Fun activities for children with autism in new book

CHICAGO — Susan Walton’s son has autism. He was diagnosed at age 2, when she was pregnant with twins. Spontaneity, she learned, would quickly become a thing of the past, as predictability and routine became of the utmost importance.

But the mom of three was determined to keep her family’s life filled with joy.

“The biggest mistake we can make is to put family fun at a low priority,” she writes in her new book, “Coloring Outside Autism’s Lines: 50+ Activities, Adventures and Celebrations for Families with Children with Autism” Sourcebooks, $14.99. “It is easy to be consumed by the role autism forces us to play. We are caretakers, therapists, nutritionists, nurses, taxi drivers and so much more.”But for the sake of your child and your family, having fun needs to form a central part of any intervention and therapy you pursue.”

via The Republic – Fun needs to be on the checklist for a child with autism.

iPads used to help Florida preschool children with autism

A Ft. Lauderdale preschool program for children with autism has raised enough money to buy an iPad for each of its 18 classrooms.

As United Press International reports, the tablets are loaded with applications such as Proloquo2Go, a communication app that allows users to select phrases and words to make sentences.

The school raised the money for the iPads in an “18 iPads in 18 Days” donation initiative.The Baudhuin Preschool, located at the Mailmen Segal Institue at Nova Southeastern University, specializes in teaching children with autism spectrum disorders with programs designed for pre-kindergarten students.

The school teaches about 150 students through a contract with the Broward County Board of Education.

via Faster Forward – iPads used to help children with autism.

Program helps developmentally disabled succeed in college

As a child, Megan McCormick of Lexington was told by her parents that her Down syndrome meant she would “have to work much harder” than those without disabilities to achieve what she wanted.

Her parents, James and Malkanthie McCormick, both physicians, never treated her any differently than her five older brothers and sisters though, a fact she credits with helping her graduate high school in 2007 with a 3.75 grade point average, and give her the confidence to enroll in Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington.

“It’s hard, but I’m pushing on,” said the 22-year-old, who so far is earning As and Bs, and is focused on becoming a certified occupational therapy assistant.

McCormick said her success is due in part to a program run by the University of Kentucky’s Human Development Institute called the Postsecondary Inclusion Partnership. The program provides support for individuals with intellectual and related developmental disabilities to attend regular college classes at postsecondary institutions around the state. Those disabilities can range from Down syndrome to autism, and also can include individuals who have experienced brain injuries.

via Program helps developmentally disabled succeed in college | courier-journal.com | The Courier-Journal.

Autistic children have trouble catching on to patterns in real-world scenarios

Children with autism spectrum disorder ASD often exhibit a heightened ability to pick out patterns and excel at other visual-spatial tests. But a new study puts this presumption to the test in a more real-world scenario and finds that ASD kids are actually found wanting when it comes to search skills.

The stereotype that ASD children are good with patterns and searching have been based largely on small-scale tests, such as computer- or table-top-based assays. But these tests “fail to model abilities in the larger-scale context that is typical of everyday life, including finding carrots in the grocery store, looking for one’s keys in the kitchen,” noted researchers in the new study, which was published online December 20 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

via Observations: Autistic children have trouble catching on to patterns in real-world scenarios.

Toddlers with autism show improved social skills following targeted intervention

Targeting the core social deficits of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in early intervention programs yielded sustained improvements in social and communication skills even in very young children who have ASD, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study was published online December 8, 2010, in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Although some research suggests that ASD may be reliably diagnosed earlier than the current average age of 3 years, few interventions have been tested in children younger than 3.

During the course of typical development, children learn to interact with others in socially meaningful ways. Measures of social communication include:

* Initiation of joint attention—spontaneously directing others’ attention to something of interest, such as by pointing or holding something up to show for social purposes rather than to ask for help

* Affect sharing—sharing emotions with others through facial expressions paired with eye contact

* Socially engaged imitation—imitating others’ actions while showing social connectedness through eye contact.

Deficits in such measures are hallmark symptoms of ASD and can severely limit a child’s ability to engage in and learn from interactions with others or from the world around them.

via Toddlers with autism show improved social skills following targeted intervention | Bioscience Technology Online.

Autism Society of America’s holiday tips for families living with autism

The Autism Society of America has 12 great tips for the holidays. Whether you are thinking about holiday food, gift giving, or Christmas decorating, preparation (tip #1) is key.

While many happily anticipate the coming holiday season, families of people on the autism spectrum also understand the special challenges that may occur when schedules are disrupted and routines broken. Our hope is that by following these few helpful tips, families may lessen the stress of the holiday season and make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. The following tips were developed with input from the Autism Society, the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Easter Seals Crossroads, the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at Logan and the Indiana Autism Leadership Network..

1. Preparation is crucial for many individuals. At the same time, it is important to determine how much preparation a specific person may need. For example, if your son or daughter has a tendency to become anxious when anticipating an event that is to occur in the future, you may want to adjust how many days in advance you prepare him or her. Preparation can occur in various ways by using a calendar and marking the dates of various holiday events, or by creating a social story that highlights what will happen at a given event.

