Thank You For Putting Us "In Great Spirits!"


On October 10, a little more than a month ago, Mind Shift threw its annual “In Great Spirits” gala.  This was the third year for this event, and it was better than ever. 

The food was delicious, the drinks were flowing, and the space was filled with friends and well-wishers.  The event would not have been a success if it wasn’t for those individuals and those organizations who donated their time, money, and talent.    

Thank you to Happy Harry’s for providing the spirits.  Thank you to Rosey’s Bistro, Toasted Frog, Altony’s, Déjà vu Catering, and Vexi’s Bakery for supplying us with great food.  And thank you to Thunder Coffee for keeping us caffeinated.

Thank you to Dan Christianson for filling the air with music, and thank you to Patrick Kasper for the dance lessons. 

A big thank you to Forrest, for your insight into Mind Shift, the inspiration, and for your time.  You are a great spokesperson for Mind Shift, and a wonderful example of the power of neurodiversity in the workplace.

Thank you to all of the volunteers who worked before, during, and after the event to keep the party-goers happy and the event moving smoothly.

And of course thank you to the “Mob Families” who sponsored the event.  Office Sign Company, Midco, Bell Banks, New York Life, and Killborne Group all made the night possible.

And thank you to all who attended. It was your laughter and energy that brought it all together.  And it is your support that will keep Mind Shift working to find great careers for people on the autism spectrum. Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Let's do it again next year!


An Incomplete History of Autism


At this time in history, autism is depicted in popular culture more than ever. Television (The Good Doctor), video games (Overwatch), movies (The Accountant, Power Rangers), and television (The Big Bang Theory, Sesame Street and Parenthood) all depict individuals on the autism spectrum. 

While people on the autism spectrum are much more common in mainstream media, the history of autism is still generally unknown. 

Below is a general, and incomplete, timeline of Autism Spectrum Disorder

1908 – The word autism is first used to describe schizophrenic patients who are self-absorbed and withdrawn.

1943 – Leo Kanner, M.D., a child psychiatrist, publishes an account of 11 children who expressed “a powerful desire for aloneness” and “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness”, but were also highly intelligent.  He would go on to call this condition “early infantile autism.” 

1944 – Hans Asperer, a German scientist, reported on cases of boys who had challenges with social interactions and specific obsessive interests.  He considered these individuals to have a “milder” form of autism, which would become known as Asperger’s Syndrome.

1964 – The Autism Society of America was founded by Bernard Rimland.

1967 – The term “refrigerator mother” was first used by Psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim.  His theory was that autism was caused by mothers who did not love their children enough.  This is also the year that the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems classified Autism under schizophrenia.  Both ideas would soon be proven 100% false.

1980 – Autism is officially separated from schizophrenia.  Autism was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Third Edition (DSM-III)

1991 – The U.S. Government recognizes autism as a Special Education category and children diagnosed with autism are offered special services.

1994 – The National Alliance for Autism Research was founded.    It is the first organization in the U.S. devoted to raising funds for biomedical research focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorder.

1995 – Cure Autism Now (CAN) was founded by Jonathan Shestack and Portia Iversen.

2005 – Autism Speaks was founded by Bob and Suzanne Wright.

2013 – The DSM-5 no longer considers Asperger’s Syndrome as a condition separate from autism.  It goes on to define autism by two categories.  1.  Impaired social communication and/or interaction. 2. Restricted and repetitive behaviors.

What the future has in store for autism spectrum disorder is not yet known.  But understanding the past will help us understand the future.  

Businesses Find Success Through Neurodiversity


The article “Why Microsoft, Chase and Others Are Hiring More People With Autism” by Neil Parmar states that many businesses are actively recruiting and hiring individuals on the autism spectrum, and they are doing so because it makes good business sense. 

However, in spite of the awareness of autism being a real advantage to the world of work, there are still challenges that are faced by individuals on the spectrum which make employment difficult.  Parmar makes the point that organizations don’t need to work alone.  There are a number of government agencies and programs in place to assist with hiring individuals with autism.  And there are also many non-profit organizations that offer support to both employees on the autism spectrum and to those businesses that hire them.

