Posts Tagged ‘Family Services’

Rodney Peete, NFL Star and Autism Dad, to Host Next LIVE Facebook Chat

June 12, 2011 3 comments

Rodney Peete, former NFL Star and author of Not My Boy!: A Father, a Son, and One Family’s Journey with Autism, will be joining us on June 16 at 7pm EST to host a LIVE Facebook Chat! Rodney is the Co-Founder of the HollyRod Foundation, which is dedicated to providing compassionate care to those living with autism and Parkinson’s disease.

Check out our last Family Services hosted chat here!

Post Sentencing of Reginald “Neli” Latson

June 8, 2011 29 comments

Teresa Champion is an attorney admitted to the bar in Kentucky and Washington State. She has two children; Sydney and James, who has a diagnosis of autism.  She is a long time civic and community activist, who works with the Fairfax Autism Network (FAN) and the Virginia Ability Alliance (VAA). Champion is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA).  Currently, Teresa is volunteering for the Virginia Autism Project (VAP) as the Northern Virginia Regional Director.

The preliminary blog, ‘The Latson Case in Virginia: A Danger Signal That We Can’t Ignore’ can be read here.

Reginald “Neli” Latson’s sentencing hearing took place in Stafford County, Virginia Circuit Court on Tuesday May 31st.  In March, Neli was found guilty of charges associated with an assault of a police officer and the jury recommended a sentence of 10 ½ years. In Virginia, the jury recommends a sentence and the judge imposes the sentence at a later date. Virginia law has no provision for parole. Neli will serve his entire sentence.

The courtroom was packed with people who came to show support for Neli and for a sentence that would both protect the community while providing desperately needed services for Neli. There were no seats to be had and a number of people stood throughout the long afternoon. A number of members of the Stafford community who know Neli were present, including the owner of the car wash where Neli worked through his vocational program, as well as family friends and neighbors. Also present were many parents of children with autism, representatives from the Arc of Northern Virginia, the Autism Society of Northern Virginia, and Autism Speaks. There were also several adults with autism in the courtroom who had traveled to Stafford to demonstrate their support.

Five witnesses testified for the defense: two experts who had evaluated Neli — a psychiatrist and a pediatric neuropsychologist who both specialize in autism spectrum disorders; the vice president of the residential school that is part of the proposed treatment plan; and two individuals from the community who had very close relationships with Neli: a school social worker who worked with him between 9th and 12thgrade, and Neli’s middle school wrestling coach. They all gave powerful and informative testimony. The testimony established that Neli has a diagnosis of autism and intellectual disability and that these conditions explain why he behaved as he did in the encounter with the police officer. The testimony further established that while Neli has significant challenges, and although he was deprived of early intervention for autism because his disability was misdiagnosed as ADHD until he was in 8th grade, he also is an exceptionally good candidate for intervention and has shown remarkable motivation and progress when placed in the right environment. The experts proposed a detailed and specific plan that would provide Neli with intensive intervention in a safe, secure and closely supervised residential setting for an extended period of time.

The prosecution did not offer any testimony from witnesses and submitted only limited evidence aimed at showing that Neli had behaved badly in the past. One item of prosecution evidence was Neli’s special education file. Its thickness, the prosecutor argued, was proof that Neli had had all the services he needed and to no avail and that therefore this case was not about autism but simply about “a violent man” who should be incarcerated. The prosecutor stressed that this was “a case, not a cause” and that it was inappropriate for the defense to attempt to “medicalize” criminal behavior.”

One of the many emotional moments of the afternoon came at the end of the day when the judge, just prior to announcing his decision, asked Neli whether he wished to say anything. Neli stood and, with permission of the judge, turned to face the officer. In a voice barely audible he apologized. He spoke several sentences that were difficult to hear though their meaning was clear.

