The Oaracle Organization for Autism Research
Organization for Autism Research Monthly E-Newsletter July 2011


As OAR celebrates its 10th anniversary year, we are aware just what it takes to make us the organization we are today. We are surrounded and supported by legions of people who have helped us. We present these perspectives to give you an idea of what OAR represents.

Lisa Hussman: An Organization She Believes In

OAR Board member Lisa Hussman came to OAR and its board through the RUN FOR AUTISM when she met a RUN coordinator at a race in Miami five years ago. “I made a donation to OAR after that and Mike Maloney contacted me. After learning about all of the programs that OAR had, I decided to join the board.”

Running for OAR is a Hussman family affair, she explains. “Two years ago, my nephew and I were part of OAR's RUN FOR AUTISM team at the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Chicago. Another nephew participated in the Ft. Lauderdale Half Marathon and raised money for OAR.” Hussman will be part of the RUN FOR AUTISM team at the Nashville Women's Half Marathon in the fall. “RUN FOR AUTISM is a great program that allows families to get involved and raise money for OAR.”

OAR, says Hussman, who has a son with autism, is a highly productive organization. “It selects much-needed applied research programs to fund. I am also very impressed that they support graduate research as well.”

Today, Hussman heads OAR’s scholarship committee. “I take great pride in helping select the winners. This is an important program because many of the students do not have an opportunity to receive other scholarships.”

“OAR is important to me because I feel that I can help support their mission through volunteering and funding. OAR's mission means that important research will get done that will help individuals with autism. The guides that OAR produces will also help parents and educators with different topics in autism such as transitioning to adulthood.”

Greg Smith: A Focus on Today’s Issues

Greg Smith, who has a teenaged daughter with autism, has been an OAR board member for eight years, joining in order to support OAR’s “critical function for those in the world of autism. I don’t think we can put too much attention on this pervasive disability.”

Serving on the board gives him an opportunity to be an active participant in serving others while continuing to learn new information. “My family has been blessed,” he explains, “and I want to be able to give back to others.”

OAR occupies a niche that no one else does, he says, “Its sole focus is promoting applied research for the community. OAR provides information for the full spectrum of this community (i.e., families, educators, caregivers and individuals with autism). OAR means families, educators, caregivers, and individuals with autism have an organization that puts a focus on dealing with today’s issues and not tomorrow’s concerns.”

Smith first learned about OAR more than nine years ago when he was getting a master’s degree in information systems. “OAR was one of the organizations that we could provide pro bono support to as part of our classwork in search of our degree. My teammates knew of my daughter’s condition and they selected OAR as the beneficiary of our project.”



Delaware Autism Program Offers Model Program for Comprehensive Services

The only statewide public school program in the nation for children with autism, the Delaware Autism Program offers a model for supporting children with autism and their families. Established in the early 1980s, long before the sharp rise in autism diagnoses, the program sought to provide families with education and services for their children.

“As soon as kids are diagnosed with autism, we begin to serve them and their families,” explains State Director Vincent Winterling, PhD. Children and young adults from 2 to 21 are eligible for the program. Each of the three counties in Delaware runs its own program, comparable, he explains, to a private educational program. There are also residential facilities in the state and the program provides home services as needed. “It’s a year-round program that provides respite care and home services as needed.”

Begun by families who advocated with the state legislature to create the program, today, the Delaware Autism Program is grappling with how to effectively serve rapidly growing numbers of children. The program currently serves about 700 children across the state, he says, three times as many as 15 years ago. Along with the rise in diagnosed cases, the program has also attracted families from out of state to move to Delaware. “Part of what I’m doing right now is dealing with growing pains,” explains Dr. Winterling, who took over two years ago.

“My major focus has been on polishing our strengths and looking at areas where we need to allocate greater effort. I want to be constructive about how we work. As our program evolves, we will continue to do our best to support the educational needs of the children and young adults in Delaware and work collaboratively with their families to give them the best life possible.”


