New business promotes artists with autism

An array of Zenaviv’s products featuring artwork created by people with autism

Brightly colored paintings decorate the home of Harish and Sandhya Bikmal, an Ashburn couple with two teenage sons.

Their older son, Saket, 17, is a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. Himal, 15, who will attend Briar Woods High School in the fall, was diagnosed with profound autism when he was 2.

As Himal’s parents came to terms with his diagnosis, they worried about his future.

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The Washington Post, June 18, 2017

Faces of Loudoun campaign starts


Faces of Loudoun poster display

Josette Zahinda says that a brochure saved her life.

The Ashburn resident said her doctor had noticed, over the course of several visits, that she didn’t look well. The physician suspected Zahinda was a victim of domestic violence and, when she wasn’t looking, slipped a brochure into her purse. She found it later, at home.

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The Washington Post, March 12, 2017

Deputies learning about autism

Drew Gutenson loves to talk about his collection of prescription eyeglasses and his fondness for playgrounds — slides, swings, trampolines and zip lines.

Gutenson, who describes himself as a high-functioning adult with autism, knows that some skills are particularly challenging for him, such as sensing when people don’t want to talk to him. He also understands that his fondness for playgrounds can be a source of concern for those who don’t know him.

“I have a beard,” he said. “If they see an older adult with a beard on a playground, most people think it’s not good at all.”

Gutenson, 25, of Lovettsville spoke to a group of 14 sheriff’s deputies and other criminal justice professionals in Leesburg on Tuesday at the advocacy group the Arc of Loudoun on Paxton Campus, a nonprofit organization that provides educational programs and other services for people with disabilities.

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Seeds of hope for students with autism


It’s called going over the cliff. When students with autism leave the public school system — and the network of support and therapy it provides — they often graduate to the couch. They struggle to find meaningful employment and to live independently, even though the majority have average to above-average intelligence.

Some special education teachers and parents in Loudoun County have been trying to change that. They created Legacy Farms, a nonprofit organization that introduces young adults with autism to farming. The goal is to help ease the transition from public school to the community.

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Washington Post, May 3, 2015