The Mayday Project gains further recognition of Chronic Lyme in Philly

Lyme patients gather in a peaceful protest at IDWeek (in Philadelphia, PA)

Last weekend The Mayday Project protested outside the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) conference in Philadelphia to support those suffering from Chronic Lyme Disease. Specifically they asked for improvement of the IDSA Lyme guidelines, which would allow for more regulated lab testing and treatment for those ill with the disease in its chronic form, which has been scientifically proven, yet not legally recognized.

According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector borne infectious disease in the US, estimating around 300,000 cases per year. Lyme disease is  multi-systemic, affecting even the nervous system, and multi-infectious, including more than just the dreaded Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, but also additional co-infections such as Babesia, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and produced biotoxins, to name a few. This makes the treatment for those chronically infected all the more complex without the right information, and many times unsuccessful with the standard 4 weeks of antibiotics. Documentaries such as Under Our Skin  and its sequel, Emergence explain some of the complexities of this invisible, yet very debilitating disease.

On October 10th and 11th,  the protesters stood at candlelight in front of the IDSA, encouraging them to revisit current scientific evidence proving the realities of Chronic Lyme, which would ultimately allow patients treatment. The  protest focused on the recognition of chronic Lyme, calling for more money for research and treatment. The answer isn’t necessarily longer antibiotics, rather it is recognition of ongoing infection, ongoing oppression of those afflicted, and a striking need for research of this plague that holds eerie resemblance to the 1980’s AIDS epidemic.

Some sufferers of Lyme disease are lucky enough to finally get the correct testing from a knowledgeable doctor, allowing for treatment, and leading to a path of recovery. Even so, many have encountered this only after years of shrugged shoulders from doctors, misdiagnosis, and continued medical isolation. Over 100 people were able to attend the protest in Philly, but hundreds of others shared their support through the live-stream event from home while sick in bed. Many more were still in the fight elsewhere– the fight with insurance companies, the fight with doctors to provide the correct testing, and the fight with their bodies simply to continue the fight.

More About The Mayday Project-

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Several members of The Mayday Project before convening with doctors at IDWeek

Josh Cutler founded the Mayday Project with Allison Caruana, after his friend’s life was taken by Lyme at 32-years-old. He was struck with the disease himself after a tick bite and forced to replace his career as an engineer with instead agonizing CNS, heart, and fatigue symptoms. After years of misdiagnosis he is finally seeing improvement and regaining his health. They now work with several others who were also touched by Lyme in some fashion: Amber Limbaugh, Tracy Will, Saby Mo, William Duggan, Angele Rice and Crystal OBarr, on the non-profit. They continue to raise awareness about the many injustices of the hundreds of thousands suffering with tick borne illness,  and work to encourage more research and advocacy about the disease. As more and more people continue to suffer, and as the numbers of those afflicted by tick borne illness grow, they will be standing in fight for the rights of those who need it most. “I have lost too many friends to this disease,” Josh says, “and I’m not ready to lose more.”

Restarting the Dialogue Around Income Inequality

English: Signs calling for government for the ...

Protesters Involved in the Occupy Movement

Remember the Occupy movement, which was so big a couple of years ago? Groups of people all over America staged sit-ins all over the country to protest the fact that the top 1% of Americans hold 40% of the nation’s wealth. But then, days led into weeks, and nothing happened. The people went home.

For the first time in history, the majority of policymakers in Congress are millionaires, which sets them apart from the constituents that they represent. And it’s no secret that there aren’t any big lobby groups throwing dollars at our legislators to take action that will narrow the income gap. If the 1% are making the laws and running the companies, then who is looking out for the 99%?

Here in Maryland, we have a low overall poverty rate, but one of the highest “deep poverty” rates in the country; illustrating the gap in income between the rich and the very poor. Individuals living in deep poverty often don’t have a consistent address at which they can receive benefits, and even if they do, food stamps, welfare and unemployment benefits are not enough to raise them out of poverty. A recent Johns Hopkins study shows that kids classified as “urban disadvantaged” are highly likely to maintain this low-income status into adulthood – illustrating the width and depth of poverty in these neighborhoods.

