14-Year-Old Autistic Boy Finds Happiness through Art

IMG_8172

John was having a difficult time trying to communicate and demonstrated a tendency to act rather aggressively. However, this all changed once he discovered his passion towards painting. Continue reading

AutBuddy: A New Mobile App Inspired by a Sisterly Bond

autbuddy Edgars blog postEashana Subramanian, a 12-year-old girl, has developed a new mobile application after noticing the challenges her autistic sister faces on a day to day basis at school. Eashana had been observing her sister Meghana’s behavior and noticed how important routines were to her. Every morning, Meghana wakes up and goes to brush her teeth, comb her hair, dress up, and get ready for school. Eashana realized that when something changed in the structure of her sister’s routine, she would have a hard time following the new pattern.

Eashana saw how her parents struggled to assign the appropriate tasks to Meghana since they had a difficult time keeping up with what was going on at school. It didn’t take long for Eashana to connect the dots together and realize that there was a communication gap between the teachers and her parents. She decided to take matter into her own hands and create a handy app called AutBuddy in order to bridge the distance. “I look at all these problems and said this had to be solved somehow or made easier for my parents. So I thought of AutBuddy that could have features to fix the problems — not fix but help,” explains Eashana. 

The purpose of AutBuddy is to help children on the autism spectrum carry out their routines at home and school in a stable and organized manner. Eashana developed it along with the help of some of her middle school friends in Derwood, Maryland. One of the main functions of the app is its ability to allow the parents to communicate with the teachers in real time so that they don’t get left behind when it comes to lessons and assigned homework duties. The app is also customizable and is personalized to each children’s needs according to their level on the autism spectrum. 

AutBuddy’s development originated at the Adventure in Science Club which is a Maryland-based nonprofit group that promotes science, technology, engineering, and math education. The team of developers include nine other students as well as an advisor and a special education teacher. The group received $20,000 thanks to the 2016 Verizon App Challenge. The next step for the team has them working with members of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where the app will move into production. AutBuddy will be ready to launch on June 1st through Google Play and we couldn’t be more excited for its release!

For additional information, please visit:ABC News

By Edgar Catasus

How Wrestling Empowered a Student with Autism to Interact with the World

Wresting with AutismParents of a child on the autism spectrum understand the importance and difficulty of keeping their child engaged with the world around them. Kurt Janicki, the father of an autistic child, was struggling with his son’s tendency to disconnect and drift away from the present moment. Mr. Janicki was looking for ways to get his son to interact with his surroundings and he couldn’t have imagined an answer to his dreams would come in the sport of wrestling. The unexpected life-changing event took place when his son, Erik Janicki, was watching the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament. It was right in that moment that he realized he wanted to participate in his high school’s wrestling program. Ever since, Erik has been connected to the world thanks to his passionate interest in the sport. 

“If you let him, his world would close in on him. If you don’t keep him connected to the world around him, he would close in on himself in a heartbeat, and he would continue to do that.”, said Mr. Janicki. The ease in which Erik retreats back into his shell is what has made his discovery of wrestling that much more significant. He’s now known to be “Coach Erik” within his teammates and his involvement in the sport has given him an opportunity to better himself. As one of the coaches, Erik’s responsibilities include helping the head coach run practices and delivering motivational speeches to the team before their scheduled meets. 

Erik’s father participated in the same high school’s wrestling program back in the 1980’s and he was able to reach the Middlesex County Wrestling Tournament. “The thing about wrestling – you know how personal and emotional it can be – and Erik watches the journey that each one of these young men takes. He connects with them, and he’s emotionally invested in it”, explained Kurt Janicki. He was pleased, even shocked, by the offer of South River head coach Bobby Young to integrate Erik into the team by making him a coach. He thought his son was going to be on the sidelines and was gratifyingly surprised to see he truly was going to form an integral part of the experience. 

Erik’s parents look forward to a future where he can continue to thrive and grow as a person. His involvement and excitement as one of the wrestling coaches have installed a positive outlook into his transition to adulthood. They hope to continue to bring down the barrier that sometimes blocks their son from interacting independently with the world but remain optimistic. Mr. Janicki has some inspiring words of advice to other parents with children on the autism spectrum. He says, “They are wonderful gifts in your life. Don’t hide them from the world. Take time to let them teach you about yourself and about them.”

For additional information, please click here

By Edgar Catasus

Teaching Children about their Autistic Peers

puppet

Although adults are fully aware of the growing autistic population, it is important for young children to be introduced to the disorder, and learn how to treat their peers with respect. Continue reading

New Program Eases Fears of Flying for Children with ASD

flying with autismWith flight being a sole means of travel in order to reach certain destinations, it has become a focus of concern for parents of children with autism to prepare them for the experience. Both the airport and the experience of flying can be overwhelming to any individual, but for a child with autism, it can be terrifying. With so many parents wanting their children to experience the joy of a vacation, several programs are being developed to help prepare them for the entire concept of flight – including the noise, movements, and interactions with the crew.

One new initiative in particular, Flying with Autism, provides parents with the opportunity of having their children experience a short flight so that they can process everything they are experiencing, and therefore they can later evaluate how the child reacts. As a result, they can potentially come up with strategies on how to overcome any particular issues they may have run into during the trial.

Flying with Autism was first launched in London, aiming to make the experience of flying a little easier for families touched by ASD. With thousands of families affected and the numbers only growing, it is becoming increasingly more important for programs like these to be developed – offering opportunities in areas that may have once been viewed as limitations for individuals on the spectrum.

Flying with Autism, led by specialist aviation training company FOF events, was established to help children with ASD familiarize themselves with flying, but also for parents to make the necessary preparations to ensure that the flight will be as comfortable as possible for their child. The program runs in two parts: at first, the families familiarize themselves at the airport and on the aircraft. Second, they partake in the “Experience Flight”, a 30-minute flight that allows children to get a grasp of air travel and for parents to assess how they handled it. This enables them to see if their children may be ready or not for a more extensive trip.

The program offers much advice and coping techniques to assist parents with the stressful parts of flying, as well as dealing with airport security and all of the interactions they may have along the way. Kelly Railton of The National Autistic Society (which financially supports the program) states, “We are very excited that Flying with Autism has nominated our charity to benefit from donations from their courses. A recent survey by the NAS showed transportation is a huge issue for people on the autism spectrum and their families, and can prevent them from taking part in everyday activities, particularly leisure opportunities such as holidaying abroad. We hope that Flying with Autism’s courses, along with our own current work in creating more accessible transport environments (such as airports and trains), will help [those] the autism spectrum.”

Initiatives similar to this one are popping up throughout the U.S., as well. For a list of airports offering programs for families touched by ASD: http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2014/09/18/15-airports-that-offer-rehearsal-programs-for-individuals-with-autism/

Autistic Students Regain their Appetites

Chef Lucio, changing lives one meal at a time

Autistic children often experience a sensory overload when eating, and therefore may be picky when it comes to mealtime. One chef is aiming to ease their anxieties by introducing them to a world of new foods. Continue reading