Archive for January, 2011

New Advocacy and Legal Resource

January 20, 2011 4 comments

This is a guest post by John Ferguson, partner at Goodwin Procter LLP in New York City and the parent of a child diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Goodwin Procter LLP is an international law firm with over 850 attorneys and 10 offices on the east and west coasts of the United States and in London and Hong Kong.

As parents of a first-grader diagnosed with PDD-NOS, my wife and I have experienced first-hand how critical the resource of knowledge can be in navigating the “system.”

When John LeClaire, a partner in our Boston office whose nephew has autism, approached me with the idea of collaborating on a legal project with Autism Speaks, I was eager to get involved.  My wife (who is also an attorney) is a member of Autism Speaks’ 2010 ING New York City Marathon Team and we’d been active volunteers for a few years.  This seemed like a great way to leverage our professional expertise to help other families living with autism.

John LeClaire and I learned that Autism Speaks receives calls and emails daily from families who are dealing with challenging legal issues and do not know where to turn for guidance.  What we decided to do was to mobilize a team of lawyers at Goodwin Procter LLP to research frequently asked legal questions and develop an online resource of information and contacts for families.  We saw this project as an opportunity to share some of our firm’s unique skills and resources in the hope that it helps others in finding answers and support that they may otherwise have missed.

It turned out to be the perfect pro bono project for me to be involved with, as over the years I frequently marveled at the potential for missteps and missed opportunities that comes without the knowledge to understand how to access available support and resources.  A group of seven lawyers from Goodwin devoted close to five months working with Autism Speaks’ family services team to prepare the legal information resource kit that will now be available free of charge for download on Autism Speaks’ website.

John LeClaire and I are both very pleased with the results.  For John, “this was an exciting opportunity to bring the resources of Goodwin to help with an issue that is close to my and my family’s hearts, and, sadly, of growing consequence and importance to our society.”  We hope that the legal resource our firm developed will be helpful to you as you strive to do the best for your children and encourage you to spread the word so that as many families can benefit as possible.

To read more about the information prepared by Goodwin Procter LLP, please visit:

Family Services provides resources and information. If you have a question, contact the Autism Response Team today. If you’re concerned that your child may be affected with autism or if you’ve received a diagnosis, browse the Tools for Families section, where you’ll find our 100 Day Kit, and the Autism Video Glossary. If you’d like to do a quick search for service providers near you, selectFind a Local Resource and browse the Resource Guide.

Artists for Autism

January 19, 2011 5 comments

‘Artists for Autism’ is a fundraiser created by Sophie to benefit Autism Speaks in honor of her cousin Jimmy. Here is the letter she sent to her school.

Dear Family, Friends, students, teachers, and parents,

My name is Sophie, and I am an (almost) 10 year old fourth grader.

I have a cousin named Jimmy.  Jimmy is ten years old, turning eleven on February 17, 2011. Jimmy has a disorder called autism, which is a disorder of the brain that makes it hard to learn, communicate, and socialize. Since Jimmy is my cousin, he and autism are very important to me, and I have come up with a project that will hopefully help Jimmy and other people with autism.

I am going to hold an auction to raise money to find a cure for autism. At the auction, I will auction off artwork, with all of the money we make donated to Autism Speaks. You can learn more about Autism Speaks at

And that leads to your job.

You, as an optional task, can make art that we will auction off.  You can make any type of drawing or painting you want. The auction will take place on the following date:

Date: Saturday February 12, 2011 (My 10th Birthday!)

Time: 3:30 PM-5:30 PM

Place: The Jane Lawton Center (formerly the Leland Center), 4301 Willow Lane, Chevy Chase, MD

Room: The Social Hall

If you do plan on participating please let us know by January 31st. You can do so by sending an e-mail to my dad, Matt, at  Please let us know how many people will be making art.

When you make your art, please submit it with an index card that includes:

  • You’re name
  • Age
  • A title
  • A brief description of the art

Since we are hoping to have a lot of people participate please only submit one piece of art per person. We also ask that you frame the art or put it on a canvas; that way it looks very nice for the auction.

At the auction we will also have face painting, refreshments, a drawing table, and a special performance by Peter McCory, the one-man band.

Please respond to this email if you are going to donate art; we will then let you know the next steps.  Be sure to spread the word; the more art, the more money for Autism Speaks! And don’t forget to invite friends and family to do the bidding!