OAR News

OAR Announces the 2011 Schwallie Family Scholarship Winners

OAR takes great pleasure in announcing the recipients of the Schwallie Family Scholarships for 2011. Each of this year’s 22 winners will receive a $3,000 scholarship for the next academic year. OAR makes awards in three categories:

  • Students attending a four-year college
  • Students attending a two-year college
  • Students attending a vocational/technical school that leads to a certification

To be eligible, an applicant must have an autism diagnosis; be accepted for enrollment in the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters; and submit a personal essay along with the application form.

This was the first year OAR utilized an online application format. The ease of this new system facilitated a record-breaking 415 applications. Nine of the recipients will study at a four-year college, 10 will pursue a two-year degree, and three will attend a vocational, technical, or trade school.

The 2011 Schwallie Family Scholarship recipients are:

Four-year undergraduate studies

  • Greta Elle Bortfeld, Pennsylvania State University
  • Desmond Gonzalez, University of Tampa
  • Brittney Aisha Griggs, Concordia University
  • Alexander John Kolva, Johnson State College
  • Joseph Edward Lawrence, Wayne State University
  • Jeannette Reyes-Fournier, Humbolt State University
  • Drew Steward Steinbach, Tulane University
  • Jacob N. Tench, Western NM University
  • Charles James Vickers, Hastings College

Two-year undergraduate studies

  • Samantha Conceicao, Community College of Rhode Island
  • Geoffrey Daniels, Community College of Philadelphia
  • Jess M. Elizondo, Treasure Valley Community College
  • Ryan Paul Gehman, Hesston College
  • Mychal V. Hicks, Lawson State Community College
  • Travis Long, Landmark College
  • David Alexander Marshall, College of DuPage
  • Gavin Rapport, Mercer County Community College
  • Matthew Ross Schnitzer, Brookdale Community College
  • Jake Yardas, Ivy Tech Community College

Trade, technical or vocational school

  • Brandon Hoefer, Waukesha County Technical College
  • Alex Stout, Louisiana Culinary Institute
  • Jared A. Ulsberger, Bates Technical College

Congratulations to each of the winners and the parents and teachers who contributed to their development and success along the way!

The Schwallie Family Scholarship program, now in its fifth year, is the inspiration of OAR Board member Ed Schwallie, his wife, Marge, and the Schwallie family. Since its inception in 2007, OAR has awarded $178,500 in scholarships to 55 individuals with autism.

In addition to thanking the Schwallies, OAR is also grateful to Lisa Hussman, chair of the Scholarship Review Committee, who had the most difficult job of reviewing and then narrowing down over 400 well-deserving applicants.

OAR sends a special “thank you” to Lisa Hussman, the Lisa Higgins-Hussman Foundation, and the Schwallie Family Foundation whose donations allowed OAR to once again raise the number of scholarships offered in 2011 to 22. Another thanks goes to the Somerville Council of the New Jersey Knights of Columbus for supporting the scholarship recipient from New Jersey.

OAR hopes that the number of awards given each year will continue to increase as awareness and support for this program grows. Donations to the program are welcome.

For students interested in applying for a Schwallie Family Scholarship next year, guidelines are posted on OAR’s Web site. The application will be available in January 2012.

Debut Conference on the Road Succeeds in Ohio

Allison Gilmour chats with a conference attendee at the Milestones Conference.

On June 21, 2011, OAR joined Milestones for its 9th Annual Autism/Asperger’s Conference in Cleveland, Ohio in the first test of OAR’s new Conference on the Road program. OAR sponsored four presentations in the “Research to Practice” conference track. Attendees heard OAR researchers and autism experts discuss fluency, quality of life for adults with autism, social interaction programs for high school students, and treatment of comorbid conditions.

For Milestones, this year’s conference broke all previous attendance records by a wide margin. Over 900 people attended, not just from greater Cleveland and Ohio, but also from Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida.

Rick Kubina and Ann Holmes, presenters on the OAR track, pose with Alyssa Kruszyna and Mike Maloney of OAR.

The conference also proved a success for OAR’s new approach to its education mission -- partnering with established events instead of holding an independent conference. “It was exciting to see the Conference-on-the-Road approach work so well. Milestones puts on a professional conference,” notes Allison Gilmour, OAR’s director of programs and community outreach. “Our speakers are among the best around, and we thought they would be a great fit for Milestones.”

