May 5, 2009


Dear Parents,


Since the Autism Asperger Resource Center (AARC) closed its doors a couple of years ago, my son Tom really missed "Hot Topics," AARC's social group for teens. So my husband Tom Thirlkel and I, Kate Duffy, started another "Hot Topics" group for teenagers and young adults (ages 15-23) who have been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism.  Our first group of 15 teens and young adults just finished in April, and we are ready to start two more weekly groups for the summer, June 15-Aug. 3.


Tom is a licensed clinical social worker with 30 years of clinical experience, and I am the mother of two sons with Asperger's and the co-author with Temple Grandin of Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. I work with college students with a wide range of neurological problems through my job at Penn Valley Community College's ABLE program.


"Hot Topics" is an 8-week educational group, designed to help teens and young adults learn social, career-planning and job-readiness skills. We will meet weekly for dessert at a moderately priced restaurant or coffeehouse that is centrally located to group members' homes. Each week, the group will discuss a different workplace topic or issue while practicing specific social and problem-solving skills. In addition, Hot Topics members learn about their own learning and thinking styles and how to use that information in seeking out jobs and careers. Once the group members identify their career interests, Tom and I invite "mentors," adults working in those particular jobs, to join us for dessert and talk about their work with the group. For the first Hot Topics group, an artist, banker, computer repair person, historian and accountant joined us.


This summer we would like to have two groups in two different parts of the Kansas City metropolitan area. The first group would meet north of the river on Wednesdays, 7-8:15 pm, and the second group on Saturday afternoons, 3-4:15 pm, in the western part of the metro area, including Lawrence and Topeka The cost of the group is $160.00 for the 8-week session, from Wed., June 17 to Sat., Aug. 8; participants buy their own desserts or snacks. 


If you are interested in having your son or daughter attend "Hot Topics," please email Tom and Kate at, or call us at 816-753-2636.  We'll put your name on the group list and then host an informational meeting in late May/early June to answer any additional questions and to complete registration forms.  Each group is limited to 15 members.





Tom Thirlkel and Kate Duffy