Empowering Through Information and the Fostering of Connections
Love. Acceptance. Intervention. Civil Rights. December 13, 2019

In This Issue

Please Share This Newsletter and Facebook Page!!!

Happy Holidays - Taking a Break!

Studies of gaze could improve diagnosis, treatment of autism

Family matters in autism outcomes

Companies selling risky stem cell products receive FDA warning

"Mentally Incompetent to Vote" - How Adults with Severe Autism Are Systematically Disenfranchised

Family and Others Looking for Help!!!

Life Guide Coaching

Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Driving

Groups for children, teens and young adults enrolling now!

San Diego Sockers Autism Speaks Night

RDI and MORE at Therapeutic Approach to Growth

Research Study at SDSU

New SDRC Vendor - Behavior Support - San Diego Start

FREE!! - IEP Parent Bootcamp

Farmer's Insurance Open Benefitting NFAR

San Diego's Best Map of Christmas Lights!

Supported Employment with Comprehensive Cognitive Enhancement & Social Skills Training

Executive Function Intervention


Please Share This Newsletter and Facebook Page!!!

ValeriesList is a FREE resource newsletter and Facebook Page for San Diego County and has been for over 20 years, with a weekly reach of 50,000! No fees, donation or membership are required to receive this info. An informed public makes better decisions for its' persons with Special Needs. Please share with friends, family, fellow professionals and clients!!! Click here to check out my FB page! Thank YOU!

  • Happy Holidays - Taking a Break!
  • Hi Readers!!!

    I am going to take a break from publishing this newsletter during the holidays. The next edition will be January 3, 2020!!! My FB page will still be live so you can check that out here:

    My son Tony and I would like to wish you all a happy and safe holiday season!!! See you next year!

    Valerie Dodd Saraf

  • Studies of gaze could improve diagnosis, treatment of autism
  • Autistic people look at the world differently than others do. Even the earliest descriptions of autism noted atypical gaze as a key feature of the condition. Since then, it has become accepted that people with autism do not make the type of eye contact others generally expect - sometimes it's too little, sometimes too much.

    Yet there has been considerable debate as to whether gaze differences actually exist, what they look like and whether they are important to understand. Is studying gaze in autism just an academic pursuit, or could it enhance the lives of people on the spectrum?

    Our work suggests that gaze differences exist and that understanding them can improve the lives of people with autism. Read on...

  • Family matters in autism outcomes
  • Cognition is influenced by siblings, researchers find. Autistic children with autistic siblings have better cognition than those who are the only family member with the condition, researchers have found. Importantly, the outcome does not depend on birth order.

    Although previous studies have identified that having autistic siblings leads to better cognition for individual children with the condition, it was assumed that the order in which the children were born was a significant factor.

    ''To date it has been thought that second-born autistic children would have better cognition because the parents already have experience and adapt their approach accordingly,'' says Dr. Lauren Lawson from La Trobe University's Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre. Read on...

  • Companies selling risky stem cell products receive FDA warning
  • The FDA have issued warnings to several companies that had been selling medical products derived from umbilical cord blood.

    Umbilical cord blood is a great source of stem cells. These are unspecialized cells that have the ability to transform into virtually any type of cell.

    For this reason, stem cell therapy is becoming increasingly sought after for the treatment of all sorts of conditions and physical injuries. This is despite the fact that research into this form of therapy is still in its early stages in many ways.

    This is also why the FDA have issued detailed and strict regulationsTrusted Source regarding which products derived from umbilical cord blood can receive approval to be sold to medical professionals and their patients, as well as under what conditions.

    Recently, however, the FDA identified several companies that were selling umbilical cord-derived products without their approval. Read on...

  • "Mentally Incompetent to Vote" - How Adults with Severe Autism Are Systematically Disenfranchised
  • When my son Jonathan was evaluated by a court investigator as part of the conservatorship process shortly before he turned 18, she probed for evidence that he might be competent to vote.

    In California, the bar is actually pretty minimal. The court presumes that a person subject to a conservatorship (what you would call a guardianship in other states) is competent to vote. But this person may be declared "mentally incompetent" and therefore disqualified if the court, or in rare cases, a jury, finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person cannot communicate, with or without reasonable accommodations, a desire to participate in voting.

