Archive for June, 2011

The Boston Teamsters BELIEVE

June 30, 2011 2 comments

Can you BELIEVE it?

We Bostonians love our sports and our beloved Bruins. Everywhere you look you can see the B’s team logo and very often it is accompanied by one word:  BELIEVE

On June 15, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years.  Can a night get any better than that?

Why yes, yes I BELIEVE, and now know firsthand, that it can!

The night of June 15 was an incredible night for the boys in black and gold and for all the Bruins hockey fans who BELIEVED… but it was even better for this mom from Braintree.

I attended a very special event hosted by Teamsters Local 25 at Raso’s Grille. The Teamsters Local 25 Union has worked tirelessly over the past four years to fundraise for autism research and awareness.  That night the Teamsters presented a check for $170,000 to the Greater Boston Walk Now for Autism Speaks!  Allow me to repeat that…$170,000!! I still don’t think the enormity of their generosity has truly sunk in yet. Here comes that lump in my throat again!

If that wasn’t enough to blow my mind, the Teamsters also wrote checks AGAIN to support Melmark New England, a school serving children with autism and a wide range of developmental disabilities, as well as to the Braintree American Little League: Challenger Baseball division.

The Teamsters generous gifts are so important to me on so many levels – as a long time volunteer for a cause that is near and dear to my heart, serving my 4th year as co-chair for The Greater Boston Walk Now for Autism Speaks, but most importantly as a mom of a wondrous, talented, courageous, beautiful, funny, loving little boy with autism.  And it just so happens this miraculous son of mine plays on the very same Braintree Challenger League that was also the fortunate beneficiary of The Teamsters generosity!


Have you hugged a Teamster lately? Go on, they won’t mind, I swear.

So as the Bruins players raised the Stanley Cup proudly above their heads and made Boston fans’ dreams come true, I raise my cup to Sean O’Brien, Trish DiSilva and all members of The Teamsters Local 25 who BELIEVE in the beauty of giving back … it’s just what they do…it’s just how they roll…their commitment and drive to make a difference is so inspirational. THANK YOU doesn’t seem adequate to convey my deepest gratitude.

I BELIEVE strongly that the Teamsters Local 25 support is paramount and critically important to our local autism community…and just like the Bruins, they make dreams come true for so many families in Greater Boston.

Do you BELIEVE in miracles?  This mom from Braintree sure does.

Trish DiSilva, Teamsters Local 25; Erica Giunta Executive Dir. of the New England Chapter of Autism Speaks; Larry Cancro, Senior VP of Fenway Affairs for the Red Sox and Chairman of the New England Chapter Board; Sean O’Brien President of Teamsters Local 25 and Director on New England Chapter Board.

Autism in the News- 06.30.11

Chennai grad helps detect Autism (Silicon India)
A fresh graduate, just coming out from college, visited a local school in Chennai, and saw many children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other disorders. He found that because of the varied needs the proper therapy was not possible. Seeing that, Sampathkumar Veeraraghavan,a graduate from Anna University, India, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering and a group of medical professionals developed the ‘Automated Screening System for Developmental Disorders’. Read more.

St. Gerard House nearly finished (Blue Ridge Now)
Decked out in hues of blue, yellow and green, the new home for the St. Gerard House and Grotto and expansion for Immaculata Catholic School in Hendersonville is close to being finished. A week from this Friday, St. Gerard House, a nonprofit that offers treatment for autism and other disorders, will move into the new building, just a few doors down from its current location at 718 Oakland St. Read more.

Herschelman To Run In Autism Speaks 5K Race (The Journal News)
In April, Mikaela Herschelman, of Arnold, formerly of Raymond, ran her first 5K as part of the Illinois Marathon festivities in Champaign. Now the Lincolnwood alum is planning another race for a cause that is near and dear to her heart. Read more.

Adults on the Autism Spectrum Work on Software for InteractBooks and nonPareil Institute (PRWeb)
A new partnership between nonPareil Institute and InteractBooks™ will produce interactive children’s e-books with the help of young adults with autism spectrum disorder who have the unique ability of designing animation, layout and sound for apps and computer games. Read more.

Serve-A-Thon helps autism (Minuteman News Center)
The Fairfield Warde boy’s tennis team recently took part in their 2nd Annual Serve – A – Thon to benefit Autism Speaks. Jake Blumenfeld, senior Co – Captain of the Varsity and Johnny Blumenfeld a member of the JV team were the catalysts behind the event. Read more.

