Category Archives: Education

Teen Becomes Advocate for Children with Autism

Autistic Teen Support Group

Connor Cunningham, a junior in high school, has become an advocate for autism, speaking to children and teachers in the Sunny Isles Beach area about autism and the importance of tolerance.

Cunningham, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, enjoys public speaking. He said that, as a child, he received help for his Asperger’s, but it was never from someone who knew what he was going through. This encouraged him to become an advocate.

The speeches that Cunningham gives are particularly for third and fourth graders. He also addresses some other middle-schoolers. In his speeches, he starts out by relating to the audience he is talking to – touching on topics, such as art, video games and favorite movies. He continues with facts, personal stories, humor and games. He also gives the children a chance to ask questions.

Because of his success with his advocacy, Cunningham has started his own organization called “Stand in My Shoes.” His hope is that the organization can grow into a speaker’s bureau and then it can be used as a school resource. He also wants to start recording podcasts and have an online forum for children with autism to help them connect.

Cunningham says that speaking at Sunny Isles was, and has been, a great opportunity. He says that the kids are a lot of fun and that knowing that they listened and felt compassion was rewarding.

Cunningham hopes that his speeches and advocacy have helped other kids who feel different and that they know that there is someone in similar shoes there to listen to them.

By Sejal Sheth

Daniel Tiger Becomes Autistic Boy’s Guide to Social Life

daniel tiger autistic life lessons

Daniel Tiger, a recent creation of PBS, provides life lessons for all children, but his teachings are particularly effective for those who have trouble reading social cues. 

Daniel Tiger is a relatable preschooler who wears a red cardigan and has friendly phrases to help children understand things like disappointment, frustration, anger and fear of the unknown. He also gives lessons on certain skills like turn taking, cooperation, problem solving, and empathy. 

Rasha Madkour, who has an autistic son, says that she has seen Daniel Tiger’s lessons and sayings being used by her own children when they play with others. The first time she noticed it, she was waiting for her 5-year-old’s occupational therapist. The therapist was very busy, and a small child, was crying about wanting a toy that her child was playing with.

Madkour sang the words, “Think about how someone else is feeling; maybe you can help them feel better” to her son, a jingle from Daniel Tiger. Her son thought for a moment and then handed the toy to the crying child. The child immediately stopped and Madkour could see that her son understood that he had helped.

Individuals with autism often times have a hard time understanding unspoken social codes. Daniel Tiger uses a different approach by explicitly saying a certain social skill and then providing multiple examples in each episode.

From providing encouragement to teaching children what to do when they have wronged someone, Daniel Tiger’s words of wisdom are beneficial to all children.

By Sejal Sheth 

How an Autistic Teen Gave a Lesson in Forgiveness

autism bullying

Weird, creepy, and rude- Those are just some words bullies described Illinois teenager Gavin Joseph. He was lured by a few guys who tricked him into what he thought was a friendly get together.

When Gavin arrived he was met with strangers who proceeded to choke and punch him so he can “learn his lesson.” Form the incident he suffered a mild concussion, bruised esophagus, fractured nose, and an eye hematoma.

So what Gavin’s response? Did he fight back? Did he press charges (as he has legal right to do)? Neither. Instead Gavin saw this moment as an opportunity to teach a lesson about forgiveness with a 20 minute video spreading awareness of his condition. At the age of three his doctor diagnosed him with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD.

When growing up he’s had just as many wonderful memories and as he had difficult ones. His condition isn’t something you can see physically, but he has a lot of difficulty developing social relationships with other people. Everyday interactions were always problematic for Gavin. People often mistakenly perceived him as being impatient, detached, and uninterested. Ultimately he became isolated from others.

Gavin’s mother, Cortnie, says that her son is also kind, generous, and forgiving. This can sometimes come across a bit awkward because communicating those feelings may not always look natural.  So she hopes that sharing their story will encourage parents to talk with their teens about disabilities.

Gavin only asks that his attackers watch his 20 minute video, write a paper on Asperger’s Syndrome, and participate in community service helping people who are disabled.

To read to original post please visit the article from the Huffington Post.

By Raiza Belarmino

Student With Asperger’s Thrives at Charter School 

autism charter school

The opening of a new charter school in Anderson, South Carolina has helped the growth of a student with Asperger’s syndrome.