There are several promising programs that nonprofits have adopted to assist people living in poverty. Locally, Living Classrooms Foundation is providing comprehensive academic, social, and vocational services to kids living in East Baltimore through their Children’s Target Investment Zone initiative. A similar comprehensive service model is being adopted by the Crittenton Women’s Union to connect women with mentors who can assist them in obtaining programmatic assistance to better their lot.

However, there is a need for more than Band-Aid solutions. The millionaire and billionaire legislators and company owners have to take the lead in making systemic changes to give people the social support, education, training, and opportunities to make middle-class incomes.

What’s in it for them? Nick Hanauer, one of the .01%, makes a compelling argument in his Politico magazine article that it’s actually in the best interest of the wealthy to bridge the income gap between the very rich and very poor. He explains that, although he earns a thousand times more than the median American annually, he doesn’t buy a thousand times more pants or shirts per year. So it’s in the best interest of our capitalist economy to spread out the wealth. This is point that makes good business sense, and wealthy CEOs need to acknowledge that trickle-down economics doesn’t work if they want to continue fostering demand for their products.

Perhaps more importantly, legislators need to implement policies that address the systemic issues that perpetuate poverty. They will only take notice if voters come together as a strong voice advocating for these policies and insisting on income equality. And, short of starting up another Occupy movement, voting is something easy that each of us can do this November.

What are some other strategies that can be employed to reduce income inequality? Please comment below with your thoughts and opinions.


Searching For Natural Cures: The Power Of Medical Marijuana By: Hannah Rosenberger

Pot is no longer just for rebelling against the man…or your parents. Today marijuana has cut its long hair and is pushing its way forward into productive society. Despite a deeply imbedded cultural stigma attached to marijuana use, an objective look at its incredible health benefits could help it break through.

English: DEA raid on a medical marijuana dispe...

English: DEA raid on a medical marijuana dispensary in Hollywood, California. Description is from the Flickr photo set. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1972, the United States’ Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act. This based the ban of marijuana on the claim that it had “no acceptable medical use.” But in 2014 we know better. To date, twenty-three states (including Maryland) and the District of Columbia have all legalized the use of medically prescribed cannabis, numbers rising. Ten other states now allow for “low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)” products for medical applications. THC is what gets you the traditional psychedelic effects of marijuana, whereas CBD can be manipulated to treat disease.

This plant has been put to good use for a variety of medical practices. Marijuana has been prescribed to alleviate chronic pain, diabetes, glaucoma, and symptoms of the AIDS virus. Patients with Multiple Sclerosis and those severely disabled by muscle stiffness have reported after being given a liquid extract of marijuana in a 2004 study, that they experienced a considerable decrease in tremors and spasms. Cancer patients have been experimenting with marijuana to combat their disease for years. Many have found that using marijuana between treatments will reduce their symptoms by dulling the senses – patients report eased nausea, reduced vomiting, cured insomnia, and an increased appetite to combat their expected weight loss.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable uses for medical marijuana have come from the Stanley Brothers, the family who started the Charlotte’s Web™ breeding project. Named for the five year old girl who inspired their efforts, Charlotte’s Web is a low THC, high CBD strain of marijuana, bred by the brothers to treat cases of intractable epilepsy. So no, this strain was not made to intoxicate children; quite the opposite, as it was created to bring them back to the world. Charlotte Figi was the first to test this project – and her seizures stopped from Day 1.

There are no secondary effects to be seen from Charlotte’s Web. A person cannot overdose on this. The Stanley Brothers currently treat 180 epileptic children with Charlotte’s Web and have been finding even broader uses. Autistic kids who have never spoken before or moved, have learned to speak, and have learned to sit up on their own. A strain of marijuana which spent years being called the “hippies’ disappointment” for its lack of THC is now disappointing no one.