    But Jonny has a form of autism so severe that in truth, he cannot communicate any desire to participate in voting - through words, AAC, signs, gestures, or even grunts. Although it's impossible to know what thoughts might be popping in the deep recesses of the mysterious Jonny mind, there is no evidence he has any comprehension of any concepts relating to government, voting or democracy. Jonny's measurable cognitive level is all of about 18 months, on a good day. Read on...

  • Family and Others Looking for Help!!!

  • Do you receive SSI? Don't miss out on food benefits!
    Beginning June 2019, many Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will become eligible for CalFresh Food Benefits.

    There is NO CHANGE or reduction to SSI/SSP amounts. For more information Click, Call or Come in to your county office to apply and find out more.

    Click to apply online
    Call 1-877-847-3663 (FOOD)
    Come in/find an office at

    San Diego Futures - I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of this organization because it can be a helpful resource to families in need of computers and other technology who may not have the resources they need to secure technology for their homes. If anyone needs a laptop or desktop and cannot afford one, please consider reaching out to this group. Desktops and laptops are available at VERY low prices for eligible families.

    Our son recently got diagnosed with Autism and we are currently trying to setup RESPITE services for him.

    We were approved for 8hrs of RESPITE per month. We selected "24HourHomeCare" as our RESPITE agency. The agency mentioned that they don't have care givers available at this point and we were asked if we knew anyone that can join 24HourHomeCare.

    Can you please help us find caregivers specialized in Autism and someone that can provide us RESPITE services.
    Thanks, Kalyani.

    I'm looking for recommendations of a psychologist or psychiatrist experienced in working with adults with autism. My 32 yr. old son has recently developed anxiety and signs of hypochondriasis. Has anyone had experience with someone they would recommend or not recommend? Any help is greatly appreciated. Sharon

    I would love to find a theatre, dance or improv teacher to volunteer teach at my son's school in Poway. They're 18 -22 years old. Can you help? Thank you.

    Seeking Special Needs Ministry Team Volunteers
    I am seeking any volunteers who would be interested to be part of a developing Volunteer Special Needs Ministry Team I have proposed already onboard Miramar Base starting with the Catholic Community at Airman & Marine Memorial Chapel. I am in the beginning planning phase and hoping will be approved . I envision making the Special needs ministry all inclusive meaning for all disabilities if possible and for all ages . I was also envisioning the team to be comprised of but not limited too support volunteers of professionals like a BCBA who could help with addressing any challenging behaviors that may arise , Special education or Faith formation teachers who have experience working with children and adults with special needs so could help modify the curriculum and help with materials , interpreter for the deaf on an as need basis , speech therapist who could help with creating social stories and other communication and social needs , occupational therapist who could help with sensory regulation needs and more , guest speakers for informational sessions may be offering and more .You do not need to be military but that would be most welcomed as we are serving the military community on board Miramar . If all goes well and receive permission to proceed forward with my proposal then would like in the future to include the other faith based communities served on base . As mentioned this is a team I am currently forming so wanted to reach out to the Special Needs Community to see if any of you are interested to volunteer your time to assist me. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if interested to Michele at

    Looking for LVN for respite in North County
    Regional Center determined my son needs LVN-level respite care because he might need medication by mouth if he has a seizure. Having a very hard time finding anyone. (We live in Encinitas.) If you have any leads, please email me at

    If you have a question or request for this newsletter group, please send your email request to People who can help you will email you directly with their responses.

  • Life Guide Coaching
  • Over the years, I have found that the stress experienced by families with special needs is often the least talked about challenge. I'm choosing to talk about it and address it.

    Making a difference is always high on my priority list. Working with families with special needs gives me the opportunity to make a difference, one family at a time. It feels familiar and comfortable. It's like a second skin.

    Many of the families I work with share some common traits. The level of stress. The physical exhaustion. The guilt of never doing enough. The resilience. The search for more. The unwavering hope.

