Carbondale autism agency Ascendigo gets new leader
Peter H. Bell, a leading autism advocate and nonprofit executive, is now at the helm of Ascendigo Autism Services based in Carbondale. Bell started as president and chief executive officer effective May 1.
“We are thrilled to bring someone with Peter’s experience, energy and vision to take Ascendigo to the next level,” said Sallie Bernard, Ascendigo founder and board chair. “Peter brings a longstanding commitment to serving the autism population, as an advocate and as the father of a young man with autism. His compassionate leadership will be instrumental in building the Ascendigo brand, reach and programs so our innovative approaches to autism can touch more people.”
Bell joins Ascendigo from Eden Autism, a leading autism service provider based in Princeton, New Jersey, where he served as president and CEO since 2014. Prior to Eden, Bell was executive vice president for Autism Speaks, a leading international autism science and advocacy organization. Under his leadership, he championed several public policy changes that included almost $2 billion in new funding for autism research and services, as well as launched a national campaign to enact autism insurance laws.
Bell’s career also includes a White House appointment to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities by President Barack Obama, chairing the Consumer Advisory Committee of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) and serving as the founding vice chair of the Autism Research Program for the Department of Defense. In 2014, Bell received the INSAR Advocate Award for his commitment to research, advocacy and services for people with autism spectrum disorders.
Ascendigo has been a leader in outdoor adventure programming for autism since 2004. In recent years, it expanded its innovative teaching and therapeutic approaches to include active, community-based adult programs and behavioral health services for children. Its philosophy is that anyone with autism can and should be a full participant in life’s opportunities. Ascendigo’s flagship programs are:
Adventures: Summer, winter and satellite camps offering outdoor experiences such as kayaking, climbing, wake-surfing, skiing, snow sports, ranching and hut trips. Weekend adventures taking local youth and their typical peers out for all-day exploration like biking, horseback riding, skiing, music and art. Ascendigo’s new sports instructors curriculum offers training to sports professionals on how to teach sports to athletes on the autism spectrum.
Life Enrichment: A comprehensive suite of options for adults 18 years and older who want to experience life, not just prepare for it. Focus areas include transition, supported employment, recreation, community immersion, daily living skills, life-long learning, as well as mental and physical wellness.
Outreach: Community-based behavioral therapy and school consultations provided by certified behavioral professionals using naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions such as applied behavior analysis, Early Start Denver Model, positive behavioral supports, and pivotal response training.
Bell, 53, earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a BS in hotel administration at Cornell University. His wife, Liz, will be joining him in the Roaring Fork Valley in late summer with their three children, including a young adult son with autism.
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