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The 11th Annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach Draws Big Crowd for Autism Awareness in Florida

March 4, 2012 2 comments

On Sunday, March 4, 2012 – More than 7,000 people, including individuals with autism, their families and friends attended the Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach at City Commons in Downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. The Walk has raised over $344,000 so far, all of which will support Autism Speaks’ work, both locally and nationally fund innovative autism research and family services, to increase awareness about the growing autism health crisis, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families in Palm Beach and beyond.

The event was emceed by NBC News Channel 5’s West Palm Beach Anchor, Michael Williams. Honorary Chairs Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, addressed the crowd with moving speeches, motivating everyone to Light It Up Blue on April 2 and demanding action for the passage of the Achieving Better Life Experience Act (A.B.L.E – legislation allowing families raising children with disabilities to save tax-free for their future needs) in congress.

Walk Corporate Chair Denise Negron, Chair Laura Pincus and Co-chairs Amy Schwartz and Debra Rosenfeld along with their amazing Walk Committee and 200+ volunteers made sure that the morning went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the one thing out of their control was the weather. In the interest of public safety, the actual Walking portion of the day was canceled due to severe storms and high winds. The activities surrounding the Walk, though, were enjoyed by the thousands of walkers who came out for the event.  Before the weather became a factor however, the second annual Run before the Walk took place with more than 200 runners lacing up for autism awareness.

SheKnows.com, the online living magazine, was on hand to promote their “She Knows Where the Other Sock Went” dress. The campaign features Autism Speaks’ long-time supporter and Grammy Award Winner Toni Braxton wearing the dress created by celebrity designer Michael Costello and photographed by renowned fashion photographer Nigel Barker. The unique, high-fashion gown made out of socks that are missing their mates was displayed at the Walk and will next travel to Los Angeles later this spring to be auctioned off with all proceeds benefiting Autism Speaks.

For the sixth straight year, Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us proudly serves as the North American sponsors of Walk Now for Autism Speaks. The company’s mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, stopped by the Walk to meet and take pictures with walkers. Additional sponsors included: Sandra C. Slomin Foundation and Family Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, South Florida Ford, TD Bank, Palm Beach Gardens Whole Foods Market, Palm Beach Spine and Diagnostics, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network – Striano Financial Group, St. Mary’s Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital at Palms West, and Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart, & Shipley, Gunster, and the Miami Marlins.

Also taking pictures with families was beloved McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald. People visited the MedClaim booth for their chance to win a free iPad and South Florida Ford Dealers provided an Official Pace Car for the start of the Walk. They also made generous donations for everyone who logged into their Facebook page. Children from Allamanda Elementary wow’d everyone with a dance, The Exceptional Theater Company entertained the crowd with a song, and Makayla Kelly kicked off the Walk with the National Anthem.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks are the signature fundraising events for Autism Speaks, raising more than $28.5 million in 2011 in 85 cities across the U.S. and Canada to support autism research, awareness and advocacy. Last year’s Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach event attracted more than 7,000 walkers and raised over $390,000 for families and individuals. Autism Speaks has provided funding to Palm Beach services providers, including Project LifeSaver through our Family Services Community Grant program. Autism Speaks science grants have supported research at The University of Miami and Florida International University.

For more information about the 2012 Palm Beach Walk Now for Autism Speaks visit http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org or contact palmbeach@autismspeaks.org or (954) 421-9997.

To see an interview with Bob Wright, please click here.  To see emcee Michael Williams thank Suzanne and Bob Wright, click here.