Autism in the News- 06.29.11

June 29, 2011 1 comment

Autism program for toddlers a super success (Edmonton Journal)
John Crabtree used to think his son was a natural genius with numbers. At two years old, Alexander could count to 100 in English, French, Spanish and German, and was trying out Arabic and Cantonese. But when the counting became an obsession, and when Alexander stopped making eye contact with his parents and began flapping his hands, his parents became concerned. He was soon diagnosed with autism. Read more.

Province launches new five-year autism strategy (Winnipeg Free Press)
The provincial government has launched a five-year plan to support Manitobans of all ages that are affected by autism spectrum disorders. The new strategy, called Thrive, will eventually include 40 initiatives, everything from a technology centre to make the latest tools accessible to parents, to a post-secondary scholarship for high school graduates with autism. Read more.

Autism Delaware awards $10,000 to innovative community programs (Dover, Del.)
Autism Delaware recently announced $10,000 in grant money has been awarded to five local organizations. The money was awarded to organizations with innovative community programs for those affected by autism in Delaware. Keystone Human Services was awarded a grant to improve communication skills for 10 individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Read more.

Boyz II Men to perform at autism event (Mooresville Tribune)
Boyz II Men, among other celebrities, will be on hand July 23 to help raise money for the Autism Services of Mecklenburg County at the first Lake, Land and Lyrics event in Mooresville. “We’ve done fundraisers in the past, but this is the first time we’ve done an event like this one,” said Hollis Nixon, event coordinator. “With the economy the way that it is, we wanted to give everyone the most bang for their buck, and I think we did that. It’s a great way to raise money and appeal to a wide range of people.” Read more.

Golf pros return to Kingsport in support of autism (Kingsport, Tenn.)
Golf professional, and recent recipient of Golfweek Magazine’s Father of the Year award, Cliff Kresge, announces his Third Annual Kresge’s Krew Foundation Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament in Kingsport, Tenn. The Charity Pro-Am is scheduled for September 11-12, 2011.  Sunday night will feature a reception and entertainment by Edwin McCain at Meadowview Marriott Conference Resort and Convention Center.  The Pro-Am Golf Tournament will be held on Monday at The Club at Ridgefields, with PGA Tour professionals in attendance. Early commitments to play include PGA professionals: Ernie Els, Tommy “2 Gloves” Gainey, Will McKenzie, Steve Marino, Matt Bettencourt, Chris Stroud, and Vaughn Taylor. Read more.

Screen All Children for Autism

June 28, 2011 5 comments

By Geri Dawson, Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks

Last week, a paper was published in Pediatrics that argued against the routine screening for autism by pediatricians. Three investigators who are part of the Autism Speaks Baby Siblings Research Consortium and I submitted a letter to the editor in response to this paper, which has now been published.  The link to the original article and the letter are provided below.  Our letter provides a strong rationale and empirical evidence to support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that all children be screened for autism at their 18 and 24 month checkups.

This exchange highlights the important role of the scientific research in directly influencing policy and clinical practice.  We were able to cite research, much of which was conducted by Autism Speaks Baby Siblings Research Consortium investigators, to counter the inaccurate statements by the authors of the Pediatrics paper.

Read the letter, Why it is important that screening for autism be provided in routine pediatric carehere. The original paper is available here.

Autism in the News- 06.28.11

June 28, 2011 1 comment

For Kids With Autism, More Than Just Tennis Lessons (Hartford, Conn.)
They’d only been at it for a few days, but participants in the Well-Served Tennis Academy were already showing progress in their ability to hit a tennis ball. The camp, open to children with autism, is arranged by Autism Speaks and hosted by the Ethel Walker School. Participants, who are taught by volunteer coaches, learn how to hold a racket, hit a ball and play within the boundaries of a court. “I love it, it’s awesome,” said 11-year-old Parker Timothy Therrien. “Playing on the courts is awesome and the coaches are fantastic. I learned backhand and forehand.” Read more.

How music helped autism sufferer Richard to express his emotions (Daily Record)
For 19 years, Richard Bolton was unable to weep more than a single tear. The only way he could express emotion was by exploding into destructive rage. Richard suffers from severe autism and although he had been a happy baby who developed normally until he was 15 months old, he started regressing until he was unable to connect with other people at all. “Any expression of emotion he had always had a tormented element and I felt I would give anything just to understand what he was thinking and feeling,” remembers his mother Anne. Read more.

Autistic man’s academic achievements earn him scholarship to Cochise College (The Herald)
When Ray and Diane Thomas walked to the tricycle races at Buena High School during Project Graduation, “both eyes lit up and she said, ‘Come on Ray, lets go for a spin,’ ” said Tim Quinn, the Sierra Vista Rotary Club’s new president.  Quinn was touched by what he saw that night and when he learned more about Ray’s story, he decided to approach the club’s board about giving an extra scholarship this year by using funds they had set aside for a trip to an international conference. On Monday, that scholarship was presented to Ray, giving him $1,000 to take art classes at Cochise College. Read more.

