An exciting new character is set to join the world of “Sesame Street.” In an exclusive announcement on People.com on Wednesday morning, Sesame Workshop introduced Julia, a muppet with autism, as part of a new initiative called Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All … Continue reading
The parents of one of our students express gratitude for the special experience Shema Kolainu provided for their son.
Enrolling your child into one or more ‘enrichment’ programs designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can significantly improve not only their cognitive skills, but their social skills as well. The only caveat is figuring out which program would work best for your child. Continue reading
Toys can have a very positive impact on the development of children with autism spectrum syndrome. Choosing the right toys that will entertain your child and at the same time encourage development could be challenging. Toys are a big part of the development program at the Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices.
Keep in mind that ability of the child is more important than age recommendation when you are choosing toys for kids with autism. Simple toys like puzzles and mazes will help your child to focus on completing tasks and will bring a sense of achievement. Any type of painting or drawing will be great because working with tools will help improve your child’s motor skills. Board games could be amazing entertainment for the whole family and it will improve the social skills of a child.
Besides regular toys, you can choose from a variety of electronic resources, apps and DVDs that are designed for children with special needs. Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices School use iPad apps such as Buddy Bear app and PlayHome.
Model Me Kids, www.modelmekids.
Generally any toys would be extremely helpful with connection, improvement of social skills and overall development.
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An autistic teenager has been “tipped” for a Nobel Prize. Jacob Barnett is earning his masters in Quantum Physics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), with research that has garnered him consideration for a Nobel Prize. Oh, did I mention that Jacob is only 14? Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the age of two when he exhibited regressive behavior, losing communicative and social skills. Doctors believed Jacob would need special education and accommodations for life and would likely never be able to read. Despite the severe diagnoses, Jacob’s parents paid special attention to Jacob’s behavior, noticing that he was particularly happy when doing something meticulous, like counting, and disinterested with typical toddler activities. His mother, Kristine Barnett explained, in a 60 minutes feature on Jacob, that her and her husband engaged Jacob in the activities he liked after school and saw unbelievable progress. By kindergarten, Jacob was still behind his peers communicatively and socially, but, according to his father, he would return home and ask when he would get “to learn algebra.” By the third grade, Jacob, accompanied by Kristine, was auditing college calculus. The mother-son-duo laugh about the experience explaining how other students were surprised when Jacob would participate, believing that Kristine was enrolled and unable to find a babysitter. At the end of the course, Jacob requested to take the exam, and upon earning an ‘A’ was offered a full scholarship to IUPUI. In preparation for starting college before the age of 10, Jacob taught himself all of high school math in two weeks. Today, at 14-years-old, Jacob is earning his masters and conducting research that has put him in the running for one of the world’s most coveted prizes. He is thought to have an IQ equal to or greater than that of Albert Einstein.
Throughout all of this success and the attention, Jacob attributes his academic trajectory to the autistic experience, discrediting the ideas of “genius” and “savant.” In his presentation for TEDxTeen, Jacob encourages divergent thinking, telling the audience to “stop learning and start thinking.” He believes his interest and aptitude in math and science was born out of boredom as he was forced to “stop learning” when placed into a public special education program. While he was treated as disabled, he focused on “shapes and shadows” and considered large-scale theories of physics, soon proving himself differently-abled. His parents observed this difference and fostered his specific strengths. Today, Jacob’s autism diagnosis is barely visible, though, he asserts, he still has difficulty tying his shoes.
In order to succeed you have to look at everything with your own unique perspective. Okay, what does that mean? That means that when you think you must think in your own creative way, not accepting everything out there.
Jacob Barnett, TEDxTeen
At Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, our care is specialized. We are dedicated to identifying and fostering the strengths of our children. We facilitate and encourage open communication between all caregivers (parents, teachers, therapists, and physicians) so that individuals’ strengths do not slip through the cracks. Jacob Barnett’s advice is valuable for society’s larger understanding of learning and ability, as well as the subsequent implementation of inclusion.