In addition to the speakers it brought to the conference, OAR also provided complementary registrations to a number of RUN FOR AUTISM-Cleveland team members as well as parents and friends from local autism organizations and schools.

In the next test of the Conference-on-the-Road program, OAR will offer a research-to-practice track and presentations at the Autism NJ Conference on October 13-14 in Atlantic City, NJ. Register or find out more about this next OAR Conference-on-the-Road event.

OAR Welcomes Support from Mid-Atlantic Friends

In June, OAR received $30,000 in unrestricted gifts from two longstanding friends of OAR located in the neighboring mid-Atlantic states of Delaware and New Jersey. Autism Delaware made a $15,000 grant to support OAR’s ongoing research and information programs, and the Paul Gubitosi Charitable Fund, in Hillsborough, N.J., made a gift in the same amount from the proceeds of its annual Paul Gubitosi Golf Tournament, held in May.

“Autism Delaware has been generously supporting OAR since 2007, giving a total of $82,500 over the years,” says Mike Maloney, OAR’s executive director. “Except for its statewide focus, our missions largely coincide, and OAR’s informational and educational resources are as useful and accessible to families impacted by autism in Delaware as anywhere else.”

Paul Gubitosi was a promising young man from Hillsborough, who died tragically in a car accident in February 2001 at just 18 years old. After Paul’s death, his parents, Guy and Agnes Gubitosi, established a charitable fund in his name as a way to give back to the community and preserve his memory.

In 2007, thanks to the efforts of OAR Board member, Anthony Ferrera, a friend of the Gubitosis, the family invited OAR to be one of the benefiting charities for its annual golf outing, and they have extended the invitation in every year since. Counting this year’s contribution, the Paul Gubitosi Charitable Fund has donated more than $70,000 in support of OAR’s autism research and information programs.

OAR extends a special thank you to these two generous and loyal friends of OAR.

OAR Earns 2011 Top-Rated Health Nonprofit Status

During June, GreatNonprofits, a nonprofit formed in 2007 to be, in the words of CEO Perla Ni, “an online Zagat” by providing online reviews and ratings, conducted a campaign to identify the top nonprofits working on health issues and initiatives around the world. Over the course of the campaign, more than 2,600 people submitted reviews of 369 nonprofits.

On July 5, it announced that 123 nonprofits, including OAR, had qualified for the Top-Rated Health Nonprofits List. Follow this link to read what people said about OAR.

“It’s always an honor to be recognized in this manner by a respected, independent entity,” says Mike Maloney, OAR’s executive director. “In this case, however, the comments by the people who thought enough of OAR to submit reviews represent the highest compliment.”

GreatNonprofits’ mission is to:

  • Help inspire and inform prospective donors and volunteers, help them differentiate between nonprofits, find ones that they trust, and be more confident in giving or signing up to volunteer.
  • Enable great nonprofits, regardless of the size of their marketing budgets, to harness their most authentic and most effective advertising -- the stories of the people they've served.
  • Promote greater nonprofit excellence through feedback and transparency.

Commenting on the just complete Top-Rated Health Nonprofits campaign, Ni says, “We are excited to have learned about the many wonderful nonprofit organizations that are helping to support and strengthen the health of our communities. Especially at such a crucial time, we hope our campaign helps bring deserved attention to their efforts. These organizations make a remarkable contribution to all of our lives.”

New Blues Festival Contributes $3,200 to OAR


At the end of June, guests at the first Colonial Beach Blues Festival at High Tides on the Potomac danced in the sand, enjoying blues music and beautiful weather in this coastal Virginia town on the Potomac River east of Fredericksburg. Twelve bands, six on Saturday, June 25, and six on Sunday, June 26, entertained the happy crowd, which included Mike Maloney, OAR’s executive director, and Allison Gilmour, director of programs and community outreach.

They were there to express OAR’s gratitude and appreciation for being chosen as the nonprofit beneficiary of the event, thanks to organizers Dom and Charlene Salemi. Sold out on Saturday and nearly sold out on Sunday, this first-time festival provided two days of blues to a delighted crowd, while raising $3,200 for OAR and increasing awareness of autism at the same time.

