Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Autism Spectrum Wiki

Aspies for Freedom have an autism spectrum wiki. The main contributors are adults with autism and Asperger's.

Autistic Pride Day

June 18th is Autistic Pride Day. This year's theme is "Celebrate Neurodiversity". According to the Autistic Pride Day web site:
"The day is for positive events relating to autism spectrum conditions, for people on the spectrum and their families and friends. The autism spectrum includes autism, asperger's, hyperlexia, and PDD-nos.Events such as walks, parades, picnics and parties are expected, for people to have fun and relax and know that people with autism are valid members of the community.In 2005 there were many celebrations, it is expected that there will be even more in 2006."

This is an initiative started by Aspies for Freedom.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Intelligence of People with Autism Underestimated

A Candian researcher at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in St. Louis, MO says that the wrong scale is being used to measure intelligence in people with autism.

"The Wechsler scale is one of the most widely used ways of measuring autistic intelligence. People diagnosed with the disorder typically score very low on the verbal comprehension part of the test.
But research by Dr Laurent Mottron, from the University of Montreal, and colleagues found overall that autistic subjects performed much better on a different test called Raven's Progressive Matrices, with some mute autistics performing exceptionally well. "

He also adds:
"Data on autistic intelligence was often gathered during childhood, at about four or five years of age. This was well short of the age when autistics reached their maximum intellectual potential."

Please also note:
"Dr Laurent Mottron draws a distinction between people with "autistic spectrum" disorders - those with normal or above average intelligence - and those with "real autism", which he says is characterised by mental impairment. "

Full article here.

Movie About Two People with Asperger's

"Mozart and the Whale" is Hollywood's latest take on Asperger's Syndrome. Read a review here or here.

Autism Awareness Day at the Philadelphia Zoo

Sunday, April 23, 2006
10:00AM-5:00PM (Zoo Gate Opens at 9:30 am)

Tuckers’ Tales Puppet Theater
Give and Take Jugglers
Steve Pullara and the Cool Beans Band
Phila Zoo Animal Show
Magic by Michael Bonacci
Philadelphia “SOUL” Arena Football Players
Philadelphia “SOULMATE” cheerleaders
WMMR Live Broadcast
Various Character appearances

All Admission tickets are $9.00 per person
(Adult or Child over 2)
Individuals with Autism will be FREE
(Zoo Parking is $10 per car in addition to admission price)

A special ticket window will be open at the Zoo on April 23rd.
Go to the Channel 6 Zoo balloon ticket booth.
(Look for the Autism Ribbon in the ticket window)

Avoid lines!! Pre-order your tickets in advance.
For ticket order form, log onto www.asaphilly.org
(Pre-purchased tickets are valid for one year from date of purchase.)

Educational Merchandise by Super Duper®, Star4Kidz,
Autism Merchandise and More!! Bring your checkbook.
Come and Check it Out!!

Information and to volunteer contact:
Anna Filmyer, anacan@comcast.net or 215-884-0844 OR
Carol Rosser: Solvingautism@yahoo.com or 215-362-0998

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

10 Things PArents Should Do...

...for their child in the special education environment:
Here are 10 things that parents who advocate for their special-education students should know how to do:
1. Gather information: Educate yourself about the child's disability and special-education law.
2. Learn the rules of the game: Know how decisions within a school district are made and by whom.
3. Plan and prepare: Get ready for meetings, create agendas, write out objectives.
4. Keep written records: Take down what was said and by whom, make requests in writing.
5. Ask questions, listen to answers: Know how to use "who, what, where, why, when and how" and how to request explanations.
6. Identify problems: Learn to define and describe problems; be a problem solver instead of blaming others.
7. Propose solutions: Offer your own win-win proposals.
8. Plan for the future: Have a vision of what your child's long-term future looks like.
9. Answer questions: Know the answer to "What do you (as the advocate) want?"
10. Develop a master plan: Create a broad strategy for reaching your and your child's goals.

-This is taken from www.wrightslaw.com a web site run by attorney Pete Wright and his psychotherapist wife Pam Wright. Read more about them here.

Could the Outgoing President of Harvard Have an ASD?

This article theorizes that it could be so. An excerpt:

"People with Asperger's may be unnervingly smart in specific modes of thinking but have trouble functioning in rudimentary social situations. They have difficulty handling change and transition. They don't work well on teams. One on one, they won't make eye contact, instead staring at a wall or into space. While they may have excellent vocabularies, they can also be linguistically tone-deaf and use words that convey a different meaning than they intend, which can result in their sounding brusque, dismissive, or simply as if they're not listening.