One such organization is Mind Shift.  We have placed over 30 individuals in great careers in the Fargo and Minneapolis areas, and hope to have Specialists placed in the near future in the Milwaukee market.

And we support not only our specialists, but also the businesses that we work with. With Mind Shift, you not only get a qualified employee, you also get a team of professionals who refuse to believe that autism is a limitation.  Instead, we see it as a strength. 

If you are looking for talented and intelligent employees with integrity and an eye for innovation, contact Mind Shift.  We work with businesses to recruit and hire individuals with autism for those important tasks that drive your business forward. 

To read Mr. Parmar's full article, please follow the link below:

Let's Go Together


A survey by the University of New Hampshire, completed in October of this year, showed that while 60% of organizations questioned had diversity hiring goals in place, only 28% had goals for disability hiring.

Why are there not more businesses working proactively to hire individuals with disabilities in general, and autism specifically?

1.     Many businesses don’t know where to start.  Only 27% of businesses surveyed by UNH partnered with organizations that specialize in recruiting and hiring individuals with disabilities.  This is especially significant when it comes to individuals with autism, as many people with autism are unable to navigate traditional hiring systems.

2.     Oftentimes businesses don’t have the support.  According to a YouGov survey completed in June of 2016, 60% of employers stated that they worry about getting it “wrong” if asked to support autistic employees. 60% stated that they didn’t know where to go for advice or recommendations.  This can lead employers to avoid problems before they occur, and not hire individuals with autism to begin with.

So, what can we learn from these surveys?  The most obvious answer is to not go at it alone.  Organizations such as Mind Shift exist to help not only the employee with autism navigate the tricky world of recruiting, hiring, and long-term employment.  These organizations are also in place to support the managers and supervisors who may fear saying the wrong thing.

A popular African saying is “if you want to go fast, go alone.  But if you want to go far, go together.”  We’ve come so far already in our desire to find meaningful careers for our loved ones with autism.  But we can go farther if we go together.

Tonight's the night to be "In Great Spirits!"


There are only hours left before our “In Great Spirits” wine, whiskey, and gin tasting event begins, and thus only hours before friends and supporters begin to fill the ballroom of downtown Fargo’s Stone Building (the old Avalon). 

The doors will open (if you have the password) at 6:00pm.

Happy Harry’s will be providing the spirits.  Rosey’s, Twist, Toasted Frog, Altony’s, Déjà Vu Catering, and Vexi’s Bakery will be keeping us happy with their fine food.

Dan Christianson will be filling the space with music, and Patrick Kasper will be teaching us a thing or two about cutting a rug. 

And we of course need to mention the Mob Families (sponsors) that made all of this happen, Office Sign Company, Midco, Bell Bank, New York Life, and Killbourne Group.

Thank you to all of those friends and well-wishers that donated their time, money, and talent to tonight’s event. 

To those who will be attending, we can’t wait to see you!  We’re ready to eat, drink, laugh, and dance the night away. 

And to those who are still thinking about attending, we really hope you do!  All proceeds go to our continued mission to find great careers for awesome people on the autism spectrum.  We promise to save you a dance.

You can buy tickets at the door, or by following this link:

See you tonight!

"In Great Spirits" is an Opportunity to Celebrate and Educate


Next Tuesday, October 10, Mind Shift is throwing its annual “In Great Spirits” gala.  This will be the third year that we have hosted this Speakeasy-style Wine, Whiskey, and Gin tasting event.  All proceeds will go to Mind Shift and our continuing mission to find meaningful careers for individuals on the autism spectrum. 

The event also allows Mind Shift to shine a light on an often invisible and misunderstood disability.  In fact, many people have little or no knowledge of autism, in spite of its prevalence in our society.  For example, did you know that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism?  And that the number is 1 in 42 when it comes to boys? 

