After fire, boy with autism on road to recovery and rebuilding

One year ago Jonathan Reyes wrote a letter to give his parents on Thanksgiving, telling them “I’m thankful for my house which is blue and keeps me safe.”

Today, as his mother, Jan Reyes, shows the letter she is in tears. “When he brought it home we cried a lot, of all things for a 7-year-old to be grateful for!” She cried because weeks before Jonathan’s letter came home, that blue house and their entire neighborhood were destroyed by a massive wildfire. She cried because as difficult as losing a home would be for any child, it’s a different kind of stress for Jonathan. He is autistic.

Children with autism thrive on familiarity and routine and his life had been turned upside down.

Via After Fire, Boy with Autism on Road to Recovery and Rebuilding

For Student With Autism, Having Service Animal in School Is ‘Lifesaver’

Kaleb Drew, a first-grader with autism with severe speech and developmental delays in central Illinois, recently received some good news from a county judge: His best friend, Chewey, a 70-pound yellow Labrador retriever, who has been his constant companion in school since August, would be allowed to continue to accompany him to school every day.

Chewey is an autism service dog trained by Autism Service Dogs of America, an organization outside of Portland, Ore., that prepares dogs to live with children who have autism. The dogs are trained to increase the child’s mobility and socialization and to provide a calming influence that allows the child to make greater academic progress in school.

For Kaleb, Chewey is his lifeline and his guardian angel, says his mom, Nichelle. After receiving the dog last spring, Kaleb has had fewer emotional outbursts, he is better able to focus and transition from one activity to another during class, and he does not try to run away from people—which has in the past resulted in dangerous situations in the school parking lot—since Chewey is tethered to him and acts as a physical restraint. However, if the Villa Grove school district had its way, Kaleb would have to do without Chewey at school. District officials argued in court earlier this month that the dog is not a true service animal and does not perform tasks that benefit Kaleb academically.

Via For Student With Autism, Having Service Animal in School Is ‘Lifesaver’

Boy with Asperger’s lives 11 days in NYC subway system

Day after day, night after night, Francisco Hernandez Jr. rode the subway. He had a MetroCard, $10 in his pocket and a book bag on his lap. As the human tide flowed and ebbed around him, he sat impassively, a gangly 13-year-old boy in glasses and a red hoodie, speaking to no one.

After getting in trouble in class in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and fearing another scolding at home, he had sought refuge in the subway system. He removed the battery from his cellphone. “I didn’t want anyone to scream at me,” he said.

All told, Francisco disappeared for 11 days last month — a stretch he spent entirely in subway stations and on trains, he says, hurtling through four boroughs. And somehow he went undetected, despite a round-the-clock search by his panicked parents, relatives and family friends, the police and the Mexican Consulate.

Via Runaway Spent 11 Days in the Subways

Parents Desperate for Autism Strategy

Long wait times in P.E.I. for the diagnosis of autism, up to two years, are leaving parents in a “state of panic,” said a protester at the legislature Thursday.

The government is working on a strategy for dealing with autism, but the protesters complained it is taking too long and there has been a lack of consultation. In the meantime, delays for diagnosis and assessment of what treatment is required are causing serious problems for families, they said.

“We wanted to make the public aware that this is what’s going on and we need help,” said Tammy McQuaid, who has a three-year-old daughter with autism.

“Kids just can’t wait that long, and parents are in a state of panic, they have no direction to where to go.”

Via Parents Desperate for Autism Strategy

School for Autistic Children Fears Possible Neighbor’s Plans for Engine Testing

For autistic kids, finding a classroom may be a challenge. Long linear corridors may trigger the urge to bolt. And the hum of fluorescent lights distracts, keeping them from focusing on the task at hand.

So when Giant Steps Illinois, the state’s oldest education facility for autistic kids, decided to move to a permanent site in Lisle, the architect kept those factors in mind.

He broke up the hallways in the former office building, creating canted walls. He painted walls in bold shades that would help students identify parts of the school, and he brought in lots of natural light.

The result is a new building that not only provides students with a calming, familiar environment, but also triples the school’s space and gives teachers and students much-needed elbow room to try out new ways of learning.

But nearly two months into their new digs, after spending $9 million to buy the building and $750,000 in construction costs, school officials are worried that a future neighbor could ruin what they’ve so carefully crafted.

Navistar is hoping to move its world headquarters from Warrenville into the former Lucent property at Warrenville and Naperville roads, across the street from Giant Steps. School officials are worried about Navistar’s plans to house a diesel engine testing site at the location. Executive Director Bridget O’Connor said Lisle officials told them initially that only “white collar research” would take place at the site.

“Our biggest concern is environmental,” O’Connor said. “Most parents feel the environment played a part in their children’s autism. Now we hear that Navistar will have its diesel engine testing yard 120 yards from the school yard.”

Via School for Autistic Children Fears Possible Neighbor’s Plans for Engine Testing

Going to Battle Against Autism

Any parent of an autistic child will tell you that their life is forever changed by their child’s condition. A recent study in The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders quantifies exactly how different that life can be. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison followed a groups of mothers and their autistic children (adolescents and adults) for eight days. They were interviewed at the end of each day, and saliva samples were taken every four days.

Among the findings:

  • The levels of chronic stress experienced by the mothers were similar to those of combat soldiers. The greater the child’s behavior problems, the worse the mothers’ stress.
  • Mothers of those with autism reportedly spend at least two hours more each day caring for those children than a comparative group of mothers whose children were not autistic.
  • The mothers of the autistic children were interrupted at work an average of once every four days. For the other mothers, the frequency was fewer than one interruption every 10 days.
  • The autism mothers were three times as likely to report a stressful event on any given day, and twice as likely to be tired.

Via Going To Battle Against Autism

Intergenerational Activities to Bring Families Together

Family gatherings don’t always end up going the way we wish they would, because often different generations don’t have much interaction together. With these intergenerational activities to bring families together, grandchildren and grandparents can find common ground and enjoy their time together.

via Intergenerational Activities to Bring Families Together | Home Care San Antonio.

Siblings of Autistic Children

Some families, once they have a child that displays autistic characteristics decide they will not have more children. Others feel that another child may enrich the life of their child and in some instances, provide a caregiver later in life. Still other families had one or more children before their child in the spectrum was born.

via Siblings of Autistic Children.

How to keep children’s special bond with grandparents when Alzheimer’s strikes

Remember Me/Forget You Not: These two groundbreaking programs for children and teens teach them what’s going on when grandparents with dementia start changing

Lucas was just six when his mother found him crying on the couch after a weekend visit to his grandparents. Cathi Gorham-Mol asked her son what was wrong and his answer brought tears to her eyes too.

“He said, ‘Grandpa doesn’t love me anymore. He didn’t give me a hug goodbye,’” recalls Gorham-Mol.

“He was just devastated. I told him it isn’t your grandpa who forgot to give you a hug. It’s the Alzheimer’s disease. He felt a bit better, but he was so hurt his grandpa wasn’t going to be the same.”

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