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Posts Tagged ‘Resource Guide’

Family Services Office Hours – 11.10.11

November 10, 2011 1 comment

Office Hours easily connects families to a wide variety of autism-related resources, including Family Services Tool Kits, and the Autism Speaks Resource Guide, an online national database of autism providers and resources searchable by state and zip code.

Family Services Office Hours is designed to quickly provide access to resources that are available and free to the entire autism community.

The Office Hours sessions are staffed by ART coordinators who are specially trained to connect families affected by autism to resources.

2:54
Hey Everyone! We will be on in a few minutes!
2:58
Ok! We are here and happy to start taking questions!
3:00
Comment From Melissa

How much information is available on the possibility of autism being genetic? From parent child?

3:02
Hi Melissa! Alycia Halladay, Ph.D., hosted a LIVE chat dealing with genetics! Here is the transcript!http://blog.autismspeaks.org/2011/08/16/increased-risk-live-chat/
3:02
She was also interviewed on CNN about autism and siblings, which you can see here:http://blog.autismspeaks.org/2011/08/18/siblings-news-coverage/
3:03
In addition, our Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson did a LIVE Chat about the Genetics of Autism. She is great! Here is that transcript: http://blog.autismspeaks.org/2011/10/27/transcript-dawson-schere/
3:04
Our science team regularly posts blogs explaining new research findings about autism. Stay connected by checking up with us atblog.autismspeaks.org!
3:04
Comment From Shannon

Is PDD-NOS actually a form of autism?

3:04
Hi Shannon! The answer is yes! Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is one of the autism spectrum disorders and is used to describe individuals who do not fully meet the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome.
3:04
You can learn more about it here!http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/pdd-nos
3:05
Comment From Kathy

Hi! I am the mom of a 10 yr old High functioning son and I am having trouble finding any help since he seems so “normal”. He gets no help in school and limited help through his dr’s. Is there help out there for High functioning Aspy’s?

3:05
Hi Kathy! We have a great Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism Tool Kit. It is mostly for newly diagnosed families but contains lots of tips and information for all families of children with AS/HFA. http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/asperger-syndrome-and-high-functioning-autism-tool-kit
3:05
We also have plenty of resources on our website related to helping people with Asperger Syndrome. Here are a few great links:
3:06
Our Resource Library contains tons of great books, magazines, online software, toys, game, apps and much more!www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library
3:06
Comment From Haley

Hi! I was just wondering where I could get information or if there was someone I could talk to about careers in autism? I am in college right now and I would like to talk to someone who could help me make sure I’m on the right path….

3:07
Hi Haley! That is so great you are interested in a career in autism. If you are looking to provide direct services, I suggest you search our very extensive online Resource Guide. You can click on your state and find service providers in your area in lots of different fields (schools, therapists, after school programs, recreation activities, etc.) Those providers will most likely have lots of information to help point you in the right direction!www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:08
Comment From Brenda

I have been reading a PDD and ADHD and how some ADHD medicines, actually help with the PDD. Is there any information you can share on this?

3:08
Many families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are faced with the option of using medicines to help treat their child’s challenging behaviors. This is a tough medical decision and there is no one right answer.
3:09
Comment From Shannon

I have read the forum in autism speaks and it is great. I just wanted to make sure that when I say my son has autism that I am not exaggerating. It sure feels like it!!

3:09
Shannon, we also have a great Learn the Signs campaign and an Autism Video Glossary that contains lots of videos that show symptoms of autism, compared to neurotypical children. They have been really helpful to so many people.
3:11
Comment From Jane

My son’s father and I are divorced and his father would like me to have him and his nt brother for extended time (for respite) however I don’t have the home which can accommodate his needs. He’s registered with DDD but they are unable to help. Are there any other resources for me to look into?

