The Actual Most Wonderful Time of The Year!

Andy Williams doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In his ubiquitous song, he tries to claim that the winter holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year.” Seriously? Has he not heard about fall? He’s welcome to his opinion, I suppose, but personally, I don’t care for large gatherings, turkey, or snow. Also, mistletoe. I dislike it when people randomly hug me, so you can imagine how I feel about mistletoe.


Fall is so clearly superior. The leaves change color, you get to wear boots, and there is pumpkin spice everything. I am not kidding about this; I bought pumpkin spice deodorant a week ago. Pumpkin is everywhere, and I love it.


My favorite part, however, is Halloween. A lot of autistic people I know, of all ages, are obsessed with Halloween as well; it makes me wonder why there aren’t more sensory-sensitive Halloween experiences. Although how you make a low-sensory haunted house, I haven’t a clue. Someone, figure that out, please.


I think maybe it’s the idea of getting to dress up in a costume that’s appealing. Tons of autistic kids go through a period when they want to wear a costume exclusively. Pirate and Disney Princess seem to be two popular ones. I bet my parents were sorry they’d took me to the Ice Capades when I was about seven, because after that I was Smurfette for like a year.


I start planning next year’s Halloween on November 1st. I love love love doing theme costumes with friends or family, and if you want a nice, cohesive theme, you have to start planning early. And begging people to play along with you until they say yes to make you shut up.


One of the reasons I think Halloween is so popular with people with ASD is sort of sad. Being us isn’t easy, and it isn’t fun, and often neurotypicals go out of their way to make it even less fun. You know who doesn’t get teased for being different? Batman. You know whose differences are ultimately celebrated, not mocked? Elsa from Frozen. Stepping into the identity of a hero can be incredibly empowering. I’ve never outgrown my fascination with pretending to be someone else. I do it in real life, albeit without the costumes. Unless business suits count.


I’m not going to claim to have some profound understanding of why so many autistic people love Halloween. My theories are just that… Theories I’m entirely unqualified to posit. For whatever reason Halloween appeals to you, I hope you and yours enjoy the cool weather, apple cider, pumpkins, and most of all, costumes. It’s the actual most wonderful time of the year!

Faking Normal is a series written by guest blogger, J, an adult on the autism spectrum. Her other articles can be found here


Paraeducator bill needs your help – Calls needed

Paraeducators provide over 62 percent of instructional time to Washington’s opportunity gap students, including students with disabilities. However, paraeducators receive minimal training (0.05 percent of statewide instructional professional development hours) and there are no professional qualifications or standards.  (ParaeducatorOnePage Fact Sheet). PLEASE give us 5 minutes on Monday to support these professionals who spend considerable time assisting students with special needs. Phone calls and emails are needed to the following representatives listed below. If you live in one of the districts listed please call your own district’s representative.

If you’re not sure what to say try:

My name is _______ and I am your constituent. SB 5070 Concerning paraeducators is important to me and my family. Paraeducators deliver over 60% of all instruction to students in the opportunity gap, including students with disabilities. They are an essential link between students and successful learning. Paraeducators want and deserve professional development, standards, and a more accessible path to teacher certification. I believe that students with autism  should be taught by trained and highly qualified educators, and that’s why I urge your support of SB 5070. I appreciate your ongoing support of my family, and hope I can count on you  and move the bill out of the committee quickly. Thank you!

Please be polite, ask the legislative aide to let you know after your representative has agreed to support SB 5070. If the person on the phone asks questions you don’t have an answer to, please refer them to Doug Nelson, 206.919.8581

Thank you for standing together with us for change.

Committee Members

Representative(dist. #) Email Phone
Santos, Sharon Tomiko (37)
Chair (360) 786-7944
Dolan, Laurie (22)
Vice Chair (360) 786-7940
Stonier, Monica Jurado (49)
Vice Chair (360) 786-7872
Harris, Paul (17)
Ranking Minority Member (360) 786-7976
Muri, Dick (28)
Asst Ranking Minority Member (360) 786-7890
Bergquist, Steve (11) (360) 786-7862
Caldier, Michelle (26) (360) 786-7802
Hargrove, Mark (47) (360) 786-7918
Johnson, Norm (14) (360) 786-7810
Kilduff, Christine (28) (360) 786-7958
Lovick, John (44) (360) 786-7804
McCaslin, Bob (4) (360) 786-7820
Ortiz-Self, Lillian (21) (360) 786-7972
Senn, Tana (41) (360) 786-7894
Slatter, Vandana (48) (360) 786-7936
Springer, Larry (45) (360) 786-7822
Steele, Mike (12) (360) 786-7832
Stokesbary, Drew (31) (360) 786-7846
Volz, Mike (6) (360) 786-7922