Devon Haist, 17, was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2010. Before that, his mother said that he often had trouble socializing in school. Haist went to a public middle school. After having panic attacks from crowding and loud bells, his parents decided to transfer him to an online school. Later, they tried a private school. 

Cindy Haist, Devon’s mother, said that he always had a rough time in public school. In 2011, Anderson School District 5 decided to open a charter school. Cindy felt this would be be beneficial to her son. 

Once he began attending the charter school, Devon found his place. He is able to take classes in machine technology and robotics. Devon is also able to participate in a dual enrollment program at Tri-County Technical College. He will be graduating next year with an Associate’s Degree as well as a certification in basic electronics. Devon hopes to follow his father and grandfather’s footsteps and go into engineering.

Cindy Haist says that from this program, Devon has learned to use eye contact and shake hands while interacting with other people. He has also learned to handle himself better.

Devon has also received other therapies to help cope with his Asperger’s symptoms. He saw a therapist for a while who helped him with anxiety and recognizing social cues. He has also completed 45 treatments of transcranial magnetic stimulation to help improve his socialization.  

Cindy Haist says that everyone has seen an improvement, not only because of his treatment, but also because of a better school education.

Written By Sejal Sheth

Oakland University Opens New Autism Research Center    

autism program funded

On Monday, July 6, the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University opened a clinic dedicated to autism research. The clinic will be specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and researching different treatments related to autism spectrum disorders. 

The clinic was partially funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Community Mental Health. It will be providing early intervention techniques for children between the ages of 2-6, who have already been diagnosed with ASD or those who are at risk for an autism diagnosis.

In particular, treatments will be provided in areas of communication, play, social and speech skills. The behavior analysts plan on working with children one-on-one and also in small groups. The clinic will also offer certification for students at Oakland University who want to be Board Certified Behavior Analysts and/or Registered Behavior Technicians.

Jessica Korneder, an assistant professor of human development and child studies says that the clinic will greatly improve the quality of life for local children with autism as well as their families. She also says that the clinic will be conducting research on the best training methods for behavior technicians along with parent training methods.

Korneder says that the undergraduate students will be developing technical, clinical, and professional skills for graduate work or entry-level positions. The graduate students will also be learning clinical and professional skills for their future careers. She hopes that all the students will change the lives of children and families affected by autism.

By Sejal Sheth 

Changes in Minneapolis Autism Program Cause Concern

minneapolis autism crisisIn a June commentary about the Minneapolis Public Schools autism program, Margaret Sullivan says not to worry because fewer than 25 kindergarteners will be affected by the new changes. However, many parents are having difficulty staying calm.

This year, 23 incoming kindergartners with Autism Spectrum Disorder have been denied proper access to educational support. Because early intervention is the best type of therapy for children with autism, parent concerns are growing. Soon, Minneapolis schools will be filled with autistic children who are not receiving proper intervention and therapy. This could lead to possible trauma and force the children to face potential lifelong consequences.

Along with that, the school district is closing some ASD early-childhood special education classrooms. With these two factors converging, classrooms are becoming more crowded and forcing children with ASD to be sent to schools where they aren’t getting proper, individualized interventions. It is also leading to more sensory vulnerabilities that can lead to meltdowns, which are occasionally loud and violent.

In Minneapolis, it’s not just parents who want the school district to change. Teachers, students, and alumni of the program are also signing petitions that ask the district to maintain its current level of support for students with autism. However, teachers are unable to speak out (unless it’s privately or anonymously) because they are scared of losing their jobs. 

In the past, citywide autism programs were extremely successful in helping autistic children grow into functioning adults who contribute to their communities. Now, Minneapolis parents are asking for the same opportunity for their children. In the end, everyone deserves an education that will help them grow to their full potential. 

Written By Sejal Sheth

The Easiest Thing You’ll Do All Day- ICareTV is Just A Click Away!


Today, more people are hearing this word than at any point in human history.

But if you ask the world, “What is autism?” the responses vary.

To some, this word conjures up thoughts of people with superhuman abilities to organize and remember facts. To others, it is a strange disorder that makes it hard for some people to socially interact.

