Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ten Tips for Summer Travel

With summer fully upon us, many families are now preparing to take a little time off work to perhaps travel somewhere new and exciting.  However, for families with one or more members on the lower functioning end of the autism spectrum, the prospect of taking a family vacation may seem daunting full of hassle.  There are still ways to find the enjoyment and relaxation many families find vacationing during the summer months as long as certain precautions are followed.

The Family Travel Forum has prepared a list of ten tips for vacationing with a child on the autism spectrum, which I have listed here:

  1. Alert airlines and hotels ahead of time.
  2. Make sure your child is comfortable with airplanes.
  3. Safety First (Make sure hotels know about specific dieting needs and other necessary. accommodations to give them the opportunity to prepare for the specific needs of your child).
  4. Authorized letter from your child's physician identifying disabilities and needs.
  5. Be prepared (for the unexpected).
  6. Be creative (in order to maximize engagement your child during the trip).
  7. Know your child's likes and dislikes.
  8. Focus on your child's strengths.
  9. Stick to your (daily) routine (as much as possible).
  10. Plan for the whole group.
For more details about these ten tips for traveling with a child on the autism spectrum, click here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Stranger Replaces Stolen Bike for Teen with Autism

Kindness is an often understated virtue which nevertheless has a far greater impact than what can be perceived.   Tyriq Gordon is a fourteen year old boy with autism who lives in Vancouver Canada.  He loved to ride his bike...until it was stolen from him.  His mother appealed to the community, requesting that Tyriq's bike be returned.  This story received international attention and prompted a certain Dennis Wong into action.  Also a resident of Vancouver, Wong purchased Tyriq a new bike and delivered it to the ecstatic family.  This act of kindness within a global community can have an undetermined positive impact in the world.  Who can say what further kindness has been prompter by this single act of good faith.

To read more about this story, click here:  http://www.autismspeaks.org/news/news-item/kind-stranger-buys-new-bike-boy-autism.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Autism Insurance Battle in North Carolina Senate

Insurance companies and autism advocates are at a gridlock to determine the fate of a bill passed in North Carolina which would mandate insurance coverage for those on the autism spectrum.  This bill would extend existing coverage to include applied behavioral analysis, which is "the most common" form of treatment for those on the autism spectrum.  While the bill has been passed in the House, it is now being considered by the senate.  Blue Cross along with the N.C. Farm Bureau are actively lobbying against the passage of this bill, showing reluctance to accept new mandates due to concerns related to the Affordable Care Act.  To read more about this bill, click here.

Here is a list of states that have previously passed laws mandating insurance coverage for those on the autism spectrum (source found here):

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
South Carolina
West Virginia

Vacuum Drawing Sparks Social Media Frenzy

Over the past few years of advocating for autism, I have come to know quite a few talented artists who are on the autism spectrum.  While I have not met Marcus Bartlett, I feel compelled to share his story which has received quite a bit of attention on social media in recent times.

Bartlett is an 18 year high school senior from Missoula, Montana.  One of the many drawings he has created contains a pink Hoover Vacuum.  Many individuals on the autism spectrum have interests about which they know a great deal.  Since he was ten years old, Bartlett has been fascinated in Hoover Vacuums.  This has been directly reflected through his artwork.

A few months ago a paraprofessional who works with Bartlett, Kathy Howlett, mailed one of Bartlett's drawings to Hoover Headquarters.  The drawing was, in turn, featured on Hoover social media which sparked an online frenzy.  Over the intervening time, the pink Hoover vacuum drawing, and Bartlett, received worldwide attention.

The end result of all this was Bartlett received a surprise from Hoover.  They had created a custom vacuum matching what he had drawn and sent it to him.  The vacuum was presented to him during a school assembly, along with a coloring book which chronicled the events that were sparked when that drawing was sent to Hoover.  Bartlett has used this publicity to advocate for autism.

To read more about Bartlett and his Hoover Vacuum, click here:


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Insights Teaching Those with Autism

It has been more than two months since I last wrote in The Voice from the Spectrum, which I am sorry for.  Starting now, I'm going to try to get back to writing three posts every week.  Since my last post on March 27th, I have traveled to England to meet members of Positively Autistic

And started teaching teens and adults on the autism spectrum. (Here is some information about our upcoming summer session):

As the assistant instructor, I am not in charge of the lesson plan.  Instead, I am the program's "autism expert."  On the first day of class, I sat nervously in a seat as the class began to file in.  One of the students was upset and showed reluctance to enter the classroom.  It was a new experience for him and he was experiencing sensory difficulties.  His mom was having some difficulty controlling him.  I spoke to him, locking eyes (which is quite unusual for someone on the spectrum) stating that I was on the autism spectrum too, that it can be difficult sometimes but we have to keep going forward.  I also said to give the class a chance and you may be surprised with what happened.

This connection I formed with this student lead to a dramatic, and seemingly permanent, change in his behavior.  Ever since that time, he has come to class communicating with Stefan, myself, and his classmates about his interests while gaining skills in graphic design and Photoshop.  During which, he has explained a great deal about his various interests.  From what his mom said, this student was improving in other areas of his life too.  She asked me a few weeks ago if I would continue to be a part of this program and I said yes.  She answered with "good, we need you here."  Those on the autism spectrum can seem impossible to relate with at times but it only takes a moment for the right kind of connection to make all the difference in the world.