Here are a few facts about autism, one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the united states:

1.     Autism will cost a family $60,000 per year on average.

2.     Over 3.5 million people in the U.S. have autism (70 million people worldwide).

3.     The average age of diagnosis of autism is 4 years old.

4.     Half of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have average or above average intelligence.

5.     April 2 is Autism Awareness Day.

6.     1% of the world’s population has autism.

7.     85% of adults on the spectrum are unemployed or underemployed.

8.     Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-263 billion annually.

9.     Dan Aykroyd, Susan Boyle, Daryl Hannah, Dan Harmon, and Courtney Love have been diagnosed with autism.

10.  From the Greek word “autos”, autism literally translates to “alone.”

Because of facts like these, Mind Shift is proud to be able to host “In Great Spirits.”  This opportunity to eat, drink and be merry not only supports our goal of finding careers for individuals on the spectrum, it also creates an opportunity to learn about autism and how it impacts those around us.

Please join us on October 10 at the Stone Building downtown.  The doors will be open from 6pm until 9pm, and tickets can be purchased on our website,

Bell Bank Continues to Make our Community a Better Place


We are so proud of our partnership with Bell Bank.  They are not only committed to improving the lives of individuals with autism through meaningful employment, they also are committed to their customers, their employees, and the communities they serve.

Here are but a few of the awards and accolades received by Bell Bank:

1.      Bell received the “Workplace Giving Award” from Minnesota Business Magazine’s Community Impact Awards in February of 2017.

2.     In 2016, Bell won Minnesota Business magazine’s 2016 “Community Impact Award” in the "Best in Class: Large Company" category.

3.     Bell Bank has been one of Star Tribune’s Top Workplaces for 2011, 2012,2013,2015,2016, and 2017.

4.     They have been named to American Banker Magazine’s list of the "Best Banks to Work For" five years in a row.

5.     In 2016, Bell Bank was named by The Fargo Forum as the Red River Valley’s Best Bank, Best Place to Work, AND Best Customer Service.

6.     Bell Bank has given more than $10 million through their Pay It Forward Program.

To learn more about the partnership between Bell Bank and Mind Shift, and how they are using the strengths of autism to create an effective, successful workforce, read the article published recently that highlights the work of Mind Shift Specialists Heather Eichhorn and Ryan Sanderson.  The link to the article is below.  We are so proud of Heather and Ryan, and we are grateful to Bell Bank for recognizing the qualifications, intelligence, and integrity that comes with people with autism.

Celebrate the 1920s with Mind Shift


On January 16, 1920, the era of Prohibition began in the United States.  This was the day that the 18th Amendment took effect, which made the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol illegal.  But did you know that the actual consumption of alcohol was not? 

When we think of this time, we think of gangsters, g-men, tommy guns, and flappers. But a lot more was happening to American culture during the prohibition era.  It was a time of great change and development in our country.  And we are still benefiting from many of those changes today.

The 19th Amendment was passed, finally giving women the right to vote.

Refrigerators, radios, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners were being found in more and more homes thanks to the availability of electricity.

Jazz was becoming a popular musical style.  In fact, the 1920s are often called the “Jazz Age”, despite the fact that many felt the music inspired decadence and immorality.

Color, sound effects, and “talking” were first used in film.  And Mickey Mouse made his debut.

And after being caught drinking alcohol during prohibition, college student Theodor Geisel was barred from participating in extra-curricular activities.  In an effort to continue to write for the college humor magazine, he worked under the pen name “Seuss”, which later became Dr. Seuss.

Celebrate this historic era with Mind Shift on October 10, when we will be throwing our speakeasy-style “In Great Spirits” gala.  The doors open at 6:00pm.  Happy Harry’s is supplying the whiskey, wine, and gin.  Rosey’s Bistro, Twist, The Toasted Frog, and IDK will be offering food pairings.  It will be a night of fun, come in costume, bring a friend, and feel good that the proceeds will help Mind Shift continue its mission to find great careers for people with autism. 

The Prohibition Era Comes to Fargo on October 10!