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Autism Fire Rescue Program Featured on NBC’s ‘Today Show’

March 2, 2012 4 comments

The training of first responders is absolutely critical to keeping individuals with autism safe. Unfortunately, there are far too many stories of dangerous situations that arise because of a lack of communication and understanding between safety professionals such as firefighters, and individuals with autism and their families. Yesterday, NBC’s Today featured Bill Cannata, the father of a young adult with autism who has developed a program that has educated over 15,000 first responders around the country in how to handle people with autism, and as a result, saved lives. Bill was also a member of the professional advisory committee for the Autism Speaks Autism Safety Project, where he provided tips and quick facts for firefighters interacting with individuals with autism. To further these efforts, in 2011, the Autism Speaks Family Services Community Grants program provided funding for the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition (ALEC), designed to help foster a deeper understanding of autism spectrum disorders by training public safety and law enforcement personnel. Autism Speaks applauds these first responder training efforts.

Longtime firefighter Bill Canatta is committed to caring for his 21-year-old son Ted, who is living with autism. Bill teaches people across the country how to rescue other people with the condition, and his training helped one first responder save a boy’s life. TODAY’s Amy Robach reports. You can find out more here.

NBC’s ‘Parenthood’ Explores ‘Tough Love’ and Autism

February 15, 2012 3 comments

This is a re-post from NBC‘s ‘Parenthood‘ ‘The Experts Speak.’

Many of us know the feeling of being chosen last for a team or the wish to “ditch” gym. We all know the desire to make a friend. In this episode, we see Max struggling with these issues. In some ways, these are typical struggles for a middle school student.

There are at least three issues here. The first issue is Max’s not wanting to be part of a group that wants to exclude him; the second is using his Asperger’s disability as an excuse to avoid a difficult social situation; and the third is his taking the time to make a friend. All in all, except for using the Asperger’s diagnosis as the excuse, Max sounds like almost any adolescent to me. That’s a great thing.

The central concern in the episode for me is the gym teacher’s failure to facilitate both Max and Micah’s participation in gym. It isn’t Max using his Asperger’s to get out of an awkward situation that is the problem, but the teacher’s failure to use it as a teaching moment for both him and the other students. However, because Micah is sitting out, too, we know that she isn’t one to look for accommodations.

With regards to Micah, she simply isn’t doing anything to accommodate him during the class at all as he sits alone on the sidelines with his electronics. Regarding Max, she does nothing to facilitate his being part of the group so he can learn and participate by accommodating his social disability. Her actions are not simply wasting the boys’ time, but are actually depriving the boys of a free and appropriate public education (in this case, the physical education curriculum) as required by law. She and the school, by extension, are breaking the law. She is also unfortunately teaching the children that it’s okay to discriminate.

This is a serious breach of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), a law that protects students with disabilities from being discriminated against in the public school system and mandates that children with disabilities receive a “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE). The laws governing the education of a child with disabilities also assert that education take place in the least restrictive environment. The gym – with all of the nondisabled students – is a perfect, least restrictive environment to make the accommodations necessary for the boys with disabilities to learn the lessons we all learned in physical education.

As I was thinking about what to write regarding this episode, I talked over the general issues it raises with Sarah Vinson, one of the Emory Medical School residents I teach in my clinic. Sarah astutely pointed out that students aren’t ever allowed to simply “not participate” in math class. This, of course, is true: if either boy had a math disability, the math lesson would be modified to allow their full participation at a level appropriate for them, and they would be expected to participate. The time wouldn’t simply be wasted. The boys wouldn’t simply be left to their own devices, literally.

Thank goodness Max and Micah find one another and use what could be completely wasted time to work on their social skills and to make friends. Good for the boys!
I remember nearly every time Frankie has made a friend. These have been times of celebration and pride for us as parents. I am sure parents who have children who struggle with mobility, sight or reading have the same memories of their children’s successes in overcoming their core difficulty. For those of us with children on the spectrum, our child making a friend is the real measure of winning against the autism. In the blossoming of Max and Micah’s friendship we see all of his, his parents’ and his therapists’ hard work paying off as he overcomes his Asperger’s. Too bad the school isn’t doing their part to help both boys.

Written by Roy Q. Sanders, M.D.

