Join us April 26 for a presentation on gender diversity and autism 

xMindsWire April 2022

Join Us for "Gender Diversity and Autism"


Join xMinds Tuesday, April 26, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM, for an important online presentation exploring the intersection of autism and gender diversity. Our guest speaker, Zosia Zaks, M.Ed., C.R.C., will draw on his professional training and lived experience to discuss how parents can best understand and support autistic children who are also gender divergent.

Zosia Zaks has worked with autistic teenagers and adults for almost 20 years, including serving as program manager at Towson University’s Hussman Center for Adults with Autism, 2013–2022. Zosia brings his perspective as an autistic, transgender man and as a parent of neurodivergent teenagers. There will be plenty of time reserved for questions from the audience during the presentation, and you can also submit questions before the event when you register early. 

“Gender Diversity and Autism” will be held over Zoom, with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. Register for this free event to receive the link.

Zosia Zaks

xMinds Now Serving Preschool Families!


xMinds is excited to announce that we are launching a Preschool Parent Outreach Committee to help support our preschool parents. 

If you have an autistic child who is preschool age, or a recent preschool graduate, please join us for our first virtual parent discussion group, Monday, April 25, at 7:00 PM and then come to the fully accessible Wheaton Local Park on Saturday May 14, at 10:00 AM for our first in-person playground meetup. These are great opportunities to connect with other local families with preschool-age autistic children. Please help us spread the word.

Join our preschool playground meetup, Saturday, May 14 

The preschool years are a crucial time for autistic children, offering a window for early intervention. Many autistic children are diagnosed as preschoolers, and their families are searching for resources and for other parents who are on the same path. Our new committee, headed by xMinds board member Melanie Carlos, is here to help!

As part of our efforts to develop resources for the families of preschoolers, we’ve updated and expanded the Preschool page on the xMinds website. You’ll find the latest information about MCPS placements and services for children ages 3–5. We also created a road map to the IEP process for preschool-age children to help families get on the path toward receiving help.

Team xMinds Gears Up for “Bike to the Beach”


Team xMinds is gearing up for its Bike to the Beach fundraiser on Friday, July 29. This important fundraiser provides more than half of xMinds’ annual budget, ensuring that we can offer all our events and resources for free. Here’s how you can help make this fundraiser a success: 

If you want to show your support, please donate here. Every dollar raised will go toward xMinds programs, resources, and educator grants. 

If you want to “bike to the beach,” sign up here to join Team xMinds and ride with us on July 29. 

If you want to support the team as a volunteer, contact Jean Winegardner or Marci Skigen who are in charge of hosting the xMinds rest stop along the ride route. It’s fun to be part of the excitement and to cheer on the bike riders!

For more information about this fun and important event, visit the xMinds website.

The next practice ride is Sunday, April 17, 9:00 AM, at Hains Point in Washington, DC. Drop in -- no commitment required! It’s a fun way to meet other xMinds families. Please email our captain Patrick if you plan to join us, so we'll know to look for you! 

Register for Our FREE Mindfulness Course 


Are you looking for ways to relieve the stress of parenting? Join xMinds this May to learn some strategies in a free four-part seminar, “Introduction to Mindfulness for Autism Parents.” Facilitated by mindfulness teacher Magüi Moreno, this online course on Thursday nights is designed to help parents of autistic children reduce stress, increase wellbeing, understand our emotions, and connect better to our loved ones. 

A Bethesda mom to an 11-year-old autistic child, Magüi is a life coach and trained mindfulness teacher. She's currently becoming certified through the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program offered in conjunction with the Awareness Training Institute at the University of California at Berkeley. The class will be offered over Zoom, Thursdays, May 5, 12, 19, and 26, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM. And did we mention it's free? Join us!

Register Here

Magüi Moreno

Celebrate Autism Acceptance Month!


xMinds is thrilled to be participating in Autism Acceptance Month this April!  We are working toward a society that accepts autistic individuals as they are and views differences as part of what makes each of us unique in a neurodiverse society.

Check out the xMinds website for four fun ways that schools can participate in Autism Acceptance Month and spread the message of understanding and inclusion. See our community calendar for special Autism Acceptance Month events.

xMinds in the News!