To some campus observers, (Lawrence) Summers regularly manifests all of these characteristics. No one on campus has raised the issue publicly, but to a number of faculty members -- who do not appear to have spoken to one another -- Asperger's explains virtually everything about Summers that seems otherwise inexplicable, including his now-famous dressing-down of Afro-American studies professor Cornel West. Half gossip, half scientific speculation, and fueled by an intense bewilderment over the president's behavior, the Asperger's theory has bubbled beneath the surface of Harvard life. "

Putting the "Fun" in "Fund Raiser"

This actually looks like something fun to attend:

"Whine, Women and Song", a fun tribute to all of you hard-working women out there!
Proceeds will benefit the FACES Corp. in their creation of a FACES Center.
Who: Comedienne Dena Blizzard,
Singer Deirdre Flint, and more surprises to come!
When: Saturday, July 29th
Place: Savaradio's Restaurant
Linwood, NJ
Time: 7pm to 11pm

Price: $30 per person includes food, chocolates, and a glass of wine on us!

Pampering, Fun surprises, Self-Care Information, Give-aways, Cash bar, Silent Auction, and a 50/50.

Isabelle Mosca, Executive Director, FACES Autism Support Groups e-mail: facesgroup@comcast.netweb site: www.facesautismsupport.org

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Special Education Law Blog

A lawyer and parent of a child with special needs has started a "Special Education Law Blog".

Here's his bio:
"Charles P. Fox has been practicing law in Illinois since 1986. He graduated from IIT Chicago Kent College of Law and was an editor of the law review. He is a member of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois trial bar, and a member of the bar for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has tried cases and appeals in both State and Federal Court.
From 1988 to 1994, Charles was in solo practice in the area of general civil litigation.

From 1994 to the present, his practice has been concentrated in the area of special education law, representing parents of children with special needs. He has very successfully advocated for parents at due process hearings, mediations, IEP meetings, and on appeals in Federal Court. Charles is also a parent of a child with special needs, and he brings the insights of a parent together with his legal expertise in pursuing his clients’ rights to a free appropriate public education."

Although the state information may be limited to Illinois, this could be a great resource for keeping up on special education law.

Ad Council and Autism Speakes to Present PSAs

(February 6, 2006) - The Advertising Council and Autism Speaks today announced a new three-year public service advertising (PSA) campaign in support of autism awareness. The campaign, which is being created pro bono by BBDO, will focus on raising awareness of autism and on the importance of early intervention. The campaign is scheduled to premiere in March, 2006, and will run across all media channels including print, broadcast, cable, radio and Internet.
Full press release here.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Videos Helps Peers Understand Asperger's

There are now versions of "Intricate Minds" videos for students in grades 3-6.

"Both new videos feature interviews with boys and girls aged 8 through 12 who describe what it's like to have behaviors that may seem odd to others.The children interviewed in both videos describe their strengths as well as their challenges and show viewers the advantages of looking past some "different" behaviors. The two programs also include "point of view" demonstrations to show kids how things might seem to them if they perceived the world as it's experienced by some of their less typical classmates."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CD-ROM Teaches Social Skills

A speech pathologist from Tennessee has created a CD-ROM game that helps children ages 8-18 learn about social interactions "at a their own pace and in a controlled environment".

"The software has segments that allow children to watch two short movies and click on the one that shows the best behavior. Games in the software encourage children to view situations from the perspective of the people around them."

The company website is here.

A Free Education May Not Be the Best Education

This article in the Washington Post, about a bullied child with Asperger's, reflects the current conflicts in special education. This excerpt is quite telling:

"Although I find from the evidence that David was subject to what I shall term as harassment, teasing, bullying and threatening conduct from other students because of his qualifying educational disability and I find that it had at least some effect upon his social and emotional adjustment and stability and therefore by inference must have had some effect upon his ability to learn, I cannot therefrom conclude that Henrico has failed in its statutory duty to this student," Francis wrote.
"Whether one agrees with it or not," he wrote, "the law establishes a minimum baseline of educational benefits that the county must offer students with disabilities." The law said David was entitled to a "free and appropriate public education," not, Francis said, "the best possible education."

Online Dating on the Spectrum

Aspie Friends is a dating and friendship site for anyone with Asperger's, autism, or on the spectrum. Registration is free.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ten Things

This may have already made the e-mail rounds, but it seemed worth posting. I think it would be a great way to help explain autism to grandparents, extended family, and friends:

Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew

Beyond Autism

I stumbled onto this site, put together by a parent. It is just a treasure trove of resources. There are a bunch of links to Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) images. Browse this list of links and you are sure to find something useful.

Monday, February 13, 2006

2006 is International Asperger's Year

February 18, 2006 will mark the 100th anniverary of the birth of Hans Asperger. An international committee of organizations has designated 2006 International Asperger's Year.