The judge found that the plan proposed by the defense experts – hospitalization for several months at a Virginia psychiatric facility followed by intensive services at the residential school – was clear, strong and realistic, but he declined to implement it immediately. He set aside the jury’s sentence of more than 10 years and imposed a two year period of incarceration, with the remaining eight years “suspended,” meaning they can be imposed if Neli does not cooperate with the terms of his probation (i.e. – participation in the treatment plan). Of the two years imposed, Neli has already served one year, and he will have about another 8 ½ months to serve when his credit for good behavior is factored in.

All considered, though we certainly would have preferred to see Neli transferred to the hospital after the hearing, this is an extraordinary outcome given the traditional sanctity of a jury verdict in Virginia. The defense team, which includes lawyers and experts who donated untold hours and resources on Neli’s behalf, will make every effort to use the next 8 ½ months constructively to help Neli make progress even before he leaves the jail for appropriate care.

The witnesses called by Neli’s defense team expressed compassion for the injured officer.  The witnesses and defense counsel made it clear that what happened to the officer that day was not the officer’s fault.  Everybody lost that day last May when the confrontation occurred.  As this population with an ASD ages and those individuals, like Neli, who didn’t have access to adequate treatment and therapy become adults, we must explain autism to the community at large – just like we had to do for our children’s teachers, caregivers, and family members when they were younger. We worked for acceptance and training everywhere they went.

We have to be one step ahead of our adults with an ASD in the community.  We must talk honestly about the hallmarks of someone with an ASD and also educate our young adults on how to interact with someone in law enforcement and public safety. We have to show our disabled adults how to be interviewed and possibly arrested by the police.  The legal system is not equipped to deal with individuals who can’t respond appropriately and/or control their response because of a disability. We have a lot of work to do to educate and train the judicial and legal systems and the community at large.

An Inside Look from ‘Perfect Pals’ Faculty Sponsor

May 26, 2011 4 comments

This is a blog post by Liz Reinemo, faculty sponsor of Perfect Pals, Nantucket High School’s mentoring club for students with disabilities. Liz works with Kim Horyn, Director of the Nantucket Autism Speaks Resource Center.

I am both honored and humbled to be the faculty sponsor of Perfect Pals, a group committed to ensuring that all kids have a friend and have some fun!  I became the faculty sponsor by chance, after a conversation with Kim Horyn, the director of Nantucket Autism Speaks Resource Center, who was wondering if I knew of any students who would like to volunteer their time to work with students with disabilities.  I immediately jumped at the opportunity to form a group, because I knew several of my students would reap the rewards of befriending students with disabilities.  Hence, Perfect Pals was born.

I was both nervous and excited by the thought of Perfect Pals.  I dreamed of what could be, and I explored all of the potential roadblocks.  It was important to me that the students involved were not let down.  At our first meeting we had thirty interested high school kids, eager to check out what the club was all about.  I was so pleased that these students, who already had a full plate, juggling rigorous academics, athletics, theater and extra-curricular activities, found the time and showed a sincere interest.  Word spread and at our first event, a Halloween Mixer, we had over thirty students come to help.  Watching my students outside of the classroom, and for some their comfort zone, has been a rewarding experience.  They are not looking to stand out as they can in the classroom, or are cocky like they can be on the athletic field, they are just themselves, kind, effervescent kids with big hearts who are humbled by the experience to help.  These students go above and beyond working in Perfect Pals.  I am lucky to be able to watch these kids reach out and sit with their pals at lunch, invite them to homecoming activities, read a book with them in the library and volunteer their time to babysit some of the younger pals.  Countless stories have emerged from the school community about what a difference our club makes and it is because of the dedication these students feel to their pals that keeps the club thriving.

