Monthly Archives

December 2021

Grant to Investigate Toastmasters for Individuals on the Spectrum

By Toastmaster Gavel Club No Comments

For the past decade, Judi Uttal, Distinguished Toastmaster, has been working with the Orange County Asperger’s Support Group  (OCASG) leveraging the Toastmasters International curriculum to assist individuals on the autism spectrum improve their public speaking and thus their quality of life. She founded a Gavel Club for young adults on the spectrum, that meets monthly. As a result, of these efforts there has been remarkable improvements in the communication skills, social skills, self-confidence, and happiness among the Toastmasters Gavel Club members. Please watch this video to see the benefits that the Toastmasters Gavel Club has had on its members.

In April 2021, Judi Uttal gave a well-received presentation to the Stanford Neurodiversity Project deconstructing the Toastmasters Gavel Club Program and its benefits to the Neurodiverse Community. Please watch this video to view Judi’s presentation. Judi’s goal has been to help other communities see the value of the Toastmasters program to individuals on the autism spectrum, and to assist them in establishing similar programs throughout the world.

On November 30, 2021, it was announced in the OAR News that Sasha Zeedyk, Ph.D (California State University, Fullerton), and Yasamin Bolourian, Ph.D. (University of California, Riverside) were awarded a grant of $40,000 by the Organization for Autism Research to “investigate the impact of a community-based public speaking program.” 

It is clear to me that the use of Toastmasters is extremely powerful in helping individuals on the spectrum,” stated Judi Uttal. “However, there has been no academic work proving that effectiveness. By using scientific methods to analyze the efficacy of this internationally available public speaking program, Dr. Zeedyk and Dr. Bolourian could help inspire similar programs to the one I have run for the last decade.”

OAR received 137 pre-proposals in the 2021 Applied Research Competition and subsequently invited 47 applicants to submit full proposals. Twenty full proposals were selected to move on to the final round. On November 4 and 5, OAR’s Scientific Council met virtually to review those proposals, recommending four studies to the Board of Directors as worthy of funding. The Board unanimously approved all four studies for funding. The study proposed by Dr. Zeedyk and Dr. Bolourian is called “Amplifying Autistic Voices: Investigating the Impact of a Community-Based Public Speaking Program”. It will include two phases:

Phase I: Will be to conduct interviews with Toastmasters participants who are on the autism spectrum, as well as their coaches, mentors, and caregivers who support their participation in the Gavel Club. Field notes from the monthly Toastmasters meetings will be collected.

Phase II: Will be to modify the curriculum based on findings of best practices found in Phase I. The adapted program will then be piloted to test the effectiveness of participation in the Toastmaster’s curriculum among young adults on the spectrum.

Judi Uttal, President of the Orange County Asperger’s Support Group as well as Founder of the OCASG Gavel Club will collaborate on this study by arranging interviews for Phase I and leading the Toastmasters Speechcraft in Phase II.

 

 

OCASG Announces 2022 Programming

By Upcoming Events No Comments

The Orange County Asperger’s Support Group (OCASG) announced an array of new programming for 2022 designed to support, educate, and entertain individuals with high-functioning Autism, Asperger’s, PDD-NOS, and their families. The theme for this years is “Creating Your Best Life.”

“OCASG has earned a reputation of providing superior programming for those living with autism,” said Judi Uttal, President of OCASG. “Our content has changed lives. The support groups provide guidance and a community to deal with life’s challenges and celebrate life’s successes. The educational meetings give individuals and their families a roadmap to overcome the many challenges, faced by someone on the Spectrum. Our social activities offer a relaxed, non-judgmental group of people the opportunity to enjoy fun activities together. These programs and activities have been extremely critical during this time of COVID, when many folks felt isolated and depressed.”

“Our new programing,” continued Judi, “has actually benefited from the changes we made to deliver content remotely. We are now able to host interesting speakers from all over North America. Kealah Parkinson, the facilitator for our new partners support group, lives in Indiana. Our innovative animation discussion group will be led by Mat Brunet who lives in Quebec, Canada. We will have speakers from Washington, Virginia, and Northern California. Our activities are not only attended by our members in Orange County but by people www.memberplanet.com/s/ocasg/sibling-workshop-2022

OCASG will continue to offer both facilitated and non-facilitated support meetings for teens, parents, and adults. However, this year, OCASG has amped up its offering with additional support meetings led by an impressive group of psychologists, counselors, and therapists:

  • Sibling Support: facilitated by noted psychologist, Dr. Alexander Gantman, this new Sibling Support Group will meet quarterly and provide a much-needed forum to discuss how to improve relationships with individuals on the Spectrum. Sessions are offered over ZOOM at 10:00 am on Sundays – 1/16/22, 4/17/22, and 7/17/22. The cost is $30 per session with a $10 discount for OCASG members. Note that Dr. Gantman will continue to offer support meetings for Parents, Teens, and Adults as well. Register Now
  • Partner Support: facilitated by author and counselor, Kealah Parkinson, the Partner Support Group will also convene quarterly and provide a forum for partners and spouses to explore the challenges of having a relationship with an individual on the Spectrum. Sessions are offered over ZOOM at 10:00 am on Saturdays– 2/19/22, 5/21/22, 8/20/22, and 11/19/22. The cost is $30 per session with a $10 discount for OCASG members. Register Now
  • Women’ Discussion Group: facilitated by Dr. Ali Arena, the Women’s Discussion Group provides an intimate meeting quarterly for women with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s. Sessions are offered over ZOOM at 10:00 am on Saturdays – 3/19/22, 6/18/22, and 9/17/22. The cost is $30 per session with a $10 discount for OCASG members. Register Now

Educational Offerings
OCASG has assembled an exciting group of speakers to provide critical knowledge to help the autism community achieve their best life possible. Topics include employment opportunities, agency supports, financial planning, navigating insurance, affordable housing, and more. These sessions are offered monthly on Mondays over ZOOM at 7:00 PM. The 2022 offerings will include experts from all over the United States.

  • Optimism vs. Realism – What is the Future?” with psychologist and noted Autism expert, Dr. Alexander Gantman. In this session we will ponder what are realistic expectations for individuals on the Spectrum? (Monday, January 10, 2022)
  • Understanding the IEP Process – Elissa Green Kaustinen will explain the Individual Education Plan (IEP) with suggestions on how to get the support student needs. (Monday, February 21, 2022)
  • Autism and Entertainment – Learn about a career in Entertainment from AFA HUB, Exceptional Minds, and Zavikon staff members. (Monday, March 21, 2022)
  • Autism@Work – For the third year in a row, OCASG is inviting leaders in the Autism@Work movement to share the latest information. (Monday, April 18, 2022)
  • Autism & Technology – Doug Meeker from Life Sherpa, Justin Amoyal from Impruvon Health, and Keivan Stassun from Vanderbilt University will share technological innovation that is increasing independence for those on the Spectrum. (Monday, May 16, 2022)
  • Finding a Home with Dr. Adam Gottdank, North Orange County Continuing Education (Monday, June 20, 2022)
  • Medical Insurance and Autism with insurance specialist Neil Steinman, and Peter Freeburg, Cigna Behavioral Clinical Account Manager. (Monday, July 18, 2022)
  • Financial Planning – Now and in the Future – Learn how to build a financial plan with Financial Advisor and Fiduciary, Kacy Seitz. This workshop will cover legal planning, financial planning, and benefits planning. (Monday, August 15, 2022)
  • Meet the Agencies – Meet two key agencies: Department of Rehabilitation with Trinh Von Erp and Regional Center with Reina Hernandez. Trinh and Reina will provide some insight on these two important and agencies – how to qualify and the services available. (Monday, September 19, 2022)
  • Certificates and Apprenticeships. Learn about certificates and apprenticeships to help build expertise for a career. Speaker Chrissy Gascon, Interim Executive Dean, Continuing Education, Santiago Canyon College. (Monday, October 17, 2022)
  • OCASG Annual Planning Session Judi Uttal, President of OCASG, will lead the 2023 planning session. Individuals will develop their own 2023 plans. (Monday, November 21, 2022)

OCASG will continue with its inspirational Author Series. These sessions are held on Saturday mornings at 10:00 AM over Zoom and are free of charge:

Social Activities
Making friends and building relationships is a important part of OCASG programming. One of the keyways we do this is through fun social activities. With the advent of COVID, OCASG developed virtual programming where individuals could participate from home. This year with members vaccinated, OCASG will add back outings for teens and adults, opening the doors to outside activities and facilitating exploration of Orange County.

  • For OCASG members, Outings will be offered for teens and adults on Saturday afternoons and will include hiking, miniature golf, and more.
  • Popular Game Nights will continue this year for teens and adults who are OCASG member. Game Nights are held on Saturday evenings at 7:00 PM over ZOOM.

The final new activity for OCASG is Sunday Afternoons with AniMat. These events will occur quarterly on Sundays from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM and be led by YouTube Animation Expert, Mat Brunet. The cost is $15 a session with a $5 discount for OCASG members. Register Now

  • Sunday, March 6, 2022 – Academy Award winning Animated Films
  • Sunday, June 12, 2022 – Pixar Movies (in honor of the upcoming Lightyear)
  • Sunday, September 11, 2022 – Superheroes in Animation
  • Sunday, December 4, 2022 – Animated Holiday Movies & Specials / Lookback at Animation in 2022