    Stress actually affects our ability to be creative, shift perspective, and problem solve. This neurological process can contribute to staying stuck for a long time, as stress prevents us from seeing that anything else is possible. When we see a solution, we may struggle making it happen.

    Although slowing down may seem counterintuitive, it can lead to increased growth for the child and parents. The guilt to taking any personal time and to never doing enough for the child can be crippling and affect everyone in the family.

    My professional experience brings over 30 years of knowledge and understanding rooted in hands-on practice. I support parents in making sense of sensory driven behaviors, creating more independence, finding ways to teach emotional and social skills, and improving the child's quality of life.

    My personal life experience brings compassion, patience, and the ability to truly listen without judging. I know how to create a space where my clients feel safe to reflect and consider new options, even when emotions run high.

    All of us, with special needs or not, have the power to continually grow and become the best version of ourselves. I strive to find ways to support people to grow, even under the most adverse circumstances.

    My role is to guide you and support you in creating positive changes for your entire family. I root for my clients - children and parents alike. I get excited when I see my clients overcoming challenges and creating more meaningful lives for themselves.

    Change is difficult - for all of us. If you feel that you could use extra support and guidance, I'd love to partner with your family!

    Chris Vinceneux, OTR/L
    Occupational Therapist - Consultant - Life Coach

  • Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Driving
  • A cognitive behavioral intervention for teens and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Anxiety or related conditions to reduce driving-related anxiety by teaching executive functioning and emotional regulation skills.

    Intricate Mind Institute
    2247 San Diego Ave #136
    San Diego, CA 92110
    (858) 205-9809
    Total Program Costs is $650.00

  • Groups for children, teens and young adults enrolling now!
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    Wondering if your child might benefit from joining a group? Give us a call at 858-558-9552 to schedule a free consultation.

    Social Communication Specialists
    5703 Oberlin Dr., Ste 207
    San Diego, CA 92121
    (858) 558-9552

  • San Diego Sockers Autism Speaks Night
  • Sunday, December 29, 2019 at 4:25 PM - 8 PM
    Pechanga Arena San Diego
    3500 Sports Arena Blvd, San Diego, California 92110

    Join us at Pechanga Arena to watch the San Diego Sockers take on Soles De Sonora. The Sockers are proud to offer Autism Speaks discounted tickets and the chance to participate in the Parade of Champions.

    PS it's also Star Wars theme night!

    Parade starts at 4:25pm and the game kicks off at 5:05pm.

    **Please be aware this is not necessarily a sensory-friendly event. If your child is sensitive to noise, we recommend bringing noise cancelling headphones or earplugs in case the stadium is loud.**

    Click here to get your tickets!!!

  • RDI and MORE at Therapeutic Approach to Growth
  • Therapeutic Approach to Growth believes that every individual is unique and has the potential for significant growth. We assume and foster competence while honoring family values and priorities. Our holistic approach is built upon trusting, supportive relationships and collaboration between disciplines and families.

    We specializing in the development and implementation of individualized comprehensive programs utilizing Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), Occupational Therapy, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing, Applied Behavior Analysis, Art Therapy, and Life Balance Yoga Therapy.

    Offering support in the San Diego, Carlsbad, Orange County, and the Inland Empire.

    In addition to supporting our clients directly, we offer guidance to parents, grandparents, therapists, teachers, siblings, school staff, babysitters etc.

    Therapeutic Approach to Growth
    (858) 689-2027

  • Research Study at SDSU
  • One of our Center members leads a project focusing on improving mental health services for youth with ASD. Caregivers of youth with autism who have experience with children's outpatient mental health services are invited to participate! Contact Dr. Kelsey Dickson ( and see the flyer for more information.

  • New SDRC Vendor - Behavior Support - San Diego Start
  • San Diego Start. Start is a "wrap around" support program for people aged 6+ who are a SDRC client, has a history of behavioral and/or mental health challenges and who have been hospitalized. Services include: consultation and training, community partnerships, crisis plan development, therapeutic coaching, crisis prevention and interventions. San Diego Start is the result of a collaborative initiative with the SDRC and Exodus Recovery. Contact your SDRC service coordinator for more info.