2. Decorations around the house may be disruptive for some. It may be helpful to revisit pictures from previous holidays that show decorations in the house. If such a photo book does not exist, use this holiday season to create one. For some it may also be helpful to take them shopping with you for holiday decorations so that they are engaged in the process. Or involve them in the process of decorating the house. And once holiday decorations have been put up, you may need to create rules about those that can and cannot be touched. Be direct, specific and consistent.

3. If a person with autism has difficulty with change, you may want to gradually decorate the house. For example, on the first day, put up the Christmas tree, then on the next day, decorate the tree and so on. And again, engage them as much as possible in this process. It may be helpful to develop a visual schedule or calendar that shows what will be done on each day.

via Autism Society of America: Holiday Tips for Families Living with Autism.

Opportunities grow for students with autism, Down syndrome

Like many of his peers, Ben Majewski had a lifelong goal of going to college. Now, the 20-year-old who has Down syndrome and hearing problems is living out his dream despite his disability.

Majewski, a graduate of Newton North High School, is in his first semester at Massachusetts Bay Community College’s Wellesley Hills campus, taking a psychology class in career and life planning, getting tutoring, going to the gym, and making new friends.

“I got a buddy here, he has Down syndrome, he’s a veteran around here,’’ Majewski said. “He’s showing me the ropes, teaching me where everything is, and helping me meet new people.’’

Higher education used to be out of the question for students with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorders, but now, there are increasing opportunities for such students to go to college in part because of a recent infusion of state and federal funds. In Massachusetts, the Inclusive Current Enrollment Initiative, a partnership between public high schools and seven community colleges that started in 2007, is helping students ages 18 to 22 with intellectual disabilities pursue higher education.

via Opportunities grow for students with disabilities – The Boston Globe.

For autistic boy, a Bocelli concert in Boston

Tenor Andrea Bocelli gave three front-row seats to his show in Boston to a 10-year-old with autism who is a huge fan of the opera star. George Maroun III is non-verbal, but all you have to do is watch him grin and sway in his seat to see how much he loved the Bocelli concert.

BOSTON — An opera superstar, tenor Andrea Bocelli, took center stage at the TD Garden Sunday night in a performance many in the audience will likely never forget.

But it’s what happened backstage with a very special fan of the star that stole the show.

The boy, a 10-year-old with autism, has always felt a special connection with Bocelli and for the Amherst New Hampshire native, and his dreams came true when he got to see the star in person.

George Maroun III, a fourth-grader, has listened to Bocelli every day of his life. He is diagnosed as autistic, non-verbal, and he has never said a single word in his life, not even “mom” or “dad,” but Bocelli has helped him communicate and thrive.

Sunday night, he suited up in a tuxedo and was allowed to stay up late on a school night to attend the Bocelli concert in Boston.

His mother said Bocelli’s music has been magic in the child’s life.

via For Autistic Boy, Opera Is Dream Come True – Most Popular News Story – WCVB Boston.

Artist helps Florida students with autism express themselves

NEW PORT RICHEY – Adam Schmiz had the oil pastels, the paper and the freedom to create whatever he wanted, but the artistic muse refused to kick in.

Artist Mindy S. Egert decided to give the 12-year-old a little coaxing and a pep talk.

“You know what you can do, Adam?” she said. “You can close your eyes and draw with your eyes closed. It doesn’t matter. Art is from you and it’s all wonderful in my opinion.

“Adam began to draw.

It was one more small victory in the autism/varying exceptionalities class at Seven Springs Middle School, where Egert is serving as an artist in residency and giving a creative boost to the nine students in teacher Kala Hamilton’s classroom.

About half the students are autistic and the others have other disabilities, Hamilton said.”It’s very hard for these kids to focus five minutes,” Hamilton said during a one-hour lesson with Egert this week. “It’s already been 11 minutes, and they are still very involved.

Egert’s visits to Hamilton’s classroom are made possible through the VSA Florida Artist in Residency Program, which is based at the University of South Florida’s College of Education.

via Artist helps disabled Pasco students express themselves.

Hanukkah, autism and one temple’s run at a miracle

Here’s a New York Times story on how a Manhattan temple created services for special needs members. Services began with Rosh Hashanah. The second service was scheduled for Hanukkah.

On these days of Hanukkah, as Jews light the menorah’s candles, they recite a blessing for miracles of the past, for enemies vanquished and for lamp oil sustained. What might constitute a Hanukkah miracle today depends, perhaps, on what one needs and what one asks. It could even happen on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Early in the summer six or seven years ago, Nancy J. Crown set about looking for a part-time job for her teenage daughter, Sadie. By now, as both a mother and a psychologist, Ms. Crown was all too familiar with the struggle of finding any person, any program, any place suitable for a child with autism.

Doctor, dentist, swimming lessons, vocational therapy, tutoring, ballet, even a pair of shoes without buckles or laces – every part of Sadie’s life, it sometimes seemed, plunged Ms. Crown into a lonely quest.

via Hanukkah, Autism and One Temple’s Run at a Miracle – NYTimes.com.