The event was born when Fiddlin’ Big Al Chidester, a well-known blues musician, suggested a blues festival to the Salemis while visiting their store, Populuxe, in Colonial Beach. It was a light bulb moment for the couple who love their town and blues music. Adding OAR as a beneficiary was also an easy yes for the couple since Charlene has a son with autism and strongly believes in OAR’s focus on research that helps people immediately.

“Charlene and Dom did a wonderful job of reminding people that this event was raising money for autism,” says Gilmour. “The music was great and they never lost focus on the goal.”  With the same charitable spirit, some bands donated their time and others reduced their fees. The town rallied as well, with many local businesses sponsoring the event. Most notably, Vickie and Bryan Coffman, owners of High Tides on the Potomac and the Black Pearl Tiki Bar, provided the venue free of charge.

OAR Announces the Departure of One of Its Key Directors

“Alyssa was never one to seek the limelight, but as her tenure at OAR grew, the limelight found her. In the last year, she has been one of my three key directors and had really grown into that role,” declares OAR Executive Director Mike Maloney as he announces that Alyssa Kruszyna, OAR’s director of business operations and communications, will be leaving the organization on Friday, July 22.

Pregnant with her first child, Kruszyna decided to leave OAR to take care of her health and ensure the healthy delivery of the baby, who is due in January. She’s excited about taking on a new role as mom and glad she had the chance to make a contribution to OAR’s work. “OAR is unique in that it focuses on research that can start making a difference immediately in people’s daily lives. It’s not research that MIGHT help 20 years from now; it’s not looking for a magic pill that can make autism disappear. It turns this practical research into resources written in straightforward language that can get directly into the hands of those who can begin using it.”

She started at OAR in June 2007 as a research and programs associate and soon became known to everyone who worked with OAR as a go-to resource. “What I love most about my work at OAR is getting to help families make a difference in their lives,” says Kruszyna. “While my cousin, Hannah, was growing up with autism, I know many times my aunt and uncle would have appreciated a helping hand.”

Helping Hand
Coming to OAR gave her the chance to be that helping hand, she says. “I was able to speak to many on the phone and at conferences who needed help. I never got tired of being able to say, ‘Here’s a guidebook you can give to your son’s teachers to help him at school’ or ‘Share this video with your college professors and friends to give them a better idea what autism is.’ Being able to provide those people with the right resources was very personally rewarding.”

“She coordinated her first OAR conference only four months after she came on board,” says Maloney. “It was an especially noteworthy accomplishment but not her only accomplishment.”

“Surviving each October was my biggest accomplishment,” she laughs. And she’s only half-kidding.“For four years, October was the culmination of a year of planning, coordinating, and preparing for the annual Applied Autism Research and Intervention Conference. Getting to see it all happen each October was always an amazing experience.” Her role included creating all of the conference materials, coordinating with the hotel for room blocks and meals, collecting speakers’ materials, arranging continuing education credits, and setting up the exhibit hall.

She went on to take the staff lead on The OARacle, OAR’s monthly newsletter, coordinating with the freelance editor, managing staff deadlines, and publishing the newsletter online. Promoted to assistant director of research and programs in 2008, Kruszyna also took responsibility for the administration of the Schwallie Family Scholarship Program, which was introduced in 2008, growing from 85 applications to more than 400 in 2011.

Reliable Resource
Maloney says that Kruszyna has been a reliable resource at OAR since the day she started. “When I think of Alyssa’s performance for more than four years, the word ‘consistent’ in all its best definitions immediately comes to mind.” That consistency, among other traits and accomplishments, led to her final promotion to her current position as director in August 2010.

During her tenure as director, Kruszyna  spearheaded the change from a paper and mail application process to an online process for each of OAR’s three programs requiring applications: the Applied Research Competition, Graduate Research Grants Program, and the Schwallie Family Scholarship Program. The new system was set up and tested from December 2010 through January 2011 and successfully implemented for all programs in 2011. She also created an online “shopping cart” for OAR guidebooks and other materials.

“Alyssa is one of the best team players we’ve ever had at OAR” says Maloney. “She has been utterly reliable, always in the right place, and committed to OAR’s mission since her first day. You don’t replace Alyssa. You simply wish her the all the best and look for a successor.”



