Which brings us to a gathering to occur soon after Yom Kippur this month: the biennial gathering on greater employment for California’s neurodiverse workforce—adults with autism, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, learning disabilities. The gathering is hosted by AASCEND (the Autism Asperger Syndrome Coalition for Education Networking and Development) and the Autism Spectrum Studies program at San Francisco State University. It is a one day event at San Francisco State (link here).
AASCEND has links to government efforts. But for the most part it operates outside of government, on mutual support and good deeds. AASCEND started as a support group for the adult autism community. But it has developed over the years into far more.
It is a network in which members act to help and protect each other. We get involved to help out if one of our members is taken advantage of, or facing homelessness, or in need of assistance with legal issues. For example, in recent months , our AASCEND co-chair Camilla Bixler heard that one of our members was losing the room he had rented for years in a house. She got on the phone for days to locate a new room. When another of our members was swindled out of $1200 in a deal to purchase a used car, she accompanied him and his father to small claims court to get the deal nullified.
Regarding employment, we try to use our personal networks to get job leads. We often are not successful—no form of good deeds is as challenging as job placement. But we quietly get up and start the contact process each morning.
Only a few of us in AASCEND are Jewish, the majority are not. Yet, no group I know more represents the spirit of “tzedakah”—direct service to others with humility.