Archive for July, 2011

Autism in the News – 07.25.11

July 25, 2011 1 comment

Army Spc. Jameson Lindskog, 23, Pleasanton; among 6 killed in Afghan firefight (Los Angeles Times)
Like many people exhibiting traits of the mild form of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome, Jameson Lindskog often saw the world in black and white. Read more.

Sonia Gandhi for South Asian partnership on autism (The Hindu)
Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi on Monday praised Bangladesh’s “path breaking innovations” in micro-finance, education, women’s empowerment and public health as she underlined the need for a partnership in South Asia to provide affordable services to millions of autistic children. Read more.

Marion woman recognized for work with kids with autism (Marion, Ohio)
A local teacher’s efforts to educate autistic children has earned her national recognition. Michelle Wagner, who teaches at Marca Schools’ Marie English Early Childhood Center, is a recipient of the Carol Gray Award. Read more. 

McDonald’s manager fired after striking customer (Marietta, Ga.)
Marietta Police say a manager of the McDonald’s restaurant on Bells Ferry Road is accused of slapping a mother after she brought her autistic twin sons and a service dog inside the restaurant. Read more.

Mahopac teacher cleared of mistreating autistic students (Mahopac, N.Y.)
A Philipstown justice has dismissed all remaining charges against a Mahopac special education teacher accused in a highly publicized 2007 case of harming her disabled students while questioning the investigative techniques of the Carmel police detective in charge. Read more.

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On Being: Autism and Humanity with Paul Collins and Jennifer Elder

Being: Autism and Humanity with Paul Collins and Jennifer Elder

(photo of Krista Tippett courtesy On Being/American Public Media)

Earlier this week, NPR host Krista Tippett interviewed writer Jennifer Elder and literary historian Paul Collins, who have grappled with autism since the diagnosis of their son, Morgan, in 2002. Paul has traced autism hidden between the lines of history. Jennifer has written and illustrated books for children with autism. In this podcast, they look beyond controversies over causes and cures and explore what autism reveals about humanity and their families. They discuss research that raises questions about the remarkable abilities associated with autism and the high prevalence of autism among families of scientists, mathematicians, and artists. We’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Calling All Cravers!

July 22, 2011 3 comments

Calling all Cravers!  White Castle will begin selling puzzle pieces for $1.00 to benefit Autism Speaks in all of their restaurant locations beginning Sunday, July 24 through Saturday, August 20.  Restaurants are located in the following states/regions:  Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Northeast Ohio, Nashville, New Jersey, New York and St. Louis.

White Castle team members raised $500,000 for Autism Speaks in 2011 so be sure to visit your local Castle often to purchase a puzzle piece.  The best way to support the campaign is to provide your feedback to White Castle thanking them for their support of our urgent mission.  You can do this via the White Castle Facebook page, 800 number (1-800-THE CRAVE) or through the White Castle website.  You can also call your local Castle directly, their number is located at the bottom of your register receipt.

We need your help!  White Castle is celebrating their 90th anniversary this year and Autism Speaks is invited to join the party!  We are looking to recognize White Castle in a big way!  As you enjoy your meal at White Castle please take a photo of you and your family at the Castle purchasing a puzzle piece.  Email your photo to and be sure to include the restaurant location.

Thank you in advance for your support of this campaign!  Crave on!

Autism in the News – 07.22.11

July 22, 2011 1 comment

Language software promises to help children with autism (Smart Planet)
Oakland, Calif.-based firm Scientific Learning on Friday announced the launch of new software it says can help improve language and communication skills in children with autism. Read more.

Dog works with autistic kids, ‘Annie’ (News-Press)
She’s been onstage only two weeks, but already Bella acts like a diva. Minutes before showtime, the dog starts barking outside her handler’s dressing room at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre. Read more.

Thoughts and strategies: taking a child with autism to a restaurant (Autism Support Network)
One of the harder things about having a child with Autism is dealing with the public. Whether it’s having to explain to other people, dealing with the judging stares or just giving up on the public entirely (no more eating out)… it’s a very hard situation to have to face. Read more.

Kids with Autism Enjoy Local Summer Camp (Las Cruces, N.M.)
Summer camps provide wonderful memories for the children who get to experience them, but not all receive the opportunity to attend camp. New Mexico State University helped combat this problem in June with Camp New Amigos, a summer camp for children with autism. Read more.

A helping hand for people with autism in the workforce (Singapore)
Where employers once shunned from hiring people with autism, there is now unprecedented interest in hiring these workers and the need to support such employers who might not know where to begin. Read  more.