  • FREE!! - IEP Parent Bootcamp
  • Saturday, January 11th and Saturday, January 18th, 2020
    Sponsored by Sanford Autism Consulting (
    Location: ARTC (Autism Resource and Training Center)
    11770 Bernardo Plaza Ct. #116, San Diego, CA 92128

    Cost: 99$/session/$198 for complete course - I have become vendored through the Regional Center, so the entire 2-part course is free for parents. Vendor# PY2076

    Just need to apply through their Regional Center case manager and on my site: Click here!!!

    IEP Bootcamp Series, Part 1 : Advocate like a Pro!

    IEP Bootcamp Series, Part 2 : Parents Empowered

    Presentation by Crystal Y. Sanford, M.Ed., M.A. CCC-SLP and autism mom!!!

  • Farmer's Insurance Open Benefitting NFAR
  • Looking for great holiday gifts? We have Farmers Insurance Open Tickets for only $35! (This is $30 OFF the regular price!)

    Tickets for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, January 22-26, 2020 can be purchased through NFAR for just $35 each and mailed to you.

    • Tickets provide same access to the Tournament as the $65 tickets!
    • NFAR tickets are good for any one day during the tournament.
    • Every ticket purchased through NFAR gives $25 to autism initiatives!
    To purchase tickets: click HERE or call NFAR at (858) 679-8800. We thank you for your support!

  • San Diego's Best Map of Christmas Lights!
  • It's the most magical time of the year which means San Diego's Best Map of Christmas Lights is back and brighter than ever! Take a tour of San Diego's dazzling light displays and decorations with our hand-picked guide to all the holiday magic. Our interactive map is organized by neighborhood with Google Map directions to help you find your favorite spots. A print version of the Map of Lights is also available in the December issue on stands now! Click here for all the info!!!

  • Supported Employment with Comprehensive Cognitive Enhancement & Social Skills Training
  • A program, adapted for adults with ASD from evidence-based compensatory cognitive training, to develop the soft skills necessary for employment.

    Intricate Mind Institute
    2247 San Diego Ave #136
    San Diego, CA 92110
    (858) 205-9809

  • Executive Function Intervention
  • Based on neuroscience research, the program is developed to enhance Executive Functioning skills used to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, being flexible, paying attention, remembering, & managing time & space.

    Intricate Mind Institute
    2247 San Diego Ave #136
    San Diego, CA 92110
    (858) 205-9809

  • ASD Mornings at the NAT

  • The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is pleased to offer a program for the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community: a once-a-month ASD Morning in which the Museum opens early for adults and children on the autism spectrum and their families, friends, and caregivers. This innovative program encourages individuals to explore, play, and discover the treasures The Nat has to offer in an environment that is comfortable for them.

    ASD Mornings take place the second Sunday of every month. The Museum will open at 9 AM*, one hour earlier than its standard 10 AM opening time, providing a quiet and less-crowded environment for visitors to explore the Museum's galleries at their own pace. In addition, on ASD Mornings the Museum will offer a "quiet room" from 9 AM to noon if visitors need a quiet space to decompress or desensitize. General admission rates apply during ASD Mornings.

  • Autism Accessibility Morning at the Fleet!

  • The third Saturday of every month, Fleet invites the Autism Spectrum Community to enjoy our museum through this special opportunity. Adults and families with children with autism can enjoy the Fleet's exhibit galleries in a quieter setting, an hour before regular open hours to the general public and with access to a special cool-off space. Visitors are welcome to stay and enjoy the museum all day. Admission includes a special IMAX film screening at 10 a.m. with the house lights on and a lower soundtrack volume.

    For more information, visit

  • Everyone Deserves a Loving Home

  • Contact Lynn Scott for more information 619-954-7847 or

  • Autism Through the Lifespan

  • Please RSVP for Spanish Translation support

    For further information, please contact:
    Carolyn Carterette, M.A. (619) 725-8080 email:
    Grace Fantaroni, Ed.D. (619) 563-2839 email

  • Therapeutic Recreation Services - Winter Calendar 2019

  • Here is the TRS Newsletter for Winter of 2019.