President of the xMinds Board of Directors Jean Winegardner and Vice President Melissa Egan spoke out eloquently last week at Autism Acceptance Month events.  

Watch Jean’s powerful message advocating for inclusion of autistic students in general education as part of the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day observance, which focused this year on inclusive education. This was a worldwide virtual event on April 8 that featured a moderated panel discussion along with presentations by self-advocates, educators, and other experts. Jean’s video contribution begins at minute 3:34.    

And watch Melissa at the Montgomery County Council meeting on April 5, where Councilmembers Craig Rice, Gabe Albornoz, Will Jawando, and Sidney Katz present a Proclamation recognizing Autism Acceptance Month. This ceremony honored xMinds and other leaders and organizations supporting the local autism community. You can see Melissa’s moving remarks starting at minute 4:15, as she accepts the honor on behalf of xMinds. 

xMinds Vice President Melissa Egan was among the invited speakers at the Montgomery County Council proclamation of April as Autism Acceptance Month.

Educators: Apply for a Classroom Grant


xMinds is delighted to report that we’ve awarded more than 160 grants to MoCo educators this school year to help support autistic students. Educators are using the funds to purchase classroom materials geared toward autistic students and to attend training sessions on how to better support these learners. Have your child’s teachers and related-services providers received a grant yet? If not, encourage them to apply – limited funding remains.

We’re offering grants of up to $100 to purchase needed materials, such as noise-canceling headphones, weighted vests, fidgets, beanbag chairs, social stories, executive-function planners, and other items that help support autistic students. Professional trainings are funded up to $250.

The application is short and simple. Apply today!

Check out the xMinds Summer Camp Guide


Summer is just around the corner! To help you plan, xMinds has put together a guide to summer camps and programs that autistic kids have enjoyed in past years.

We've updated the information recently to include new offerings and additional details. Summer programs are starting to fill up, so check out our guide today!  

Did You Miss Our Webinar on Successful Inclusion of Nonspeakers in School?

Our March webinar featured a panel discussion exploring the experiences of two autistic nonspeakers who challenged the status quo and achieved full inclusion in their schools through 12th grade and college.

We were honored to hear from DJ Savarese and Lisa Vallado, who shared their insights on what makes inclusion work. Our third panelist was Tracy Harder, one of Lisa’s high school teachers, who played an integral role in making inclusion so successful for Lisa. 

You can view the recording on YouTube; a Spanish translation is also available. Remember, all our recent webinars are posted on the xMinds YouTube channel. Subscribe today!

For information on how to support nonspeaking autistic students, see the xMinds website.

DJ Savarese*

* Photo courtesy of Pamela Harvey Photography

Lisa Vallado

What Are Our Options for the Transition Year?

Did you miss the xMinds workshop earlier this month on "What Are Our Options for the Transition Year After High School?” Certified Educational Planner Judith Bass, founder of Bass Educational Services, LLC, provided an informative overview of transition year and gap year programs geared toward neurodiverse students, and answered a range of questions from families who are exploring options. You can catch the recording on the xMinds YouTube channel. A Spanish version is also available.

Judith Bass

Upcoming xMinds Events

xMinds events, resources, and memberships are always FREE

Sunday, April 17, 9:00 AM

Bike to the Beach Training Ride

Join Team xMinds at Hains Point as we train for the Bike to the Beach fundraiser. RSVP to team captain Patrick Quigley 

Sunday, April 24, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

People of the Global Majority 

Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic BIPOC child. Register here

Monday, April 25, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

Preschool Parents Discussion Group 

Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic preschool-age child. Register here

Tuesday, April 26,  7:00 – 8:30 PM

Gender Diversity and Autism

See the description above about our online presentation. Register here.

Wednesday, April 27, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

Let's Talk Transitions

Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child in middle or high school. Register here.

Wednesday, May 4, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

Hablemos Educación Especial

Online discussion group for Spanish-speaking MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child. Register here.