Categories: Autism in the News Tags: ,

Authentic Inclusion: A Prize-Winner with Autism

July 22, 2011 9 comments

This is a blog post by autism expert Lisa Jo Rudy of Lisa Jo Rudy is a professional writer, researcher and consultant, and the mother of a 14-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder. Lisa is the author of Get out, Explore, and Have Fun! How Families of Children with Autism or Asperger Syndrome Can Get the Most out of Community Activities, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Every summer, there’s a terrific county fair in our town.  4-H members bring their sheep, chickens and pigs for judging…  moms present their jams and pickles…  and kids submit their drawings, paintings, photos, K’nex structures and lego buildings to see what kind of prize they can win.

Of course, 4-H gives every submission some kind of prize.  But this year was a bit special in our family.  Our daughter, Sara, won “Best of Show” at the pet competition, for her presentation of her friendly rat, Reepicheep.

And Tom, our son, also won a Best in Show prize.  Tom’s was for an elaborate lego structure he’d created entirely on his own, all by himself, in his bedroom.

4-H actually asks each family whether the child entering the competition has any special needs.  In the past, we’d said yes.  This year, though, we went with “no.”

Our son, Tom, is nearly fifteen.  Diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) at age three, he is squarely on the autism spectrum.  While Tom is verbal and engaged with the world, he thinks, speaks and interacts differently from  his peers.  Typical classrooms are very difficult for him, as are friendships and casual chats.

But for Tom, creating unique structures with legos is a no-brainer.  He can build almost any lego structure he sees – and he seems to be able to figure out just how to create anything he can dream up.  The piece he submitted to the fair was very special: a café, complete with kitchen, tables, food, a stage, and a full-scale jazz band with piano and horns!

The truth is that Tom does have special needs under many circumstances.  But at the fair, his submission wasn’t just “good enough,” or  “adapted.”  It was, quite simply, the best in its class.

Where does your child shine?  What abilities does he have that make him not just “includable,” but outstanding?

Even if it’s just for a moment, in one setting, with one group of people – how does your child with autism earn real, authentic admiration and respect?

Check out the piano and horn players in the top center, the patrons at their tables, and the waiters moving through the restaurant.  Not shown are the real, working electric lights!

Tom’s café won first prize and Best in Show at the county fair.  Look closely, and you’ll notice that we’ve written “no” under “special needs.”

Read more from Lisa Jo Rudy at Autism at  at or The Authentic Inclusion Site. Check out our interview with Lisa Jo Rudy on this month’s Community Connections page – Stepping Up to Summertime Fun!

Autism Speaks Goes to Bangladesh

July 21, 2011 14 comments

Posted by Andy Shih, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs for Autism Speaks

Saima Hossain almost always has a smile on her face. It’s there when she juggles the demands of her four adorable children. It was there when she confessed to being nervous before her speech at the United Nations. She even smiled when she asked me, half seriously, “What have you gotten me into?”

It seems the only time Saima doesn’t smile is when she is talking about autism. A licensed school psychologist, Saima knows that the daily struggle of those touched by autism is no laughing matter. When she talks about autism, she is thoughtful and knowledgeable, and her passion to make a difference is palpable. “I see this as my life’s work,” she told me.

 Saima Hossain addresses UN diplomats and guests on World Autism Awareness Day 2011

I first met Saima, the daughter of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, two years ago at a World Autism Awareness Day event that Autism Speaks hosted here in New York. I was impressed with her poise and passion even then. But I didn’t get a chance to speak with her at length until last September when Autism Speaks hosted its annual “World Focus on Autism” event to raise awareness among world leaders converging for the UN General Assembly.

We talked about the challenges that individuals and families affected by autism face in Bangladesh, a poor country of over 162 million people in Southeast Asia. Saima conveyed her deep desire to make a difference in the lives of Bangladeshi children as well as all children who struggle with autism. At the end of our long conversation, we agreed to explore bringing our Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) initiative to Southeast Asia.

I can tell you that our collaboration with Saima has already reaped great rewards for Autism Speaks and the families we serve. For example, with Saima’s help, Autism Speaks and Bangladesh’s Permanent Mission recently co-hosted a UN celebration of World Autism Awareness Day. The many world diplomats attending included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. He and other influential guests expressed their solidarity with our cause and listened to a panel of experts and advocates (including Saima) who eloquently explained how international collaboration will speed the answers we need to help all who struggle with autism—including families here in North America.

Next week, I will travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Dana Marnane, Autism Speaks’ vice president of awareness and events, and Michael Rosanoff, associate director of public health research. There we will participate in the launch of GAPH-Bangladesh and co-host a conference — “Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia” — together with the Bangladesh government, the Centre for Neurodevelopment & Autism in Children (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University), the World Health Organization (WHO), and WHO’s South East Asian Regional Office (SEARO).