It doesn’t get much better than watching a child’s face light up at finding a friend to talk Star Wars with or make a Valentine’s Day card for their favorite teacher or ride in the homecoming float.  It is especially rewarding when these students have disabilities, and for some this is their first taste at hanging out and being one of the gang.  Watching the pals play ping pong with their mentors or win a game of Uno is sheer awesomeness.  At a recent movie morning the pals got to dictate the events, everything from Jenga to coloring to table hockey.  The diversity in the room is heartwarming.  Every child is the same and is treated the same, and feels safe, loved, and accepted.  This is the second year of Perfect Pals and the growth in the students with disabilities has been remarkable.  At first many of our pals did not want their parents to leave.  Now, they are excited when they see their friends and feel comfortable telling mom or dad that they will see them later.  Being a part of their growth process is wonderful.

I am truly grateful to the parents of these children.  I have been stopped in the supermarket or at a game and listened to different versions of the same story.  The moral is basic and straightforward: Perfect Pals has made a difference in my child’s life.  My son/daughter can come to these events and be him/herself.  Nobody is there to judge them, and they can interact with a diverse group of kids, everyone from the prom queen to the hockey star, or head of the class.  There are no barriers.  My child feels accepted and has a blast!  That sums up the mission statement of Perfect Pals.  By providing activities and forming meaningful friendships within the club, parents are given much needed respite.  They do not need to continually entertain their child.  The students are interacting within their peer groups and learning life’s lessons.

I am a better teacher and friend from my work with Perfect Pals.  I watch my students step away from their friends and make new friends stepping out of their comfort zones, learning strategies of how to engage some of our students with special needs. I see the value of this club reflected in the delightful smiles of our pals who have discovered that they belong.  I witness the relief of parents who know that this club and its work is benefitting ALL children.  At the end of the day, it feels good to be part of something so great.

Click here to search our Resource Guide for recreation and community activities in your area!

Family Services Inaugural LIVE Facebook Chat

May 26, 2011 4 comments

In case you missed it, the Autism Speaks Family Services Team hosted their first LIVE Facebook Chat on May 25. The chat was an overwhelming success, with 426 participants!

If you have any questions,  you can call, 888-288-4762 and the Autism Response Team Coordinator will be glad to speak with you and help find answers.

You may have some similar questions asked in the discussion, so here is the transcript. 

Hi Everyone!
Thank you so much for joining this chat! We are so excited to share our resources with you all. Our goal is to point you all in the right direction and help you in every way that we can!
Comment From Guest

is there a test for asphergers syndrome?

Unfortunately there is no medical test to determine Autism Spectrum Disorders, the diagnosis is made through structured observations of the person.
Comment From Lilly

My son has moderate autism and is 16 years old. where and when do I look for services for him when he is an adult? What services does he get or can he get?

Family Services has just released the Transition Tool Kit, this kit will be a tremendous help to you and your family in finding resources go to
Comment From Guest

When I read “early intervention”, how old is ‘early’?

Thanks for your question!
Early intervention typically starts at the age of 2, although the earlier, the better.
Some children are being diagnosed at age 1 today because of better detection and awareness.
Comment From Angie

I sent a question, did it get received?

Hi Angie!
Comment From Melanie

I was wondering if you have any book recommendations for family members who dont know anything about Autism and educating them?

We are trying to answer as many questions as possible!
Our Resource Library is available online and we have a variety of autism related information and the latest books
Comment From Chall

How do I learn about support groups in my area? I currently live in Mt Pleasant. Also, is it possible to have a diagnosis of PDD NOS at age 4-5 and then suddenly fit ito a category like Aspergers?

Hi Chall!
If you visit our Resource Library, you can search by state to find services in your area
Also, it is true that children can change over time, so it is important to have your child reevaluated to track progress and changes in development
Comment From Marie

Is there resources or supports for siblings? I have an 11 year old son with Aspergers and Tourettes and our younger son who is 9 is dealing with some issues dealing with his brother…

Hi Marie – that is a great question
We covered this topic in a ‘Community Connections’
Comment From Annie Ellis

I asked a question and got no response. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for getting my 3yr old autistic son, Jamey to eat or even try new foods?