Marijuana researchers have found that the number of ailments becoming treatable by cannabis increases in correlation with its further application. The Institute Of Medicine issued a report stating “Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs, primarily THC, for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation…”

The Institute also found that smoked marijuana can have just as many adverse effects as positive, such as decreased lung function. Medical Marijuana is a different subject, largely because it is rarely ‘smoked’ in the traditional way. For those with chronic disease, and for those who have spoken with their doctor first, this could be the help they have been aching for.

What are your thoughts on Medical Marijuana? Do you think it should be more available to the chronically ill, or do you disagree with this premise? Please comment below.

Treating America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

A troubling fact to consider: firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans age 1-44. Even though African Americans make up about 13% of the U.S. population, this group is affected by over 54% of all firearm homicides. These statistics clearly show a racial disparity in terms of violence and public safety in our country.

English: Walther PPQ firearm

English: Walther PPQ firearm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For years, the government and social science field have focused on two seemingly ineffective methods to reduce gun violence:

  • Reactionary punishment measures, e.g., throwing people in prison
  • Programs that focus on fixing schools, homes, poverty, and family systems in an indirect effort to prevent future violence

Dr. Gary Slutkin, the Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Cure Violence, applied his knowledge from fighting international epidemic diseases such as cholera, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis to explain why these methods are not working and offer a new approach. In his TED Talk, Dr. Slutkin explained that punishment is not a main driver of behavior change, and successful preventive programs should focus on changing specific external factors rather than treating “everything on earth.”

After looking at maps and data for gun violence, Dr. Slutkin concluded that homicides are similar to infectious diseases in that they are clustered geographically, occur in waves, and the greatest predictor for new cases are preceding cases within the observed community. From these observations, he proposed that the steps to reduce gun violence should follow the same principles that are used to reverse disease epidemics:

  1. Interrupt transmission
  2. Prevent future spread
  3. Shift the norms

The nonprofit Cure Violence applied these principles in their programs, hiring violence interrupters from within the community to interrupt and prevent violence, incorporating outreach workers to prevent future spread by giving affected community members six months of ‘therapy,’ and implementing community activities and public education to shift the norms.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Center for Disease Control, and Johns Hopkins have commissioned studies replicating this approach in 11 communities. So far, 16% of shootings and 34% of killings have been directly reduced as result of this program, and communities where the program is implemented have experienced an overall 41% reduction in shootings and 73% killings as a result of gun violence.

This new approach could ultimately signify a shift in the way that gun violence is prevented throughout the country, and therefore reduce the number of African Americans and other racial/ethnic groups who are injured or killed every year.

What do you think about this strategy of treating gun violence like an infectious disease? Please comment below and let us know.

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The Right to Control What is Inalienably Ours

A poster from a 1921 eugenics conference displ...

A poster from a 1921 eugenics conference displays the U.S. states that had implemented sterilization legislation by then (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an African-American woman activist, both racial justice and gender equality are important to me.  Thus, I was appalled when I read about the state of North Carolina’s history with eugenic sterilizations.  North Carolina sterilized 7,600 people through its sweeping eugenic sterilization program and “the targets of the sterilization were disproportionately Black and female, and almost universally poor.”

Johanna Schoen, a Rutgers University historian who has extensively documented the state’s eugenics policy, stated, “The eugenic sterilization really was an attempt to control the reproduction of women on welfare more than anything else.”

North Carolina’s eugenic sterilizations is an example of what can happen when you dehumanize people based upon race, gender, and socio-economic status.  Once you dehumanize a ‘class’ of people, then it becomes easier to treat them like animals.

We are not animals, thus we do not need to be controlled.  We are human beings, and as such, we deserve to be treated with respect.

Today, across the United States, women’s health, including reproductive rights, continue to be attacked, encroached upon, and is the subject of congressional testimonies, Supreme Court rulings, and local, state-based initiatives.

How many times do we have to speak out against ignorance a la “…in instances of ‘legitimate rape’ women’s bodies somehow block an unwanted pregnancy…” and “…when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege…,” before the nonsense ceases?

Women’s rights are human rights, therefore, it is in every human being’s interest to respect and advocate for our ability to control what is inalienably ours – our health.