Thank you for any support you give; whether it’s making art or coming to the auction, we and Autism Speaks will appreciate it all.



Autism in the News – 01.19.11

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Autism in Somali Children Will Be Investigated (The New York Times)
Whether or not ethnic Somali children in Minneapolis have unusually high rates of autism will be investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health in conjunction with Autism Speaks, an autism research organization, the centers and Autism speaks announced Tuesday. Read more.

Province heading for autism showdown: MacDonald (Canada)
How does the mother of an 11-year-old daughter with autism land in a civil disobedience class? Not because of casual interest or scads of leisure time. East York mom Kiri Nesbitt turned to civil disobedience training last year after nearly eight years battling the government for proper supports for her daughter Thais, and coming up empty-handed. Read more.

15th National Autism Consciousness Week (Philippines)
The Department of Education (DepEd) has set its plan of action that will target milestones in basic education, not leaving the quality of education for children with disabilities behind. Read more.

‘He should be alive’ (Australia)
The mother of an autistic teenager who drowned while in state care says her son would be alive today if he’d been given the appropriate level of care. Read more.

Event to help send child to autism center (UK)
Charlie Jackson looks like many 6-year-old boys at first glance, a child with brown hair and dark blue yes. That’s where the similarity stops. Read more.

Bob Wright Honored by American Jewish Committee

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

On Sunday, January 16th, Bob Wright was honored with the National Human Relations Award by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Palm Beach.  The AJC is a wonderful organization whose goal is to seek a secure future in a more just world. “Autism Speaks salutes and congratulates Bob in his ongoing human relations work,” said Mark Roithmayr, President.

Fireman Ed Chant App

January 18, 2011 1 comment

This is a guest post from the biggest fan of the New York Jets, Fireman Ed. Read more about his new App, in which proceeds go to the Boomer Esiason Foundation and Autism Speaks in Meghan Madte’s name.

Can’t get enough of Fireman Ed’s famous J-E-T-S chant?   Now you can take the JETS most vocal fan with you wherever you go with a new Fireman Ed Chant App.

With this App, fans have the chance to create personalized Fireman Ed J-E-T-S chants, send them to friends and post to their YouTube and Facebook accounts.  Fans can record their own versions of the chant – cheering their own names, the names of their favorite players past and present, or their families and friends.  Fans can add personalized messages to the end of the chant to make each chant unique.

The app also features a soundboard with phrases and words recorded by Ed so you can feel like you at the game 24/7.  Ed has something to say about some of the team’s biggest rivals in a series of videos. If fans are feeling traditional, they can simply listen to the 100% authentic J-E-T-S chant.

The app is available on the IPad, IPhone and Android smartphones for a one-time cost of $1.99. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Boomer Esiason Foundation and Autism Speaks.

Why Autism Speaks?

I chose to donate to Autism Speaks because of very close friends whose children have autism.  I see the commitment they have for their children, and I see the commitment they have for the Autism Speaks foundation.

Autism Speaks has provided these families with opportunities and resources and continues to give them hope each day.

I always promised if I ever had the opportunity to help them, I would.  This app has given me the opportunity to help the Autism Speaks foundation and in turn, help very special friends.

I know the foundation will continue to provide resources which help all families dealing with this disorder.  It is a great feeling knowing that I will have the opportunity to make a difference with my contributions.

For more information about the Fireman Ed Chant App visit here!

A Quote from a Community Member:

Bill Elliot: “Fireman Ed….if you are a big enough man to help the kids & parents who face the challenge of Autism daily……I am a enough of a man to switch jerseys….J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!!!!!!!”

Visit our Facebook page and become a fan!


Autism in the News – Tuesday, 01.18.10

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Christie administration OKs 23 charter school (Newark, N.J.)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has approved applications. for 23 new charter schools including the state’s first independent school for children with autism. Read more.

Granville woman pursuing dream of school for autistic youth (Newark, N.J.)
Barbara Lechner knows the world can be a complicated, overwhelming place for preteens with autism. Read more.

Living With the Label of Autism (Concord Patch)
The invitation was simple enough: Come to a birthday party at Sky High Sports in Concord. It wasn’t the first time that a birthday party invitation for my 8-year-old son has popped up in my e-mail. But each time it happens—whether it’s a birthday request for the Jungle, Pump it Up, or for a small gathering at someone’s home—the feeling I get is the same: relief coupled with a little uncertainty. Read more.