On Tuesday, October 10, step back with us in time to post war optimism, jazz, gin and family with a capital “F.” Who you know and who you are associated with is everything.  Mind Shift is throwing its third annual “In Great Spirits: A Whiskey, Gin, and Wine Experience.”

The evening is a high-end tasting event, set up to keep people moving, networking and interacting throughout the evening in the ballroom of the Stone Building, thanks to a generous partnership with the Kilbourne Group. There are four tasting stations set up in the venue, featuring gins, whiskeys, white wines and red wines. Each station has food specifically paired for the station.

We’ll have live jazz, flappers, gangsters, old cars, Charleston dance lessons, and a photo booth. Dress the part of a gangster or a flapper, or come as you are. Either way, plan for a fantastic evening of gourmet food, top shelf liquor and incredible music. And, we will be doing a blind bottle auction so that you can bring the party home with you! For event updates, follow us on Facebook.

Happy Harry’s will be donating the spirits. IDK, Rosey's, Twist, and Toasted Frog will be giving their time and expertise, along with the food.

Join us on October 10th from 6-9pm at the Stone Building Ballroom in downtown Fargo! Tickets are $55 each in advance and $65 at the door. All proceeds support the work of Mind Shift as we employ the unique and considerable talents of adults on the autism spectrum. 

Go to to get your tickets today.

We hope you get all “hotsy-totsy” and “ankle” it over to the Stone building on October 10th, this event is going to be the bee’s knees!

Rethinking Normal


In “Rethinking Autism: From Social Awkwardness to Social Creativity”, Scott Barry Kaufman challenges the idea that individuals with autism are “failed versions of “normal.””  The author continues, explaining that teaching this concept of “normal” and how to conform to it is the basis of our current modes of treatment and education.  Further, he discusses how new strategies are rejecting this idea, and that we shouldn’t try to change somebody to fit our expectations.  We are all our own version of normal.

Normal does not inspire ingenuity or innovation.  And rejecting somebody because they don’t meet our expectations of normal can create stagnation, and might result in some very important missed opportunities.

Below is a list of individuals who were penalized in one way or another because they chose to follow a path of non-conformity. These individuals are now considered icons, and masters of their fields:

1.      Oprah Winfrey was fired from her evening news reporter job because she was too emotional.

2.     Marilyn Monroe was not considered the modeling type, and modeling agencies recommended she try secretarial work.

3.     In the 1840s, Ignaz Semmelweis was mocked for his ideas regarding sanitation and hygene, and for requiring his doctors and midwives to wash their hands before childbirth.

4.     Stephen King’s first novel, “Carrie”, was rejected 30 times. 

5.     Monet was mocked by the artistic elite during his lifetime.

6.     The Kansas City Star fired Walt Disney because they felt he had “no good ideas.”

When we require people to fit our idea of normal, we limit their ability to innovate and be thought leaders.  But by throwing out the idea that normal is a standard that needs to be met, we inspire those around us to reach their potential, which benefits us all.

Welcome Stefanie Cristan


Stefanie Cristan has joined Mind Shift in Business Development in the Milwaukee office.  Stefanie is experienced as a sales person and account manager and has worked for technology and consulting companies for 38 years.  In addition, she also has experience working with and for non-profit organizations as a fundraiser.  Her enthusiasm for this job is founded in the ability to meld these two skills together to further the mission of Mind Shift.

Welcome Jean Roberts Guequierre!

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Jean Roberts Guequierre is Mind Shift’s Milwaukee Employment Services Manager. She is the founder of the transition planning firm Alpha Transitions LLC.  Her business paradigm is to create proactive and empowering future focused, strength based plans and referral services for families and their teens or young adults with hidden disabilities. Prior to coming to Mind Shift Jean worked as an Employment Developer for people on the autism spectrum and an intake counselor in higher education disability services. Jean’s ongoing mission is to connect people to opportunity, through planning and now through employment. She is excited to be a part of the Mind Shift vision of employment for people on the autism spectrum.

We All Exist on a Spectrum

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Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, by definition implies a range of behaviors and expectations, a spectrum. 