Do you agree?

From Vacants to Vegetables: How do I build a garden By: James McComas

Cross-posted from UNspOILed

Read original article here:

As reported in my last post, I obtained rights to build a community garden on a vacant lot from the City of Baltimore. But I have never actually gardened, and had no idea how to build a garden from scratch. After doing my homework, and looking into examples of urban gardens online and around the city, I had a better idea of where to start. So this is what I had to start with (see above). Not so great in the natural light department, but at least there wasn’t any trash to clean up!

The lot. 414 E 26th Street, Baltimore, MD. Not much to start with, but at least there is no trash.

Before you do anything, you should put a sign up on your lot to let neighbors and passersby know what is happening to the lot. Feel free to give it a name, something fun and quirky. You should also consider providing contact information, like an email address, in case people have questions or want to join in. I named my plot The Kailyard, the Scots name for a cabbage patch or vegetable garden. I got a friend to help paint the sign for me, as I lack artistic skills.


The Kailyard. An adopted community garden. Such a pretty sign. Although the wind has already given it quite a beating.

The second thing you should do is measure your plot so that you know how much land you have to garden with. This will help you determine how much you can grow, and if you are growing with others, how much space you have to divide up. You should also determine what type of soil you have. Generally there are six types of soil: clay soil, sandy soil, silty soil, peaty soil, chalky soil and loamy soil. Each type is better for growing different things. Here is a good guide that I used. You should also get a soil tester kit to determine the pH and levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium, the three main nutrients. I decided to go withLuster Leaf because it is cheap and reliable, but most tests get the job done.

Next you need to determine where exactly you will plant in your plot. You can plant most vegetables straight into the soil, after tilling and fertilizing, but raised garden beds fight erosion, help with drainage and give greater exposure to the sun. They are fairly simple to build, and a variety of guides are available online, as well as kits to purchase at home improvement stores. I chose the simple route and decided to build 3-foot by six-foot beds out of six, six-foot long 2″x4″s, using only a hammer, a saw and some nails. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on lumber and tools, because all it was going to do was hold dirt (experts recommend using cedar lumber, as it is rot resistant.) So I headed to a local re-purposing store, Second Chance, Inc., that sells reclaimed lumber for cheap. They are a non-profit organization that deconstructs buildings and sells the materials for cheap. I will need to build a few more, and get some more dirt to fill in, but it is a start.


One raised garden bed. I will need to build a few more to fully utilize the space.

I also decided to build a composting pit. While there are many different types available for purchase, I wanted to see how a simple wood enclosure would fare, and bought some re-purposed barn wood to throw something simple together. Composting in the city can be quite the arduous task, so be sure to know what you are getting into. Check out this composting guide that we posted on composting in the city a little while back for some great tips.


Composting pit. Nothing pretty, but it is holding kitchen waste after all.

In preparation for the growing season, you should begin to think about what you want to plant and, if all goes well, eat! You should plant a variety of vegetables in each garden bed in order to protect against disease and keep healthy soil. But don’t get too eager and start planting right away; you should wait until the middle of May to start sowing your seeds, as frost can kill off young seedlings. Some vegetables, like pepper and tomato plants, can and should be started in-doors and transplanted to the garden after a couple of weeks. I got a start on both peppers and tomatoes in some in-door pots.


The beginnings of a bell pepper plant. Amazing what some sun, water and good soil can do to a tiny little seed.

The growing has yet to begin, but progress has been made. Check back in May to see how the plants are doing, and if the rats have been kept out of my compost!

Reducing Obesity while Revitalizing America’s Cities

English: Photo of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma mayo...

English: Photo of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma mayor Mick Cornett. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a period of five years, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was able to rally citizens and policy makers to simultaneously accomplish two seemingly unrelated and ambitious tasks – reduce obesity among residents while drawing a new group of educated “20-something” Americans to live and work in the city.