Hi Annie Ellis
Selectivity in food choices if very common in individuals with autism
This should be included in your child’s IEP as a goal and addressed through a team effort because of the challenges of this type of behavior
There are several programs out there to help Jamey try new foods, it is a matter of individualizing it for your son
Comment From Dawn

My daughter has found a program for the summer for my grandson, but it is so expensive and not covered by her medical insurance. Is there help out there?

Hi Dawn
Summer Programs can be very expensive and one of the things we encourage families to do, is to ask for scholarships or sliding-scale fees for those who cannot afford to pay full tuition
Also, there are community groups who do make donations to cover the individuals tuition
Autism Votes is working to ensure that these types of programs can be covered under medical insurance.
Comment From DENICE


Hi Denice
Walk Now for Autism Speaks has a strong presence in Texas and we would encourage you to become a part!
If you need more help, check out Texas Resource Guide here:
You all have such great questions! We are working to answer all of them!
Comment From Guest

what sort of trainings might parents of children with (mild) autism want to participate or get trained in? (ABA, etc.)

It is well known that families that get involved with working with their children ahve a higher success rate in achieving their goals
It is important to find local trainings or workshops that can assist you with these details
Comment From chris

How do I tell my son about the changes his body is going through?

Hi Chris!
This can be a very difficult conversation
There is a ‘Sexuality’ section in the Transition Tool Kit that helps to explain the changes their body is going through
Comment From Sarah

My son is a 16 years with a diagnosis of asperger. He really wants to be like “other” kids, and would like to get a part time job…but making calls, etc. scares him. Any suggestions?

Hi Sarah! Thanks for your question
It is understandable that he would react like this. Practicing will help him learn and gain this skill.
He could take his resume and bring it to a store if he feels more comfortable face-to-face. Sometimes it is easy to interact in that way
Comment From allisa

I need to find qualified respite or care giver for an 11 year old with a dual diagnosis of down syndrome & autism. I am a single mom with 3 children….and I never ever have a break … there any options at her age ?

Hi Allisa
Typically parents will go through local agencies, like Easter Seals, that provide respite
Networking to find that respite worker is key – maybe other parents, your church group, local colleges, etc.
You are right – you need a break!
It is key to find someone that you and your child are comfortable with
Comment From Tasha

My daughter is 3 and just got diagnosed with Autism last week. When I tell people she is Autistic, NO ONE believes me. Not even family. Could the doctor and I have been wrong? Or is there a way to open peoples eyes and except it?

Accepting an autism diagnosis is a process
Sometimes family members will react with denial, and this is normal and difficult. If your child has been diagnosed by a competent professional then you should feel like you have taken the right steps in getting your child the right help that they need
Comment From arrione

Are there any good programs in Louisiana for autistic children?

We offer a Resource Guide Directory of autism resources and agencies that can be of help to you.
Comment From Courtney

We just found out my son has Autism last Thursday. We were also told that the waiver for funding for his treatment will take about a year. What can we do in the mean time?

Hi Courtney – I can’t specifically answer your question because most funding and treatment depend on the state you live in
In the meantime you can visit this page, ‘Your Child’s Rights’
You are doing the right thing about asking questions and asking why. The earlier you start, the better off you are
Here is also a link to our ‘100 Day Kit’ that can help steer you through early diagnosis
Comment From Sue

We have struggled with pubic school to get what our 8 y/o son with Asperger’s needs. They think all Aspie kids are the same. We will be home schooling in Fall. Can anyone suggest curriculum’s that help keep a 3rd grader engaged?

Hi Sue
We have developed a Tool Kit that you may find very helpful that is geared to individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome
Comment From Trina

Are there any resources online to help an autistic teen prepare for a job interview?