3:13
Hi Jane – that sounds like a very tough situation you are in. Your ex-husband needs to stick with the rules of the court. You can search our Resource Guide by your state to find a lawyer in your area as well as respite care options.http://www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:13
Hi Shelly. You are not alone! We hear from lots and lots of families who have grandparents who do not understand the diagnosis or are unwilling to accept it. Everyone responds to the diagnosis differently and many people need time.We would suggest gradually introducing your parents to the idea, and emphasizing how important it is to you that they understand and are able to help you. I’m sure they love their grandchildren so much so will understand that the way they are treating him isn’t working to his benefit.
3:13
Comment From Shelly

I have a three year old with PDD-NOS. I am having a hard time trying to educate my parents (his grandparents) on the subject. They are still in denial and I have even given them the tool kit for grandparents. They refuse to even look at it. They do not even want to make changes in the way they act arond my son (which makes him digress after every one of their visits.) What more can I do?

3:13
Hi Shelly. You are not alone! We hear from lots and lots of families who have grandparents who do not understand the diagnosis or are unwilling to accept it. Everyone responds to the diagnosis differently and many people need time. We would suggest gradually introducing your parents to the idea, and emphasizing how important it is to you that they understand and are able to help you. I’m sure they love their grandchildren so much so will understand that the way they are treating him isn’t working to his benefit.
3:14
Perhaps you want to speak to one of your parents who may be more willing to listen. It is important to stress that a family’s understanding and willingness to help their loved one with autism is crucial to the child’s progression and happiness.
3:15
Comment From elizabeth

I have a non verbal 2 1/2 year old that was just diagnosed with severe autism. where can i get PECS cards that are not going to banrupt me?

3:15
Hi Elizabeth! Have you tried our 100 Day Kit? It is a guide specifically created for families of children recently diagnosed with autism. You can read it here: www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/100-day-kit
3:16
I suggest you call our Autism Response Team at 888-AUTISM2. They can take your information and place your order. It is FREE!
3:17
I also suggest you search our Resource Library for tools like PECS cards. One of our categories is for visual tools that have been helpful to families in our community:http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/visual-tools
3:18
Comment From Sarah

My “step son” (he is legally my son but not biologically) is Autistic. How likely is it my husband and I will have a child who is Autistic? I know that it affects about 1 in 110 children, 1 in 70 boys, but is it more likely since my husband already had one.

3:19
Hi Sarah! We have a few chat transcripts that you may find helpful. Here is the ‘Genetics of Autism: What It Means for You’ hosted by Geri Dawson, PhD, and Steve Scherer, PhDhttp://blog.autismspeaks.org/2011/10/27/transcript-dawson-schere/
3:20
Recently the High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium made the news with the findings that autism recurs in families much more frequently than had been realized. Here is more information! http://blog.autismspeaks.org/2011/08/30/the-babysibs-consortium-important-findings-ahead/
3:20
Comment From Maria

Do you know what therapies can help with behavior problems?

3:20
Hi Maria. We have a list of treatment options on our website in the What is Autism page. These are all treatments with documented science research behind them. In the left column of the page you will see a long list. You can click each of them to learn more about what that treatment involves.http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment. Our Resource Guide lists lots of therapists who specialize in these treatments www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide. It is important to remember that because every individual with autism is different, not everyone responds well to the same treatments. Be sure to research before you decide what you feel is best for your child. There are lots of helpful tools out there!
3:20
Comment From Sarah

Elizabeth, with our son we found a lot of websites that had picture and stuff. We put them around the house and our son picked up on some of the things and now even says some of those words.

3:21
Thanks so much for adding your insights! We love seeing the community help each other out!
3:21
Comment From Rebecca

My son is 3 and is somewhat verbal. He will ask for things at home but at school he doesn’t ask for things unless he sees the object/thing he wants. It is because of this and his lack of spontaneous language(at school) that they are suggesting we use PECS. We had stated at his IEP that we didn’t want him using this. Our concern is that he would become dependent on this. What is your opinion of PECS? Is it beneficial?

