Speaking Up for Inclusion


Bullying is a challenge that many children face during childhood and adolescence. The many forms of bullying are becoming increasingly creative in the worst ways. Recently, Austin Babinsack, an autistic soccer player and student at Highlands High School in Pittburgh, … Continue reading

Performing Arts Promote Inclusion





England pilots an autism-family-friendly performance program, The Relaxed Performance Project, to be produced at 10 prominent theaters throughout the country. While autism awareness is growing, it is still all too easy for others to confuse a child’s behavior as bad, and many parents of children with autism are discouraged from attending cultural events. Some parents, even, report having been asked to leave productions because of disturbance. England’s collaborative theater project is not only promoting inclusion, but also integration: inviting families to attend performances without restrictions on smartphone/tablet use, entrance/exit during the show, or noise. The production, an adaption of the best-selling book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, relates the autism experience with a central character that demonstrates an unspecified behavioral condition. Among the theaters partaking in this pilot program is The Royal Shakespeare Company, whose actress Kelly Hunter began the Hunter Heartbeat Method utilizing Shakespeare’s rhythm (iambic pentameter) to aid autistics with communication. Ohio State University has adapted The Royal Shakespeare Company’s model and is piloting a ‘Shakespeare and Autism’ study. The theater community is redefining performance, utilizing the potential for interactive stimulation and structured stories to aid autistics and include them in the world of culture and arts. This April, for World Autism Month, William Paterson University in New Jersey held a sensory-friendly production in their children’s theater and requested that ushers loosen up on rules and regulations for behavior. At Northwestern University in Illinois, students have created a “Theater Stands with Autism” program. The first production will take-stage this May. The show, “Diving In,” will be an interactive performance tailored to sensory sensitivity associated with autism. The set is similar in affect to a snoezlen room, allowing the audience to engage in various sensory stimulants. These performances open up shared cultural experiences for the family, but also provide opportunities to meet and share in experiences with other families of children with autism. To read more about these projects or find out how to attend, visit the links below. Share your experience with theater here!

Relaxed Performance Project

Ohio State University ‘Autism and Shakespeare’

“Autism-friendly Theatre That Welcomes Curious Incidents.” The Independent. N.p., 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/autismfriendly-theatre-that-welcomes-curious-incidents-in-the-nighttime-8586430.html>.

“Performance Offers Sensory-friendly Theater for Children with Autism.”NorthJersey.com. N.p., 30 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://www.northjersey.com/community/200690141_Performance_offers_sensory-friendly_theater_for_children_with_autism.html>.

“Theatre Stands with Autism Prepares for Cross-spectrum Adventure.” Daily Northwestern. N.p., 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://dailynorthwestern.com/2013/04/24/thecurrent/theatre-stands-with-autism-prepares-for-cross-spectrum-adventure/>.


Today’s In-Flight Programming: Inclusion

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!

Special Education Expert Presents Music Education Strategies & Strengths

Tuesday, at Shema Kolainu Hear Our Voices, Stephen Shore Ed. D. held a workshop on music education for children on the autism spectrum. Shore completed his doctoral degree in special education at Boston University and now teaches at Adelphi University in New York. Having been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and non-verbal until the age of 4, Shore brings a unique perspective to the field of special education. He attributes much of his success to the comprehensive interventions his parents guided and the music education he received from an early age. Subsequently, his approach to education is one of both specialization and inclusion. Shore’s strategies are developed particularly for the varying abilities of autistics, but are applicable for neurotypical education as well, allowing for integrated classrooms. While music is often recognized for it’s therapeutic benefits, Shore’s focus is not therapy, but structured, sustained education. Today’s workshop demonstrated the potential of music education to increase communicative abilities, strengthen neurological development in youth, foster social inclusion, and provide potential career paths for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shore charismatically relayed stories of his students’ astonishing talents. One anecdote told of a non-verbal young man who, when guided hand-over-hand while playing piano, sang clear as day. Shore suggests that the structure, support, and focus the student experienced while guided to play the piano enabled him to sing, though he could not speak typically. Drawing from examples of students demonstrating expert knowledge in areas, who are unable to express understanding through certain mediums, Shore makes the case for specialized assessments in education in general, not just for students with developmental disabilities.

Check out Dr. Stephen Shore’s work and many publications at his website: http://www.autismasperger.net/. The workshop, ‘Music for Children on the Autism Spectrum,’ will be streaming soon—stay tuned to see Dr. Stephen Shore speak

How To Talk To Your Kids: Refraining From Confusing Colloquialisms






In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Ian Stuart-Hamilton explains linguistic interpretation as affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, noting that the combination of calculative characteristics and language barriers that define autistic persons to varying degrees makes for an awkward understanding of common phrases. Dr. Stuart-Hamilton tells an anecdote of a woman with high-functioning autism doing so well in her accounting position that her boss complemented her with an English phrase saying the woman was so good she could, “wrap her up in a cotton wool and take her home.” Subsequently the accountant with ASD locked herself in her office for fear of her manager wanting to kidnap her, staying there until firemen gained entry to the office and explained the whole mix-up. This is extreme, perhaps, but this colloquial confusion is common and can cause a great deal of emotional stress for persons with ASD. Dr. Stuart-Hamilton asserts that in addition to the characteristics of ASD itself, autistic persons have trouble comprehending colloquialisms because their literal understanding disables them from learning such contradicting, confusing phrases in context and these phrases are rarely taught formally. Avoiding conflict-causing phrases altogether may be a long-term disservice for ASD persons, who will likely encounter confusing phrases in various contexts as adults. Dr. Stuart-Hamilton suggests that parents and teachers stick to literal phrasing when providing instruction, but speak freely in casual conversation, introducing ASD persons to problem phrases and taking the time to explain why the common understanding and literal meaning are different. At Shema Kolainu we are always thinking of our kids’ futures. We are dedicated to preparing our students for inclusion in all activities.


To read Dr. Stuart-Hamilton’s article, visit: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-gift-aging/201304/people-autism-spectrum-disorder-take-things-literally


Stuart-Hamilton, Ian, PhD. “People with Autism Spectrum Disorder Take Things Literally.” Psychology Today. N.p., 7 Apr. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-gift-aging/201304/people-autism-spectrum-disorder-take-things-literally>.