Here is the ‘Asperger Syndrome and high Functioning Autism Tool Kit’
Trina, I would recommend you visit our ‘Autism in the Workplace’ guide
‘Autism in the Workplace’ is a useful guide for helping individuals prepare for a job interview
This focuses on employment readiness
Comment From Traci

I am single mom with no income and I am having troubles finding the help I need for the guardianship paperwork for my son. He is turning 18 in July so I don’t have much time. Any suggestions?

Hi Traci
This changes depending what state you live in. There is a section in the ‘Transition Tool Kit’ called legal matters.
Guardianship differs from state to state so it is important that you discuss with a state agency
Hey Everyone!
We are so excited that you are all participating, but we just don’t have the time to answer everyone’s questions!
If your question goes unanswered you can call, 888-288-4762 and the Autism Response Team Coordinator will be glad to speak with you and help find answers to your questions
Comment From Suzanne

When my 3-year old was diagnosed a year ago with Autism, doctors and early intervention services were lined up to evaluate him. But nobody cares about getting my 8-year old a diagnosis. How do I get a comprehensive evaluation for an older child?

Hi Suzanne
We are so sorry to hear you are having difficulties. The process should be the same as a younger child, but we often recommend that you go through your pediatrician to get a referral. This is a good way to begin the process.
The school district and state agencies should also be involved.
This is a common complaint from families that have older children requiring an evaluation
Comment From amy

need information on how to make a child with aspergers behave at school

Hi Amy – here is our ‘Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Tool Kit.’
This is an excellent resource and you should be able to find just what you are looking for!
Comment From arrione

Do autistic kids need to get their hearing checked?

Hi Arrione
Along with their vision, hearing should be included in their annual check-up with their pediatrician. This is true for all children.
Comment From Jess

My son, 5, has problems with aggression. He has pretty severe sensory processing disorder (official diagnosis PDD-NOS). He’s always hitting and kicking the people around him. I’m worried it will keep him from having friends as kids are already eyeing him warily. What are the best resources to help us deal with it? Time outs and other typical discipline do not work.

Aggressive behavior can be part of having an autism spectrum disorder. It is important to have a professional understand and evaluate the child’s behavior. This is done through observation of the behaviors and the environments they occur in.
You should ask your child’s teacher or members of the IEP team for a behavioral consultation
Part of the evaluation will be a plan that will help to address behaviors across all environments
Comment From Devin

My 3 year old daughter has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS. I was just wondering if there are any ways to help her cope while out in public. We can’t stay at home ALL the time, but she just cannot function in public. It’s heartbreaking and embarrassing at the same time.

Hi Devin
Our recommendation is to get some help with this and your IEP Team should be a resource
It is important to have your child out in public and exposed to different people and communities. It is also important to deal with behaviors once they do come up
Your child will have the opportunity to adapt and learn new behaviors when you respond consistently each time
It is important that you are addressing these behaviors at a young page – good for you!
Alright everyone, this chat is coming to a close
Thanks to you all for participating!
We are so sorry if we didn’t answer all of your questions. We are still here for you!
Please call the Autism Response Team 888-288-4762 and you can talk with coordinators who will be glad to answer your questions

Healthy Living

May 23, 2011 17 comments

Welcome to this installment of ‘Topic of the Week.’ These topics stem from submissions from our community. If there is anything in particular that you would like to see featured, please contact us!

Fitness, nutrition, and general health and hygiene are critical components of a full and happy life. Do you have a health and wellness plan? What types of fitness do you or or child engage in? How do you implement health and wellness in the day-to-day?

For more information on Healthy Living, please visit here.

Join a LIVE Facebook Chat with Our Family Services Department

May 23, 2011 4 comments

On Wednesday, May 25 at 3:30pm EST, our Family Services Department will be hosting a LIVE Chat! Visit our Facebook page and join in the conversation!

While we work to change the future for those who struggle with autism, the Family Services Team is committed to addressing the daily challenges people with autism, their families, and caregivers face today.