Thursdays, May 5, 12, 19, 26

7:00 – 8:30 PM

Introduction to Mindfulness for Autism Parents

Free mindfulness class for parents/guardians of an autistic child. Register here. 

Saturday, May 14, 10:00 – 11:00 AM

Preschool Playground Meetup 

Meet up with preschool families at Wheaton Local Park. Register here.

Community Calendar

The April calendar is FULL of great offerings. Check out the programs and many free events posted on our Events Calendar.

Look for special Autism Acceptance Month events listed for the weekend of April 2324.

Note: Our Events Calendar shows events on their start date, but some programs require you to apply before the start date, so please look ahead!

Professional Member Spotlight

As a benefit to both our families and professional members, xMinds publishes information about our professional members here in the xMindsWire as well as on our website. Inclusion does not constitute our endorsement. This month, xMinds would like to highlight the following new and renewing Professional Members:

Jean Hickey, M.Ed.

Silver Spring, MD

Contact: Jean Hickey;; 240-460-5306

Services: Individual educational therapy; academic tutoring/coaching; educational consulting; parent training and support

Jean Hickey has worked with children and adolescents with significant learning needs for more than 30 years. Jean works with children ages 3–21 and her experience covers the range of academic skills in addition to community, vocational, and life skills instruction. For the past 21 years, Jean has worked one-on-one with students to build skills in all areas. Jean works out of her office and in student homes and private schools. Jean has experience working with children on the Autism Spectrum as well as with children with Fragile X, Down Syndrome, Myotonic Dystrophy, Kabuki Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, and significant learning delays. Jean develops a hands-on, fun and individualized approach for each child and provides parents with information and skills to support their child. In addition to individual instruction and parent support, Jean also consults with team members and coordinates the focus of support among school-based and private therapists and teachers. Jean also develops home-based instruction for a team approach and has delivered presentations and led workshops for the xMinds community.

Naomi Rubinstein LLC

14202 Silent Wood Way, North Potomac, MD 20878

Contact: Naomi Rubinstein;; 301-509-9181

Services: Social skills therapy; Educational consulting; Special Education Advocacy; Academic tutoring/coaching; Behavioral support; Educator training; Serving children in kindergarten through eighth grade

Naomi Rubinstein, M.Ed., partners with families, educators, and therapists to create and execute individualized developmental plans to support student goals in areas such as social/emotional development, executive functioning, play, behavior, cognitive flexibility, academic learning, and sibling relationships. Naomi focuses on the whole child and family unit because she believes that understanding family dynamics is crucial for progress. Her practice is built on various research-based methodologies and utilizes children’s strengths and interests to support challenges. Naomi provides direct developmental support services to children; collaborates with schools and outside practitioners to ensure that strategies and accommodations are implemented in all settings; guides parents navigating special education services; and creates and executes trainings for educators.

Shefter Law, PA

110 N Washington St., Suite 350, Rockville, MD 20850

Contact: Frances Shefter;; 301-605-7303

Services: Special education law; Educational consulting

Shefter Law, PA, is a law firm dedicated to helping families have a "Stress-Free IEP" experience. Parents of children with special needs have a ton of demands on their time and energy. Learning the complexities of how to get your child’s school to meet his or her unique needs is just one more thing you do not need on your plate. As a former special education teacher, Frances Shefter is uniquely able to mix education and the law to help take the stress out of the IEP or 504 process. She aims to empower families with the knowledge and resources needed to help bring peace and harmony to their home.

Dr. Jamell White

Services primarily provided in offices located in Rockville and Bethesda, MD; Community-based support and virtual sessions also offered.

Contact: Dr. Jamell White;; 301-613-1766

Services: Psychological counseling; Social skills therapy; Behavioral support

Dr. Jamell White is a therapist specializing in working with children, adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities. She has over 20 years of experience providing individual and family therapy, social skills intervention, and care coordination for individuals with disabilities and their families. Dr. White is also a PEERS Certified Provider.

Dr. White has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree in social work from The Catholic University of America, a master’s degree in special education from Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate in Human Development and Quantitative Methodology from the University of Maryland. Dr. White is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry (child and adolescent) at Georgetown University School of Medicine as well as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

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