Volunteer Spotlight: Going the Distance to Make a Difference

For his 30th birthday, Samuth Tong decided that rather than party, he wanted volunteer his time and help families in need. In October Sam flew from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to join WAAA as a volunteer at our Gift of Time respite event. Since high school Sam has been involved in the community and as he got older he wanted to give back more. Sam’s cousin’s kid was his inspiration to volunteer with WAAA. “It takes a strong person/ family to raise a child on the spectrum,” Sam observes, “It’s a special parent to unconditionally love and care for a child with special needs.” Sam’s cousin helped him gain more knowledge and understanding of autism. Sam notes, “I now know how it’s a spectrum and every kid is different in so many ways”

Gift of Time grants parents of kids with autism a four hour respite, while at the same time providing an opportunity for meaningful social interaction for kids on the spectrum. Samuth spent the day teamed with a teen buddy creating a Lego video. He recognizes, “WAAA is doing a great job at giving parents some much needed time off.”

Samuth’s volunteering experience at WAAA helped him understand how autism is a spectrum and truly not “one size fits all.” In addition, his experience has changed his perspective on how each child and each family addresses challenges on their own. Samuth continues to fundraise on behalf of WAAA at his GoFundMe site. He is welcome back at a WAAA event anytime!

Community Support in Spokane


Although Nikki Lockwood’s daughter showed a variety of developmental delays as a toddler, she wasn’t diagnosed on the autism spectrum until age 5. Faced with their daughter’s walking delays, behavioral issues, and sensory integration difficulties, the family could not access the services they needed in their rural community and, seeking answers, they moved to Spokane, WA. After a six-month evaluation process and with an autism diagnosis in-hand, the Lockwoods found themselves in completely uncharted territory. Of their experience 8 years ago, Nikki recalls, “we had to piece together services after hunting down appropriate providers and sitting on wait lists.”

With her daughter now 13 years old, Nikki observes, “She is smart, creative, funny, and loves animals and a revolving door of video games. However, she has issues related to social anxiety.” Her daughter’s few friendships haven’t given her the practice she needs to have the social ease her neurotypical peers take for granted.

A few years ago Lockwood tried to arrange a “‘tween” social skills group in Spokane, but was unsuccessful in finding a qualified facilitator to provide services at a rate that most families could afford.

Then, “this firecracker of an advocate showed up and partnered with me and the YMCA to create a free tween and teen social skills group at the YMCA, staffed with qualified facilitators.” Jess Silvernail, WAAA Eastern WA Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator, also helped arrange a parent support group scheduled to meet in tandem with the teen group. “Families affected by autism in Spokane have many needs,” commented Nikki, “from educational advocacy to getting more service providers and transition services in the community for emerging adults, I’m glad WAAA is in our community, in relationship with parents, making a difference.”

Remembering Senator Andy Hill

Senator Andy HillToday we mourn that passing os State Senator Andy Hill.  Sen. Hill repeatedly stepped up in a big way for our community in his years at the legislature. He listened, he engaged and most importantly, he reached out and worked with our community to help resolve critical problems.

Sen. Hill authored and passed the Vulnerable Individuals Priority (VIP) Act – Providing services to 5000 children and adults with developmental disabilities on waiting lists at no additional cost to the state.

For his work on the VIP Act, Senator Hill has received the Blizzard Award for Extraordinary Commitment from the Parent Coalition for Developmental Disabilities as well as the Big Time Daddy Award from the Washington State Fathers Network.  The Community Employment Alliance selected Hill as their “Legislator of the Year”.

Sen. Hills budget funded the bright futures guidelines of screening for autism when a child 36 months of age or younger is suspected of having autism, supporting timely access to a formal diagnostic evaluation and referral for evidence-based treatment.

500,000 is the number of students our para-educators teach in schools across this state, and 52% [over half] is the percentage of those who are students with disabilities.

FIRST – in the nation – we are as a state – to provide Paraeducators a career ladder under a plan sponsored by Sen. Hill. Previously, paraeducators received little training from school districts with limited state hiring standards.

And so we say THANK YOU Senator Hill – thank you for your leadership, your hard work, and most of all – thank you for your compassion and understanding of the challenges our community has faced over the years.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, November 11, in Redmond. Additional details will be available in the coming days. In lieu of flowers please make a donation in Senator Hill’s name to Cancer Pathways, Global Resource for Advancing Cancer Education (GRACE), or Dr. Jed Gorden’s outreach to underserved communities through Swedish Medical Center.

