A place to learn about different treatments of autism. A community of knowledge and support.
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.
The child birthday party invitation. It’s a little piece of paper in the mail – or an email to be opened – but it can be an immediate stress inducer. Stress was likely the feeling Tricia Rhynold would have when she opened invites from her son’s classmates. Tricia – mom to seven-year-old Timothy who has nonverbal autism – explains that they’ve received tons of invites over the years, which she appreciates, but she understandably wonders, “if the parents know what would happen if I brought Timothy? The interruptions…the meltdowns…how I would hate to take the spotlight from the birthday child.” So, she would respectfully decline every invite.
But that all changed with one simple note. Tricia received a party invite with a note from a mom of a child (Carter) in Timothy’s class – and she made it very clear that she truly wanted Timothy to come to the birthday party writing:
Carter sat beside Timothy at school and he always talks about him I really hope he can come. We are renting a bounce castle that we can attach a small bounce slide at the bottom. We will also have water balloons and water guns. Maybe Timothy can come earlier in the day if it would be too much with the whole class. Let me know so we can make it work.
There are a lot of amazing people in this world who are kind and understanding – we hope you’ve got some of them in your life. It’s hard to remember that kindness sometimes when you’re overwhelmed or maybe feeling a little stuck. In Tricia’s case, it took someone else – a complete stranger – to extend an offer with Timothy’s needs in mind that would make all the difference. As Tricia said on her blog, The Book of Timothy, “I don’t know this Mom or even this child personally. I want to. Desperately….The Mom is everything I strive to be.” Agree.
Over the years, autism rates have been increasing and today we’re now estimating that 1 in 68 children are being diagnosed with autism. With the prevalence of autism on the rise, we are left to wonder – why are the rates increasing so steeply over the years? Are there really that many more people with autism today than there was 20 or 30 years ago?
This is the question Steve Silberman set out to answer – and this led him down a very interesting path back through the history of autism. He uncovered a series of events that have all led up to where we are today. With a new book coming out called NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, Silberman shared some of his research findings at this year’s TED. Check out his TED Talk.
You may know actress Jessica Alba from movies such as Fantastic Four or Valentine’s Day, but she is also the co-founder of The Honest Company, a very successful, three-year-old consumer goods company that offers non-toxic household products. As covered in Forbes, Jessica had spent time in D.C. trying to lobby for the overhaul of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which allows for 80,000 chemicals to remain in household products untested. Frustrated by this process, she felt she could make more of a difference by selling an alternative to chemical-filled products.
Now, The Honest Company has 120 products and is planning to spend $3 million on social impact initiatives in 2015. Some of that money is going towards sponsorship of a lab at NY’s Mount Sinai Hospital – it will house an ultra-clean room where a team can research links between household chemicals and autism. They will do this by testing the baby teeth of children with autism and comparing them with those of children without autism. By looking at their baby teeth, the team can examine exposures to chemicals that can happen as early as the third or fourth month of pregnancy as the teeth were forming. This research follows the publication of research last year by the University of Chicago that showed exposure to certain toxins during fetal development affects the incidence of autism and intellectual disability.
Another amazing example of how peer support can make all the difference! Check out this video of Preston Lillis, a 5th grader in Grandville, Michigan, who has Asperger’s, get cheered on by his classmates during their annual Field Day. As shared here, Preston’s parents said Field Day usually made him anxious, so much so that last year Preston was so stressed it caused a migraine and he had to miss the event. So this year his teachers and classmates came up with a plan to let Preston win and make it a fun experience for him.
And it looks like it worked! It’s the little things and times of thoughtfulness that can really make a lasting impact.
Traveling with your children on a plane can be an extremely stress-inducing thing—for both you and your child. There are many sensory “unfriendly” barriers your child will have to hurdle – loud noises, weird smells, wearing a seatbelt, crowding, etc., etc. – and then for you, you’re trying to anticipate it all. It can be tough. Plus, on top of that, you hope that people and the airline will show compassion and care as you try to navigate through all of the obstacles.