Autism Talk TV – Ep. 18 – Interview with NBC’s Parenthood Cast

December 16, 2011 1 comment

Alex, from Autism Talk TV, got the exclusive at the Autism Walk in LA. He interviews the cast of NBC‘s hit show Parenthood, starring Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, and Monica Potter.

Max Braverman is an autistic character in the show. The creator, Jason Katims, has a son with Asperger’s/autism.  Alex talks with the cast about autism, acting, and NBC’s hit show Parenthood!

NBC’s ‘Parenthood’ Tackles When Your Child Goes Missing

November 30, 2011 13 comments

In this week’s episode ‘Missing‘ of NBC‘s Parenthood, Max’s plans to go to the museum are ruined because both Kristina and Adam have commitments with work. Haddy is left to watch Max, but is involved with a school project. When Haddie is immersed in work and not being vigilant, Max leaves and tries to find his way to the museum.

Has your child ever gone missing? How have you reacted? Do you have protocol in place if a situation like this occurs? 

The Experts Speak says,

“A missing child. Fear, panic, seemingly hundreds of phone calls, 911 and a police car outside. Now add Asperger’s to the mix.

In this episode of Parenthood, Max gets tired of waiting for his museum visit, accuses his family of breaking their promises, and decides to take matters into his own hands. So he sets out to go to the museum by himself, sending his entire family into full-blown panic mode. It’s scary enough for any child to be missing, but when you know the child has Asperger’s, you also know the child doesn’t have the usual respect for strangers or fear of danger that protects most kids.

Every year, children with autism spectrum disorders go missing from their families. Most are returned safely. Unfortunately, some are not, and the worst imaginable happens. We read of these cases in the newspaper, and we know that another family is destroyed.”

Please visit our website for more information on Safety Products and Safety Tips.

Also check out, ‘Why Do Children with Autism Wander and Bolt from Safe Places?

NBC’s Parenthood Tackles Bullying

November 16, 2011 23 comments

Last night on NBC‘s Parenthood Max falls victim to bullies. Max thinks that they are all friends and impressed with his math skills, but that is unfortunately not the case. Adam and Kristina are unsure how to deal. When they drop Max off to school, they catch the bullies in the act. Kristina gets out of the car and gives the young boy a piece of her mind and reprimands him for his behavior.

Was Kristina right or wrong? How do you handle bullies? Have you or your child been bullied? If so, how do you respond? Do you have any strategies?

Bullying is an incredibly serious issue. In ‘The Experts Speak,’ Sheila Wagner M.Ed. says, “Bullies. The bane of the educational system. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, races and religions.”

The Interactive Autism Network(IAN)  recently launched a national online survey on bullying and children with ASD to begin to address this troublesome issue in the lives of children on the autism spectrum.

Learn more about the bullying survey here.

Emotions and Autism

October 12, 2011 6 comments

This week on NBC‘s Parenthood, Max learns to apologize following the lunchtime situation he had with his cousin Jabbar. Max is upset to hear that not only does Jabbar not have detention, he doesn’t have to write a letter. Max is angry and doesn’t understand, which results in a meltdown.

Amber joins Max during his lunch detention to help work on emotional recognition. You can view the clip here.

How do you work on emotional recognition? In what ways do you teach feelings; happy, sad, angry, etc.? We’d love to hear your strategies and techniques.

Parenthoods’s The Experts Speak says, “An individuals with ASD do not glean information from facial expressions of others as typical individuals do. They do not always look people in the eye, do not understand a lifted eyebrow, smirk, sad face, disappointed face and all the other messages sent by someone else’s facial expression. In addition, when you combine all of these expressions with the thousands of possible gestures and vocal inflections – which add their own meanings into the mix – you can understand why this is an incredibly difficult skill to master when one does not have the neurological basis for doing so.”

For Further Reference:

Stephen Shore: Strengths and Challenges

WrongPlanet: Using Facial Expressions

Squidalicious: Autism and Facial Expressions 

A Diary of a Mom: Emotional Identification

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