And for many, “autism” is the reason why they struggle for employment, why they are denied an education, why they are excluded from society’s definition of “normal”.

Since it was first formally recognized in the 1940’s, our society has made impressive steps to improve the  lives of those on the autism spectrum. Autism awareness increases daily and doctors are getting to know the signs better all the time.

But, where do we go from here? How do we take the next step towards global awareness, inclusion, and acceptance?

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If life is a movie,  iCareTV allows the global community to look at it through a new lens.

With iCareTV, the world can watch in-depth workshops and webinars from leading professionals in the field, including Anat Baniel, Ari Ne’Eman, and Stephen Shore.

At the heart of this initiative is a common mission to provide greater awareness of new autism information and research findings. To provide a trustworthy, alternative autism news network. And, to provide a solid community of support for a world that deserves to understand autism better.

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California Parents Didn’t Tell Their Daughter She’s Autistic

autistic daughter

Eighteen year old Leanne Linbas it about to graduate from El Toro High School. She plans to attend Saddleback College with a focus on Special Education.

Her mother, Ruth, describes her daughter as adventurous, saying she is always looking for something new, exciting, and different. She competes in her school’s track team, loves listening to music, and hangs out with friends at the local mall; typical teenage stuff. But her journey wasn’t always so pleasant.

As a toddler, Ruth recalls, her daughter wasn’t talking and would bang her head against the wall. Leanne remembers being terrified of people and always ran away from strangers. In school, it was difficult to talk to teachers and make friends with other kids. She remembers the girl being so scared to socialize that she would just shut down.

At age 4, Leanne was diagnosed with a mild form of autism. Initially her mother tried to get special counseling and education for Leanne. Unfortunately the insurance wouldn’t cover the costs and her family wasn’t able to afford the healthcare costs out of pocket. So from 5th grade on, Leanne was mainstreamed in regular classes.

Years later she discovered her diagnosis after reading an old school file. As soon as she saw the words she began cry and had to read it over and over again. It was very hard for her to accept in the beginning. Her anxiety grew worse as she struggled to fit in with other students.

Soon, Leanne realized something needed to be done and was transferred to counseling. It was then that she learned her disability wasn’t something she needed to get rid of. She began to view her autism as a blessing- something to be proud of.

Leanne is now an advocate for others. In a 5 day Youth Leadership Forum, she represented her school by providing information and resources for students with different disabilities. She also started the El Toro Disability Coalition which teaches kids the history of disability rights.

So how does she feel about being left in the dark all those years? Leanne appreciates her experience because it made her into the person she is today. She hopes that by telling her story people will also feel her sense of pride and acceptance for those with autism.

To read the full article please visit

By Raiza Belarmino

Artist Treats Autism as a Gift

autistic painter

Upon receiving their diagnosis, many people with autism might not know what to think about it.

But a man from Kent, Washington treats his condition not as a setback, but as a gift.

Michael Tolleson did not know he could paint until three years ago, when he picked up a brush on a whim. This came at the same time he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism spectrum disorder.

Painting, he says, is a way to isolate himself from the chaos of the outside world. For him, it’s a “vacation…from [him]self.”

Over the past three years, he has produced more than 600 paintings, all of which are completed in less than an hour. He sells his paintings for thousands of dollars apiece across the globe.

He credits his talent to having ASD, calling himself a “Savant Artist.” After discovering his talent, he wanted to take the opportunity not just to share it, but to “give hope” and inspire other people.

And that’s exactly what Tolleson is doing. His gallery in Kent doubles as a workshop for young people along the autism spectrum. For instance, 21 year old Michael Sorenson had trouble communicating his basic needs to family, like telling them that he is hungry or has to use the bathroom.

But after immersing himself in art, his communication skills have improved dramatically. According to his mother, Linda, he is much more communicative and cheerful.

This joy is what Tolleson hopes to inspire in others. Since he started painting, Tolleson has become an international advocate for autism awareness.

“Most people are thinking about retirement at my age,” he says. “I can’t retire. I have to share this.” 

His primary mission is to show families that autism does not necessarily mean a life of limitations. He wants to show the world that their children are much more capable than they realize.

You can find Tolleson’s work here.

Written by Nina Bergold