Eve Samples: A house torn apart by autism, a house of worship united by it » TCPalm.com

This Eve Samples column tells the story of a Florida pastor and his family, including a son with severe autism. Paul and Cecelia Thompson started The Hope Center for Autism in 2002. It now includes a public charter school for autistic students.

Books line almost every square inch of Pastor Paul Thompson’s office, but one waist-high shelf stands out from the others. It is packed with volumes examining the way the church addresses people with disabilities. This is the subject Thompson has been researching for his doctoral dissertation. He has been living his research, too. Thompson, the pastor at First Baptist Jensen Beach, and his wife, Cecilia, are the parents of four children — including 12-year-old Mark, who has a severe form of autism. via Eve Samples: A house torn apart by autism, a house of worship united by it » TCPalm.com.

Miami-Dade to open two autism schools

The Miami-Dade school district in Florida has announced plans to open two schools for students on the autism spectrum. District officials told the Miami Herald that the schools for autistic students will likely be in the northern and central parts of the county. The autism schools are part of a plan to convert existing space into new classrooms.

Don’t expect to see many new schoolhouses built from brick and mortar this year.

Instead, when it comes to new schools, the Miami-Dade district is transforming existing spaces into technology-rich, innovative classrooms.

The new offerings launching this month include:

• A state-of-the-art magnet school for biomedical sciences in the old Homestead Hospital building.

• A technology-driven high school for advanced and virtual studies housed in the School Board administration complex in downtown Miami.

• A new school for overage middle school students.

• Two new schools-within-schools specifically for children with autism spectrum disorders.

• A new high school for international studies housed in a Coral Gables office building.

The district is also opening a biotechnology and forensics magnet program at Miami Norland Senior High.

via New Miami-Dade schools rely on innovation, not buildings – Education – MiamiHerald.com.

Therapy dog helps Florida boy with autism

A 6-month-old golden retriever leaps out of the white sedan onto the gravel driveway.

A few yards away, pasted on the front door of the Golden Gate Estates home, is a picture of a dog with a red heart drawn around it. “Welcome Falcon!” it states.

Slowly, Kathy Lowers leads her 3-year-old son Nate toward the dog with the wagging tail.

She puts her son’s hand on Falcon’s back and looks at Nate expectantly.

Nate doesn’t react.

At first he appears the same as his siblings – Abraham, 11; Victoria, 9; Catalina, 7; Isabella, 5; and Maggie, his twin, who all squeal in delight and crowd around the dog.

But when Nate was 2 1/2 he was diagnosed with a severe, regressive form of autism.

Call his name, he does not turn around; toss him a ball, he does not try to catch it; ask him a question and he does not answer.

PAWS for Love Assistance Dogs placed Falcon with Nate and his family July 9. The specially trained golden retriever was bred for five generations for his temperament and training abilities.

via Therapy dog helps Golden Gate child with autism | news-press.com | The News-Press.

Down syndrome dancer is headed to Disney World

Thalia Arvelaez, a teenager with Down syndrome, is at a dance camp in Tampa this week. In mid-July, she’ll be at Disney World, dancing for the National Down Syndrome Congress. In November, she heads to Argentina to dance and raise Down syndrome awareness. Thalia’s teacher says she is a joy to watch. Her mother says Thalia loves applause — and when people give her flowers!

Tampa, Florida – Among the tapping toes at this summer camp class at the Patel Conservatory, you’ll find a pair of fancy feet belonging to Thalia Arbelaez. She loves to dance-all types.

“I like ballet, hip-hop, jazz, tap,” Thalia starts ticking off the list.

Thalia knows she looks a bit different than her classmates and she refers to herself as “special”. The 17-year-old has Down syndrome, a genetic condition that changes a child’s development, and she was born with a host of health problems.

Alicia Arbelaez recalls what doctors told her shortly after her daughter’s birth. “The doctor come to tell me, ‘this child is never going to walk.’”

But walk Thalia did and dance lessons at age 2 soon followed.

via Down syndrome dancer builds bridges with her feet | Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota, FL | WTSP.com 10 Connects.