If I told you a 16 year old wrote a book that is being assigned in university classrooms, would you believe me? Maybe. What if I told you that 16 year old is a nonverbal autistic? Ido Kedar, a California teen with Autism Spectrum Disorder, has escaped the “solitary confinement”[i] of his body through mastering the motor skills necessary for communication tools like IPad apps. Ido is now able to express his feelings, opinions, and self-interest—insisting on inclusion in a regular education program and challenging experts’ assumptions about his condition. Ido describes the difficulty of his silent half-life saying, “It was terrible having experts talk to each other about me, and to hear them be wrong in their observations and interpretations, but to not be capable of telling them.” i
Ido advocates for integrated education through his blog and book, “Ido In Autismland,” and leads by example as an honor roll student. In his blog post Truth Over Theory, Ido describes his conversation with an open-minded professor as refreshing because, “more often, I think, people get used to their theories and stay there their whole professional careers.”[ii] Ido’s book has been assigned to college classrooms and is available on Amazon. In the personal statement of Ido’s Blog, he states his intent is to “help other autistic people find a way out of their silence too.”
Ido’s story was featured as an NBC News special, in which Ido was interviewed and able to respond via IPad, more articulately, in fact, than many people his age. The insight Ido has provided into the mind and condition of nonverbal autistics is monumental for the future of education and intervention strategies. Ido’s literary voice is unique and engaging—a true joy to read. Through his advocacy efforts and personal successes, Ido is altering the stigmas associated with autism. In an interview with NBC News Ido asserted, “I want people to understand that not speaking is not the same thing as not thinking.”i
At Shema Kolainu, we believe all children have a voice. With understanding and support, we can hear the voices of all of our children too— whether through mediating tools like tablets, their own vocalization, or caring attention to the nuances of their behavior. Share your stories of communication barriers and successes here!
[i] Lin, Daisy, and Bruce Hansel. “Autistic Teen Uses Tech to Break Silence: “I Escaped My Prison”” NBC Southern California. N.p., 35 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 May 2013. <http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Autistic-Teen-Writes-Book-on-an-iPad–204775591.html>.
[ii] Kedar, Ido. “Truth Over Theory.” Ido In Autismland. N.p., 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 May 2013. <http://idoinautismland.blogspot.com/>.
The cyber world of tech-enthusiasts is all-a-buzz over Bellevue College’s new use of school-wide learning management software to aid autistic students with collaboration skills. Bellevue College in Washington is home to Autism Spectrum Navigators, a support and skill development program for students with ASD. Throughout this past academic year, the Navigators have employed a new resource for aiding autistic students in collaboration with small academic groups. The software, Canvas, has a discussion board feature through which teachers and students can share assignments, grades, and interactive materials including audio and video. The content is manageable from smartphone and tablet interfaces as well, enabling continual access to the course dialogue and mediating the social component of learning. Sara Gardner, the manager of the Navigator program, asserts that since appropriating the Canvas discussion board feature for autistic assistance, the program has seen a marked increase in confidence and communication among students. Gardner advocates for the use mediating social tools for autistics. On the spectrum herself, Gardner telecommutes for part of each week to lessen exposure to social interactions that can be disrupting and strenuous for individuals with ASD.
Of the members of Navigators, students who utilized the Canvas program have completed more courses than those not involved in the program and have improved their grades overall. Brain Whitmer, co-founder of Instructure (the company responsible for Canvas), has a six-year-old daughter on the autism spectrum. While Whitmer did not intend for the program to be utilized particularly for autistic students, he comments on the success of Bellevue College’s adaptation saying, “It’s great to hear about how Canvas can help with autism, and that’s something I’d like to continue to help with in the future.” [i]
[i] Hambien, Matt. “Bellevue College Looks to Online Software to Help Autistic Students Collaborate.” Computer World. N.p., 28 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9238727/Bellevue_College_looks_to_online_software_to_help_autistic_students_collaborate?taxonomyId=18&pageNumber=2>.
