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"The Family Next Door" Great Film Success

The Family Next door is a feature-length documentary about an Upper St. Clair Family with two sons on the autism spectrum. It is a genuine, powerful portrayal of the challenges families face in the daily struggle with autism. Over a thousand people have viewed the movie locally and over $38,000 has been donated to the Autism Society of Pittsburgh by generous supporters of this incredible film. Plans are underway to show "The Family Next Door" in the North Hills in early 2015. For more information, please contact Heidi Hess at

If you'd like, you may read coverage of the premiere by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.



  • Please Join Us for the
    South Hills Parent Support Group and Discussion

    Adjustment to Disability
    Presented by Jennifer Koehler Fandray, Med, LRC, LPC

    7:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 21, 2015
    Bethel Park Public Library
    5100 West Library Ave.

    For more information, please call the library at 412-835-2207 or register at the front desk
  • For more information on our "Autism Takes Flight" airport training program, click on this slide.

  • Run for Autism

    WVU's Alpha Phi Omega undertook the 44th Annual Run for Autism on
    Saturday, November 8, 2014.

  • The Autism Society of Pittsburgh is the local chapter of the Autism Society of America.
    Our objective is to improve the lives of those struggling with autism.

  • S.P.E.A.K. Summer Programs begin each July.

  • 2013 Cope Fazio Memorial Golf Tournament Winners

  • S.P.E.A.K. Family Day 2012 Performance

  • The proceeds from the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix benefit the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School. Courtesy Matthew Little Photography

  • Myron Cope (1929–2008) — parent, writer, broadcaster, Autism Society of Pittsburgh charter board member, booster, fundraiser since 1967.

  • Serafino "Foge" Fazio — (1938–2009).
    Accomplished football player, coach,
    parent, autism fundraiser, founder (with Myron Cope) —
    longest running charity golf event in Pennsylvania.

Autism Takes Flight” – So Does Fear, with New Film


Announcing the availability of a new training film "Autism Takes Flight," Autism Society of Pittsburgh President Dan Torisky said, “Parents will learn if travelling by air with their autistic family member is feasible – or not. Airports can be hectic and most challenging for people with autism.”

The 12-minute film was produced by the Autism Society of Pittsburgh in cooperation with Delta Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Allegheny County Airport Authority. It is a compilation of video footage of recent training sessions for autism families held at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. It provides enlightening educational tips to make flying easier for those with autism.

The film shows families and those with autism what air travel entails – from ticketing through security to boarding and baggage claim. It is also a realistic onsite training tool, helping airport employees recognize and handle challenges their air travelers with autism face.
The widely recognized fear of flying is even more difficult for those with autism who are especially sensitive to noise, movement, and crowded spaces. Many families do not attempt to fly with their children on the spectrum because of their fears.

The video Autism Takes Flight is available on the Autism Society of Pittsburgh’s website at Also available in closed caption, copies may be requested by calling Autism Society of Pittsburgh at 412-856-7223.

Of Immediate Interest:

Virginia Tech Autism Clinic – Sibling Study

Through August 31, 2015, the Virginia Tech Autism Clinic in Blacksburg, VA is recruiting siblings of children with autism to participate in a long-distance research study.

Who: Children in grades 1–9 with a sibling with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism, Asperger’s, or PDD-NOS). Children must currently live in the same home, and sibling without ASD must attend a public or private school. Participating parent must be primary caregiver, but other parent is welcome to participate, too!

What: Phase I: Complete surveys by mail (45-60 minutes). Phase II: Participate in a one-on-one interview by phone or Skype (20-30 minutes). Compensation provided for each phase.

Contact: Tyler Hassenfeldt -  or (412) 600-8304

This study aims to better understand the experience of siblings and parents of individuals on the Autism Spectrum. De-identified results will be used in Ms. Hassenfeldt’s dissertation and may be published. Focus groups/interviews will be audio recorded for transcription purposes.

Thank you for considering participation!