Our goal is to boost regional awareness and advocacy for individuals and families touched by autism. We will be joined in this effort by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed and her ministers as well as regional dignitaries including Indian National Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the First Lady of Sri Lanka Madam Shiranthi Rajapaksa, and the Second Lady of the Maldives Madam Ilham Hussain — all of whom have expressed their desire to learn more about autism and explore how they can collaborate with each other and Autism Speaks.

Michael and I have been in daily contact with Saima in the past two weeks, and her team in Dhaka has been amazing. We’re awed to see this tremendous endeavor take shape, gain momentum, and become one of the region’s most anticipated events. We know this is the beginning of much hard work, even as it is giving us and the autism community of Bangladesh and South Asia a sense of pride and hope for tomorrow.

For news coverage of the ‘Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia’ Conference, visit here.


Autism Votes 100,000 Advocates Strong

July 21, 2011 12 comments

This is a guest post by Shelley Hendrix, the Director of State Based Advocacy at Autism Speaks.

It was four summers ago that Autism Speaks recruited me to help build a network of autism advocates across the United States, an assignment that recalled my earlier days growing up in the South where summertime activities always included gardening. My parents planted their garden in the spring while my grandmother had a large garden year round at her home in Alabama.

Productive gardening takes diligence – Preparing the ground by tilling and fertilizing the soil. Plowing rows. Placing stakes and strings to support tomatoes and string beans. Planting the seeds or seedlings. And putting up scarecrows. The garden must be watered daily, soil nutrition levels maintained and yes, weeds must be pulled.

As kids, my brothers and I would grow so impatient after planting the seeds. Why did it take so long to notice any change? We would run out every morning to see if anything had popped through the soil or if a flower had formed. Did we see any sign of a fruit or vegetable on the plant? No,just dirt.

But magic was happening below the soil’s surface.

Our mother and grandmother would hand us a bag and instruct us to start pulling the weeds before they got out of hand. Sometimes it was difficult to tell the difference between a weed and a seedling. Sometimes we made mistakes. We rolled up our sleeves for this boring, hot chore, but learned that in order to have a vibrant garden, patience was a prerequisite.

Wait. Wait. Wait.    Weed. Weed. Weed.

Somewhere around mid-summer the plants would take off!  Delicious vegetables would start coming in – different plants at different times – but just as our mom and grandmother advised us year after year, our patience and care paid off. Our garden was practically bursting!

As the Director of Grassroots Development for Autism Speaks, I have worked with colleagues and volunteers to carefully prepare, till and fertilize the soil for autism advocacy, to plant seeds of change in communities nationwide, to nourish budding plants of reform and from time to time, roll up my sleeves and pull out weeds. All the while, teaching each new gardener, one at a time, how to get to work on tedious, boring tasks while keeping focused on the dream of a beautiful harvest.

This summer, our effort blossomed – we are now 100,000 gardeners strong.  100,000 advocates affiliated with the autism community planted in every state, in communities large and small. These gardeners are dedicated – determined to make a difference for all people with autism, children and adults alike, on a myriad of issues from health insurance coverage, to securing federal research funding, to educational reform and services.

Over the last three years, our community has harvested a total of 25 states that have enacted autism insurance reform and the gardeners there continue to work hard to maintain their patch through implementation. We have planted seeds and are nurturing seedlings in the remaining states to end autism insurance discrimination. We have secured an additional $125M in research funding through the American Recovery and Restoration Act. And we inserted four very important words – “including behavioral health treatment” – into the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act to cover applied behavior analysis therapy in the essential benefits package for those eligible for health insurance coverage under this law. We are hard at work to maintain the plants that fund autism research and treatment networks by fighting for the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act.

Sometimes, the plants of our garden are on different rows. These different plants produce different fruit and each plant requires different soil conditions and care. But the fruit of each plant is essential to a balanced diet of change within the autism community. We cannot let any of them wither on the vine.

In the end, I learned life lessons from my mother and grandmother’s teachings.  I may have one big black thumb when it comes to raising a real garden of my own, but I love to plant, grow and nurture people and will help you become a strong, healthy advocate for change.

If you want to learn how to roll up your sleeves and make a difference in a community garden, please join our Autism Votes program at We provide you with easy steps to participate so you can obtain health insurance coverage, federal funding for autism research,  secure tax deferred savings plans for your child’s adult needs,  services for people with autism and education system improvements. If you are interested in becoming a gardener or district leader in your area, please email us at .


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