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Ascendigo provides a haven for adults and children dealing with autism by helping improve basic life skills in social, daily living and athletics areas.

Equally important is how Ascendigo also focuses on clients’ vocational needs. Ashley Martin, marketing manager of Ascendigo Autism Services, Inc., explained the organization’s main goal is “to elevate the spectrum by empowering people, inspiring lives and shattering expectations.”

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Enter Marble Distillery, whose tagline “Cocktails with a Conscious” reflects the community involvement of owners Carey Shanks (aka ‘utility infielder’) and his wife Connie. And they mean it. Since connecting with Ascendigo, the distillery has provided long term employment for several of their clients. This cooperation brings benefits to both sides.

“I don’t think we could be operating without our Ascendigo-based employees,” said Shanks, “They set up both the front and back of the place every morning.”

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“Connie and I both feel that everyone should have a shot at a good life,” he mused.

The distillery will be hosting Ascendigo’s annual Fall Festival fundraiser from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Nov. 5. Funds will come from ticket sales, prize drawing, a live auction and sponsorship by ANB Bank.

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Martin, decked out in indigo sneakers (“Indigo represents autism,” she noted),“ said, “We want to push the limits clients may feel they are facing.”

And what better way to do so than by encouraging others to enjoy fulfilling lives. Often, that can mean finding and keeping a paying  job or volunteering regularly to help others.

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Ascendigo also provides in-home behavioral therapy and school consultations by professional therapists and registered behavior technicians for children with autism and related conditions. Ascendigo uses naturalistic developmental behavioral Interventions, incorporating the principles of the early start Denver model, positive behavior supports, pivotal response training and applied behavioral analysis.

What is autism?

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According to the Autism Society of Colorado (ASC), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability. Signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.

There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis and access to appropriate services supports lead to significantly improved outcomes.

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ASC was founded in 1970 by parents fighting for the right for their children to receive an education in public schools. In 1975, ASC spearheaded passage at the state and national level of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Ascendigo Vocational Manager Jeo Mendez said, “We provide a home base for our clients if they want to come here for lunch or just hangout.”

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Mendez added Ascendigo also works with students at Bridges High School (444 Weant Blvd.), an alternative high school in the Roaring Fork School District.

Bridges strives to engage students in their own education and to co-create pathways to their future while valuing each student’s individual journey. Students attend from many surrounding communities including Rifle, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, Snowmass, and Aspen.  

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Martin related that the distillery has been employing clients since 2018 and was the first paying job for two. It is employing two clients currently, each works two days a week covering four days total.

As Ascendigo founder Sallie Bernard wrote said, “If your child’s world is just a classroom and endless therapies, he or she will miss out on the range of experiences that foster a well-adjusted adult with a developed self-identity. Sometimes we get so focused on academics, behaviors or speech that we forget our children are people who have an inner life and need diverse experiences just like anyone else.”

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Ascendigo offers winter programs for children and adults anywhere on the autism spectrum and of any athletic ability to learn to ski or snowboard. Summer  adventures include rock climbing, wake-boarding and wake-surfing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and other activities.

Visit to purchase tickets for $60. The event will feature a gourmet taco bar, signature cocktails and prizes. All proceeds directly benefit Ascendigo’s programs.

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For more information, email or call 927-3143.