July 15, 2011
By Larry Bissonnette
It was a pleasing opportunity to kick our DVD release into the end zone of the Autism Society's popular annual conference last post-July Fourth weekend.
Willing to leave total work of leading presentation to planner, practiced Powerpointer, Gerry Wurzburg, Tracy and I mumbled our prepared, typed commentary to the entirely Oprah-Winfreying-our-every word, picture-popping audience at the gala-ready convention center in Orlando.
It was lots of opera-like applause that we milked, signing DVDs and posing for movie star, passing as old actors like Ted Danson of B-movie stardom, for pictures.
Larry Bissonnette is an advocate and artist who lives in Milton, Vermont and has had his work exhibited regularly both locally and nationally. In 1991, Larry learned to communicate through typing and began combining words with his art to express his thoughts and ideas. Over the past 15 years, he has been a featured presenter at many educational conferences and has written and spoken on the topics of autism, communication and art.
For more coverage of the Autism Society’s 42nd conference, click here! And if you’re a “Tracy and Larry groupie” that missed the stars of Wretches & Jabberers at the conference, don't fret! The keynote will be posted online soon on our Conference Page.
July 14, 2011
By Autism Society
Autism touches us all. According to the CDC, 1 in 110 or 1 percent of the U.S. population is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. So, regardless of whether you’re an individual with autism, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a classmate, a coworker or a service provider, it’s important to understand autism.
That’s where the Autism Society’s bi-monthly e-newsletter, ASA-Net, comes in. We provide you the latest news and resources about autism, and updates on what the Autism Society is doing each day to improve lives. Sign up to receive ASA-Net, and find all the information you need in one place! The newsletter includes:
Advocacy opportunities: Learn about legislation currently being considered, like the Combating Autism Act (which needs to be reauthorized this year!) Help us to promote laws that benefit the autism community by responding to Action Alerts.
Notices for upcoming conferences and events: Don’t miss these opportunities to learn new things, get to know the autism community and have fun!
Upcoming Sensory Friendly Films: At these movies, shown at AMC theatres across the country, the sound is lowered and lights are left on so viewers with sensory issues aren’t overwhelmed. We include a link so you can find a participating theater near you.
Autism news: We compile breaking stories to keep you informed. Read about recent research, therapeutic advances and more.
Education: Find information about new teaching methods and products designed to help children with ASD succeed in the classroom.
Book and movie reviews: Learn about new and interesting autism-related media – for example, the groundbreaking documentary Wretches & Jabberers, which is now available for preorder from iTunes!
If you want to be informed or get involved, you need to receive this free publication! Click here to subscribe: http://support.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=fullreg_form
July 11, 2011
By Lynette Scotese-Wojtila OTR/L
When it comes to autism, the simple truth is “It doesn't need to be this hard...for anyone!” How can I say this with such conviction?
Because for 25 years as an OT in this field, I have seen and helped families who have felt like their child with autism was “un-helpable” and whose lives were falling apart around them, all due to the daily stress and perplexities of their child's condition. The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach model has been what I have used to address each and every concern or struggle brought to my attention in my capacity as Founding Director of Integrations Treatment Center (ITC), an autism specialty center in Ohio and home of The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach.
The model was created out of sheer need and has worked like no other model I have ever witnessed. Perhaps that is because The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach, by design, is a transdisciplinary, yet synclectic, model that yields completely customized programming. According to AWEtism Productions a new autism media company, “Children with autism spectrum disorder/PDD are faced with many sensory, emotional, communication, social, self-care, behavioral and academic challenges.” The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach is the single most effective model to address this vast array of challenges. Its efficacy presents itself both in the day-to-day clinical experience at ITC and in the recent center-based research conducted with the support of the Ohio Department of Education.
Learn more about The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach by visiting the website of our sister company, www.awetismproductions.com.
July 5, 2011
By Autism Society
Regardless of where children or adults fall within the autism spectrum, their families’ greatest hope for their present and future is that they live a happy life. There are many barriers that may prevent individuals with autism and their families from having quality lives, and there is no question that families need new and different forms of support in order to remove these barriers.