It all began when Men’s Fitness magazine ran an article in 2007 that ranked Oklahoma City as #7 on a list of “America’s Fattest Cities.” Obesity is a health issue that affects more than one-third of Americans, leading to an estimated $147 billion in annual medical costs to treat the resulting conditions of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

For Mayor Cornett, it was a wake-up call to find out that Oklahoma City was one of the most obese cities in a country struggling with obesity rates. He publically declared “This city is going on a diet!” and proposed that the city lose a total of one million pounds. Citizens began to rally, forming fitness and support groups in churches, schools and workplaces. People entered their progress on the website

Meanwhile, policy makers ramped up city planning measures to make streets safe and walkable, adding health-related infrastructure such as new parks, hundreds of miles of new sidewalk, senior health and wellness centers, and a street car system. Streets were re-designed to be pedestrian friendly, with shorter cross-walks and new sidewalks developed between schools and homes. Local youth were encouraged to take part in new canoe, kayak, and rowing programs that were started on the river.

Within five years, Oklahoma City succeeded in dropping one million pounds, and went from being on the Men’s Fitness list of “America’s Fattest Cities” to its list of “America’s Fittest Cities.”

And, something unexpected happened along the way. Young people, who had been leaving Oklahoma City in droves for several decades to settle on the east or west coasts, began staying. In fact, a large number of educated “20-something” Americans began flocking to Oklahoma City from other parts of the region and all over the country.  People wanted to live in a city that offered safe and walkable streets, and a revitalized downtown area.

If all mayors and city planners across America could follow Oklahoma City’s example, then our country could become less obese and healthier, possibly leading our cities to become even more attractive destinations for home buyers and renters. Let’s maximize our investment by challenging our residents and policy makers to reduce obesity in communities across America.

Do you think that this approach would work in your city or town? Please comment below and let us know.

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Nature Deficit Disorder: It’s a thing

Cross-posted from Nature Deficit Disorder – It’s a Thing– UNspOILed. Read original post here.

View from Buzzard Rock in George Washington Na...

View from Buzzard Rock in George Washington National Forest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently returned from a three day backpacking trip in a remote area of the George Washington National Forest. It was a much needed vacation from my urban-focused life, allowing me to reconnect with nature, and helping ward off symptoms of Nature Deficit Disorder. Yes, that is a thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in the city, and actually prefer it to a rural or suburban lifestyle. But as someone who has also spent significant periods of their life residing in rural places, I recognize the countless emotional and physical advantages that engaging with nature on a regular basis provides. Escapes to the countryside or hikes in the wilderness are a necessary part of my life, and are a large part of what I discussed earlier in my post Why I Walk: A Pedestrian Manifesto.

Richard Louv coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Wilderness. Louv makes the argument that today, children are becoming increasingly isolated from, and even afraid of, nature, spending large amounts of time indoors, often staring at screens. He further argues that this lack of interaction with the natural world results in a wide range of behavioral and health problems. While Louv sees this as a more recent phenomenon, its origins date back to the industrial revolution and urbanization in the 18th and 19th centuries.

How, then, do we reconcile our urban lifestyles with the desire and need to connect with nature in order to ensure both physical and mental health? A chapter in Louv’s book, “Eden in a Vacant Lot,” suggests that even small, untended pieces of land offer opportunities for exploration and discovery of nature, and rejoices the tens of thousands of vacant lots in Detroit as providing countless opportunities for this.

Patrick Geddes's regional plan of a valley section.

Patrick Geddes’s regional plan of a valley section.

However, if we are to truly integrate nature into the lives of city dwellers, we need to think beyond vacant lots. Patrick Geddes, an early 20th century Scottish urban planner, did just that. Geddes believed that urban areas were the ideal space for human existence, but recognized that this built environment must be part of a broader region that encompassed the historic environments and experiences of our shared past. He realized that cities are not vacuums (leading him to invent the term “conurbation”), and that our existence in them should likewise not be in a vacuum. We should not only interact with people from all walks of life, but we should interact with all different types of environments (this can best be seen in his plan for the White City in Tel Aviv.)