The subject can become quite confusing when trying to discuss what to expect or anticipate regarding behavior.

A common expression is, “if you’ve met one person on the spectrum, you’ve met one person on the spectrum,” reinforcing the fact that everybody is different, everybody’s life experience is different, and thus how we respond and react will be unique and special.  However, there are still behaviors that are common and consistent in people with autism. 

Here are a few examples of these common behaviors, as stated on the National Institute of Mental Health Website (

1.      A need for routine

2.     Making little or inconsistent eye contact

3.     Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond

4.     Using body language that doesn’t match what is being said

5.     Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like

A few other examples, as stated on the same website, are:

1.     Having above-average intelligence – the CDC reports 46% of ASD children have above average intelligence

2.     Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time

3.     Excelling in math, science, music, or art.

Our work at Mind Shift has shown other consistent behaviors, including an acute attention to detail, the ability to focus over long periods of time, a strong eye for process optimization, and the ability to work with complex systems and data sets.

There is enough consistency in behaviors to diagnose an individual as being on the spectrum.  At the same time, there can be no doubt that everybody is unique.  Everybody is quirky in our own way, and a product of not only how we’re wired, but also a product of our individual experiences.  This is true of everyone.  We all exist on a spectrum.

MinnKota Recycling and Beverage Wholesalers are Shifting Perspectives on Value

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MinnKota Recycling, Beverage Wholesalers and Mind Shift are excited to announce their partnership. A Mind Shift Specialist is working at MinnKota in the receiving department and at Beverage Wholesalers in the IT department.

Randy Christianson, owner of MinnKota Recycling and Beverage Wholesalers, first heard about the Mind Shift program during a business executives group this past January. He says, “It got my attention immediately; leveraging the strengths of those on the autism spectrum and their value to the labor market.  Strengths like – accuracy, focus, eye for deviation, process refinement, intellectual integrity.  I started to make a list of all the areas we wanted further process development or improved accuracy, particularly with repetitive, sometimes mundane, but complex tasks.  We identified the need and Mind Shift helped tailor our assessment, recruited talent, assisted us with training and are providing continuous support.”

“From the moment I first met Randy Christianson, the owner of MinnKota Recycling and Beverage Wholesalers, I knew that we’d found a business leader who saw the community value of Mind Shift, but also, immediately saw the practical applications of Mind Shift in his organization. His team was brainstorming detail-oriented tasks right away. What a fantastic group of people!” says Tony Thomann, Executive Director of Mind Shift.

Marijo Schwengler, a supervisor of the one of the specialists at MinnKota Recycling really sees the value of Mind Shift, “(Our Specialist) does great job of making sure all the details for work orders are accurate and complete. I am very impressed with her ability to learn how to enter some very complicated transactions.  And when things really do get too complicated, she’s not afraid to ask for help and is always willing to learn. She’s a great addition to the team.”

Mike Christianson, a supervisor at Beverage Wholesalers says, “(Our Specialist) has grasped the concepts we implement in our warehousing infrastructure very quickly. Once roles, expectations and goals were defined, he took ample time doing research, hands on work, and finding alternative options that may suit us better in achieving our goals. When asked to meet and give progress reports, his pre-meeting documentation clearly defines our options and his recommendations. In turn, that allows us to have more productive meetings by having time to lay out different scenarios to discuss as a group, more effectively using our resources.  He has been a great addition to the team, and with his help I have no doubt we can set many new SOP that will not only save us significant time, but also money in the long run.”

Mind Shift continues to value the investment from the local business community. If you’d like to find out more please email,

Mission: Milwaukee!

At Mind Shift, we have a vision for a world in which people on the autism spectrum are valued for the unique and substantial skill they add to the world of work. Mind Shift started out by employing that incredible talent at partnering businesses in the Fargo-Moorhead and Minneapolis-St.Paul areas, but our desire to see talent utilized doesn't end there.

So, because of incredible support from partners like Dan Tarrence, we would like to introduce you to our next phase - Mission: Milwaukee! 

