The 2nd Annual NEXT for AUTISM Power Pedal event taking place this April 29th is a special gathering of friends and loved ones from diverse corners of our community. Teachers, coaches, therapists, doctors, lawyers, colleagues, aunts, siblings and even young people on the autism spectrum have committed to the one-hour, indoor ride. All are helping to raise funds for programs and opportunities that empower individuals with autism to live joyful and fulfilling lives.

One such rider is Elisabeth Sheridan, clinical child psychologist and Clinical Director at the NewYork-Presbyterian Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, a center created by NEXT for AUTISM. Within weeks of signing up to ride, Elisabeth has doubled her fundraising goal. She is beyond excited, and hopes that more riders will sign up and join the fun.  Here’s why.

NEXT: You do so much for individuals and families with autism every day in your work as Clinical Director at CADB.  What motivated you to get more involved and ride to raise money for NEXT for AUTISM?

Elisabeth Sheridan: I’m riding for the patients and families that we serve at CADB. There’s such a wide range of diagnostic and clinical needs, and CADB is unique in its capacity to meet them.  CADB also contributes to the expansion of autism services and research. Just this month, I helped lead a week-long training for clinicians and practitioners from around the country and world on how to use the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, a diagnostic instrument developed by Dr. Cathy Lord (CADB’s Director). CADB offers this training several times a year and it’s a favorite aspect of my job.  I’m grateful that we can do this innovative work, and every dollar I can raise is worth the sweat!

One of my dear friends just learned that her 2 year-old is on the spectrum, and I have close family friends who are living with autism. Your saying, “Someone You Know Loves Someone with Autism,” is really true.  The numbers match our personal experiences, directly or indirectly.

NEXT: What about someone who has never been on a spin bike before? Should people who are considering joining be concerned about their ability to spin?

ES:  I don’t think so. It’s a fun community event more than anything.  I’m looking forward to meeting new people that I have a lot in common with already – we care deeply about autism and supporting the work that NEXT for AUTISM does.  This is a great community to be a part of.

Physical activity is an important part of my life, and it’s also an important part of our work with individuals and families who are living with autism.  We encourage them to join in meaningful recreational activities like exercise, not only because it’s a coping strategy, but also because it helps them feel good and develop self-esteem.  It can also be a way to participate in an activity without the usual social stress that people with autism struggle with.  So I guess you can say that anyone who’s riding is also being a great example to the individuals they know who are living with autism.  I hope that’s incentive enough to sign up!

NEXT: Has it been difficult to raise the money for your ride so far?

ES: I was a little nervous at first about meeting my $2000 goal, but I ended up raising that really quickly.  I wrote a brief email explaining what the ride is and why I’m doing it and sent the email to people that I thought might want to support this great cause.   Fortunately, colleagues, former professors, classmates, friends and family have responded with generous donations.  A woman I met in a yoga class recently is a high school teacher and donated $25 after I casually shared with her that I was doing the ride!

What I also love about this event is that I’ve been able to spread the word about NEXT for AUTISM to people who otherwise would not learn about the organization.  For example, my friends and former professors from Wake Forest University are learning about NEXT for AUTISM from me, personally, and are excited to support this great organization. This is an added bonus.  I’m really excited to do this, and I hope that you get a lot more riders to join!

Are you ready to ride with Elisabeth? Follow this link and register today!