Looking Back and Moving Forward

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It’s officially been a year since the #ASDNext website has launched! To celebrate our first anniversary, we’re taking a look back at what we’ve accomplished and sharing some insights on where we’re headed.

#ASDNext was created with the goal of expanding the work already being done by ASERT to support individuals across the state, specifically teens and young adults. For years ASERT has been providing information and resources to the autism community, but when we looked at who we were really supporting, we realized it was mostly parents, caregivers and professionals (who are all very important people!), and we weren’t doing a great job of connecting and supporting individuals on the spectrum. So, we set out to fix that.

We started with a basic website: resources, events and information for individuals and families. All things ASERT has always been great at, but we wanted to add new features and ways for people to interact with each other. We knew it’s not always fun getting information from professionals and “experts” in the field, so we decided to hire a few young adults on the spectrum to write and share their experiences and insights. What started as 2 bloggers quickly expanded to 4, all from different parts of the state with different life experiences and perspectives. Readers can comment (our bloggers love getting comments!), share the blogs with others or send us suggestions for topics or things they’d like to hear more about. One of the things we have always encouraged through #ASDNext is interaction (we love hearing from people!) so if you love a blog, have a comment or suggestion be sure to share it!

Another feature we included was a social calendar. While we’ve always posted events on PAautism.org, they typically are autism or disability specific events. One thing that we heard (loud and clear) from our focus groups was that sometimes, they just wanted to go out and do things in their community that didn’t have to do with autism, they just didn’t know where to go to find things to do. Our social calendar features different events, community gatherings and activities around the state that we think seem interesting and fun. As with all parts of our website, we love getting feedback, so if you have events to share or want to see certain types of events posted, send them our way!

The community gallery is another part of #ASDNext that is unique. Here, anyone can submit art, music, stories or videos to share on the website. The goal is to highlight the unique talents and interests of individuals on the spectrum and give them a place to share their voice and insights. So, if you’re an artist, musician, writer or have something to share with the world, send it to us to include on the community gallery page! (If you haven’t noticed yet, we really like to hear from and interact with other people 🙂

In addition to the #ASDNext website, we have 4 different social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Over the next year we hope to use these to engage with individuals more, share information, stories and give individuals a chance to let their voices be heard.

Moving forward into the second year of #ASDNext, we have two new additions: a resource map and discussion boards. The resource map will include information by county on college/vocational programs, social groups, support groups, volunteer organizations and more! Our first discussion board will be moderated by two young men on the spectrum and will be a place to talk about anything and everything. Gaming, movies, books, tv shows, whatever your interest may be, this will be the board to find others to connect with. Our next message board will focus on employment and will have Early Reach Coordinators from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation on hand to help moderate, answer questions and provide resources. The third board we plan to launch in the upcoming year will focus on self-advocacy.

Finally, our goal over the next year is to engage with others through social media and more interactive resources. Twitter chats, Facebook live interviews, videos, photo contests and interactive resources are all in the works!

Most importantly though, we want to hear from you! #ASDNext is ready and waiting to connect with you so that we can continue to provide you important, relevant, fun and engaging resources. We will be asking questions and looking for input on what you guys need most, so connect with us and get your voices heard as we move forward into the next exciting chapter of development!