Living with autism is often accompanied by a profound sense of isolation and helplessness, for the individual with autism as well as the family. “It is important that families can connect with us, quickly get the information they need, and that they recognize the power of their own advocacy,” states Marianne Sullivan, Assistant Director of National Outreach and Resources.

The Family Services Team supports families by connecting them to resources and information, enabling them to make informed decisions. Information is a powerful tool; it can lead to dramatic improvement in the outcome and quality of life of an individual with autism.

Resources for all Ages
The Autism Speaks online Resource Guide is one of the largest databases of autism resources in the country with more than 36,000 entries and information from all over the United States. Searchable by state or by zip code, resources are organized into over 35 categories.

An online Resource Library provides a variety of autism related information and reference materials including books, blogs, catalogs, and tool kits as well as resources for Spanish-speaking families.

Age-Related Resources
Age-related resources are organized into three categories in the Family Services section of the Autism Speaks website: Diagnosis /Intervention (0-3), School Age/Youth (3-22) and Young Adult/Adult (22 years and older).
A family can quickly get to the information that is relevant to their loved one. We realize families are busy people, short on time, and want to put their finger on information that typically has to do with an individual’s age.

Autism Response Team (ART)
Families have the opportunity to contact the Autism Response Team (ART), who are specially trained to talk and email hundreds of families each month. An ART coordinator can be contacted through a toll-free number, 888-AUTISM2 (288-4762), or by email at

Tool Kits are free and available to download online

100 Day Kit, available in English and Spanish, provides information for families whose child has recently been diagnosed with autism.
Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism Tool Kit is also available

School Community Tool Kit
provides information and resources for general education and administrative school staff to support a positive school experience for children with autism.

Talking to Parents about Autism: Action Kit
contains tools to help initiate the critical conversation with parents if someone suspects their child may be exhibiting early signs of autism.

Transition Tool Kit
serves as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.

To learn more about additional resources available to the autism community join us for a Live Chat on Wednesday, May 25th at 3:30 EST

JobTIPS: Helping to Level the Playing Field for Individuals with Autism in the Workforce

April 28, 2011 4 comments

This is a blog post by Louise Buchholz Southern, M.Ed., BCBA., formal special educator and content director at

Many people with autism spectrum disorders are fully capable of joining the workforce, living full and independent lives and being tax-contributing members of our communities. Yet the number employed is relatively low due to lack of access to information and supports that would result in gainful employment. JobTIPS is our attempt to help level the playing field.

As a former special educator at the secondary level, I spent so much time focusing on my students’ academic and social skills development that I had little time to track down or develop resources that supported their vocational needs. I was not alone.

A group of us – educators, clinicians, parents and advocates – banded together to see what resources were actually out there.  Unfortunately, what we found was very limited and not tailored to the special needs of individuals with autism. Many people reside in remote and underserved areas, where there is even less access to supports, combined with the fact that not all available resources and instructional strategies are of a high quality or consistency.

Many of these students are not going on to pursue post-secondary education options, but often graduate without the basic skills needed to find and maintain employment.

Understanding the “why”

A prospective job applicant like “James” is ill-equipped to follow his dream in the workplace. Getting along with co-workers is really hard for him. He gets tired of “adjusting to them” and often asks “why can’t they adjust to me?” James, like many young adults with autism we see every day, has trouble keeping jobs. Over the last 10 years he has been hired and fired repeatedly, seldom understanding why. For others, the challenge is simply getting hired.

Tough questions. Tough questions that we felt could be addressed by merging technology with our expertise in the field of autism. We broke down this web-based resource into four core parts – Determining Interests, Finding a Job, Getting a Job, and Keeping a Job.

We designed real-life, interactive exercises that not only deal with the practical skills of identifying jobs that match their strengths and filling out applications, but developing their understanding of, and response to, the important social nuances that underlie the workplace environment. To teach them the “whys” of social interactions that typically get in the way of their success.

