19. DODD has guidance for Trusting the Team Process in making these decisions.