Tyler Hassenfeldt, M.S.
Ph.D. Candidate, Virginia Tech Clinical Psychology

Angela Scarpa, Ph.D.
Director, Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research
Co-Director, Virginia Tech Autism Clinic

Local Students with Autism Paint Penguins Mural

Nickolas Wildman joins other autistic students from Pressley Ridge School for Autism, students from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and artists from M.L.K. Mural to paint a mural of the Pittsburgh Penguins greats on the side of a building located across from the Consol Energy Center at the corner of 5th Avenue and Magee Street, Pittsburgh. October, 2014. Nickolas is the son of Davy & Mary Wildman founders of the Autism Society of Butler County.

See photos.

A Most Responsible Position on Vaccination — Diane Schmitt Nails it!

Dear Editor:

I would like to contribute my opinion to State Senator Daylin Leach’s intention to introduce legislation to strip philosophical vaccine exemption from the PA code, “Under Pennsylvania bill, exemptions granted on vaccines stand to plummet”

The state of PA links into the CDC website for its 2015 vaccine schedule. Currently, that vaccine schedule for ages 0-6 consists of 34-35 vaccines, averaging nearly 6 vaccines/yearly for infants/toddler/preschoolers. Two of the recommended vaccines are the DTaP & MMR, both triple combination vaccines. It is combination vaccines, administered in a single injection that is the crux of the ‘anti-vaccer’ argument.

All parents and grandparents want to see their child/grandchild protected, but injecting a triple combination vaccine into a small body with a developing immune system, then injecting additional vaccines into that small body approximately every two months for a 6 year period is neuro-injury roulette.

I implore the medical community and vaccine manufacturers to separate these vaccines and reformat the vaccine schedule with reasonable spacing to minimize neuro-injury risk. To force parents into legislative compliance of this current protocol has every appearance of maximizing profit in the vaccine industry at the expense of Pennsylvania children’s neuro-health.

Thank You.

Diane Schmitt
Kennedy Twp.

“Ms. Schmitt’s letter – buttressed by the recent CDC vaccine research reporting scandal and admission of data manipulation – is precisely that of the Autism Society of Pittsburgh’s position that parents should demand that vaccinations be given separately and at reasonable intervals. Also that Autism Speaks does not speak for the autism community – never has."

Autism Society of America — 50 Years and Counting…

In 1965, concerned parents of children who were diagnosed with autism, came together to form what is now called the Autism Society of America. In 1965, parents such as Dr. Bernie Rimland, Dr. Ruth Christ Sullivan, and Dan Torisky, knew that often times the only option for helping their child who was diagnosed with autism was to place their child in an institutional setting. Not a group home...but an institution. These gallant parents said no to that option and since 1965, the Autism Society of America and its 104 affiliates are leaders in serving over a million people impacted by autism each year. Unlike 1965, today, a parent upon learning of their child's autism diagnosis, has numerous quality options allowing their child to grow and prosper in a community to achieve a quality life. This is because of your work. Read more

Does Your Family Member with Autism Now — or Perhaps Could — Receive Medicaid-Reimbursed Services?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have released a notice clarifying the rules on Medicaid autism coverage for children and adolescents. This CMS bulletin, released Monday, has information about the services covered by the Medicaid state plan and how to qualify for coverage. It may also affect individuals’ eligibility for Medicaid waivers.

“System 1-2-3” Addresses Severe Behaviors

Sharon Rupert, recently retired from Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7, Supervisor for early intervention, was awarded a grant to fund a two-year project with “System 1-2-3” that provides intensive professional development in the form of a workshop series, in-services, and ongoing supportive services in individual classroom settings.

All staff members are included in the process of building teams that meet and deal effectively with the social-emotional needs of students with even the most challenging behaviors.

Head of the innovative System 1-2-3 is Dan Richardson, behavior analyst who has been providing services related to the social and emotional development of preschool children in the Pittsburgh City Schools early intervention program for a number of years. In doing so he has become highly regarded by the district’s early intervention administration.

WIU #7 staff has been highly responsive to the first year of Ms. Rupert’s highly sustainable and capacity building effort. Recently, Dr. Richardson’s group provided presentations for the Building Blocks Conference in Westmoreland County and the Early Childhood Conference for ARIN (Armstrong/Indiana Counties) IU. Additionally, he and his staff are in the process of developing a year-long social skills training program that provides teachers with 20 minute daily activities.

Further information may be obtained from Sharon Rupert at

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