The app that ‘democratised the availability of language aides’ (UK)
Since its launch in March 2010, 600-plus copies of Grace App ( iTunes) have been sold worldwide. It’s been nominated (and won) at the Irish Web Awards and the Appies, and creator Lisa Domican has just returned from the United Nation’s World Summit for m-Learning and Education, where the app was the star of the show. Read more.

Sports cuts ‘will hit disabled and disadvantaged children’ (UK)
Disadvantaged children will miss out on playing sport because funding cuts will force schools to close specialist clubs, experts said today. Read more.

Claire Danes wins Golden Globe for “Temple Grandin”

January 17, 2011 4 comments

Congratulations to Claire Danes, who won a Golden Globe for Best Performance By An Actress In A Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made For Television for her work in HBO’s “Temple Grandin.” The much lauded film won seven Emmy’s in August of 2010 and is available for purchase on DVD.

Watch Danes’s acceptance speech below and read an interview with Grandin from the red carpet.

3rd Annual Heroes Ball

January 16, 2011 2 comments

The third annual Autism Speaks Heroes Ball was held Friday, November 12, 2010 at Venue One in Chicago. The event welcomed more than 500 guests and has raised nearly $130,000 for Autism Speaks. The Heroes Ball recognized local autism heroes as the community united to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders.

The Heroes Ball was once again organized by Autism Speaks’ partner, Legacy Marketing Partners, and was hosted by Chicago comedy all-star Patti Vasquez.  Guests enjoyed a premium open bar sponsored by Pernod Ricard USA and Coors/Blue Moon, dinner, as well as entertainment by blues legends Tom Holland & the Shuffle Kings and the Dave Herrero Band.  Dee Roscioli, best known for her performances as Elphaba in the Chicago and Broadway productions of the popular musical Wicked, performed a special tribute to this year’s nominated heroes.  The evening featured a touching video about autism, a live auction, silent auction, raffle, interactive photo booth and dancing. The crown jewel of the live auction was an overnight stay at a private Michigan estate, and dinner for eight with celebrity chef, Andrew Carmellini.

The highlight of the evening was announcing this year’s Autism Speaks Heroes of the Year.  An inspirational group of ten heroes were nominated, and through a close online voting competition, three finalists emerged.  Megan Silver, a teacher, was nominated by Melissa Silvers in honor of her work with Melissa’s son.  ” To say that Megan goes above and beyond is an understatement,” wrote Melissa in Megan’s nomination.  Autism Speaks Chicagoland Chapter board member and founder of the Ride for Autism Speaks, Diane Gedik, was nominated by her friend Donna Sheridan.  Donna wrote, “Diane Gedik is a personal hero to me and a hero to many more whose lives she has touched with her passion and dedication to raising awareness for those touched by autism.”  And, this year’s Hero of the Year, Martha Fregoso, was nominated by her friend Veronica Espinoza.  In her nomination, Veronica wrote, “Martha has become an advocate for autism since it became a part of her life the day her son Ivan was diagnosed at the age of two. Martha has educated many people as to what this condition is and how we as a society can help.”  We are thrilled to recognize these three amazing women—and the many others who are our everyday autism heroes.  Meet all of this year’s nominees.

Very special thanks to our partner, Legacy Marketing Partners, and to Vince Parrinello, Amanda Kenner-Turnbull, Lindsey Willey and all our friends at Legacy for all they do to make the Heroes Ball such a stand-out success.

Click Here to View Photos!

In Their Own Words – When Going Downhill is a Good Thing…

January 15, 2011 7 comments

This “In Their Own Words” is by Suzanne Lanthier, the Executive Director for Autism Speaks Canada.

When you live in Canada, there are a few things that are a ‘safe bet’. First, any news about hockey will make the first page of our national newspaper (case in point last June when the front page story of the Globe and Mail showcased the winners of the Stanley Cup – which incidentally was side by side with the latest findings in autism genetics research .. the closest Dr. Steven Scherer will ever get to a Stanley Cup!!).

Second safe bet – there will be snow.

