With Autism, the More Languages the Better

talking family

While there is no data to support that learning more than one language is harmful to an autistic child’s development, a handful of studies show that children with autism can learn two languages just as well as one language and may even thrive in multilingual environments. Continue reading

Carpenters Union Local 599 Receives Award

Carpenters’ Union Local 599 President John Winarski, from left, accepts an award from Devin Downs and his father, Glen, on behalf of MarysKids, a parent support group for families of children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

Glen Downs, union member, recently presented an award to the Carpenters Union Local 599 on behalf of MaryKids for donating significant funding. MarysKids is a parent support group for families who have children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. The Union has helped in funding to send families to a special weekend camp for children with autism held at Stoney Run County Park in Leroy.

“For the second year in a row, the generosity of the local Carpenters Union has made it possible for any family with a child with autism, as well as extended family members and friends, to participate in a three-day, two-night outdoor primitive camping adventure right here in Lake County,” said Mary Michael, of Highland, who founded MarysKids.

Parents are usually hesitant to take traditional camping trips because sensory overloads, new environments or changes in routine can affect children with autism. But at Stoney Run, camping is limited to non-profit groups and families are required to two group sites making MarysKids the only campers for the entire weekend. Fiends and family members participate to provide more of an inclusive atmosphere for the children.

For more information on how you could help or donate please visit,  http://www.hear-our-voices.org/donate.html

Use of Imaginary Helpers Improves ‘Wellbeing” of Children with Autism

ASD, Autism
Use of imaginary helpers improves ‘Wellbeing” of children with autism

Researchers believe the mental wellbeing of children with autism has the ability to improve through an the psychological technique of inventing tiny characters kids can then imagine are in their heads helping them out with their thoughts. 

Particularly for high-functioning children with autism, the technique based on cognitive behavioral therapy – aims to build “social and emotional resilience,” by recruiting imaginary homunculi characters. 

Prof. Tommy MacKay, from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, was one of two researchers presenting work on the CBT technique at a recent British Psychological Society meeting says “The homunculi approach is particularly suited to those with high functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, who often have difficulty identifying troubling feelings such as anger, fear and anxiety.” 

The other researcher, Dr. Anne Greig, and an educational psychologist for Argyll and Bute in Scotland, explains the “little people” approach:  “The homunculi are miniature agents with problem-solving missions and special gadgets who live inside the brain and help out with distressing thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Through inventing their own homunculi characters and stories, the children learn to cope with their real-life social problems.”  The CBT technique approach is more fully described in a book published in 2013, The homunculi approach to social and emotional wellbeing. They have been developing the homunculi approach for 10 years, which they have based on established ideas in cognitive behavioral therapy.

The technique is an involved activity that calls on a number of resources, including detailed examples of characters, their missions, and their gadgets, and a poster showing the skull with different components such as “thoughts and feelings” screens, and a “stop, think, do!” alarm.

This CBT program, which includes single case studies, group studies and ongoing work with whole classes and school year groups “to build resilience, extending the application of the program beyond autism spectrum disorders to wider populations” was tested in the research project being presented. 20 children of high school age completed the 10-week course of therapy in one part of study.

These children were equally mixed between those with emotional and behavioural difficulties and those with Asperger’s syndrome (high-functioning autism). Prof. MacKay and Dr. Greig’s study “showed that their mental wellbeing had significantly improved, and they experienced reduced levels of anxiety, depression, anger and stress.” at the end of testing.

For more information on therapy and autism, please follow the link here: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/2013/11/19/heeling-autism/

Susan Boyle Tells the World that She Has Asperger’s

Susan Boyle, Scottish singing phenomenon and winner of Britian’s Got Talent 2009, told the Observer newspaper that she has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Continue reading

10 Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome

1. Difficulty Developing Friendships

  • Children with Asperger’s syndrome may struggle to form and maintain friendships, due to a lack of social skills. They may lack the skills necessary to talk to other children or participate in group activities, though they may deeply long for this connection with their peers.

2. Selective Mutism

  • Children with Asperger’s syndrome may not feel comfortable talking in public settings, and thus have what is called “selective mutism.” That is, they will only verbally communicate with those they feel most comfortable (i.e., parents, siblings).

3. Inability to Empathize

  • Those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome may have difficult emphasizing with others. Through education, they may learn the accepted social responses for interacting with others, but may not fully understand someone’s emotions.

4. Unable to Make Eye Contact or Forcing Eye Contact

  • Making and holding eye contact can be difficult for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, often brought on from a lack of confidence. Some may also not understand the important of eye contact for social communication, resulting in forcing eye contact. Forcing eye contact can may others feel even more uncomfortable.

5. Being “Active But Odd”

  • There is a misconceived notion that people with Asperger’s syndrome are not passionate. These individuals may become very social, but only form a few close relationships, or may surround themselves with people but do not form any deep relationships.

6. Narrowed Interests

  • Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome tend to have narrow and specific interests. When forced to leave their projects, or if their projects are failing, they may become greatly distressed. Fostering these interests is important for the reduction of stress and anxiety.

7. Sticking to Routine

  • Creating and maintaining a routine is important for someone with Asperger’s syndrome to avoid any distress and anxiety.

8. Literal Interpretations

  • Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome tend to take everything someone says literally, and thus may need an explanation of expressions. This population may struggle to understand sarcasm and other emotions through social communication.

9. Excellent Pattern Recognition

  • Those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome tend to have an incredible ability to recognize patterns, excelling in math and art. Foster this ability!

10. Poor Motor Skills

  • Fine and gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination tend to be a struggle for those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, resulting in poor handwriting, poor ability to hold objects, and even difficulties with walking and posture.


Autism Diagnostic Criteria Revised in the DSM-5





This Saturday, the Diagnosis Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was revised and released, changing the diagnostic criteria of autism. The DSM-5 is a document of the American Psychiatric Association and the primary, psychiatric diagnostic tool used by organizations, individuals, and government services nationally. The DSM-4 has defined autism through 4 varying diagnoses: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. These categories have officially been replaced by the all-encompassing title Autism Spectrum Disorder. Within the definition, socially related elements of autism are now described more specifically as social communication impairment and repetitive/restrictive behavior. The new definition includes sensory processing symptoms as well. These changes could affect how organizations continue to disperse services to individuals diagnosed by the criteria of the DSM-4, though the individuals responsible for the revisions incorporated into the DSM-5 have encouraged against this. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM) has vouched to not hold the DSM-5 criteria as exclusive standards and claims to be shying away from symptom-based categories in general.

Mom with Asperger’s Struggles to Regain Custody of Autistic Daughters






Linda Souza is a San Diego mother fighting to regain custody of her two daughters, both affected by autism spectrum disorder, who she claims were unjustly removed from her guardianship.  Linda was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and argues that she is a victim of discrimination, pointing to widespread injustice in the legal system that robs developmentally delayed adults of their basic rights. Linda’s oldest daughter Amber, 28, describes her mother as a dedicated and caring parent who carefully tended to her daughters special needs. Amber claims that her 13-year old sister’s specific dietary and medical requirements are being overlooked in state-run care, and petitions to have her sisters returned to her mother’s custody.

This case is particularly saddening, and points to larger need for a conversation among advocates and policy-makers regarding the rights of developmentally delayed adults. Linda uses her blog to publicize her mission, and also as a creative showcase for her photography and video work.  You can visit Linda’s site here: http://aspiemomto3girls.blogspot.com/