Just because you live in a city does not mean you can’t explore nature. Go to a park, walk along a waterfront, and if you are lucky and able, go for a long hike or walk just outside your city limits. It will do your mind and body a wealth of good.

Veterans Die…Waiting for Medical Care


VETERANS DAY 2013 (Photo credit: arbyreed)

We sing the national anthem with pride, take the day of November 11th to remember those who served our country, wear “Support Our Troops” paraphernalia, and thank veterans for risking their lives…but what does it matter if we fail to accommodate their health upon return?

I am extremely disappointed with the recent medical record fraud in Phoenix, VA. According to a recent preliminary report, “at least 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled an appointment and were never placed on a wait list at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix, raising the question of just how many may have been ‘forgotten or lost’ in the system.”

Unfortunately, this is not as rare as we may think. The report also states that “forty-two VA medical centers across the country (are) now under investigation for possible abuse of scheduling practices.” What is even more disheartening is the fact that it took at least 40 veterans to die while waiting for medical appointments to eventually prompt an investigation into this tragedy.

The way our heroes have been treated is absolutely unacceptable.

As these investigations continue, here are a few things we can do:

  • Contact your member of Congress and ask that they draft and/or support legislation that would create more liaison positions for veterans to speak to about grievances, and get the help they need in a timely fashion.
  • Volunteer at veteran support organizations.
  • Vote to get rid of local representatives that are not addressing the needs of veterans; vote in people with a track record of supporting veterans and/or solid plans for doing so

Though I am very disappointed and saddened that many of those who have served our country remain affected by flawed medical practices, causing them to fall through the cracks, I do not want my present sentiments to overshadow my constant gratitude to our troops.  To all of our veterans – thank you!

Please comment below on how we can support and ensure that our troops have access to quality and timely medical care.

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A Meaningful Work-Life Experience for Autistic Adults

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  It is nearly impossible to identify how many adults in the United States are on the autism spectrum.  This is because the research and knowledge around autism has rapidly increased in recent years – giving the appearance that there are more children than adults with autism, however there is research to support that autistic adults suffer from health disparities at a higher rate than non-autistic adults.

autism awareness

autism awareness (Photo credit: Send Chocolate)


According to Autism Speaks, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.  These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.  ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues.  These characteristics – alone or combined – can hinder adults from securing jobs and maintaining employment.


According to a study released at the International Meeting for Autism Research, people with ASD are more likely to suffer from depression, high blood pressure, and obesity than people who do not have the disorder.  Additionally, adults on the autism spectrum often have health issues associated with social isolation, such as alcohol use and smoking.  Key results for autistic versus non-autistic adults include:

  • Depression:  38 percent vs. 17 percent
  • Suicide attempts:  1.6 percent vs. .3 percent
  • High blood pressure:  27 percent vs. 19 percent
  • Cholesterol problems:  26 percent vs. 18 percent
  • Obesity:  27 percent vs. 16 percent
  • Alcohol use:  23 percent vs. 53 percent
  • Smoking:  16 percent vs. 30 percent

In addition to facing an increased occurrence for health disparities, adults with autism generally need some form of assistance, counseling and/or coaching with the following life skills:

  • Establishing and maintaining personal and professional relationships
  • Finding an appropriate living arrangement
  • Learning and improving upon communication skills
  • Seeking and maintaining employment

Exceptional Minds, a non-profit vocational center and animation studio for young adults on the autism spectrum, seeks to provide life skills resources to young autistic professionalsExceptional Minds is committed to creating a world in which individuals on the autism spectrum are recognized for their talents and abilities.  The vocational school provides young adults with customized instruction and hands-on experience to earn a living in the fields of multi-media, computer animation and post production.  Next month, the school/job-training program will graduate its first nine students.

The Exceptional Minds program provides adults with ASD with life skills, real world experience and job training, but more importantly, gives students the “tools and confidence to achieve dreams” as illustrated in this video:

I am hopeful that as we continue to learn more about adults living with ASD, companies and organizations will follow Exceptional Minds’ lead in providing young autistic professionals with job opportunities and a meaningful work-life experience.

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