Florida girl raising money for Alzheimer’s with Cartwheel-a-thon

Here’s a story about a 12-year-old Florida girl is raising money to fight Alzheimer’s disease by organizing a “Cartwheel-a-thon.” Two of Ariana Feldman’s grandparents have Alzheimer’s, and the fundraiser will be part of a mitzvah, or good deed, at her bat mitzvah. She hopes to raise $3,000.

After seeing a second grandparent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Ariana Feldman knew she had to find some way to help find a cure for the disease.

So, Ariana is turning to the sport she loves best as the foundation for a certainly different fundraiser. On June 6, she will host a Cartwheel-a-Thon, and she hopes to have dozens of people kicking up their heels for hours.“I think everyone can do a cartwheel, even if they don’t do gymnastics,” said Ariana, a seventh-grader at Tequesta Trace Middle School in Weston.

via Cartwheel-a-thon to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research – Weston – MiamiHerald.com.

Florida Tech’s tennis clinic raises autism attention

Students at Florida Tech’s Scott Center for Autism Treatment had a ball and learned valuable skills, thanks to the university’s tennis team, which recently hosted a tennis clinic for the children.

The event was part of “Aces for Autism,” the tennis team’s initiative to raise awareness and funds for the Scott Center. The clinic addressed the specific needs of children with autism and provided a fun activity for their families. The tennis team also gained valuable skills in helping children with disabilities.

via ‘Aces’ raises autism attention | floridatoday.com | FLORIDA TODAY.

Blogger touches world with story of Down syndrome

Kelle Hampton’s blog, Enjoying the Small Things, is a lush peek into her life as a photographer, wife and mother in Naples, Fla., gracefully told with her own gorgeous photos and beautiful prose about the poetry that can be found in everyday life.

Hampton, 31, has been writing about her life as wife to husband, Brett, and mom to her 2-year-old daughter Lainey nearly every day since December 2007. It made perfect sense that she would announce the birth of her second daughter, Nella Cordelia, on her blog. And she did, with this entry written by her sister and posted on Jan. 24:

At 4:24 pm, January 22, 2010, six pound Nella Cordelia Hampton entered the world and our hearts.

Nella has Down Syndrome.

via Blogger Kelle Hampton Touches World With Story of Down Syndrome – ParentDish.

Golfer Ernie Els wins for autism

DORAL, Fla. — This is one time the party got started without Ernie Els.

As he walked off the 18th green with a four-shot victory in the CA Championship, ending the longest and most discouraging drought of his career, some well-heeled friends were at cocktail party up the road at PGA National to get ready for a tournament no less important than the World Golf Championship that Els won at Doral.

The Big Easy spent Monday playing and hosting the “Els for Autism Charity Pro-Am,” with a lineup of stars that included Jack Nicklaus, Steve Stricker, Raymond Floyd, Adam Scott and Robert Allenby.

His goal, as ambitious as winning the career Grand Slam, is to raise enough money to build a 2,800-square-metre centre in Palm Beach County that eventually would be self-sustaining and treat some 300 children who have autism.

That would include his son, seven-year-old Ben, with his big blue eyes and blond hair.

via The Canadian Press: Els picks up a crucial win for himself and for his cause.

Golfer Ernie Els to be honored for his autism work

Ernie Els’ son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism four years ago at the age of 3. Since then, the three-time major champion has been a tireless supporter of research and treatment of autism. In April, he will be honored by the Golf Writers Association of America with its Charlie Bartlett Award.

The award, named for the first secretary of the GWAA, is given each year to a professional golfer for his or her unselfish contributions to the betterment of society. Els will receive the award April 7 at the GWAA annual banquet in Augusta, Ga.

Els and his wife, Liezl, founded the Els Autism Foundation in 2009 and are now in the process of a $30 million capital campaign for the Els Center For Excellence. The center will offer education and therapy for autistic children and conduct research.

via Golf notebook: Ernie Els to be honored for his autism work | Jacksonville.com.