3:22
Hi Rebecca! It is important that your IEP team listens to your needs and what you feel is best for your son. We have recently released an IEP Guide that will help you ensure your son’s needs are being met. You know what is best for him, so it is important that you make sure the school and the IEP team are hearing you loud and clear!
3:23
Here is a book about PECS that was submitted to our Resource Library by a family who found it helpful:http://woodbinehouse.com/main.asp_Q_product_id_E_978-1-60613-015-5_A_.asp
3:24
Comment From elizabeth

thanks! I did order the booklet yesterday. thanks for the links and also your input, Sarah

3:24
Comment From Sarah

Rebecca, I am not an expert by any means but I do have an autistic son as well. Stick with your gut feelings. Make sure the IEP is following what you want! The schools sometimes try to do what THEY want and what’s easiest for them and they can’t! If you end up wanting to use the PECS later, you can then add it to his IEP. You know your child best!

3:29
Comment From Rebecca

Our wishes and concerns have not been heard . At the first IEP the school district told us that all they wee willing to ouffer our son was a place in their Autism preschool program. Eventhough the “school” where he had been presented a report saying that their team thought that it would be in his best interest to continue with his home therapy program. Where can we find Educational Advocates in our area that would help us free of charge. We are in Modesto, California.

3:29
Hi Rebecca. It is important to make sure your concerns are being heard. You are entitled to have your voice heard in all matters related to the IEP. Our Resource Guide contains a list of advocates from across the country. You can search the resource guide at www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:30
We don’t list them by fee but hopefully they will be able to help you. In addition, you might also want tos earch our Local Autism Organizations category. Those organizations may be better able to point you in the right direction in terms of an educational advocate.
3:31
Comment From Sarah

google advocates in your area. I know here in GA there are not any in our city, but nearby towns.

3:31
Comment From Rebecca

Thank you Sarah

3:38
Comment From Guest

My son’s teacher communicates via email with us (parents). That’s fine, however, the emails are sent to the stepmother at her work’s email address rather than to my son’s father. I’m concerned for my son’s privacy. The school’s position is that they send emails to whatever address is provided. Are there any laws which can protect information regarding my son in this particular situation? SPAN was unable to find any

3:39
Hi Guest, have you tried changing the contact email that your school has listed?
3:40
That seems strange that the only one they send to is your son’s stepmother’s work email. You should make sure to have your email listed on there too, as all parents need to be involved in these decisions.
3:47
Comment From Guest

I don’t know how to explain to kids at the park that my son has autism and i live in NYC do you have any suggestions.

3:48
Hi Guest. Disclosing your child’s autism diagnosis to other people can be tough sometimes. We have a great list of stories on our website for peers that help them to understand more about their friends or playmates who have autism.http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/books#peers
3:49
Perhaps you could show them these fun picture books, or get ideas from the books on how to best share the diagnosis. All of these books have been submitted by families who have found them to be extremely helpful with peers.
3:52
Comment From Sarah

I have also had troubles explaing to other children why my son isnt “normal”. They don’t understand why he doesn’t want to play with them or why he doesn’t talk back. I always say “God made Cody different (like he does everyone) and Cody just doesn’t always like to play or talk to others. It doesn’t mean he doesnt like or love you, it just means he likes to have his own space. He sometimes prefers to play alone instead….

3:53
Thank you Sarah for your helpful responses. We love seeing families in our community helping each other out. Sometimes listening to people who have had similar experiences as your own is extremely helpful and comforting.
3:54
Our Facebook page is a great way to get conversations started with other families in our community.www.facebook.com/autismspeaks
3:56
Comment From Sarah

You’re welcome. Hopeful I can help other parents. I have had wonderful friends with simiar experiences that have helped me!

3:57
Well we’d like to thank everyone for stopping by today! Remember we are here every Wednesday at 3pm EDT and you can reach us at 888-AUTISM 2 (288-4762) or email us atfamilyservices@autismspeaks.org.

Family Services Office Hours – 10.26.11

October 27, 2011 5 comments

Office Hours easily connects families to a wide variety of autism-related resources, including Family Services Tool Kits, and the Autism Speaks Resource Guide, an online national database of autism providers and resources searchable by state and zip code.

Family Services Office Hours is designed to quickly provide access to resources that are available and free to the entire autism community.

The Office Hours sessions are staffed by ART coordinators who are specially trained to connect families affected by autism to resources.

2:52
Hello: We are about to begin Family Services “Office Hours”, you can ask Family Services staff questions about resources or other questions about autism.
2:55
Comment From charleen

what types of resources for low income families are in the phoenix area?

