National Autism Leader Peter Bell Appointed President & CEO of Ascendigo Autism Services

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ASPEN, COLORADO — Ascendigo Autism Services today announced that Peter H. Bell, one of the country’s most respected autism advocates and nonprofit executives, has been named President and Chief Executive Officer, effective May 1, 2017.

“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 long-standing 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 impact more people.”

For over a decade, Bell has been a highly effective leader and powerful voice within the autism community. He 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, the world’s leading 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 also established the Autism Speaks Family Services division that produced a highly regarded portfolio of resources for affected individuals and their families and over $4.5 million in community grants since its inception.

From 2004 to 2007, Bell served as President and CEO of Los Angeles-based Cure Autism Now, one of the country’s first autism advocacy organizations to focus on the science of autism. His most notable contributions at CAN included the passage of the federal Combating Autism Act of 2006, establishing the Autism Treatment Network (ATN) and guiding the organization through its merger with Autism Speaks.

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.

“I am excited to be adding my experience and passion for autism to the Ascendigo mission and to work alongside a very talented and dedicated group of staff, board members and community supporters,” Bell said. “Our vision is to build upon a proven model that allows individuals with autism to thrive, reaching their potential within the communities where they live, work and play, regardless of their challenges.”

Ascendigo has been a leader in outdoor adventure programming for individuals with autism since 2004. In recent years, it expanded its innovative teaching and therapeutic approaches to include active, community-based programs for adults 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 include:

  • 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. He and his wife Liz will be moving to the Roaring Fork Valley in the fall with their three children.

For more information or to become involved, email info@ascendigo.org or visit www.ascendigo.org.

About Ascendigo Autism Services

Ascendigo Autism Services (formerly known as Extreme Sports Camp) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in the Roaring Fork Valley near Aspen, Colorado. Founded in 2004 as a summer sports camp for children with autism, Ascendigo has expanded to offer year-round outdoor recreational options including winter sports, a comprehensive life program for autistic adults and behavior therapies for children. Our goal is to integrate people with autism into community life, whether through outdoor recreation, assisting in basic life skills, finding compatible employment, or simply going out with friends to restaurants, museums or concerts. Ascendigo takes full advantage of the unmatched natural facilities offered by Colorado’s Rocky Mountains as well as the area’s charitable community spirit to offer physical, experiential, and collaborative activities to individuals with autism. The Ascendigo approach allows those of any ability to succeed and serves as a model that can be replicated in other communities across the country. To learn more, please visit www.ascendigo.org and check out these videos and news segments: “Ascendigo Autism Services:  Made for Me”, “Camp for Kids with Autism Offers Extreme Therapy” and “Colorado Mountain Camp Helping Children with Autism.”

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