More carers needed for children with autism (This is Gloucestershire)
In Gloucestershire, there are 615 children with disabilities. A fifth of these have autism. There are currently 23 children in care in Gloucestershire with disabilities, of whom seven are on the autistic spectrum. Many of these children need long term care and it is in their best interests to place them with a family in the long-term, or even as a permanent arrangement. Read more.

Ballarat pair to walk the Kokoda for autism (The Courier)
The combined hiking experience between these two is limited, but their passion has no boundaries. Paul Sheridan and Stacy Shepherd will put their bodies to the limit in October when they walk the Kokoda Track, all in the name of autism. The pair will be two of 19 people to make the trek to raise awareness for Autism Victoria. Read more.


Everyone Deserves Summertime Fun!

June 27, 2011 22 comments

They say, when the sun’s out, the fun is out! But for those living with autism summer can be a challenging time. It often means breaking from routine – no school, new programs, vacations, camp, etc.

Tell us about your child’s successes in a summer community activity, such as summer camp? How did you learn about the activity? How did you plan for success? Suggestions for other parents?

Your responses will be included in July’s Community Connection’s Topic: Community Inclusion Sign up for Community Connections today

Relevant Community Connections

Traveling Tips for Individuals with Autism and Their Families

How to Choose A Summer Camp

Have Some Fun at Summer Camp

10 Things I Have Learned About Autism

June 27, 2011 25 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Quite recently I took the liberty of making a list of some of the things I have learned about autism through reflection. I then narrowed it down to 10 of my quotes that I feel best express  my understanding of the subject. They are as follows:

  1. Autism can’t define me, only I can define autism.
  2. Give advice to others in the autistic community through your own experiences.
  3. If someone calls you “awkward,” just know that it means you’re “unique” and a lot better than “ordinary”.
  4. I’m great at several things and broken in none.
  5. Ignorance is all around us but awareness is around the corner if we want it to be.
  6. Feeling sorry for myself will get me nowhere.
  7. We need to stop labeling and instead integrate, “people with people” in our communities who have different needs.
  8. Inclusion in schools will never mean I’m secluded from an education.
  9. Autism is not a disease, rather a disability that every day I strive to become an A-bility.
  10. Communication never takes a vacation.

As someone diagnosed with Autism at a very early age, I know the, “conversation” doesn’t end here. What are your thoughts on this list? Feel free to comment below!

Autism in the News – 06.27.11

San Leandro woman hopes for new autistic basketball league (San Leandro, Calif.)
Laura Bradshaw-Ve’e knows the social isolation and loneliness that autistic children must learn to deal with. Her 10-year-old son, William, is autistic with limited verbal skills. Read more.

‘Pump It Up’ accommodates autistic kids (Chicago, Ill.)
The nation’s largest indoor inflatable playground, Pump It Up recently started making accommodations for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Read more.

St. Johnsbury Boy Creates Soda Company To Raise Money For Autism (VPR News)
If you’re feeling thirsty and you happen to live in the Northeast Kingdom you might try “Kent’s Soda,” a soft drink developed by a nine-year old entrepreneur with autism. Read more.

Chance meeting was fate for James and Eddie (Herald Sun)
James is terrified of dogs. But the eight-year-old, who has severe autism and epilepsy, is calmed by Eddie’s presence. The two lived just a few doors apart in Balwyn and first bumped into each other about six weeks ago. Read more.

Devoted to the cause (Evesham, Penn.)
Matt Cortland is devoted to serving. From the days of raising autism awareness at Cherokee High School to being instrumental in the creation of a mentoring program at Rutgers University over the last few years, Cortland has been committed. Read more.


Because Every Child Deserves a Chance to Play

June 25, 2011 15 comments

This ‘In Their Own Words,’ is by Shannon Knall, the Autism Speaks Connecticut Advocacy Chair and proud mother of three awesome boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.

J walks around in circles in the corner of the tennis court.   His head is down. His hands are busily twitching and flapping.  Every now and then he mutters. A young woman and a young man circle around him, bouncing a tennis ball every now and then. They offer him a racquet, gently encouraging him to join the kids on the court.  He seems not to hear. They back away to give him space.

For the next three hours, the young woman and the young man, the boy’s tennis “coaches”, make repeated futile attempts to bring him into the group. He has two clear words; “nope” and an expletive. 

I watch J and his coaches for a while.  It is obvious that he is horribly uncomfortable, needs his space to adjust. I feel a familiar pit in my stomach. It’s the same one I get when I watch my boy plummet into his own world of autism.