2:56
Hi Charleen! Thank you for joining us today! We have a long list of resources in the Autism Speaks online Resource Guide. You can search for all different kinds of services in the Phoenix area.www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
2:56
You may want to contact local autism organizations, a category in our guide and see what they are aware of.
2:56
You also may want to check in with your Department of Developmental Disabilities to see if your family is eligible for Medicaid waivers.
2:57
Here is a link to the Division of Developmental Disabilities site in Arizona: https://www.azdes.gov/main.aspx?menu=96&id=2454
2:57
Comment From Maria Perez

Hello my son is 7 years old he was diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2 years old he does not speak but just some words but he does repeat alot of movies or cartoons he likes how can I get him to start talking more o saying what he needs o wants is there any programs o softwares that can teach him how to talk more and also how can I get him to stop repeating so much of what he sees thank you so much

3:00
Hi Maria thanks for joining us today. I would recommend that you get a Speech and Language evaluation through your son’s school district or a private evaluations.In order to know what your son’s speech and language needs are, its important to have data and information about his needs.
3:00
Comment From charleen

thank you, i’ve being trying to find something for my son, i’ve even asked his behavioral health palce, but they aren’t much help

3:00
Comment From charleen

thank you for all your help

3:00
Comment From Lisa

I just moved to Texas and I need to find a doctor for my daughter

3:01
Hi Lisa! I suggest you look through our online Resource Guide for doctors and all sorts of other professionals in your area in Texas.www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:01
Simply click on your state, and select one of our over 70 categories to search. You will be able to enter your zip code. We usually recommend people put it in a wide search radius so you really get to see what is out there.
3:02
Comment From Guest

Hi, my daughter is 7 years old and we are having a hard time bringing the therpy home.. She will eat different foods in food therpy but will not even look at the food at home.

3:02
Hi- Its important that the professional working with your daughter help you to generalize the interventions at home. It would be a good idea to ask the professional to do a home visit… if possible.
3:04
If a home visit isn’t possible, ask for a home intervention plan. These are some ideas to give you a start.
3:04
Comment From Nicki

My son is 4 will be 5 November 4th..I have a few questions actually My son has never been properly diagnosed as Autistic, but he has shown so many signs they said he tested at the “mentally retardation levels” When they said this I became very peeved! I told them what he does and they said I have no idea what I am talking about…My son repeats everything and anything,Don’t know his colors can’t count other than up to 5 and also hardly ever sleeps.They told me to give him Tylenol PM I have and I have also tried melatonin. Nothing is working I can’t get him to sleep at all….What is there I can do? I live in Kansas City Missouri? Some1 please help me he hasn’t slept since he was 2 yrs old other than here and there and he keeps humping everything!

3:05
Hi Nicki. I would recommend that you start with your pediatrician. He/she should be able to make a referral to a developmental pediatrician or a neurologist who can properly evaluate your son.
3:05
The earlier the diagnosis of autism, the better the outcome will be, so it is important that you find someone who will listen to your concerns and help you work through the difficult issues you are having.
3:06
You should also try searching our online Resource Guide for professionals in your area: www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:06
We have a page of tips and resources related to sleep that may help you as well: http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/health-and-wellness/sleep
3:07
Comment From Maria Perez

He is receiving speech therapy at school and also social skills on the weekend is there any computer softwares o pograms that can help me get him to start talking a little more

3:07
Maria, we have lots of great tools in our online Resource Library! One of them is called Online Learning Tools.http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library
3:08
We have TONS of great resources on that page including hundreds of books, some games, sensory products, online learning tools, websites for families, and much much more!
3:10
Comment From Natalie

My 9 y/o was just diagnosed with aspergers 2 weeks ago. What is the best thing to do for him being DX so late? I don’t even know where to begin.