Having trouble managing your child’s healthcare schedule? Is it difficult to engage your child in interactive games or educational material? Does family travel seem like more trouble than it’s worth? What ever your particular concerns may be, it seems “there’s an app for that.”â From Autism to Alzheimer’s, smartphone applications are making care easier, more affordable, and portable. New applications are being released faster than they can be downloaded. There are so many, in fact, that there is now a free app that is just a comprehensive list of other autism apps with reviews by parents and specialists, simply named ‘Autism Apps.’ Apps aid in everything from communication development to healthcare scheduling, or, just offer sensory friendly amusement like the popular game Angry Birds. Many apps are replacing sophisticated, costly devices. Apps like First Then Visual Schedule (FTVS) can make everyday a little easier, with quick pictorial to-do lists for the day, preventing upsets from unexpected activities with just the drag of a finger. Proloque2Go provides augmentative and alternative communication solutions for autistic children with difficulty speaking by utilizing symbolic communication to develop literacy, drawing from a library of over 14,000 symbols. Apps even offer promising solutions for healthcare and research professionals, allowing long term tracking of patient behavioral patterns and environmental exposure through programs like Autism Tracker Pro. Check out the most recent reviews of Autism apps at LAPTOP reviews. Share your favorite apps or ideas for useful apps below!
A study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders reveals a distinction between uses of technology for autistics and typically developing children, suggesting further development of recreational technology tailored to develop social skills. Researchers Micah O. Mazurek and Colleen Wenstrup measure how children with autism spectrum disorder use technology in comparison to their typically developing siblings. Findings show that children with ASD spent 62% more time watching television and playing video games than in non-screen activities combined. Children with ASD showed more risk of “problematic video game use,”i spending on average about an hour more each day gaming then their typically developing siblings. However, siblings were found to spend more time using social media or socially interactive video games. Autistics often demonstrate obsessive, highly focused characteristics, which are beneficial for performance with video games. Games and tablet/phone apps for autism have been in vogue as of late and can be very useful in preparing autistics for careers. However, these programs do not take into account social stimulus. If autistics are steering clear of socially interactive video games, how do we incorporate social skills into the strategy of video games. Dr. Mazurek asserts the potential of utilizing video games for autistics saying, “Using screen-based technologies, communication, and social skills could be taught and reinforced right away. However, more research is needed to determine whether the skills children with ASD might learn in virtual realty environments would translate into actual social interactions.”[i] What games do your kids prefer and how do you think these games might be altered to strengthen social skills?
[i] “Research Finds That Video Games Hold Both Risks and Rewards for Children with Autism.” Digital Trends. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/research-finds-that-video-games-hold-both-risks-and-rewards-for-children-with-autism-spectrum-disorders/>.
Mazurek, Micah O., and Colleen Wenstrup. “Television, Video Game and Social Media Use Among Children with ASD and Typically Developing Siblings.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2012): n. pag. Springer Link. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10803-012-1659-9>.
The hassles of airport security and crowds can be sensory overload for anyone, so for children on the autism spectrum, travel logistics can pose a variety of problems. While many parents may choose to avoid inevitable disturbances of extensive travel, some have begun to advocate for travel as a crucial educational tool enabling autistic children to learn through all of their senses. One such advocate was featured in the Chicago Tribune this week for her outreach to the autistic community. Margalit Sturm Francus, whose son is on the autism spectrum, runs the website autisticglobetrotting.com where she provides travel resources for parents and maintains a blog of successes and hardships with her son. Francus tells the Chicago Tribune of various conflicts her family has encountered, ranging from airport smells to broken in-flight entertainment. She suggests that parents be honest with airport security and flight attendants and come prepared for “dysregulation” like Francus’ son experienced with the surprise of broken in-flight entertainment. Now, when traveling, Francus brings two IPads just in case. Still, preparing for interruptions in a child’s routine implies that travel is routine. For Francus and her family, who have traveled to roughly 70 countries together, travel procedures have become normal and subsequently are less potentially upsetting. However, most families cannot maintain regular travel, so airlines and airports have begun accommodating ASD. Many airlines now allow and encourage early boarding for families of children with ASD. Some airports, in conjunction with TSA and airlines like Jet Blue, hold practice events that create the experience of airport security and boarding for autistic children.
For TSA travel resources for Autism or Intellectual Disabilities, visit here.
To check out Jet Blue’s aid for autism, visit ‘Blue Tales’ here.
To read Francus’ featured article, visit the Chicago Tribune here.
For travel tips and resources for families of children with ASD, visit Francus’ site http://www.autisticglobetrotting.com/.
Share your travel experiences and opinions below!