Please also take a moment to share any memories of Senator Hill or messages to the family by emailing

IEP’s start on first day of school

As we all gear up for the start of school, just a reminder to everyone that IEPs should be implemented starting on the first day (and certainly the first week) of school. By that I simply mean that all the scheduling issues, logistics, etc. that are a necessary part of building wide implementation of IEPs should be worked out before school starts, not during the first week of school. Sometimes schools or even districts will tell parents that the first week is being spent working out schedules, particularly for related services like OT or speech therapy. But this should not happen in a way that takes instructional time away from special education students.

Yes, it’s very challenging for schools to line everything up prior to the first day, but at the same time, imagine the outcry from parents if all the math classes in any school or grade level were postponed the first week because of logistics or scheduling challenges. Math is no different from any of the services and instructional time our kids need, and should be treated the same way and with the same urgency.
Please know of course many schools and districts work very hard to ensure learning starts from Day One of school – this isn’t a blanket criticism – it’s just something I share in various forums every September now that I’m in my 15th (gulp!) year of IEPs for my son.

Good luck everyone!!!


Beth Sigall is the founder of Eastside Education Network and a seasoned special education attorney from Redmond, WA.

Story of Hope – WAAA Community Engagement Alleviates Family Wait Times

A collaboration between Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy (WAAA) and Anjali Barretto, BCBA and Associate Professor of Special Education at Gonzaga University is dramatically helping families in Eastern Washington. Earlier this year, Jess Silvernail, Eastern Washington Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator for WAAA, met with Dr. Barretto and a team of her graduate students at Gonzaga. Inspired by WAAA’s efforts to help families, Dr. Barretto and her grad students are now providing in-home ABA therapy to help bridge the gap for Spokane families on wait lists for services. “They are all so compassionate and knowledgeable,” enthuses Jess, “it’s wonderful that we can engage Dr. Barretto and her students to help service these families during a critical time in their child’s life.”

Recruiting a Program Manager

Job Title: Program Manager
Reports to: CEO

The Program Manager is responsible for identifying, securing and enhancing sources of organization funding. He/she is responsible for community engagement statewide, connecting with coalitions, partnerships and advocacy organizations. He/she is responsible for collating and submitting grant applications to public and private sources. The Program Manager works collaboratively with staff and consultants to develop proposals, and prepare timely and accurate grant reports. The Program Manager serves as the lead point of contact on each proposal, managing the submission process, and providing content, editing, and overall project planning.

Key Responsibilities and Accountabilities:

  • Research and identify viable corporate, foundation, and government funding prospects on a regular basis by staying current with issues related to healthcare advocacy
  • Engage and maintain contact with statewide networks of community leaders (agencies, foundations, corporations) addressing all areas of healthcare disparity
  • Support prospective funder vetting and cultivation and current funders stewardship by exhibiting knowledge and understanding of funder priorities
  • Build and maintain a portfolio of constituents, including grant-making organizations, overseeing review of a submitted grant applications in order to supply additional supportive material
  • Participate in funder briefings as required.
  • Work closely with CEO and program directors to refine grant making policies and procedures.
  • Manage the completion and submission of timely and accurate progress reports when required by funders
  • Collaborate with program staff to craft compelling proposals, aligning program goals and objectives with funder priorities and giving areas;
  • Write and submit letters of inquiry and full grant proposals, including narrative, attachments, and budgets;
  • Coordinate grant compliance, ensuring timely submission of contracts, grant acknowledgement, and reporting calendar;
  • Co-write interim and final grant reports with program staff to capture progress and outcomes;
  • Participate in all other department administration responsibilities
  • Collaborate with program staff in all aspects of Continuous Program Quality Assessment Model: logic model design, goal and objective setting, data collection tool design and administration, and yearly reporting.
  • Recruit evaluation interns to enter, analyze and report on program outcome
  • Track grant proposals in database and prepare monthly reports on status of portfolios and submissions.
  • Generate financial information, including budgets and financial reports, for grant proposals and grant reports, in collaboration with staff.
  • Assist with other fundraising projects as requested.

