Kyle at age 3, and Kyle today

Kyle’s Treehouse, originally a resource about autism, has evolved into a community, where hundreds of thousands of visitors learn from each other every year. So, join in the conversation and welcome to Kyle’s Treehouse.

Jaden’s Voice

Jaden's Voice logo

We’ve been so lucky over the years to come across some amazing people and remarkable organizations in the autism community – and Jaden’s Voice is certainly one of them. This foundation was created in 2010 by Terri Matthews, a mom of three – her youngest child, Jaden, was diagnosed with autism at age two.

Based in Philadelphia, Jaden’s Voice is focused on enhancing the lives of underserved children and families impacted by autism—and they’re doing this in a number of ways. For example, they’ve got some initiatives underway such as Jaden Cares Program that will look to establish a single location that offers services for sensory, occupational and behavioral therapy as well as extracurricular activities (music, art, etc.) – basically a one-stop-shop to offer a comprehensive therapy program. This structure gives you back the time you may be using to shuttle back and forth to various locations.

Jaden’s Voice also has the Jaden’s Family Care initiative that will focus on supporting the families of those touched by autism, offering advocacy, support groups and educational opportunities. And they’re doing so much more.

What if you could get all of your child’s various therapeutic needs met in one place? It seems like an ideal concept (at least one that doesn’t currently exist in Philly). We invite you to check them out!


Lynsey, Community Manager

Tips for Tackling Summer’s (No) Schedule

summer
Summertime can be a more relaxed time of year – school is out, vacations are planned, and the often non-stop days (school, therapies, sports, appointments, music lessons, etc, etc…) are scaled back for these few months. The slowdown may be a welcomed change for some, but for many parents, the lack of a regular routine can be challenging (and the source of many child meltdowns).

If you’re finding the no-schedule summer to be tough, the Washington Post shared some tips to help your child cope with this more relaxed time:

  • Make a visual calendar. Use a calendar to label “typical” summer days, weekends, vacations and holidays. Then create a “typical day” schedule that follows the school schedule as much as possible in terms of lunch time and breaks. It can be very specific if you like, or it can be more vague (brushing teeth, bath, etc).
  • Talk through plans (and alternate plans). Talk to your child about having a Plan A, but also a Plan B in case things don’t work out. For example, if you’re planning to go to the pool, tell him that if a storm comes up or the pool is closed, you might do something else, and that is your Plan B. Help your child learn to make contingency plans by talking to him when you have to adjust your own plans. By teaching him that it’s not the end of the world when plans change, you can help him learn how to regulate himself before he has a meltdown. 
  • Avoid developing bad habits. It can be tough to stick to a schedule during the summer, when you just want to relax and let go a little bit, but the more you can keep to a routine for meals and sleep, and continue to limit screen time, the more well-regulated your child is likely to be. 
  • Recognize the warnings. It’s important to know the signs that your child is getting overloaded and remove him from challenging situations before a meltdown if possible. 
  • Be positive. Keep things positive, always. With any child, it’s more effective to reward good behavior than to punish bad behavior… parents should try to praise their child four times for every one time they correct something.

Read the tips in full here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Getting Ready for Fireworks

http://rsfireworks.net

http://rsfireworks.net

The 4th of July can be a fun holiday full of picnics, family time and, of course, fireworks. However, for many on the autism spectrum, loud noises like fireworks can be an extremely upsetting experience. And maybe you learned that the hard way in a past year. But don’t give up hope that fireworks can be part of your holiday – something that the whole family can enjoy together – it just may take a little prep ahead of time.

Here are some things you may want to consider if your 4th will include fireworks:

  • Practice – You may find that there are (sometimes smaller) local fireworks in the days leading up to the 4th of July weekend, so it may be good to do a test run. Talk about the fireworks in advance. Some of the anxiety comes from the unknown, or unexpected, so easing into a larger fireworks display with smaller shows could help alleviate the anxiety a bit.
  • Give a visual – Sometimes having a visual can help better communicate what to expect. You may want to watch fireworks online, or even read a book about going to see fireworks, to help prepare for the real thing.
  • Headphones – If the noise level is just too much – and your child can tolerate headphones (this is an item that usually needs time to get used to as well) – headphones can help cancel out the noise to that they are left just enjoying the beautiful color display.
  • Find a Quieter Place – It might be best to keep some distance between you and the fireworks, so, depending on the location, you may be to enjoy the fireworks from your car or from an outdoor space that is further away.

Whether fireworks are in your future or not, we hope you have a wonderful 4th of July!

Lynsey, Community Manager

Non-Verbal Teen Gives Inspirational Graduation Speech

Yet another truly amazing and inspirational story…this video from KABC in California features Dillan Barmache, a teen who is non-verbal, but with the aide of his iPad was able to address his fellow middle school classmates during graduation.