By Ernst VanBergeijk, PhD, MSW

Preparing Children on the Autism Spectrum for Travel

Ernst O. VanBergeijk, PhD, MSW, is the associate dean and executive director of New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program (V.I.P.). Prior to joining V.I.P., Dr. VanBergeijk was an assistant professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, where he served as chairman of the college’s local institutional review board and as a research associate for the Children and Families Institute for Research, Support and Training. In addition, he served as a field advisor and lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work and as a research associate at Yale University Child Study Center in the autism clinic. Dr. VanBergeijk has more than 25 years’ experience in the special education and social service fields.

The thought of traveling in public with a child on the spectrum can be overwhelming. Travel involves changes in routine, anticipatory anxiety, and dealing with sensory issues. There is very little research evidence to guide parents, teachers, and caregivers on how to best prepare a child on the spectrum for travel. The majority of what is published on travel training deals with children with physical or significant cognitive disabilities and is not specific to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Or it is written as practice wisdom, i.e., what professionals in the field believe to be true after working with the population for years.

Getting Ready for Vacation
In preparing the child on the spectrum for travel, one must decide if the travel is for pleasure (e.g. a family vacation) or is it a part of independent living skills and vocational training.

These tips can help parents and other caregivers prepare children for vacation travel:

  • Engaging the child in the planning of a family vacation can help reduce anticipatory anxiety. Higher functioning children can help use the Internet to research the mode of transportation the family is about to take, look up sightseeing tours or points of interest, and review the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules regarding what passengers can bring on an airplane as a part of carry-on luggage, how to transport toiletries, etc.
  • Giving the child a visualization of what to expect at airport security can help prevent a meltdown. Some airports (e.g. Newark Liberty International) have initiated programs for individuals with ASDs where they are given an orientation to air travel and go through a mock travel scenario. The orientation includes going through security and even boarding an airplane. The program was highly successful and has been replicated at other airports nationally.
  • Anticipating what the child should wear on the plane trip can reduce the stress he or she feels in the security scanning line. The guiding principle should be to have the child remove as little as possible from their bodies while going through security. Therefore, an effort should be made ahead of time to reduce metal items (e.g. use belts with plastic buckles). Having the child wear slip on shoes can also expedite the process and reduce stress.
  • Reviewing what are the rules about the type of words one must avoid while in an airport or airplane can help avoid embarrassing situations.
  • Reviewing when one cannot use electronic devices can also help prevent a meltdown.
  • When traveling, it is often a good idea to alert airline personnel that you are accompanying an individual with an ASD. Identify the lead flight attendant and let him or her know what to expect.
  • Summer camps that have travel programs can also help children with ASDs learn about and enjoy travel.

Preparing for Independence
For many individuals with ASDs, independence includes learning how to get around his or her community. Many individuals with ASDs may never learn to drive an automobile. Consequently, in order for the person with an ASD to be fully independent and engage in the world of work, he or she must be able to navigate a public mass transit system or utilize a para-transit system. The lack of reliable transportation is one of the most significant barriers to employment.

Training children with ASDs to use public transportation should begin at an early age and should progress in its complexity as the child ages developmentally and masters basic building blocks for more complex tasks. These tips can help parents and other caregivers prepare children for using public transportation:

  • Like with travel for fun, the Internet can be a good way to introduce the topic of transportation and preview routes and modes of transportation.
  • Parents and caregivers should teach children basic pedestrian, basic safety, and contingency management skills.
  • Parents and teachers should review repeatedly what to do if the child/student becomes separated from the group or travel trainer. Emergency telephone numbers should be pre-programmed into the child’s cell phone as a speed dial number. This scenario should be practiced including using the speed dial feature.
  • If parents are unsuccessful in training their children to use mass transit, then they should consider adding travel training to the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) as a part of his or her transition plan under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) once the student reaches age 14.
  • The state office of vocational and rehabilitative services, which will have different names depending on the state, can also help with training an individual to travel to work.
  • College-based Comprehensive Transition Programs may have both travel for work and pleasure as a part of their curricula.