3:10
Hi Natalie- we’ve created the Aspergers Syndrome/ High Functioning Autism Tool Kit. You can download the kit or call 888-288-4762 and order a kit to be delieverd to your home.
http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/asperger-syndrome-and-high-functioning-autism-tool-kit
3:13
Comment From Debbie

Hi… I’m Debbie and my son was diagnosed last Dec. Right now, we are looking for local groups so that he can have the opportunity to socialize and make friends. I’ve been trying to advocate for some kind of networking/supportive group for the parents at our school. My question is do I need to advocate somewhere else in the government in our city or can it be successfully done at the local school level?

3:13
Hi Debbie. We have lots of social skills programs, after school programs and recreational activities in our Resource Guidewww.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:14
That is great you are advocating in your school for a support group. Support gruops can be so helpful to families of children with autism. I suggest you speak with other parents in the school who have children with autism or another developmental disability to get started. You will also likely meet lots of parents through these other programs who I’m sure would love to join a group of parents.
3:16
Comment From Guest

It is difficult to discipline my child. He crys incontrollably when I call him out on his bad behavior. Any suggestions?

3:16
Hi- Its important to understand the behavior, when it happens, how often and under what circumstances. Does the behavior occur at school?  I would recommend a Behavioral Assessment completed by a professional who understand autism. Your child’s teacher may be able to recommend soemone. You can also check our Resource Guide.
http://www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:17
Comment From Jenn

Hello, I happen to be an adult with asperger syndrome. I have an asociate degree & i’d want to work with preschool age kids on the autism spectrum.

3:18
Hi Jenn! That is great to hear you are interested in working with preschool age kids. We do not provide direct services here, however there are lots of preschools and recreation programs, social skills groups, etc. in our Resource Guide.www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:18
I suggest you reach out to those providers, and also to local autism organizations to find out what is out there. Best of luck to you!
3:18
Comment From Danielle

Hi =) I have a 3 year old little girl with aspergers. She tends to melt down every time you ask her to do anything and sometimes its just when you in speak to her in general – It can even be over something she really likes and it can be positive and she still melts down! Is this typical behavior???

3:20
HI Danielle -Autism Speaks has created an Aspergers Syndrome/ High Functioning Tool Kit. You can order a copy at 888-288-4762.
http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/asperger-syndrome-and-high-functioning-autism-tool-kit
3:22
it’s important to work with your daughter’s team to better understand this behavior. A behavioral assessment will give you a much better understanding of the function of the behavior.
3:22
Comment From Liz

I have not been able to go back to work the past year because I have been home with my 2 soon to be 3 year old who has been undergoing therapy for speach delays, developmental delay and sensory issues for the past 12 months. We did not get a diagnosis of Autism until about a month ago…my staying home has taken a huge tole on our family. Dad has had to work full time jobs to keep us afloat. Are their any resources or assistance programs for families like ours?

3:22
Hi Liz. We have a list of resources in our Resource Library for Families In Need which you can see at this link:http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/families-need … I also suggest you contact local autism organizations which you can find in our Resource Guide who may know of more opportunities at a local level:www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide.
3:23
Comment From Maria

Hi I have a question should we send our autistic son to preschool? He is high-function knows how to read, write, numbers from 1-100 and additions . I Don’t want him to go to preschool he is already on ABA program and I believe he is going to learn more with them than preschool. We had his IEP meeting and I feel pressure from the school staff.

3:26
Hi Maria – Its important to work with the IEP team on what’s best for your son. You should feel confortable expressing your concerns and also hearing why the team is recomedning pre-school. Pre-school is an opportunity for socializing that a child doesn’t get at home.
3:27
Comment From Jackie Gonzalez

First of all thank you so very much for being a reliable resource for families..

3:27
Comment From Gloria

Does anyone know of any sports organizations in the Dallas area for special needs kids? My son has Autism but loves sports even though he really can’t follow the rules he would love to play with kids his age, any suggestions?

3:27
Hi Gloria – I suggest you check out our Online Resource Guide which has lots of recreation opportunities and after school programs www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide. We also have a Community Connections page on Recreation that has lots of resources as well http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/community-connections/have-some-fun-today-recreation-community-activities-clubs-and-
3:28
We also have a special page in the Health and Wellness section of our website called Fitness that provides lots of information and resources for sports for kids with autism:http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/health-and-wellness/fitness
3:28
Comment From Courtney

My son’s pediatrician tested him in office and told us he has high functioning autism. It all makes so much sense now, but we can’t have him seen by a psychologist until March of next year and I feel like I’m lost. My son is 8 and his violent outbursts are getting worse, what should I do until he is able to see someone?