Dillan spells out words letter by letter, and the iPad’s speech synthesizer vocalizes the words for him, allowing him, for the first time, to express himself.  And Dillan used his speech synthesizer to present his graduation speech, which touched on the challenges he has had as well as the opportunities they will face in high school. Here’s an excerpt (KABC published Dillan’s speech):

When I examine each day, it’s just incredible how a student, an autistic one, could ever feel a part of a class of future academics. Education is a better institution when all students have opportunity, plus a chance to take an idea and see the lessons within. With your mind, no one can place limits on where an idea can take you. Living without a voice creates almost no way to be heard, but there are people who refuse to think in a box. Open your mind in high school. You will learn to think about different ideas, and examine new findings. Always look inside other peoples experience in order to gain another perspective outside of books. Only then are we able to start opening our eyes to the amazing things around us.

And, rightfully so, his speech was met with a standing ovation! Congratulations to Dillan and his classmates!

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

 

No Link Between Vaccines and Autism

CNN.com

CNN.com

It is no secret that an ongoing, much-debated topic among the autism community – and certainly even beyond – is if vaccinations, particularly the MMR vaccine, could be a cause of autism. Although there is no fully confirmed cause(s) of autism at this time, the idea that vaccines could be linked came from a study published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998– and that study has since been debunked. But it started a movement – there have been some people that look back and may feel like it could have been a vaccine that caused their child’s autism because the timing of the vaccine with the show of symptoms – and those that are now opting out of getting their child vaccinated as a “preventative” measure.

Although the medical community has been working to spread reassurance that vaccines are safe, it still hasn’t done too much to change the minds of those opposed to them. But a new report led by the University of Sydney may give some comfort about vaccines – it reviewed available data from around the world and found that there is no link between vaccination and the development of autism.

As noted in this article, the paper’s senior author, Associate Professor Guy Eslick, said he was inspired to look into the issue after watching some documentaries on the medical debate. His study examined seven sets of data involving more than 1.25 million children and concluded that there was no evidence to support a relationship between common vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough and the development of autism.

This type of research is very important given that, as Eslick points out, there have been 11 measles outbreaks in the U.S. since 2000, and New South Wales/Australia also saw a spike in measles infections throughout the year in 2012.

Everyone needs to make the decisions that they feel is best for them/their families, but this report may at least provide some peace of mind.

 

Lynsey, Community Manager

What She Wishes Your Child Knew About Autism

 

Photo Credit: Emily Willingham (knowmore.tv)

Photo Credit: Emily Willingham (knowmore.tv)

Shannon Des Roches Rosa wrote a piece for KnowMore.tv (which was reposted on Huffington Post) that hits on 10 things she wishes you knew about her son, Leo, who is (as described), a cheerful, curly-haired, soccer playing, iPad-loving 13-year-old.

Specifically, she’s talking directly to the parents of non-autistic children.

You should check out the full article and list because I have a feeling that many of you would want to share this list with ‘uninformed,’ if you will, people you may know/have come across…but in the meantime here are some excerpts:

On friendship: No offense, but Leo is not waiting around for non-autistic kids to be friends with him. If you’re interested enough, and if you talk to him with respect, maybe he’ll want to interact with you.

On being non-verbal: Non-speaking does not mean non-intelligent. Leo understands pretty much everything people say to him, whether or not he response in a way that makes sense to you. So, please, presume competence.

On processing language: Leo appreciates your patience, because, like so many autistic people, it sometimes takes him a few beats to process spoke words…You don’t need to simplify your language or shout; he can hear you.

On his stealthness: Leo has no qualms about stealing other people’s pizza or French fries. Especially if he thinks you’re an easy mark. He will absolutely outsmart you on this, so pay attention.

On being loved: While his cheerful nature is partially genetic…I believe Leo’s happiness also stems from being loved, and accepted, and supported. This might not be every autistic child’s story, but it is Leo’s, and I wish the media would tell more stories like his.

We couldn’t agree more.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Environment Equally Important as Genes (Study)

It’s a question that many parents ask – ‘If I have a child with autism, what is the risk my next child will have autism too?’ This question is what prompted the largest analysis to date that looked at how autism runs in families.

jama1

And what researchers found out was that environmental factors are

more important than previously thought –

and, based on their findings, they are actually as big of factors as genes. Their research, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests that heritability is 50% of the story, while the other half could be related to environmental elements such as birth complications, socio-economic status or parental lifestyle.

They found that a brother or sister with autism are 10 times more likely to develop the disorder and 3 times more likely if they have a half-brother or sister with autism. To read more about this study, check out this article.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Taking On the Boston Marathon

www.democratandchronicle.co

www.democratandchronicle.com

This is definitely one of those ‘watch what you can do when you put your mind to it!’…Jason “J-Mac” McElwain took on last week’s Boston Marathon, running it in less than three hours. It was the very first time that Jason, who has autism, ran the Boston Marathon, and was only his third marathon ever. And to make it even more incredible, he trained for the marathon in one of the worst/coldest winters ever (as anyone living on the upper east coast can attest!) while also juggling his multiple jobs.

And Jason is no stranger to amazing feats. If his name looks familiar to you, you may have heard about him because he made national news a few years back when he scored 20 points in just over four minutes while playing in his only varsity basketball game at his high school (he was the team’s manager before being put in the game). Check out the video below from that game:

There seems to be no stopping Jason – we can’t wait to hear what he does next! Congrats, Jason!

Lynsey, Community Manager