"THE SECRET TO CHANGE IS TO
focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
Making Sense of Autism Serving Families and Professionals Supporting Autistic Individuals in the Phoenix Metro area and Denver Metro area in person, Virtually throughout the USA
Making Sense of Autism was founded by Susan Golubock in 2004. Through her work, research, and experience as an Autistic individual, Susan developed
The Neuro-Strengths Based Support for Autism (NSBSA) Framework.
The Team at Making Sense of Autism
My name is Susan and I am a retired occupational therapist living in Tempe, Arizona. I received my M.S. degree in Occupational Therapy from Western Michigan University in 1968 and my M.Ed. degree in special education technology in 1995. I was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum in 1999. Most of my career has been spent in school-based practice. Frustrated with the pull-out medical model of providing OT services in the school setting, I developed and, with the support of my fellow therapists, administrators, parents and teachers at Loudoun County Public School system in Virginia, initiated an educationally relevant model of therapy services that worked with both the teacher and the student within the classroom setting. Over the course of my career I pursued certifications in treating sensory processing disorders, completed training in a therapeutic listening program and, later, focused on evaluating and treating executive functioning difficulties (areas that I struggled with myself). After my diagnosis, with the support of my husband, I became active for the next 10 years in the autistic community as an organizer and presenter at Autreat, an educational retreat conference created and run by autistic adults. Jim Sinclair, founder of Autreat and an autism-rights movement activist, and I created Making Sense of Autism, LLC. We provided workshops and inservices to schools, clinics, and presented at conferences on how to understand and work effectively with autistic individuals. I contributed some of my poems and narratives, which I wrote after my diagnosis, to the book "Women From Another Planet: Our Lives in the Universe of Autism" in 2003. The poem that I wrote to explain my autism to my husband can be found at the link below. I was invited to be a Keynote and Breakout speaker at Autism/Asperger Conferences in Phoenix and California between 2004 and 2011. I was a co-presenter in a congress-mandated training of all Vocational Rehabilitation counselors in the state of Arizona on Autism Spectrum Disorders in 2008. I authored an article in the Autism Advocate magazine in 2009 entitled “What We Don’t Know (About Relationships) CAN Hurt Us”. I retired from practicing occupational therapy in 2009 to become a caregiver to my husband with Alzheimer's. I have remained active in the autistic community, however, as a co-host in an autistic adult support group in Phoenix. I am currently working on developing what I perceive as a much-needed Neuro-Strengths (TM) Based Support for Autism Framework. This website is my attempt to share this approach, and exchange ideas for implementing and improving it, with those parents, therapists, and educators who are looking for a strength-based, neurodiverse-friendly, measurable method for creating team-coordinated goals that focus on what the autistic individual WANTS to achieve that will enable them to function more effectively and comfortably in their current environments. The philosophy for the Neuro-Strengths (TM) Based Support for Autism Framework comes from personal experience as an autistic individual and professional experience as an occupational therapist who worked with autistic clients. I grew up trying to “be like everyone else;” I succeeded in masking but at the cost of never developing a sense of “self” which led to symptoms of post traumatic stress. When I was finally diagnosed in my early 50’s, I learned that there were other options of how to think and behave, which radically changed my life for the better.
DIFFERENT ON THE INSIDE
A poem I wrote to my husband when I was trying to explain to him what it felt like to have autism.
Staci Neustadt, CEO of Making Sense of Autism, is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist with over 20 years experience providing individual and group therapy, training, mentorship, and leadership. Staci discovered her life’s purpose to support people with disabilities at a young age when volunteering at The ARC in her home state of Wisconsin. She is an entrepreneur with creative and innovative solutions supporting Autistic individuals. Staci co-founded Alexicom Tech in 2007, an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) software company. In 2019, Staci joined Susan in developing the Neuro Strengths (TM) Based Support for Autism framework. The NSBSA framework helps bridge the gap in how non-autistics view autism and how autistics view themselves as well as understand the non-autistic way of thinking. Staci is passionate about creating a paradigm shift for therapists to holistically support autistic clients and for autistic clients to feel seen and heard as they build on their strengths and contribute their gifts to their community.
Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
Brandi is a licensed Speech-Language Pathology Assistant. As a true student of her discipline, Brandi is constantly pursuing opportunities and education to further her knowledge and skills in her field. She earned an additional certificate specialized in the area of working with Autistic individuals. Brandi’s goal is to help individuals use their strengths to learn new skills to help them build meaningful relationships. Her greatest assets are her patience and calm demeanor. Brandi lives in Chandler with her husband, Travis, and their two young boys, Gavin and Grant. In her free time, she enjoys sharing a good meal with family or friends and watching her boys have silly dance parties in the living room.
TARA J. MARSHALL
Autistic Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
Tara J. Marshall is an Autistic Speech Language Pathology Assistant in Arizona, she also has a BA in Anthropology and Religious Studies from the University of Miami. She has long experience in running a support group for Autistic adults in the Phoenix, Arizona area with a friend. Tara has been working with Autistic and other clients with language/communication differences for 22 years, with people with a wide variety of support needs. She is familiar with using AAC and was recently certified in Natural Language Acquisition to assist her clients who are Gestalt (echolalic) Language Processors as well as her typical instruction in Analytical Language Processing. Tara is fluent in English, is currently an intermediate speaker of Spanish, and has experience and courses in American Sign Language, French, and Arabic as well. Her special interests include learning languages, sharks, dinosaurs, and the various medical conditions associated with Autism, with a particular interest in Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Mast Cell Activation Disorders. She has experienced many successes and failures in her life, relationships, and education, and is willing to share lessons learned from her experiences as needed to help her clients.
"I feel like the client, that I have implemented goals with,
seems happier during sessions (more smiles)."
–COTA MENTORED BY AN OT
TRAINED IN NSBSA