Applying Research

Using Audio Tapes to Increase Independence

As every parent and teacher knows, independence is one key to success for all children, including those with autism. At Georgia State University, researchers examined the use of self-operated auditory prompting systems (SOAPs) to increase independence in the self-care tasks of elementary school students.

SOAPs are any device that delivers audio prompts, the most common example being a tape recorder. Unlike interventions that rely on outside prompting, auditory systems put the user in control, thus decreasing the probably that the user will become prompt dependent. SOAPs have been used successfully to teach work and daily living skills to older students and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

The four students in this study used a tape recorder with recorded prompts to increase independence on two daily self-care tasks, washing their hands and brushing their teeth. Each student had an intellectual disability and poor adaptive skills.

Their teacher wrote a task analysis for each activity and recorded the steps on an audio cassette. She left enough time between each step of the task to allow for completion before the next step. The students in the study knew how to use a tape recorder but had not had training or practice at school on brushing their teeth or washing their hands. Each student learned to do each task independently using the audio prompts.

This is an easy system to use at home or at school. To set up an auditory prompt system:

  1. Identify the self-care task you are teaching.
  2. Write a task analysis. Have someone else go through the steps to make sure you are not forgetting anything.
  3. Record the task steps on a tape recorder allowing enough time between steps for completion.
  4. Teach your child or student how to operate the tape recorder and model using the recording to complete a skill.


Mays, Nicole McGaha and L. Juane Heflin. 2011. Increasing independence in self-care tasks for children with autism using self-operated auditory prompts. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 5(4). 1351-1357.


Research 2011

A Closer Look at OAR-Funded Research

Study: Development of a Transportation Skills Assessment Tool (TSAT) for Individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorder to Aid in Finding Safe and Accessible Community Transportation Services

Researcher: Patrick Szary, Ph.D.

Purpose: To develop and distribute a Transportation Skills Assessment Tool (TSAT) for individuals with autism spectrum disorders in New Jersey to understand the skills necessary to ride various paratransit and community transportation services. These services include fixed route, complimentary ADA paratransit, special transportation, community transportation, employment transportation and/or Medicaid transportation.

Why Is This Study Needed?
The TSAT will evaluate transportation services frequently used by individuals with disabilities in New Jersey for competitive and noncompetitive employment sites, education services, shopping, Medicaid/Medicare transportation, non-emergency medical appointments (including any therapies), social and recreational activities, etc.

While these services are available to individuals with disabilities, individuals on the autism spectrum often don’t use them as much as they could. The ability to access safe and appropriate transportation will aid in understanding and training individuals to access various types of transportation options. The development of the TSAT will allow for an increase in access to transportation, which can in turn lead access to employment, housing and community life opportunities thus increasing the quality of lie for individuals on the spectrum.

Study Methodology In Brief
The Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) team will research, collect data for, and evaluate various paratransit and community transportation services throughout the New Jersey/New York/Philadelphia metro regions. The research will be conducted on site using the actual vehicles and services that are being utilized with the public. After reviewing and documenting all the necessary skills required to use each transportation option, a skills assessment model will be developed.

Once the initial TSAT is complete, the research team will analyze and compare the initial skills documented with at least one service provider different from the one used to develop the tool. For example, with the hand-to-hand transportation service, the team will review the skills needed by a different transportation organization to ensure consistency of the skills are required for the service.

After the analysis, the TSAT will be evaluated by a travel training organization. The goal in this phase will be to address any shortcomings regarding the clarity and description of skills needed for a type of transportation service. A member of the team from the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers who is an expert on the needs of adults with autism will review each of the tasks to ensure that that they follow current standards used by professionals in the field.

Once the review recommendations have been implemented, the research team will conduct a pilot test in several New Jersey counties after which the TSAT will be distributed to transition trainers and directors of adult programs in the state.


Patrick Szary, Ph.D., is the associate director of the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation. He is a civil engineer who got his doctorate in civil/geotechnical engineering from Rutgers in 2009. With a background in transportation and infrastructure research, he collaborates regularly with federal and state government agencies, industry, and other academic partners to leverage both resources and knowledge to move research from the lab into real-world applications that solve real-world problems.