Film Featuring Autistic Character

Sigourney Weaver is starring in a film called "Snow Cake". The film is in competition for a top prize at the Berlin Film Festival. Weaver says:
"It took me a long time to even understand how to prepare for this part because every person with autism is so unique, and to find someone like Linda took a long time," she told reporters.
"I have to say it was one of the most fascinating years I've ever spent researching for this part - and I learned so much, I met so many wonderful people."
She added: “I think we have to begin to see it [autism] as a gift. We may not understand what it’s there for, but if you’re in the presence of someone with autism you learn so much. You learn how to play, you learn how to see things, you learn how to experience things and how jarring the world is.”
More here.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Chelation Therapy

Here is an article from the Chicago Sun-Times that distills the basic elements of the chelation therapy debate. A brief snippet:
"A survey by the Autism Research Institute, which promotes alternative therapies, found that 76 percent of parents who have tried chelation say their children improved. That's a higher reported success rate than for any other drug, supplement or special autism diet, the survey found.
But just because parents notice an improvement doesn't necessarily mean chelation is the reason, Leventhal said. It could be because of the expectation effect: Parents believe in the therapy, so they become convinced it works. And Leventhal said children naturally improve as they get older."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Chair May Help Some Kids

Boston-area artist and businesswoman creates a chair that helps some kids with sensory integration disorder. It's called the Howdahug. More details and purchase info here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cautionary Words

This article lists some research on "eclectic therapies" (sensory integration, music sessions, and circle time) compared to more traditional approaches (applied behavior analysis) to treating autism.
"Two recent studies published in professional journals compared the use of an applied behavior analysis approach to eclectic mixtures of procedures. Janet Howard and Svein Eikeseth and their colleagues conducted the studies in 2002 and 2005. Both presented one group of children with an applied behavior analysis program that emphasized the use of proven techniques, such as shaping, prompting and positive reinforcement in structured, informal one-on-one and group settings. A second group of children received a variety of teaching procedures, including applied behavior analysis, sensory integration, music sessions, and circle time. All children received treatment for about 30 hours per week.
At follow-up, the children receiving the non-eclectic applied behavior analysis program scored higher and had made more progress than the children in the other groups. Findings were reported in areas of language, communication, social skills, independence and problem behaviors. "

Monday, February 06, 2006

The front lines of the special ed wars

I think this exchange from an article about parents in New Hampshire of a child in special education is going on in a lot of places:

"Sometimes public discussions about special education become accusatory, as they did last year at Hanover's annual district meeting, when someone suggested that parents may be taking advantage of the system. There are sometimes whispers that children receive services when they don't really need them, says McMorris, principal of Pomfet school.

It's a suggestion that Murphy, founder of ARCH and mother of two children with autism disorders, finds absurd.

“No parent wants to have a child with an IEP (individualized education plan). It's just too much work and it's still stigmatizing,” she said. “The stress and burden on the family is unbelievable.”
Murphy said she is sympathetic to people's worries about climbing tax rates, as she, too, is a taxpayer, but until a better funding mechanism is found, she says, she doesn't see an alternative.
“It's an unfunded mandate, but it's the law,” she said."

Children's Museum Reaches Out...

...to the ASD Community
The Garden State Discovery Museum offers special family events, support group meetings, exclusive field trip and birthday party opportunities, and guest speaker evenings for families, teachers, and caregivers in the autism spectrum field. They call their initiative "Open Arms: Support for the ASD Community". They have a web page devoted to their initiative. The events listing looks out of date, but I did receive word that there is a parent support group meeting on February 19th. I suggest anyone interested should call to confirm.

Inclusion Conference

For anyone in southern New Jersey, SPAN (Statewide Parent Advocacy Network) is having a "mini-conference" on inclusion:
"Inclusion - Benefiting All Children"
Saturday, February 25, 10:00 - 1:00 in Mount Laurel, NJ
  • Principals, Administrators, and Teachers share the strategies they use to make sure inclusion of students with disabilities is successful in their schools and districts.
  • Parents talk about the benefits from their child’s participation in general education and how they were able to obtain the necessary supports and services to help their child be successfully ‘included’.
  • Students will reveal how being educated with their peers has affected their learning and their life.

Spanish language translation will be available.

For more information go here.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Report: Autism Program Quality Indicators

This report from the New Jersey Department of Education has a lot of great information for NJ parents especially. I have not read the whole thing, but a FACES officer suggests that it is a good document to review before an IEP meeting, and also to share with your school's Child Study Team.
(This is a PDF file, so you will need to have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer to read it.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Judge Overrules School's Decision...

...to deny a girl with Asperger's special services. This happened in New Hampshire federal court.
"Richard O’Meara, the family’s lawyer, said the decision recognizes that social development is an important part of education, along with academic studies.
"Education is so much more than academic performance," O’Meara said. "Hopefully, this will put that debate to rest once and for all." "
Read the full article here.