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.

Our Hero!

Comic
The list is long…Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Incredible Hulk…just to name a few, but these guys have nothing on Michael! Created by Face Value Comics, Michael is a comic book character with autism—which is, according to the comic’s creators, a first. Michael is a hero with a mathematical mind, artistic gift and an abundance of compassion. And thanks in part to this NBC Nightly News segment, the first issue has sold out in stores!

Face Value explained (check out their blog) that they are trying something new and utilizing the comic book to show an autistic person dealing with everyday situations. They said:

Rather than simply labeling autism as a weakness or a mental disorder, we’re showing a person coping with it in realistic situations.  Of course, our futuristic steampunk universe isn’t exactly reality, but who could pass up the chance to write about crazy aliens or robots that are a mix of plants and metal?!  By removing the stories a bit from our daily lives, we’re allowing space for our readers to get involved in the characters and the story lines and absorb the messages, raising autism awareness and teaching readers to decode facial expressions.

The comic book characters are drawn with vivid facial expressions to help give readers tools to better understand subtle social cues.

There is a lot that has gone into the making of this comic book—and a lot to get out of it–but most of all, it can give readers someone to identify with—a hero who is trying to navigate an often confusing world and is overcoming obstacles all while learning along the way!

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

 

Some Perspective from Temple Grandin

T Grandin
Temple Grandin, famed animal scientist (as well as professor, advocate and author as just some of her other titles) was recently interviewed by Macrina Cooper-White from the Huffington Post on a wide-range of topics – from success of those with autism, to myths, advice, etc. Ms. Grandin is always full of wonderful insights and perspective – and some of that is excerpted here from their conversation:

On how extracurricular activities can be helpful:

For some kids, regular high school works out really well because the kids get into things — they get into art, or a school play. Then those places serve as refuges. I think one of the worst things schools have done is taken out all of the stuff like art, music, woodworking, sewing, cooking, welding, auto-shop. All these things you can turn into careers. How can you get interested in these careers if you don’t try them on a little bit?

On advice for parents of children with autism:

For these kids with autism, I’m seeing them getting too coddled. I’ll go to an autism convention and a ten year old comes up to speak to me, and the mom does all the talking. I want to hear what the kid has to say. And I’ll say ‘Okay, let’s practice shaking hands,’ and he doesn’t know how to shake hands. Well that’s totally ridiculous. The other thing that I really emphasize is teaching work skills. My mother got me a sewing job when I was thirteen, and I was cleaning horse stalls when I was fifteen…

On commonly held myths about autism:

One is that all people are savants like “Rain Man.” That maybe is only 10 percent of people with autism. That is a myth. Probably half of the people in Silicon Valley have a little bit of autism.

On what she thinks should be the next step for autism research:

For some of the things, you can find out exactly where there’s a problem in the brain. But then there’s a point –- you know, people talk about curing autism -– if you got rid of all those traits, who’s going to make the next computer?

To see Temple’s full interview, click here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

 

Kids with Autism May Have Overload of Brain Connections (Study)

brain synapsesA new study, which is getting a lot of attention, is showing that children with autism may have an oversupply of synapses – which are the connections that allow neurons to send a receive signals –in their brains. With this excess amount of synapses, different brain areas can be affected and overloaded with stimuli. And having such an overload could account for symptoms like extreme sensitivity to noise or social challenges.

This information could help researchers and doctors identify a key cause of autism symptoms – which is good news for a potential treatment. But this would be long down the road – researchers were able to create a similar overloading of synapses among mice and used a drug called rapamycin, which worked well to improve, if not eliminate symptoms, however this drug comes with heavy side effects. But this is an exciting discovery and one that will hopefully be further explored.

Check out this NY Times article for a good breakdown on the study.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Sensory Communication Design

sensory communication device 2You hear a lot about various apps you can get on your iPad, iPhone, etc, that can help serve as a voice for those with autism, particularly for those that are nonverbal. This is a similar idea, but utilizes the benefit of a sensory (tactile) experience – and can be an option for people who have sight difficulties.

Industrial designer Jeffrey Brown created the device after realizing that touch, sound and smell could communicate an idea – and from that, he created a board that includes six cubes covered in various textures. Audio is recorded or downloaded for each cube – such as “I need to go to the bathroom” / “I am hungry” / “I want to play now”—and the user just needs to squeeze a cube for the audio to play.