I will be speaking at the Autism Society’s National Conference in Florida about promising new models for children and adults with severe autism. One of these models is Special Needs Life Quality Coaching™, an online program that trains individuals to work with families to ensure that they and their children or adults with special needs meet their goals for a quality life. I will also discuss the importance of a Special Needs Life Quality Plan, which maps out the minute details of what needs to be in place on a day-to-day basis in order for someone with autism or other developmental disabilities to maximize their personal comfort and happiness.
We know that the number one factor in leading a happy life across the lifespan is relationships. When it comes to leading a happy life 10, 20 or 30 years down the road, it really doesn’t matter that a person has a diagnosis of autism. What matters is who is in their life, that they have choices that fit their needs and wishes, that they have interesting ways to spend their time, that they live as independently as possible and that they are happy.
If you are unable to attend my session on Friday, July 8, at 3:15 p.m. (Miami Room), then please join us on LinkedIn (http://ow.ly/5mb19) after the conference for an ongoing discussion on life quality. It’s time to stop focusing on the disability and how to fix it, and start directing our attention to what we can do to make sure individuals with disabilities are leading safe, happy and fulfilling lives.
Dr. Krysti DeZonia
Topics:Living with Autism
We asked Autism Society board member Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., BCBA, for her holiday tips
July 3, 2011
By Autism Society
With crowds, barbecues and fireworks, the Fourth of July can be overwhelming for some individuals on the autism spectrum. However, the following information can help your loved one or friend with ASD have an enjoyable and comfortable holiday.
1. Use social stories or visuals to prepare him/her for a party. This is best done a few days in advance so he/she will be as comfortable as possible. It also helps to prepare a list of guests’ names and faces beforehand, so that he/she can become familiar with who is coming to the event.
2. Bright and loud, fireworks can be overwhelming for people with ASD. Provide him/her with a way to dampen the sound – headphones, for example. Note that not every person with ASD dislikes fireworks, but plan for the most difficult scenario.
3. A picnic or barbecue will present him/her with new sights, sounds and smells, so it may help if he/she is provided with familiar food and drink.
4. Make sure he/she has an item from home, such as a magazine or favorite toy, which can provide a distraction in stressful situations.
5. If the situation becomes too intense – during fireworks, for example – he/she may need to leave. Coordinate an escape route and make plans for possible contingencies.
6. Holding a small cookout the week before the real thing can be great practice for the Fourth.
7. Individuals with ASD can be fearless, and fire can be a hazard to them. Keep an eye on him/her in order to avoid accidents around grills, fireworks and campfires.
8. If he/she relies on sign language, typing or symbols to communicate, make sure he/she knows how to communicate about the food and events he/she may encounter.
Happy Fourth of July!
Topics:Living with Autism
Don’t miss Cars 2 this Saturday and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on July 23!
June 30, 2011
By Autism Society
The Autism Society and AMC Theatres have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other disabilities and sensory issues a special opportunity to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment on a monthly basis. Sensory Friendly Films provides the opportunity to see a new release in a theatre without the stress caused by darkness and noise. Audience members can watch as actively as they wish without being hushed or asked to leave. In short, these monthly viewings, currently offered at 132 AMC locations, make it possible for anyone to go to the movies – something many persons with autism and their families would not otherwise be able to do.
7 Facts about Sensory Friendly Films: What Distinguishes Them from Other Movies?
1. Lights: The auditorium lights are left on at a dim level so the room is not too dark.
2. Sound: The film volume is turned down in order to avoid excessive loudness.
3. Audience: At conventional film showings, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy discourages potentially disruptive behavior on the part of audience members. At Sensory Friendly Films, talking, singing, moving around the room and other activity is permitted.
4. Snacks: Viewers are allowed to bring food from home, accommodating gluten- and casein-free diets.
5. Time: Films are shown at 10:00 a.m. local time on Saturday mornings when the theater is less crowded and kids have more energy.
6. Previews: No previews are shown before the movie- the good part starts right away (so don’t be late!)
7. Cost: Sensory Friendly Films are offered at a reduced price of $4-$6, depending on the theater.
For show times, a list of participating theaters and more information about the program, visit www.autism-society.org/sensoryfilms.
June 29, 2011
By Robert Naseef, Ph.D.
