Regional Notebook: April 13, 2023

Published: 04-12-2023 8:30 PM

Autism Connections plans 32nd annual Autism Conference

SPRINGFIELD — Autism Connections, the Northampton-based autism center that serves families and individuals in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties, will host its 32nd annual Autism Conference on Thursday, April 27. The day-long educational conference will be held in person at Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel and virtually from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The conference brings together people with autism, parents, caregivers, educators, self-advocates, professionals, organizations and service providers to build awareness and knowledge about autism, and make meaningful connections.

The schedule includes keynote speakers Jennifer O’Toole, the autism expert on Netflix’s “Love on the Spectrum U.S.,” and Andrew Arboe, founder of Driving with Autism, which specializes in helping autistic drivers and their families pursue driving as a transportation option.

Morning and afternoon breakout sessions led by regional experts will focus on topics such as early diagnosis, college, transitioning to adult services, sexuality and job seeking.

New for in-person attendees this year is a sensory room for all participants called “In the Clouds.” This quiet space with dim lighting away from the commotion of the conference offers sensory gadgets, noise-canceling headphones, bean bag chairs, exercise balls and more.

For more information about the conference, and to register, visit

NAMI holding annual walkathon

AGAWAM — The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Western Massachusetts will hold its 23rd annual walkathon, “A Journey of Hope and Recovery,” on Sunday, May 21, at Stanley Park’s Beveridge Pavilion Annex starting at 11 a.m. Registration begins at 10 a.m.

The event will directly benefit NAMI Western Massachusetts’ continuing efforts to help improve the lives of individuals living with mental health conditions and their families. Festivities will include guest speakers, raffles and more.

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For more information, call 413-786-9139, or visit pledge and sponsorship forms. Volunteers are needed.

Sarah Haessler, named Department of Medicine chair for Baystate Health

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Sarah Haessler, whose expertise in infectious diseases has been recognized at the local, state, national and international levels, has been named chair of the Department of Medicine for Baystate Health.

Haessler, who has served as interim chair of the Department of Medicine since 2022, was appointed chair after a competitive national search. She is the first female chair of Baystate Health’s largest clinical/academic department.

She received her medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine, and completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in infectious diseases at Dartmouth Hitchcock in New Hampshire. Haessler is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in internal medicine and infectious diseases.

Haessler joined Baystate Health in 2005 and has since held progressive leadership roles, including as the hospital epidemiologist for the health system; vice chair of the Department of Medicine; interim chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care; and, most recently, interim chair of the Department of Medicine.

Civil Air Patrol cadet promoted

AMHERST — Sunderland resident Elwin Binu, 16, a cadet member of Civil Air Patrol, earned the Rickenbacker Achievement and was promoted to cadet technical sergeant at the Brig. Gen. Arthur J. Pierce Cadet Squadron’s Monday meeting.

“Cadet Binu has become a capable cadet leader,” Maj. Steve Lauzon, the unit’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “He takes on the responsibilities we give him with great confidence.”

The achievement is named for Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, who led the 94th Aero “Hat in the Ring” Squadron in World War I. Rickenbacker earned nearly every decoration possible, including the Medal of Honor. Later in life, Rickenbacker served as president of Eastern Airlines.

Civil Air Patrol is the civilian, volunteer auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. One of its main missions is to encourage and foster civil aviation in community aerospace education programs. The Pierce squadron meets every Monday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in Dickinson Hall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Baystate Health to offer virtual events during Stroke Awareness Month

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health is offering three free virtual events during Stroke Awareness Month in May.

“Stress, Lifestyle and Silent Stroke,” presented by Dr. Rajiv Padmanabhan, stroke director in the Department of Neurology at Baystate Health, will be held on Thursday, May 4, from 6 to 7 p.m. Padmanabhan will discuss how many people feel stress at some level in their lives and answer the question, “Can stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices cause stroke or even a silent stroke?”

“Signs of a Mini-Stroke in Women,” presented by Dr. Heydi Flores Podadera of the Department of Neurology at Baystate Health, will be held on Tuesday, May 9, from 6 to 7 p.m. Women have a higher lifetime risk for stroke. Podadera will discuss mini-stroke symptoms that could be missed, as well as causes, diagnosis and treatment.

“Stroke Rehab at Home: Hand Therapy Exercises,” presented by Michelle Lantaigne, occupational therapist with Baystate Rehabilitation Care, will be held on Monday, May 22, from 6 to 7 p.m. Motor impairment of the hand is common after a stroke. Stroke rehabilitation and exercises to regain or build strength is part of the recovery process. Lantaigne will discuss the role of occupational therapy in stroke recovery and discuss hand exercises to do at home.

To register for the free events, visit