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At Communities Engaging Autism, we empower young families living with autism with the information and support they need to engage fully in their communities.

Find ready-to-use information and strategies in our News and Resources. Take a breath with us on the Oxygen Mask Podcast.

Parenting uniquely wired kids takes courage and community.

Let’s do this together.






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CEA’s Minnesota Goodbye

It is with sadness and also hope that we share that Communities Engaging Autism is closing after nearly 10 years serving families living with autism. Although CEA found its way through COVID with persistence and a focus on connecting families, we emerge unable to continue our work because of financial challenges. The timing is especially difficult, as many of the “seeds” we’ve planted—from Parent Growth Circles and Family Playgrounds to the Oxygen Mask Podcast—have begun to flourish. Our Executive Director will spend the coming months taking the steps toward dissolution while also working to ensure that some of CEA’s programs, online content, and other assets will continue to be available to families through other organizations and platforms.

In typical Minnesota fashion, we are saying goodbye while also wanting to keep the conversation going. So, here is a more thoughtful, hopeful, and extended version of our farewell:

Looking back on the seeds we’ve planted

It’s been an honor to connect young families living with autism to the information, strategies and support they need to engage fully in their homes, schools and communities. CEA has provided educational lectures, blog posts, trainings, support groups, book reads, and mindfulness classes. It is a joy to see the many ways that communities are more accessible to autistic children and their families. We see sensory-friendly offerings in more community spaces and venues. We affirm the sustained commitment of educators and professionals serving families. We celebrate the readiness of parents to learn about autism in order to better connect with and understand their children.

Nourishing a notion

Now, we especially want to pour some extra nourishment on the notion that first sprouted CEA-your relationship with your child matters most. Continue to playfully engage with your child, observe them with curiosity and joy, fuel their passions and strengths. Take a breath. Pause. Notice how these moments feel to you. How does your child respond? Use your observations as a guide to help you discern what information, strategies, and supports are promising for you and yours.

Remember, your family’s growth will look different because of autism-because you are observing, accepting, adapting, and drawing in extra help as needed throughout your child’s life. Your family’s growth, uneven and unpredictable as it may feel, is an illustration of resilience. Relationships within and beyond your family nourish you in times of strain and enable you to recover better equipped for what’s ahead.

All of us at CEA are committed to the work of supporting and empowering autistic children and their families. We will stay connected in our own ways to the important work we have begun together.


CEA Board of Directors, Mary Bergaas, Katrina Kramlich, Katie Plunkett, Mary Powell, Joan Schoepke, and Amy Wink and Executive Director, Beth Dierker

Oxygen Mask Episode 27: Autism and Down Syndrome Dual Diagnosis

This conversation explores the dual diagnosis of autism and Down Syndrome with guests Ashley Olthoff of the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota and Marcy Rede, a parent of a young adult with the dual diagnosis. Ashley helps us understand how traits of individuals with Down Syndrome can overlap with autistic traits. Marcy describes how the parenting path she thought she was on with her daughter diverged and led to her daughter’s autism diagnosis. Marcy thoughtfully describes her daughter’s “in-between place” in the disability community.

Show Notes

National Down Syndrome Society page on dual diagnosis and related resources

When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect. Froehike, R.N., Zaborek, Robin. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House. (2013)

Down Syndrome – Autism Connection

Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota (DSAMN) where you can find Ashley Olthoff.

DSAMN’s Autism and Down Syndrome – Minnesota Facebook Group where you can find Marcy Rede


This podcast episode was made possible thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

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