This is the first day of Well Served Tennis Academy for kids with autism; a camp I created with a friend and fellow tennis player with grant funding from the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the Connecticut Council of Independent Living and Jocelyn’s Run, a local autism group.

Hosted on the grounds of the beautiful Ethel Walker School in Simsbury,CT, our goal was to create a social and athletic opportunity for kids with autism – kids who rarely get that opportunity. And by rarely, I mean almost never.

The Perfect Racquet, a local tennis shop donated all of our equipment so that each camper could leave with a racquet to hopefully allow for continued play. Our staff is completely volunteer, even the tennis pros.  Each child has at least one coach helping him with drills; taking a walk with him when he needs to take a break; holding his hand as they run a warm-up lap of the courts; high-fiving when contact is made with the ball.

After the third day of camp, I sent the following in an e-mail to our sponsors:

I felt compelled to write to you tonight after processing the day’s events at camp.

As you know, the autism spectrum is wide and varied, making it ever-more complicated to understand and/or treat effectively.  This certainly applies at Well Served Tennis Academy.

A boy named J started Monday. J has very little language. Monday he spent a great deal of the morning sitting in a corner of the court.  His volunteer coaches did engage him in exercises like sandwich races (two racquets together, ball in the middle – the goal to work on ball control, hand/eye coordination, moving the ball across the space of the racquet) and J did great. That was the only activity he participated in that day. Our goal is about exposure on the kids’ terms.  

After snack, his coaches, Trevor and Catherine figured out that they could have him push the ball against the fence or the court with the racquet and in so doing significantly raise his level of participation. J was squealing with delight.

On Tuesday, J participated in sandwich activity AND walked around the perimeter of the courts, picked up some balls and allowed his coaches to get on the ground with him and bounce the ball to him. I held the racquet with him and hit the ball back. We did this a lot. I was so happy he was ENGAGING!  And more importantly, J was again SQUEALING with joy.

On Wednesday, it rained. Ruh Roh. We went inside to the gym. I was very concerned about the kids’ tolerance for the noise and heat, but they did great. J started off bouncing the ball back and forth with his coaches. Mid-morning, I worked with him on holding the racquet while the coaches bounced a ball to him…and we hit it back. Over and over and over again. Finally, he needed a break so he sat down.

During breaks, J would sit with Catherine and lean against her, rub her hand and try so very hard to say her name. When he was ready again, he said “Trevor run”. AMAZING!

We made a game out of running Trevor around the gym. I guided him as he hit the ball back from Trevor’s tosses…all over the place so that he could watch Trevor RUN!  Suddenly and spontaneously, he stood up and allowed me to guide his racquet in a semi-forehand stroke to HIT THE BALL as it was fed to him. TEN times.  He sat down, and five minutes later did it again. He was so unbelievably happy that he was screeching with delight and well…left me with teary eyes.

I really wanted to share this with you because I want you to know that your support has made a PROFOUND impact on J, his fellow campers and all of us who have the privilege of working with them.  I have seen every kid grow day by day and it has been EXACTLY what I hoped and KNEW this camp could be.

As a mom to a child with autism, I am so grateful for the opportunity you have helped to secure for these children.

Tennis champion Boris Becker said, “I love the winning, I can take the losing, but most of all I love to play.”

Between the two camp sessions, we will give almost twenty-five children with autism a chance to play tennis on their own terms, at their own pace, with all the love and support we can.

Because EVERY child deserves a chance to play.

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“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 – 06.24.11

June 24, 2011 1 comment

Center to help autistic children proposed in Portage (Portage, Mich.)
The vacant Moose Lodge on Portage Road could become the home of a new center that will help autistic children and their families from Southwest Michigan as well as the entire state. Read more.

Morelle’s autism bill may be closer to becoming law (Irondequoit, N.Y.)
Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, D, Irondequoit, announced late last week that legislation, which he sponsored, requiring health insurance coverage for autism treatments and therapies has once again been unanimously approved by the New York State Assembly and Senate. Last year’s version of the bill was vetoed by former Gov. Paterson. Read more.

Ex-Pa. school worker admits online threats (Easton, Penn.)
A former employee at an eastern Pennsylvania school district admits posting online threats against the middle school where he worked and a nearby airport. Read more.

Car knocks person off bridge into Ohio River (Covington, Ky.)
Police say crews in northern Kentucky are searching the Ohio River after a person was struck by a car and knocked off the Brent Spence Bridge. Read more.

Parents lose fight to save city school (UK)
to close a special needs school in Glasgow have been approved despite protests from parents. Councillors agreed the proposal to shut St Raymond’s Primary, Castlemilk. Read more.



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