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Header: Think differently about disabilities with AWS Foundation logo. Photo of a groop of people with varying disabilities posing.
From the CEO
It is the end of a long day and I head to the grocery store to race the aisles to put together something for dinner. I know what I want and am navigating with a purpose around the obstacles of other shoppers and those in-aisle displays while overhead announcements blare right in front of the blast of cold air from the open freezers. I encounter a parent with a child of perhaps 7 or 8 years old in a shopping cart. The child is incoherent and in full melt-down mode while the parent is crossing off the items on the shopping list.

Had I encountered that scenario five or six years ago, the parent would likely have received a grade of ”F” in my book, or I would have labeled the child as “too old for that behavior” or manipulating for a favorite snack. Instead, I now consider the possibility that the parent is trying, like me, to do shopping at the only time available. Perhaps the child is overstimulated by all that surrounds him.

You see, I am learning to not quite as quickly jump to conclusions as I have a greater understanding of the prevalence of autism and how I might recognize it.

April is when the disability world tries to direct the attention of the masses to the increasing incidence of autism and recruit more allies. The prevalence of autism is now estimated at 1 in every 59 children; higher in boys, lower in girls, and with incidence varying in some parts of the country.

Rather than just check the box in April and move on (after all, it is also National Canine Fitness Month and National Straw Hat Month) I want to commit to using this space in the next couple of months to explore what I have learned about neurodiversity as a part of our community.

Stay tuned.

Photo of an orchestra on a stage with a narrator and ASL interpreter on the left.


by: Joni Schmalzried
Meet with AWS Foundation to discuss
Get through Covid so it can finally happen 

Write a social story

Advertise event

Work with a consultant for support with the details

Discuss disability with staff, volunteers, and musicians

Host an instrument playground (before & after the event)

Invite providers, music therapists, and others to host a table or activity

Have the consultant serve as emcee and explain the orchestra and music

Make sure there is an interpreter for any of our deaf or hard of hearing friends

Create an experience that is ‘friendly’ for everyone 

Survey the audience to see how the experience was

On April 2nd, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic completed the extensive checklist above. Bravo, as the audience of 100+ learned to say when they feel something is well done. In fact, my granddaughter was saying Bravo for many days after the concert, just as she watched herself playing the cello time and time again. The entire concert was 30 minutes – the perfect amount of time for a first-time experience.

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Connecting the Dots: Meet FINDER

We all know what a super-connector is. But do we really know where to find one made to benefit someone with a disability and the organizations that assist them? What does a super-connector do, and where is one found exactly? The answer is IndianaDisabilityResourceFINDER.org

It’s easy and free to learn what FINDER knows about service providers, programs, equipment, and events near your home, work, and where you like to play. Visit the website, take a guided journey, and get connected.

If you are a provider, use the keyword search to check if your organization is included and features the newest programs, products, and services offered. The FINDER team is here to connect your nonprofit, business, or support group with those that need you.

FINDER - - a super-connector designed to bring people with disabilities together with the help they are looking for.

The disABILITIES Expo committee has long awaited the time when we could bring the annual event back to the community. Many count on the event as a place to find disability resources, see old friends, and even try something new. This year will be no different. With 115 vendors, many of which are new to our community or the event, attendees are sure to find a resource they didn't know about before. Adaptive products, employment training and opportunities, case management vendors, financial guidance, social enrichment opportunities, and much more will be available all in one place. On the activity front, we will have take-and-make sensory items, the art exhibit and sale, adaptive sports, and performers. This year you will see some old favorites, and we welcome some new talent such as interactive drum circle, Kendra Lee speaking "This is How I Roll," and Cody Clark, an autistic magician. Turnstone has partnered with World Baseball Academy and Glorious Gate Rowing to bring a sled hockey demonstration, adaptive softball, and adaptive rowing. This FREE event will be held at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, May 14, from 10 am - 3 pm. This year we will also be hosting free parking, you just need to show the voucher, which can find at DisabilitiesExpoIndiana.org. We hope to see you there!

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Photo of Beth Rheinheimer wearing a black sweater and glasses.
New Staff

Please join us in welcoming our new Accountant, Beth Rheinheimer. She's had several years of experience in accounting, both in the non-profit and corporate sectors. We are excited to have her on our team!

Event location: 
122nd Fighter Wing, 3005 Ferguson Road, Fort Wayne, IN 46809

Event Description: This free 2-hour sensory-friendly air show is designed specifically for children and adults with sensory issues or additional needs. the air show will not be open to the general public at this time. For further details, please email-
Registration is required for this event and closes on May 15 at 6:30 am

To register, provide the following information to this email- 

- Guest name
- Number of people attending 
- Contact person for your party
- Email address
Craft simple toys that stimulate the senses, relieve anxiety, and focus the mind. Ages 8+. Children must be accompanied by an adult. The workshops are free, pre-registration is required. Call 427-6000 to sign up.
Stress Ball/Aromatherapy/Play Dough - Tuesday, May 10, 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Emotion Squishies/Kaleidoscope - Thursday, May 12, 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Park Foundation Pavillion in Promenade Park, 202 W Superior St.     

Priority Initiatives
Priority Iniatives
5323 W Jefferson Blvd. | Fort Wayne, IN 46804
Office: 260.222.5005 | Toll Free: 877.799.5656
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