This past weekend, Toronto got its first real winter snowfall. My 11-year old son, Scotty, loves the snow. He is mesmerized by the sight of flakes reflecting in the streetlights and can sit and watch this wonder of nature for hours. I keep telling him that if he was out there shoveling it with me, he wouldn’t think it was so fantastic but I’ll let him have his fun… for now.

Scotty’s autism coupled with his clubfoot makes skating really difficult and painful. His grasp of the rules surrounding team sports is limited at best, so hockey is not an activity that I have pushed too hard. But he’s a Canadian and with that comes the need to find an outdoor winter activity that he can embrace. Tobogganing or sledding was something up until a few years ago Scotty quite enjoyed. Until, that is, we had “crash day” – which really just amounted to a minor collision with another younger boy on our local sledding hill. But with “crash day,” Scotty’s love of tobogganing all came to a crashing halt.

From that moment on, anytime tobogganing was mentioned it was met with significant anxiety and “no sled, no sled, no sled, no crash, no crash, no crash” – red face, panic look, heart racing – you get the picture. He still really liked going to the hill and watching the other kids go down the hill and he especially enjoyed pushing his mother down on the sled (oh my aching you-know-what!!), but to get him to go down was a lost cause. Every once in a while, he’d sit on the “boat” – his word for the sled – but that was about all I could get out of him. The slightest move forward was met with him springing off the sled faster than a slapshot coming off of Crosby’s stick.

Until, that is, this past Sunday. We gave it another shot. It was late – about 5 PM – so only a few die-hards left on the hill. I put the “boat” at the top of the smallest incline and waited. It was a spectacular evening – clear, calm, not too cold. The moon (another of Scotty’s favourite things to gaze at in the sky) was out and a beautiful crescent shape. He climbed in and sat down. He saw some kids at the bottom of the hill and promptly rolled out with the same “no crash, no sled” that I’ve heard before. “Oh well, guess its not going to happen” I thought. So I sat and waited for him to push me down as per our usual routine.

Instead, after a few minutes, he got in the “boat” and said “just mom and Scotty” and down we went. It’s hard to know how to react sometimes. Do I cheer and make a big deal about it or just act ‘natural?’ I went with playing it cool. “OK,” I said, “let’s do it again.” And we did – again and again and again.

Scotty is an observer, and he could see that the other kids were going down on their own. So just when I was about to call it a night, he looked up at me from the “boat” and said “just Scotty.” Really?? I made him repeat it a few times until the tone of his voice pretty much said “Listen lady, I’m ready to go down on my own .. don’t make me think about it anymore or I won’t.”

So, down he went – just Scotty – on his own. I admit that I didn’t play it cool after that. I cheered like he scored the overtime goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He may as well have.

After a few more runs with “just Scotty” it was really getting dark and we were the only ones left on the hill. We both could have stayed all night but I had to be the ‘mom’ and call it a night.

We went back on Monday night. I got to go down once with him – just once. I may have to buy my own “boat.”

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

Autism in the News – Friday, 01.14.11

January 14, 2011 3 comments

Local music fest to raise money for future autism center (Fort Myers, Fla.)
The 3rd Annual Surf and Song Festival will have Downtown Fort Myers buzzing with bands Saturday. Read more.

Christie Vows to Support Autism (Livingston Patch)
Last December, at Gov. Chris Christie’s town hall forum in Livingston, Mary Beth Walsh, a parent advocate for children with special needs, introduced Christie to her son Benedict Hack. Along with other members of Autism New Jersey, they presented a plan to meet the needs of individuals with autism. Read more.

Flutie Bowl at Kings to benefit autism programs (Dedham, Mass.)
The Eighth Annual Flutie Bowl will raise money for autism programs as ticket holders mingle with the football great and other local sports figures and celebrities at Kings in Legacy Place on Jan. 20. Read more.

‘Free school to be a beacon’ (UK)
A school in Hartlebury aims to be Worcestershire’s first “free school.” The New Elizabethan School, which currently offers specialist provision for gifted and talented pupils and for children with ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and high functioning autism, is taking its place at the forefront of the county’s “free school” movement. Read more.

Layoff of DPS bus attendants halted (Detroit, Mich.)
Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager on Thursday rescinded today’s scheduled layoff of 88 bus attendants for special education students. Robert Bobb acted hours after the mother of an autistic student sued the district in federal court over the planned job cuts. Read more.


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