We hope you enjoy the photos of us as we begin the process of setting up our new Milwaukee office! Believe it or not, we actually got some work done despite the lack of furniture and the tomfoolery of a few staff that shall remain nameless. (But, if you look closely at the photos, they are not exactly faceless!)

We are thrilled to be taking this next step and promise to keep you updated. Let's do this!


Introducing a Spectrum of Heroes

Mind Shift has promoted hiring people with autism because of the advantage they bring to the workplace.  We are quick to mention that our Specialists have greater focus and accuracy, lower turnover rates, greater attention to detail and deviation, a high work ethic and sense of integrity.  But if this is so, why do we not see greater employment opportunities for those with autism?

If this question was asked in our offices, you might hear that common misconceptions surrounding autism prevent employers from seeing the value of the individuals. 

This misunderstanding is disappointing at best, and damaging and debilitating at worst.  But there is hope.  It is becoming common knowledge that with autism come advantages that can benefit an organization.  And recently we have begun to see more and more heroes with autism in popular culture.  It’s about time.

Here are just a few examples of heroes who save the day while also living with the challenges that come with autism:

1.      Billy, the blue Power Ranger is on the autism spectrum.

2.     Symmetra, a popular playable character in the video game Overwatch, is on the autism spectrum.

3.     “The Good Doctor” is an ABC series that tells the story of surgeon with ASD.

4.     While not specifically diagnosed, Drax the Destroyer from “Guardians of the Galaxy” has become a favorite character in the autism community.

5.     Ben Affleck, in the “R” rated movie “The Accountant”, portrays an antihero with autism (this one isn’t for the kids).

And while we have fun exploring heroics in popular culture, we need to remember the real-life heroes with autism.  Those individuals who put themselves in harm’s way to assist others, those people who act with integrity, virtue, and bravery.

Heroes such as Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who was one of three individuals who stepped in to stop a white supremacist from harassing two girls on a Portland, Oregon train.  Two of those individuals died from injuries when the harasser attacked them for stepping in.  Micah was stabbed in the neck, but survived his injuries after a two-hour surgery.  Micah acted bravely and selflessly to help two people he didn’t know.  Micah is a real-life hero. 

While it is great to see heroes with autism becoming more common in our society, we should remember that greatness does not only appear in comic books, video games and movies.  There are real life heroes on the spectrum amongst us.

Raise Your Mug: Advancing Careers with Anthem

Joy Kieffer, Employment Services Manager, and Sam Packwood, Specialist

Sam Packwood is a superstar for Mind Shift!

Joy Kieffer, Employment Services Manager and Sam's supervisor, says,"Sam is extremely focused and motivated. His attention to detail has allowed him to create incredibly complex spreadsheets that are being modeled throughout the company."

Joy also shared this quote she received about his work, "I wanted to let you know how great I think Sam is!!  He is an extremely smart person and is doing an excellent job on the project.  He is a quick learner and is able to accomplish a lot of work in a short period of time.  In fact, our contact from the Information Technology department, who is training us how to build scorecards, said he hasn’t seen anyone catch on so quickly to this work and he has been working with this for over 6 months!"

We're so glad to have Sam help us "raise a mug" to Anthem for giving Mind Shift Specialists an opportunity to excel!


Forrest, Eide Bailly

Forrest, Eide Bailly

Last month, Prakash Mathew invited me to share Mind Shift's vision with his fellow members of the Thrivent Financial Northland Region Board of Directors. In addition to their generous financial support, they gave me the opportunity to meet Marci Narum. 

Marci approached me after the meeting and asked me more about both Mind Shift and my personal journey as the of mother of a child on the autism spectrum. She wanted to share our stories in Inspired Woman Magazine. Marci beautifully weaves together all of our experiences and encapsulates the struggles, hopes and triumphs of these beautiful minds!


Thank you to Marci, Jacy (our photographer) and magazine co-owner, Jody! ~Cortnee and the entire Mind Shift Team

Heather, Bell Bank

Heather, Bell Bank

Alex, Appareo Systems

Alex, Appareo Systems