What an interesting and good idea if this is able to provide a voice to some that currently don’t have that ability right now, which could ultimately help alleviate some of the frustration that comes with communication challenges – and provide some independence and empowerment to the user. Read more here.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Autism Breakthrough – The Son-Rise Program

Autism Breakthrough Audio
There are so many therapies out there for autism – it can be overwhelming, to say the least. And because autism is so wide-ranging in terms of severity, and, as the saying goes, ‘if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,’ trying to find the right kind of therapy (or combination of therapies, in most cases) can be an endless…mind-numbing…(insert your own word here!)…journey.

You have to do what’s best, and what you think works, for your child, and that is the ultimate idea at Kyle’s Treehouse.  And as many of you may know, what worked for Kyle and the Westphal family was The Son-Rise Program. If you’re not familiar with the program, it was created in the 70’s by Barry Neil Kaufman and Samahria Lyte Kaufman to help their autistic son, Raun. It’s a home-based, parent-led structure that promotes encouragement and excitement and invites you to join your child in their world to ultimately create a bridge leading them back into ours. (From this experience the Kaufmans established The Autism Treatment Center of America, and their son, Raun–who went on to emerge from his autism–is now its Director of Global Education!)

And not only is Raun the Director of Global Education of the organization, he is also an author. Earlier this year he released, Autism Breakthrough, which is a more in-depth look at the program and why it works so well. And now it’s available as an audiobook. If you want to get a flavor for the book, you can actually listen to Chapter 2: “Joining: Entering Your Child’s World” for free – at this link http://www.autismbreakthrough.com/L/Chapter_2/.

It’s definitely worth checking out!

Lynsey, Community Manager

Dealing with Bullies

The View

Although some of Jenny McCarthy’s thoughts on autism (particularly around the cause of autism) have created some controversy, she’s a mom that’s trying to navigate the often bumpy road of autism. The other week on The View, she brought up the topic of bullying, but with a specific twist that parents of autistic children may specifically face. McCarthy’s son, Evan, is being bullied at summer camp – however, he doesn’t know it.

She explains, My son’s main goal is to make as many friends as possible,” McCarthy said, before adding that she got a heartbreaking email from the camp revealing that the kids he believes are his “friends” are actually bullying him.

They’re laughing at him but he laughs too,” she said. “I said, ‘You have to find the kids that like you and are nice to you. Who do you sit next to in the cafeteria?’ And he said, ‘No one. I ask, and they say no.”

She has mixed feelings about it – on one hand, she is relieved that he’s unaware the kids are being mean, but on the other, she is trying to figure out when to teach him about bullying and what he’s actually experiencing.

What would you do? Or, if you’ve gone through something like this, what have you done? Whoopi Goldberg (McCarthy’s co-host) gave her some – what I thought to be good – advice, which was to talk to the other kids’ parents because they may not be aware it’s happening and they could help address the situation. I would also hope that the camp, knowing they’re aware of what’s going on, is doing their part to stop this type of bullying.

If you are faced with bullying, here are some tips shared by Autism File (based on feedback from their own readers) that could help:

  • Find out what your school district’s (or camp’s) policy on bullying is and be prepared to advocate for better if needed.
  • Share social stories with your child that deal with bullying.
  • Consider a volunteer job at your child’s school (or camp) which will give you an opportunity to watch out for any questionable actions or words that might be red flags for bullying.
  • Employ a buddy system by asking a trusted teacher, aide, or even a non-disabled peer to keep an eye out for any negative actions or words directed towards your child.

Read more of their tips here.

Lynsey Community Manager

Little Hero

Autism may give kids super-power-like abilities because they can often see and hear things that others don’t.  That is, at least, how 6-year-old Avery beautifully sees it when asked about her twin brother, Xander, who has autism. Their mom, Jenn Medvin, is creating a Kickstarter-funded short documentary, called Little Hero, about Xander’s autism as seen through her eyes. As Jenn writes on their page, Avery “does not view her brother as being a special needs child.  Instead, she actually sees him as a superhero.  She believes he has “superpowers” and is very good at “helping people.”  In this documentary, Avery explains their unique and beautiful relationship from her perspective.”

The good news is that the project was successfully funded earlier this month, so keep an eye out for the finished film. (check out the video above as well)

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

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