Education and Experiences:
Minimum Requirements

  • Extensive and in-depth familiarity with systemic aspects of healthcare and health issuance disparity for individuals with disabilities
  • Demonstrated writing, communication, and organizational skills.
  • Understanding of issues related to individuals with ASD, mental health, family services, or willingness to learn.
  • Knowledge of national, state and local funders supporting health insurance navigation
  • Skilled in networking, building and maintaining relationships with decision makers, leveraging effective oral, visual, and written communication.
  • Ability to work collaboratively with staff and other partners in developing grant proposals and for reporting purposes.
  • Ability to work independently and demonstrated skills in time management and project management.
  • Proficient in Microsoft Word, EXCEL, database spreadsheets, and Internet research.
  • Experience with CRM and other online database desired.
  • Willingness to occasionally work evenings and weekends.
  • Background clearance from the Department of Justice.
  • Ability to travel statewide, to site visits and funder meetings, as needed.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Marketing, Communications or related field.
  • Strong and consistent attention to detail, prompt follow-through, and commitment to high quality output.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Background in public health and government relations
  • Meet timelines and manage multiple and diverse projects simultaneously.
  • Demonstrate self-starter with ability to work well independently, as well as being a contributor in a highly dynamic team environment.
  • Plan strategically, think creatively and building long-term relationships with grantors.
  • Work with confidential information and show discretion.
  • Be flexible, creative, solution oriented, and have energy and stamina for periodic demanding schedule.
  • Manage in a climate of change and ambiguity.
  • Analyze and develop budgets.


  • 40 hours per week


  • Competitive; dependent on qualifications

To Apply: Interested applicants should submit a resume, cover letter, character and professional references and availability schedule

To Apply: Interested applicants should submit a resume, cover letter, character and professional references and availability schedule to:



OLYMPIA, WA (June 7, 2016) – Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy (WAAA) joined with other advocates for children with disabilities in filing an Amicus Brief in McCleary v State of Washington. This is the first Amicus Brief in the landmark school-funding case to focus on special education. Amicus Briefs are legal documents filed in appellate court cases by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter. The briefs advise the court of relevant, additional information or arguments that the court might wish to consider. Briefs also focus the court’s attention on the implications of a potential holding on a group or jurisdiction not represented by the parties. A well-written Amicus Brief can significantly impact judicial decision-making.

“More than 125,000 students in Washington have disabilities requiring special education. For a fair chance to succeed, these children must have special instruction designed to meet their individual needs,” the advocacy coalition’s brief says, adding, “the Legislature has paid for special education as if every student needs the same funding, instead of fully funding the actual costs of properly educating children with disabilities.”

The Supreme Court has been imposing sanctions of $100,000 a day against the State until it adopts a complete plan for complying with its constitutional duty to fully finance basic education. The State has asked for the sanctions to be lifted, but an analysis by Arc of Washington found serious special education funding gaps, thus denying part of basic education accessibility. For example, new state data shows:

  • The State allocates money to districts assuming 12.7 percent of each district’s student population in Kindergarten through 12th grade are enrolled in special education. However, at least 120 school districts currently have a greater percentage of special education students than the State pays for;
  • Large districts such as Seattle and Spokane spend millions of dollars more on special education than the State provides, using local tax levies to make up for the wide discrepancy between actual costs and State allocations.

Special education falls within the Legislature’s definition of “basic education,” which must provide broad educational opportunities and prepare all children to be self-supporting citizens. The Amicus Brief explains that the Legislature has overlooked the special needs of children with disabilities in planning funding reforms. In addition, the brief cites concerns that the current state budget grossly underfunds paraeducators, who provide nearly 60% of direct instruction to special education students in Washington State.

“When it comes to funding basic education, children with disabilities have the greatest needs, and their voice must be heard when determining if the ‘paramount duty’ to fully fund education has been met.  WAAA has helped provide that voice.” said Katherine George, of counsel, Harrison-Benis LLP and author of the Amicus Brief.

Two reports to the State Legislature outline the need for standards and other considerations in funding paraeducators in Washington:

A report citing some of the inadequacies of the current public education system to address the needs of students with disabilities was published in November 2014 by the Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds is available at The report recommended forming a Blue Ribbon Commission to tackle the unmet needs of vulnerable students with disabilities, creating an expert body to lead a coordinated multi-agency, cross-disciplinary approach within the education system.

WAAA commends the comments of Stacy Gillett, Executive Director for Arc of King County and former Director of the Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds: “Special education funding has eluded reforms in many important ways over the years. Classrooms designed in ways that are inaccessible to students with disabilities negatively impact all students, and, moreover, lead to poor educational outcomes for students with disabilities.”

To read the full brief, click here: MotionToFileamicusbrief