Film director Charles Jones was speechless with excitement when he held his son for the first time. He put his feelings into words in his YouTube video Autistic Like Me, which is a teaser for a documentary in production.
“When he arrived, I had a son, a miniature version of me. I had someone to whom I could impart my values. For a father, a son is a mirror in which he sees himself, and I couldn’t wait to watch him grow. I would teach him everything I knew in order that one day he would be a better version of me.” As I watched the video, I reflected on how I also wanted to be a better version of my father when I held my son Tariq for the first time 31 years ago.
Two and a half years later, the mirror broke for Charles when his son Malik was diagnosed with autism. “It was like a rebirth, only this time I was devastated…I felt guilt, shame, hurt and, most of all, cheated. Why me? Why Malik?”
For Charles and other fathers, especially those with boys on the autism spectrum, the “broken mirror” leaves us powerless and ashamed. We love our children and don’t want to fail them. These feelings generally occur with men, as described by psychologist David Wexler in his book Men in Therapy. Autistic Like Me resonates with the fathers who have watched the video with me at conferences around the country and in my office in Philadelphia. Hearing from Charles has helped open up powerful and liberating conversations.
When it comes to emotions, there is a male imperative to “suck it up.” Expressing tender feelings is traditionally seen as weak. So, men tend to cry on the inside, as my father told me he learned in the orphanage where he grew up. On the outside, we may be grumpy and irritable, but on the inside we are hurting. Life doesn’t stand still and wait for us. Our families need us to express ourselves, and to show up and be present day by day.
Since expressing vulnerable feelings violates unwritten and unspoken male gender codes, asking a male how he feels evokes an automatic “I don’t know” response, resulting in frustration and distance for his partner. So, what helps men to express themselves, especially when they experience a broken mirror when living with an autistic child?
What I have found in my work with parents of children with autism is that men can begin to learn to express themselves in groups of men or even in one-on-one conversations with other men who have a similar experience. Without the fear of performing poorly or being “wrong,” there is a sense of safety from shame. When this happens, men can then begin to express themselves with women. This happens over and over at conferences and in my office.
Don’t start by asking a man how he feels. Use these openers to get him talking:
- Tell me your story.
- What’s it like for you? (curiosity works better than empathy)
- Tell me more.
- I need to know how to be your friend/ wife/ brother, etc.
- Your child needs you.
- It takes courage to open up, and I admire you for that.
- Let’s figure out a plan to go forward.
Listening and disclosing needs to happen more slowly for men as we are more easily overwhelmed by tender emotions. Living day by day, this is how I grow and help others.
On Thursday, July 7, Robert Naseef, Ph.D., will be chairing a panel discussion, Fatherhood Forum: A Panel Discussing the Special Contributions and Needs of Fathers at the Autism Society’s 42nd National Conference with Stephen M. Shore, Ed.D., Alexander Plank, Don White, Ven Sequenzia, Diane Adreon, Ed.D., Kent Potter, Craig Gibson and Charles Jones.
Learn more about Dr. Naseef’s psychology practice at www.alternativechoices.com and check out a recent interview about fathers and autism here.
Topics:Living with Autism
June 27, 2011
My younger brother, Willie, has autism. That means I need to keep my eyes open for sudden windows into my brother’s mind and heart. I know better than to expect logical responses or explanations, but I keep trying.
I remember a time one such ‘window’ opened, during the long-ago era when my brother was obsessed with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.’ He had (and still has) all seven stuffed dwarves, and he loved to line them up in a row. He referred to himself as ‘Grumpy’ or ‘Happy’ depending on his mood. (I realize now that the film was probably an excellent way for a boy with autism to learn about identifying emotions, since each dwarf is typecast and consistent in their facial expression throughout the story.)
One day, my parents asked him, “Willie, if you’re Happy [he was Happy that day], who is Mommy?”
For reasons inexplicable, Willie replied, “Mommy is Bashful!”
[Author’s note: Mommy is not bashful. However, Bashful is a very thoughtful, kind dwarf, so perhaps this was the reasoning behind the choice.]
My mom then asked, “And who is Daddy?”
Willie said, “Daddy is Doc!”