If you’ve looked online lately, you may have seen some unfavorable attention being placed on United Airlines after a mom claims she and her family were removed from one of their flights in response to an exchange with crew about a special food request for her daughter who has autism (read more). And I think sometimes it’s easier to share, thanks to the Internet, when you have a bad or negative experience. However, it’s important to remember that many people who have special needs or require certain accommodations travel every day and often have wonderful experiences. And it’s nice to call those out too.
So this all leads me to a mom named Shawna who wrote a “thank you” note to JetBlue and shared in on her blog. In it, she describes how she and her son, who has high-functioning autism, travel often and she knows how complicated it can be. Her son has a particularly tough time in the boarding area with its loud announcements and large crowds. It was the first time she was flying JetBlue and not only was it easy to note her son’s special needs when booking the ticket online, the great service continued throughout their trip – JetBlue boarded Shawna and her son before the announcements began, gave them seats away from the bathrooms (so they wouldn’t have to deal with the potential smells), and were friendly from start to finish. (You can read the full note on her blog).
Kudos to JetBlue for going the extra mile and having practices in place that can make traveling a bit smoother – it really does make the difference.
The research –as discussed in this article – shows that brothers and sisters of children with autism were not at a higher risk of developing the disorder if they were vaccinated compared to the siblings of those without autism.
This is significant because separate studies have found there is an increased risk of autism among those with older siblings on the spectrum, which could be contributed to genetic and environmental factors. But because some have a fear that vaccines– specifically the MMR vaccine – are linked to autism, parents of autistic children have been more hesitant to vaccinate their younger children.
This study-and others related to vaccine safety—are important so we can feel confident and comforted that we’re making the right decisions for our children. Opting out of vaccines has led to several outbreaks of diseases/viruses that we would be protected from getting, such as the measles. Much is being done to combat the fear of vaccines and this study is an important reassurance that a link doesn’t exist.
Art can be a powerful outlet, a great means of expressing yourself. This is certainly the case for Santino Stagliano, a 10-year-old boy from South Philly. Santino, who was diagnosed with autism 5 years ago, is called “The Dragon Master” by his little brother – in honor of Santino’s love of these fire-breathing creatures. And when Santino has a bad day, his parents buy him a plain white t-shirt so he can draw a picture of a dragon with markers – always a way to cheer him up.
On one particularly bad day last month – after getting teased by kids at the park – his parents bought him some shirts to draw on, and then Santino’s mom, Lisa, posted pictures of his creations on Facebook. The next day he had requests from a handful of people for shirts – then it turned into 50 requests, then 100, and continuing. Santino is selling them for $5 – he’s already sold 150 and has about 500 more on order.
Best of all, Santino – who chose to donate half the money he raises to the Center for Autism – has found a new sense of self-esteem with his shirt sales. As described by his dad, “There’s a little boy who wouldn’t look at you, he didn’t want to be touched…Now he’s hugging people, high-fiving and taking pictures.” Amazing!
Being a parent is truly a gift, but I don’t think anyone will argue that the role doesn’t come with challenges. And parenting a child with autism sometimes comes with its own unique set of challenges. They might come in the form of, for example, extended tantrums, toilet training difficulties, hitting, trouble going to bed and/or getting up in the morning, and not willing to eat or try new foods.
If you’re familiar with Kyle’s Treehouse, you may already know that The Son-Rise Program was the treatment Jen and Jeff Westphal pursued for Kyle. It’s a home-based option that is designed to help children dramatically improve in all areas of learning, development, communication and skill development – in a fun and loving manner.
So if you’re looking for help on:
How to toilet train without pushing or pressure
Introducing new foods without a fight
What to do when your child tantrums, hits and bites
How to introduce tooth brushing, hair cutting and getting dressed in an enjoyable way