Successful employment is a key to greater independence

Successful employment is a key to greater independence – healthier self-esteem and higher quality of life – for individuals with ASD.  JobTIPS aims to offer these young adults the right resources to help them optimize their potential and at a level where employers see and appreciate the unique skills and talents they have to offer. To find out more, visit

Autism Speaks has many employment-related resources for individuals with autism and their families. These include: Autism in the Workplace, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism, and the Transition Tool Kit.

Celebrating Moms!

April 25, 2011 61 comments

Welcome to this installment of ‘Topic of the Week.’ These topics stem from submissions from our community. If there is anything in particular that you would like to see featured, please contact us!

We would like to celebrate mothers this week!

What positive message do you want to send to other Moms who have a child with autism? If you could offer encouragement to other Moms what would you say? What new strength or wisdom did you gain from raising a child with autism?

Be sure to subscribe to the next Community Connections that will, “Celebrate Moms,” to be published on May 6.

Camp Good Times

April 14, 2011 3 comments

This is a post by Beth R. Weiner, Director of Camp Good Times of Charleston, as well as the mother of two campers, one of whom has autism. 

For the past 11 years I have had the opportunity to send my boys to a great summer day camp. They get to go swimming everyday, shoot baskets, do arts and crafts, go on field trips to the movies, water parks, mini golf, get computer time, and see the friends they have made over the years. Luckily for me, there is Camp Good Times of Charleston, a summer day camp for kids with autism. One of my boys is diagnosed with autism, which can make it difficult, if not impossible, to attend a typical summer camp. I am also fortunate to be the Camp Director.

Camp Good Times has been operating since the 1970s when it was created as extended school year by Dr. Lucia K. Horowitz for the Charleston County School District. We are now a 501©3, non-profit. Camp Good Times is a great camp experience because not only do we offer summer camp fun, but campers get to go to camp with kids not diagnosed with autism.  These children are considered “typically” developing and all the kids are grouped by age. In a lot of cases it is hard to tell the “diagnosed” kids from the “typical” kids. It doesn’t matter; every child who goes to Camp Good Times is assured of a fun filled and safe summer camp experience.

That is what families are looking for, camp, not school, not therapy, but camp.

One of the ways, the most important way, we do this is that we hire adults. Our staff, who return year after year, are area educators. 80% of the staff has been at camp for at least 5 years. Hiring area teachers and classroom assistants is great on several levels. They bring a maturity to the position, they are responsible, they understand children and most importantly they learn about autism and its many faces. After camp is over, they return to their schools and have new positive ideas of what a child with autism is like, is capable of and become strong advocates for them at their schools.

Imagine this scene, families dropping off their camper in the morning, 112 campers coming in at 8:30, chaos, yes but that’s a typical morning at a summer camp. There is something that happens to families when they see all these other families, who have the same issues that they have. They look around and see that they are not alone, maybe they start talking to each other, make a connection, exchange an idea. These hallway “support groups” have always done me more good than any formal parent support group. They see their kids in action, they are being themselves and they are accepted. Sometimes a parent is overwhelmed, they thought they had it so bad, but in reality they are just like some of the others, some find themselves thinking they don’t have it so bad and reach out to others to share something they found works for their child.

There is a camper who goes to my school. At school I never saw him smile, as he dragged himself from class to resource class.  At camp he was a star. He was funny, had friends, his counselors loved him. Now at school I see him every morning, we high five, side five and low five, and for a moment, I see that camper again.

To learn more about Camp Good Times of Charleston go to our website or email me at

Here’s to happy campers !!!

Beth Weiner

Camp Director, Camp Good Times of Charleston, Inc.

Point to Happy

March 31, 2011 6 comments

Miriam Smith was looking for a way to connect with her grandson with autism. Working with her two daughters—Afton Fraser, who is Griffin’s mom, and Margo Smithwich, who is a photographer, they created Point to Happy, a book for children on the autism spectrum who benefit from visual support.


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