Like many autistic children, Ethan John loves the water — and that’s both a good and bad thing.If there’s water around, the 7-year-old will head right to it, even if there’s nobody watching him.
“Everything else is so chaotic for him, but being in a pool or the ocean relaxes him,” says his mother, Koren McKenzie-John, of Tamarac. “We can’t take our eyes off of him for a second.
“Because of children like Ethan, water safety instruction is crucial in South Florida. And, in fact, experts say South Florida offers the most-advanced programs to teach autistic children how to swim. Instructors here must go through an extra layer of certification to work with special-needs children. And kids are matched with qualified instructors through Broward and Palm Beach county water-safety agencies.
“It’s a great model, the best in the country,” says Jack Scott, executive director of the Florida Atlantic University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. “Florida is trying to teach them water safety rather than have instructors who just throw up their hands and say, ‘They can’t do it.’ ”
The Colgate women’s hockey team has created an autism project in support of Kati Williams, a local teenager from Norwich, N.Y., who has been an avid fan of the women’s hockey program for several years and now serves at the team’s manager. Kati has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.
“When I first started looking into what we could do to raise awareness for autism I was floored at some of the facts,” stated head coach Scott Wiley. “It was hard for me to think about autism affecting so many people. A new case is diagnosed almost every 15 minutes. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined.
Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. in which there is no cure or medical detection. It is our goal to make as many people aware as possible and have a positive impact on those families affected by autism.”
The project will kick off with Light Up Starr Rink Blue for the Rensselaer game on Friday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. that will be televised on Time Warner Cable Sports. For that game the team will be wearing special edition puzzle piece jerseys, which will be auctioned online after the game and is looking to have at least 1000 fans attend the game. Free t-shirts, provided by Price Chopper will be given to the first 250 fans.
The team has also created online puzzle pieces through Autism Speaks, which are digital puzzles to send to family, friends and supporters of Colgate Women’s Hockey so we can help put the pieces together and raise money for Autism research.
Dozens of children and young adults with Down syndrome participate in an Ohio tennis program just for them — Buddy Up Tennis. The program pairs each young athlete with a volunteer buddy. The athletes play tennis for an hour and work on fitness for a half-hour each week. The program, which began at Columbus’ Wickertree Tennis and Fitness recently expanded to Columbus and The Club at Harper’s Point.
Organizers would like to see Buddy Up Tennis go national. Sounds like a good idea!
Wow! Follow the link to watch 13-year-old Jesse’s hands fly as he stacks cups for a crowd in Wisconsin. Sport-stacking has really taken off, as this Wall Street Journal story, which focuses on Steven Purugganan, 13, the three-time world champion, reports.
People at the 2nd Annual Transition Conference in Eau Claire got a special treat Thursday when they were able to watch local teen with a unique talent.
Jesse Horn, 13, is a world level sport stacker who is autistic. He is from Buffalo City here in Wisconsin and was diagnosed with autism when he was 3. He has been competing in sport stacking since March and already has several record times. He says he wants to increase awareness of the sport by competing.
We love when university athletes and teen-age volunteers make time to share their passion for sports with autistic children. Our bet is that Coach Bruce Weber, his Fighting Illini, and the other volunteers got as much out of this Alley-Oop for Autism basketball clinic as the younger kids! Follow the link to the photos.
The University of Illinois championship basketball team partnered with the Urbana-Champaign campus’ Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life and the Stuart I. Raskas Friendship Circle of Illinois, a Chabad-Lubavitch program that pairs teenage volunteers with children with special needs, for the annual “Alley-oop for Autism” day of fun at the arena.
Riding the Wave of Autism, the short film about a surf clinic for autistic children in Florida, will be shown on the opening night of the 25th annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, with Ed Burn’s new film, “Nice Guy Johnny.”
“Riding the Wave of Autism is so well done – so moving and inspiring…it made my day,” festival director Greg Von Hausch said.
Watch the film below, it’ll make your day, too!
The surfing clinic in Jacksonville will be Oct. 23 this year. Check out Surfers for Autism’s Facebook page.
Nine-year-old Abby Bauleke found what she was looking for in a most improbable spot. She had tagged along, following her older brother and sister to their basketball, football and soccer games — waiting for her time to come. Then leukemia and a paralyzing infection threatened to put a damper on this bundle of energy and enthusiasm, who lives in Savage.
On a recent afternoon, Abby slipped effortlessly out of her wheelchair and into an indoor swimming pool tucked into a nondescript industrial maze of warehouses in Eden Prairie.
“I feel free when I’m swimming,” Abby said. “And my teammates are great.”
As she pulled herself through the water, lap after lap, Abby was surrounded by other children swimming, splashing, kickboarding and laughing. The Clownfish Swim Club was at it again, a unique team comprising more than two dozen kids with autism, Down syndrome and other disabilities that all melt away once they break the water’s surface.