In celebration of Autism Acceptance Month, the School District of Philadelphia hosted its 14th Annual Autism Expo. More than 35 vendors attended to provide insightful information about services and programs available to students with special needs and their families.

Sponsored by the Office of Special Education and Diverse Learners, the Autism Expo is a citywide initiative, connecting families with providers who specialize in resources for students with Autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in 36 children have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the District proudly serves the needs of more than 5,000 District students who have an autism diagnosis with evidence-based practices and effective grade-level appropriate curricula.

The Honorable Dennis O’Brien served as this year’s Keynote Speaker and the event featured a program that included student presentations, as well as naming the awardees for:

  • The Legislative Champion for Autism Advocacy Award, which recognizes a legislative leader for the work he/she has done and continues to do to advocate for individuals and their families within the autism community. Governor Josh Shapiro was the first recipient ever for the Legislative Champion Award and was recognized for his ongoing efforts to ensure individuals with autism have access to the services they deserve.
  • The Dennis O’Brien Civic Leadership Award, created in honor of the former Pennsylvania Speaker of the House & City Councilmember and recognizes an individual who has worked hard to impact the autism community and have made positive changes in the lives of individuals with autism. This year’s award was presented to Justice Kevin M. Dougherty.
  • The Mona Cohen Excellence in Autism Education Award, which recognizes two teachers that exhibit outstanding work and implementation of evidenced-based practices as it relates to teaching students with autism. This year’s awards were presented to William Cramp School veteran autistic support teacher Brian Flemming and Mayfair first-year autistic support teacher Emily Eisenberg.
  • The Exemplary Paraprofessional award, which recognizes two paraprofessionals who go above and beyond their job duties every day, exhibiting unwavering dedication and commitment to our students receiving autistic support services. This year’s awards were presented to Migdalia Perez from Kensington High School and Michelle Gilyard from John Bartram High School.

National Autism Acceptance Month celebrates the unique experiences of students with autism. The month highlights the increasing number of individuals identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder and connects the Autism community with the necessary support and resources available.

To nominate an individual for next year’s awards, please contact Nicole Sabatino, Co-Coordinator for Autistic Support Services at For more information about the Office of Special Education and Diverse Learners, please visit its website.