News from the RUN FOR AUTISM

Enlist as a Marine…Corps Marathon Runner

This fall’s hottest marathons are filling up fast! If you are looking for a marathon, stop right here, because OAR has charity entries available into the sold-out Marine Corps Marathon on October 30.

This year’s RUN FOR AUTISM—Marine Corps Marathon runners are training hard and are excited to meet their fellow teammates! Team member Shira Newman shared her most recent training run with her new OAR friends on the RUN FOR AUTISM Facebook Page. “You all inspire me so much. So glad I’m running with you,” says Newman.

You can join this enthusiastic and dedicated team by committing to raise $600, earning one of OAR’s guaranteed race entries. Hurry though! Charity registration closes on August 24.

Already have your Marine Corps Marathon bib? Join the OAR team by committing to a $250 fundraising minimum.

OAR is also welcoming 10K runners to the team , and 10K registration is still open. Participants in the Marine Corps 10K can join the RUN FOR AUTISM team by committing to a $250 fundraising minimum.

If you would like to join the RUN FOR AUTISM team, e-mail Chelsea Steed at for more information.

Join OAR for a Little Running and Lots of Fun at the MCM 10K

OAR Executive Director Mike Maloney and Scott Gilman watch their fellow 10K finishers at the end of the 2010 MCM 10K. Join them in 2012 for a 10K through our nation's historic capital.

Join OAR on October 30 for the Marine Corps Marathon 10K, a patriotic run through Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, and help raise money for autism research. The Marine Corps Marathon 10K takes runners from the National Mall across the Rochambeau Memorial Bridge into Virginia, then along the Potomac River past the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery. The final challenging incline leads up to an inspiring finish in front of the world famous Marine Corps War Memorial and a finishers' chute lined with uniformed Marines.

Challenge your friends, family, and coworkers to get off the sidelines and in on the action! OAR’s 10K runners will receive the new race singlet, fundraising support from the RUN FOR AUTISM staff, a complimentary invitation to the Runners’ Recognition Dinner the night before the race, race-day support and festivities at OAR’s tent in the Charity Village, and finally and most important, the unique OAR Finisher’s Medal.

Don’t wait—registration is expected to close in August! Register today then join the OAR team at RUN FOR AUTISM team members participating in the Marine Corps Marathon 10K have a $250 fundraising minimum. Contact Chelsea Steed at for more information.

Cap Off Your Summer with a Half Marathon in Famous Philly
Join the RUN FOR AUTISM Team to Rock ‘n’ Roll

Famous cheesesteaks? Check. Gently used revolutionary bell? Check. Time spent as our nation’s capitol? Check. Philadelphia has all of that and more.

And on September 18, you can add “home to one of the best half marathons of 2011” to the list of what makes Philadelphia a great city. That’s right, on Sunday, September 18, the streets of Philadelphia will fill with the sounds and sights of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, which will include a RUN FOR AUTISM-Philadelphia team.

Formerly known as the Philadelphia Distance Run, this popular race is known to be fast and fun and a perfect fall race. Participants can expect the staff and volunteers at Rock ‘n’ Roll to kick it up a notch this year, recruiting bands, local-area cheerleading squads, and constant course support to line the 13.1 miles.

RUN FOR AUTISM Director Lily Matusiak, who ran the race in 2008, notes, “The Philadelphia Half is the quintessential fall race. Perfect race weather, a great crowd, and lots of fun distractions along the course: bands, fans, history, the art museum, and of course, the Rocky statue! What more could you possibly want or need?”

Philadelphia is a great place to visit. Combine the Half Marathon with a game at Citizen’s Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies who will be taking on the St. Louis Cardinals that weekend. Or make a trip to the birthplace of the Constitution, Liberty Hall, visit the Liberty Bell, and taste test the best cheesesteaks around (maybe wait until after the race for that).

OAR’s participation in the Philadelphia Half Marathon will include a booth at the two-day race expo, to be held Friday, September 16, and Saturday, September 17, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. In addition, OAR will also have a team tent at the race start/finish area on Sunday, where the RUN FOR AUTISM team can take advantage of team gear check, pre- and post-race refreshments and friendly OAR staff and volunteer assistance.

For more information on the ING Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon or other RUN FOR AUTISM opportunities, please go to OAR’s Web site or e-mail with any questions.