[Author’s note: This choice seems a bit more logical. My father wears glasses; has a calm, direct way of expressing himself, has a quirky sense of humor; and is a natural leader.]
Finally, my mom asked, “And who is your sister Caroline?”
With no hesitation, Willie said, “Caroline is Snow White!”
So there you have it. To my brother, I am a Disney princess. He may not be able to say things like, “Caroline, I look up to you,” or “Caroline, I’m glad you’re my sister,” but in his mind he can cast me in a starring role in the movie.
I may not be able to see all I’d like to see of my brother’s mind and heart. But what I do see is astonishing. He’s creative, hilarious and generous with his casting.
Maybe, just maybe, I can only see part of him because to see fully would be too much beauty to bear.
The Autism Society shares your stories about living with autism because there is value in learning from one another, and inspiring and supporting one another through our respective, various experiences. You can read more stories at the Living with Autism section of the Autism Society website. For even more autism journeys, meet us in Orlando for the Autism Society’s 42nd Conference and Exhibition. Register here! Here are examples of some of the personal, introspective sessions that will take place:
My Life with Autism
This presentation explores the multiple challenges that many with autism experience on a daily basis as well as gives insight into uneven social/emotional development. I will share how I have learned to be a self-teacher and work through barriers to obtain self-gains.
Sondra K. Williams, adult with autism
Speaking for Ourselves: Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Panel
This is the 21st year of the Speaking for Ourselves panel in which four individuals share their experience of autism/Asperger's. This is an opportunity for you to hear about their struggles and victories, and to applaud their personal growth. Each year, new individuals are chosen to give them a chance to be in the spotlight and gain confidence in expressing themselves in a supportive atmosphere. Come join us to cheer them on!
Julie A. Donnelly, Ph.D.
June 24, 2011
By Jennifer Jacobs, M.S., CCC-SLP
I am excited to be attending and speaking at the Autism Society’s 42nd National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders. My session, Lights, Camera, Interaction: Video Modeling to Teach Social Skills, will cover many different approaches of video modeling to target social language and behavior.
Technology is always evolving, and it is difficult to keep up with all the latest and greatest websites, techniques, apps and curricula. Luckily, this is something I love to do and I will do my best to deliver the most up-to-date information to you! Not only will you learn about research- validated video modeling, you will also learn how to build your video library from free internet sites and make your own videos. Participants will also learn how to systematically break down videos in order to highlight important social expectations in different environments. If you can visualize the behavior, you will have better success replicating that behavior!
I will show you how to make digital comic strips, story boards, sequencing cards and more in order to expand upon the behaviors and language used in the video and aid in generalization. Because if it doesn’t carry over into the natural environment, then what’s the point, right?
Please join me on Friday, July 8, at 11 a.m. and learn more about integrating this motivating, research-validated, evidence-based measure into your treatment of social skills and behavior. Register here!
Jennifer Jacobs is a speech-language pathologist who found success in the use of video modeling and developed an interactive video curriculum for therapists. Jennifer continues to assist in research and develop effective approaches of integrating technology and video modeling into social communication therapy.
As a precursor to this session, we would like to provide you with a special look at the article Video Modeling: Teaching Through the Box, which was published in the winter 2010-2011 edition of the Autism Advocate, the Autism Society’s quarterly publication available only to members.
June 23, 2011
By Tracy Thresher
The most important things for people to know if they plan to facilitate honest conversations is to let the words flow from the typist without getting in the way of the typing. For the person typing, it is crucial to know they will not be judged for venting their anger. I had this point of realizing it is ok to let go of my anger through my typing. The facilitator I work with is patient in her support of my getting my thoughts out of my head. I truly thank her for being my forgiving support.
Thresher is a self-advocate with autism featured in the autism documentary, “Wretches & Jabberers.” The Autism Society is excited to bring together Thresher, along with fellow self-advocate Larry Bissonnette; their assistants Pascal Cheng and Harvey Lavoy; and Academy Award®-winning director Gerardine Wurzburg, for one big keynote session at the 42nd National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Following the presentation, there will be a question-and-answer period with the audience – not unlike the sessions featured in the film. It’s not too late to join us!
“Wretches & Jabberers” will be available July 1 on DVD – but you can preorder on iTunes!