Autism: Cornell coach finds special inspiration for NCAA tournament run

ITHACA, N.Y. — The text message arrived on Cornell Coach Steve Donahue’s cellphone minutes before the Big Red upset Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA tournament. It was a message from one coach to another: “If you don’t dream to become a champion, you won’t become a champion.”

The coach was not one of Donahue’s college basketball contemporaries. It was Jason McElwain, a 21-year-old volunteer junior varsity assistant coach from the Rochester, N.Y., area. McElwain spent Selection Sunday with the Big Red and has corresponded with Donahue ever since, sending Donahue messages during the 12th-seeded Big Red’s NCAA tournament run to the East Region semifinals, where it will face top-seeded Kentucky in Syracuse, N.Y., on Thursday night.

“If J-Mac says dream it, then that’s all I’m going to think about,” Donahue said. “We can do this, and we’ll see what happens.”

McElwain, who is autistic, became a national story four years ago when he scored 20 points in the final four minutes of a high school basketball game in Upstate New York. He was featured on national news programs, won an ESPY award and met President George W. Bush.

Donahue and his wife, Pamela, watched a television feature on McElwain after the 2006 game. They both cried. One of their four children, Matthew, has a form of autism. Donahue also has a brother with mental disabilities.

via Cornell Coach Steve Donahue finds special inspiration for NCAA tournament run – washingtonpost.com.

Early onset Alzheimer’s struck coach early

OSWEGO, Ill  — After practice, Oswego East boys volleyball coach Jim Mueller had beads of sweat covering the top of his head, a product of having participated directly in his team drills as the Wolves prepare for their season opener Wednesday against Benet Academy.

It’s apparent to anybody who sees him that Mueller, who has done quite a bit of running over the years, is in fit physical condition.

What isn’t apparent is that Mueller was diagnosed four years ago with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the progressive degeneration of brain cells. He is 41 years old.

via Full speed ahead :: Beacon News :: Local Sports.

Football talk used to fight Alzheimer’s

Here’s an interesting post on the benefits of talking about football for dementia sufferers. The study is in Scotland, so the “football” being discussed may be called “soccer” in the United States – but whatever football is familiar to your care recipient is probably appropriate. The man who runs the football-chat group doesn’t claim it will cure Alzheimer’s, but that the seems to elevate participants’ moods and increase their interest in being social.

The conversational skills of a dementia sufferer, who only used to speak to reveal what he wanted for dinner or to say that he was going to bed, has returned after joining a group of men sharing their memories of great football games.

George Jaconelli runs a weekly group in Prestwick, where men with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia meet to revive long-past football memories.

He said that the practice could have an amazing effect.

Now, a study has supported this by showing that dementia sufferers can start to communicate again and see their symptoms reduced, even if just for a short time.

via Football replay used to fight Alzheimer’s | Armoks News.

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.

Youth with Down syndrome & autism nears karate milestone

This Michigan middle-schooler has autism and Down syndrome — and he’s about to have a black belt.

Earning a black belt is a feat for any karate student.

However, for 15-year-old Adam Stone, that accomplishment will come with far more than the average satisfaction.

“Adam has had to go through much more to get where he is. He has 100 more excuses for why he couldn’t do this,” said Sam Larioza, chief instructor of Ohana Karate in Fowlerville.

via Youth with Down syndrome nearing milestone in karate | livingstondaily.com | Livingston Daily.

Rihanna attends Matt Kemp’s autism fundraiser

Rihanna attended Ante up for Autism, a fundraiser co-hosted by her boyfriend, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who has a brother with autism, according to E! online.

The second annual event raised $170,000 for TACA, or Talk About Curing Autism. The event website said special guests expected included Donovan McNabb, Manny Ramirez, David Justice, Danica Patrick and Rickey Henderson. (No mention of Rihanna, though!) Former MLB star pitcher Dave Stewart co-hosted the casino-style fundraiser with Kemp.

Here’s the E! report:

Things must be getting serious.

Rihanna traveled to Arizona to meet boyfriend Matt Kemp’s family this weekend, but this was no ordinary trip. The singer flew in all the way from Berlin on Saturday just so she could attend Kemp’s charity bash, Ante Up for Autism. The L.A. Dodgers outfielder is very close to the cause as his brother is autistic.

via Rihanna & Matt Kemp: It’s Meet the Family Time! – E! Online.

Kids with Autism have a baseball league of their own

Children with autism in one California community have a baseball league just for them — the A-League. Organizers say 50 kids play on the four teams — two for ages 5 to 8, and two for ages 9 to 15.

SAN DIMAS – In what may be the first of its kind in the area, a local mother has started a baseball league for children with autism.

The A-League, short for Autism League, was created six months ago by San Dimas resident Lora Mancini, whose 6-year-old son has autism.

Mancini, who had help from San Dimas Little League President Tim Roe, had previously enrolled her son, Anthony, in tee ball, but she found it to be “so competitive” and “too much stress” for children with autism.

Other specialized leagues, such as the Challenger League, were geared toward children with physical disabilities.

Mancini wanted to create something “in the middle” with a comfortable environment for her son.

via Autistic kids now have own baseball teams – ContraCostaTimes.com.

Alzheimer’s: Memories slip, but golf is forever

Do you care for an Alzheimer’s patient who used to be a passionate golfer? Check out the website Eat Sleep Golf’s two-part series on golfing Alzheimer’s patients.

Millions of golf enthusiasts have waxed endlessly about the game’s mystical power and its hold on the human mind. A handful of people with Alzheimer’s disease, no longer able to dress or nourish themselves without assistance, are proving them right.

A little after 9 a.m. last week, Wardell Johnston declared he wanted to be left alone. Confused and annoyed by the activities and tasks confronting him, the 87-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer shut his door at the Silverado Senior Living home in Belmont, Calif.

Just hours later, Mr. Johnston was measuring the uphill, right-to-left break on a 12-foot putt and knocking his ball into the hole. Then the former civil engineer, who played the game regularly as a younger man, ambled over to the driving range. He grabbed a six iron and practiced chipping with the sort of easy, stress-free swing duffers half his age could learn something from.

“I quit,” he said with a cocky grin after each successful shot. Then he deftly cradled another ball with his club, moving it into position for the next stroke. “I haven’t played a lot lately,” he added. “I should, though. I’ve still got all the strokes.”

Part One of Memories Slip, but Golf is Forever

Part Two of Memories Slip, but Golf is Forever

via Eat Sleep Golf: Memories Slip, but Golf is Forever.

Activities for Autistic Children

Autistic children need challenging, yet fun, activities that they can participate in on a daily basis. Should they be expected to participate in all of the activities that other children engage in? Of course not, but there are numerous activities for autistic children to enjoy. …

Selecting Activities for Autistic Children

Consider an autistic child’s capabilities, interests, and aptitude as you search for appropriate activities for him or her to enjoy.

* Sensory activities-Games that include the senses are often enjoyed by these children. For example, play the game “I Spy” with your children. Describe the object that you are looking at, and see if the children can find and name that object from your description.

via Activities for Autistic Children – LoveToKnow Autism.

Mom’s idea links sports, special kids

The mother of a child with autism who found a shortage of local sports programs for special needs children has come up with a simple solution: start her own program.

Suzanne Schwarz said she applied 18 years of experience as a special education teacher and knowledge gained from raising her 10-year-old son Tristan to create a program that teaches special needs children the skills to learn a variety of sports.

via Mom’s idea links sports, special kids | The Autism News.