    First day of registration is Saturday, November 16th at 10:00 a.m.

    You may register online or at our office at the War Memorial Building (3325 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101). If you plan on paying at the office, please remember we no longer take cash as a payment.

    If you have any questions, please contact the office at (619) 525-8247.

  • Toddler MRI Study at SDSU

  • Our Center's research arm, the Brain Development Imaging Labs, is conducting a fascinating study looking at how young children's brains change as they get older. We are looking for kids (15 months to 5 years old) who are on the spectrum or who are suspected to have autism. Participants get a free assessment (plus assessment summary), free MRI scan, $150, AND a free picture of their brain! For more info or to sign up, please call us at 619-594-2500 or email us at Thank you!

  • Participate in SPARK at UCSD

  • UC San Diego's Autism Center of Excellence is seeking individuals diagnosed with ASD and their biological family members to participate in SPARK, the largest national genetics research project in US history! The SPARK study aims to gain a better understanding of the causes and potential treatments of autism by building a cohort of 50,000 diagnosed individuals to facilitate research on an unprecedented scale. There is NO cost to participate in the study and it can even be completed without leaving the house!

    What we do
    SPARK researchers extract genetic data through a saliva sample and analyze information collected from thousands of people with autism and their biological parents. UCSD and over 20 of the nation's leading medical schools are part of this effort.

    How to join*
    1. Sign up online at -- registration typically takes about 20 minutes. Using this link connects you to our site, which enables us to better follow up with you if you encounter any issues or have specific questions.
    2. Complete a few questionnaires online.
    3. Provide a saliva sample. A saliva collection kit will be sent directly to your home after registration. When you are done, simply mail it back in the prepaid mailer.

    Benefits of joining
    1. Individuals with autism will receive gift cards valued at up to a total of $50 for participation.
    2. SPARK hosts monthly webinars, featuring psychologists, researchers, or speakers from the autism community, that provide useful information for families and individuals with autism.
    3. If a genetic finding is discovered related to the cause of autism, results will be shared back with families.
    4. The information you provide may help others with ASD for generations to come!

    *Our site also offers the option for home appointments where a member of our SPARK team can come to your home and assist you in the registration process, collect the saliva samples, and mail them in for you! This is typically the preferred method for families as everything gets completed at once. Please note that we ask that both biological parents and individual diagnosed with ASD be present for these appointments. We can accommodate a variety of dates and times outside normal business hours on the weekdays or weekends -- whichever is most convenient for you and your family! Alternatively, we can also schedule in-clinic appointments at our office if that is preferred.

    You can visit our SPARK FAQ page for additional details. Please contact us via email at or via phone at 858-534-6906 if you would like to set up an appointment or if you have any questions!

  • Older Adults with Autism (40-75 yrs old) Needed for Study

  • We are looking for older adults with autism (40-75 yrs old) to be in our brain imaging study! Anyone with a diagnosis or suspects that she or he has autism is invited to reach out to us. Participants receive a free assessment, free MRI brain scan, and around $150! If you know anyone who might be interested in this, please have them email or call us at 619-594-0176. Thank you!

  • SDSU Center for Autism Brain Study Needs Volunteers!

  • The SDSU Center for Autism is conducting a behavioral and brain imaging study with youth (7-21 years old) on the spectrum. We are trying to understand how the brain changes as children become young adults. Participants get a free assessment, a free MRI scan, about $150, and a free picture of their brain! If you are interested, call us at 619-594-0176, or email us at Thank you!


    I never endorse anyone or anything. Opinions expressed in what I send out, may not be shared by me. Everything is for informational purposes only.
    People who "advertise" through this newsletter have never been checked out by me. Same goes for the "Sponsors". This includes professionals and even people who are interested in babysitting, etc. So, please take the time to thoroughly check out anyone and everyone who will be working with or caring for your child/adult. We are all sadly aware, through news stories and word of mouth, of people who prey upon special needs children and adults because of their extra vulnerability.

    Valerie Dodd-Saraf
    President, Foggy Coast Ventures, Inc.