3:30
hi Courtney, I would recommend you start by talking with your son’s teacher. He may need support during the school day, and they may want to complete assessmnets to identify his strengths and areas of needs.
3:31
Comment From Janna

I live in Colorado my work falls under a church plan for insurance which excludes them from ABA services through HIMAT I have been to the head of HR and Bren declined this year or next that try will be adding it as a benefit, how can I get help with ABA without insurance coverage?

3:32
Hi Janna. I’m sorry to hear you are having trouble with insurance coverage for therapy services. This is a major problem in the US. There are now 28 states who have mandated insurance coverage for services for kids and adults with autism. That is a huge goal of our advocacy efforts at Autism Speaks. You can check in on your state at www.autismvotes.org
3:32
You can also email our advocacy/government relations department for more specific help atgovrelations@autismspeaks.org.
3:33
Comment From Jackie Gonzalez

My question is…..any advice for a 4 year old who refuses to share? So much so that he becomes aggressive? Towards himself, his 2 year old brother, classmates and teachers?

3:35
hi Jackie- Its important to know under what circumstances the behavior occurs. Getting an understanding of the behavior is so important, and you may want to consider a behavioral assessment by a professional who is qualified and has worked with other kids with autism.
3:36
Your child’s IEP team can help to identify a Behavioral Analyst, a person who is trained to assess behavior and put a plan in place to change a behavior.
3:37
Comment From MariaH

Should I tell them that I want my son to go to a special Ed preschool ?

3:39
Hi Maria-I would suggest that you and a IEP team member visit a few pre-schools and make a decision based on what you observe and your child’s educational, and social needs.
3:41
Comment From Guest

My daughter is 22 months old. She is currently being evaluated for Autism by TEACCH in NC. She receives speech therapy and OT from the CDSA. The argument with giving her a diagnosis is that one she makes eye contact and two gesturing, she shakes her head yes and no but not always appropriate. She definitely has some sensory issues. She only has about 5 words. I also think she is doing some stimming, spinning, smacking herself in the head and repeating a sound over and over. Melt downs are huge for us in stores and resturants.

3:41
Hi Guest. That is great to hear that you are already working with therapists and professionals on your 22 month old daughters development. Early intervention is an extremely critical component of improvement and it sounds like you are right on track.
3:42
Every child with autism is very different, but the symptoms you are describing are often common in kids on the spectrum. I suggest you check out our Learn the Signs section of our website or view our Autism VIdeo Glossary which shows videos of kids with and without autism. You can check those out at the 2 links below:
3:42
Comment From Guest

Do you know of any organisatons that assist parents who are not able to afford the cost, in getting an ipad for non-verbal children with autism?

3:43
Hi Guest. The Autism Society recently put together a list of organizations that may help in funding iPads for children with autism. You can see the list at: http://www.autism-society.org/news/funding-for-ipads.html
3:44
We have also heard a lot about iTaalk http://itaalk.org/
3:45
Comment From Brandon

I have aspergers autism, I’m high functioning, is there any support groups in Portland, or. ?

3:45
Hi Brandon! Thank you for joining us today. I suggest you search our onlien Resource Guide for Support Groups in your area:www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide
3:46
We have also heard about an online web support community called WrongPlanet.net http://www.wrongplanet.net/
3:47
We have 2 categories of websites on our Resource Library that may help you: Adults with Autism, and Asperger Syndromehttp://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/asperger-syndrome
3:47
Comment From Guest

Thank you.

3:47
Comment From Brandon

Thank you

3:47
We are happy to help. Thank you all for joining us today!
3:48
if you have additional questions you can call the Autism Response Team (ART), members are specially trained to connect families with information, resources and opportunities.Call us at 888-AUTISM 2 (288-4762) or email us at familyservices@autismspeaks.org.

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.

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