By Jill Crossman

I RUN 4 Tom!

Jill Crossman is a member of the RUN FOR AUTISM team and the mother of a son with autism. After running the Detroit Marathon, she signed up to run the Vermont City Marathon as part of OAR’s iRUN FOR AUTISM team. She has raised $1,400 so far and has plans to continue as part of the RUN FOR AUTISM team at the ING Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

Jill Crossman is very clear why she runs: for her son, Tom, and to raise awareness and money for research for autism.

As many of you know I love to run. Okay, that’s putting it mildly. I live and breathe running! I started running again in the spring of 2010, and what caught my eye was a 5k run at Oakland University for its autism program.

I could think of no better reason to run since my son Tom is autistic.

After finishing my first run, I caught the fever… the competitive fever that is. Whether it is time or distance, I love to compete against myself and push myself as far as I can go.

While doing this though, I realized there was a bigger reason to run. I run for Tom! I decided to run for my guy, to raise awareness and money for research for autism. I took to every race with the motto, I RUN 4 TOM!! Then I realized to really get my message out, I needed to do the ultimate race: a marathon.

I signed up for the Detroit Marathon, which took place in October. It was an amazing race -- an emotional and physical challenge -- but I finished. Tom waited for me at the finish line, and told me how proud he was of me! And that was amazing because I am so proud of all that he has accomplished, never giving up, and always pushing forward no matter how hard it is.

After the Detroit Marathon, a running buddy of mine persuaded me to sign up for the Vermont City Marathon in May. So I got my game face on and started training.  I was determined to make a time of 4:15. This wasn’t out of reach since my first marathon time was 4:27.

Only a month and a half away from race day, my running buddy told me she wasn’t going to be able to run. Many people suggested I back out or find a different run. But, of course I said heck, no! I signed up for this bad boy, and I was going to do it.

When I went to pick up my race packet on Saturday, a volunteer informed me that I needed to fill out the back of my bib. “You need to put your name, emergency contact person, medications you take, any medications you are allergic too, and any medical history we would need to know.”

As I looked at the volunteer in amazement, the last thing she said was, “This could be what saves your life.” At that point, I wondered what I signed up for.

When the race started at 8 a.m., the temperature was in the mid-60s and it was pouring rain. “Great!!” I thought to myself. As many of you know, running is not just an endurance sport but also a mental one. Mentally, I was not where I needed to be. I started the race saying to myself, “Suck it up, if this is the worse of the race you’ve got nothing to complain about.”

It soon turned out otherwise. At mile 5, the rain had stopped, and the heat and humidity started to rise. By 9:30, the temperature was 75 with humidity at 80 to 90 percent. I knew things were going to get rough!

I kept going. With every mile, the pain from the blisters on my toes (thanks to soaking wet socks and shoes) ratcheted up. Every step felt like someone kept pulling a tourniquet tighter. But I kept going, until the “two-mile assault,” the name marathoners gave this section of the race. I looked straight up and saw this monstrous hill, wait, I mean, mountain. I guess that’s why they call Vermont the Green Mountain State.

I asked who (and used a few choice names) would put this on a race course. I knew I would be walking up this straight incline. As I got to the top, my calves and legs were cramping. I had drunk plenty of fluid, but there is no way to train for this. I started doing walk and jog intervals, to keep myself from passing out from pure exhaustion.

At that point, I was still between the 4:00 and 4:15 pace. As minutes went by, I fell farther and farther back, finally slowing to less than the 5:00 pace.

I finally felt the emotional break as the tears started to fall. I felt I had let Tom down. As people were starting to bail out of the race, I refused to quit. Once I decide to do something, I’m going finish it no matter what. Tom doesn’t get to quit when he’s had enough or things get too hard, so I sure wasn’t going to either!

As I crossed the finish line and saw Tom waiting for me, tears came down again. I told him I was sorry I didn’t do what I set out to do. He gave me a kiss, told me he was proud, and said that’s a cool medal.

I realized I didn’t let him down. I finished what I started, when I could have taken the easy way out and not even gone or quit when it got tough. But I didn’t. I battled through because I will never quit or give up onTom even when things get tough.


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