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.

Autism Village

Autism Village

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a resource that can tell you the businesses and places that are the most ‘autism-friendly?’ Think of an app like Yelp! or Trip Advisor, but just for the autism community. This is what Topher Wurts had in mind when he came up with Autism Village, an app that will allow people in the autism community to rate and review places – such as museums, parks, restaurants, etc. – so families can find out what others in the community have found to be the safest, most sensory-friendly, accommodating places to visit.

Topher, whose son, Kirby, has autism, turned to Facebook and Twitter to ask parents about his concept – and the response was huge. Within weeks, thousands of followers encouraged Topher to pursue his idea – and now he’s got a Kickstarter to help launch the Autism Village.

So when this app is up-and-running, and you want to find out, for example, what restaurants near you accommodate special diets, or who is the most highly-rated dentist by other parents, or the safest local playgrounds – you may want to look to Autism Village.

Read some more about Autism Village.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Can a Google Glass App Help Social Skills?

Brain-power.com

Technology is continuously advancing and we’ve certainly seen how it’s being leveraged to help those touched by autism.  Dr. Ned Sahin, founder of Brain Power, is hoping it can be used to help children with engagement and socialization.

Brain Power is a startup that is developing apps that display images of popular cartoon characters on the screen of Google Glass, so that when a child looks at someone talking, that character pops up to draw the child’s attention to the speaker’s face. And when the child turns their heads to make eye contact, the cartoon goes away and the face is revealed. Just like a game, the child earns points for eye contact.

Dr. Sahin explains in this article that he feels using Google Glass has unique advantages over other devices, saying “While an iPad encourages a child to look down and away from the real world, with Glass the child is naturally encouraged to look up into the world…and our device rewards him with looking people in the eye and engaging directly.”

Brain Power is testing its product in a clinical trial at MA’s General Hospital beginning in April, so more to come on what seems to be a very interesting concept!

Lynsey, Community Manager

Special Duet from ‘Night of Too Many Stars’

If you haven’t see this yet, you’ve got to check this out! At this year’s Night of Too Many Stars, singer-songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic performed a truly amazing rendition of “Yoda” – his take on the song “Lola” by The Kinks – with Jodi DiPiazza, a 13-year-old musician with autism. And to sing backup, they brought in the Actionplay chorus, also singers who have autism. A must-watch!

Lynsey, Community Manager 

GPS-Tracking Clothes

ID Clothing 1It seems like almost every day there is a terribly upsetting story about a child with autism who has gone missing as a result of wandering off. It’s a fear that many parents share – and rightfully so. In fact, as discussed here, a 2012 study showed that nearly half of the parents surveyed said their child with autism had tried to wander off or run away at least once after the age of 4, and most said their child was gone ‘long enough to cause worry.’

With this concern, the idea of a tracking device is not something new – often seen as something children could wear on their wrists. But former CNN correspondent Lauren Theirry, whose teen son, Liam, has autism, developed a new idea. She founded Independence Day (ID) Clothing, which offers shirts and pants that hold a small tracking device – which weighs less than an ounce. And unlike the other wearable IDs out there – such as ankle or wrist devices – ID Clothing’s GPS units slip inside soft pockets sewn into each garment, without any uncomfortable wires or weight.

This is particularly helpful for those with sensory issues  — the device being so small and hidden away that it wouldn’t even be felt. Also something we really like and shows the thought put into the clothes’ creation – the shirts and pants are the same forward and backward, making it easier for kids to dress themselves. (Plus no zippers, no tags and no buttons!!)

Check out more on Independence Day Clothing.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Community Saves Birthday Celebration

Posted on John Buratti's Facebook page

Posted on John Buratti’s Facebook page

This is one of those stories that starts out being heartbreaking, but the break gets healed in such an amazing way – it had to be shared!

Glenn Buratti – a 6-year-old in Florida ready to celebrate his birthday had invited over his classmates for a party. Glenn, who has autism, was so excited and – as detailed here – was counting down the minutes until his friends had arrived. But the party start time came and went, and not one guest had showed up.

Obviously terribly upset and frustrated, Glenn’s mom, Ashlee, decided to blow off some steam and posted on a local community Facebook page about what happened, saying “I know this might be something silly to rant about, but my heart is breaking for my son. We invited his whole class (16 kids) over for his 6th birthday party today. Not one kid came.” She wasn’t expecting anything in response…but she got an amazing one!

Within minutes, her community started responding with messages of support – and many were even asking to come over to give Glenn a second chance at the birthday party he wanted. And that afternoon, 15 kids and 25 parents showed up at their house to celebrate! Plus, a few days later, when Glenn came home from school, he was greeted by the local fire department and sheriff’s office – with tons of gifts in tow.

We may at times be faced with great sadness, but it’s stories like this that remind us true kindness and sense of community exists.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Two-Minute MRI Diagnosis?

CPS_logo
Determining whether a child has autism or not has been, up to this point, primarily based on factors outlined in the DSM. It’s based on meeting certain criteria and there’s no medical test, such as a blood test, that can be taken to provide a diagnosis. But with the evolution of technology and research, we’re learning of more and more ways medical diagnostic tools may one day play a large role in the detection, and ultimately diagnosis, of autism.

One such potential tool, according to recent research published in Clinical Psychological Science, is a brain-imaging technique, similar to a MRI, that could detect autism in only two minutes. The scanning process can show the brain’s response to thoughts of ‘self-perspective’ – such as recognizing ‘your turn.’ It showed that there was a subdued response in the brain among those with autism – and the more subdued the response, the more severe the autism symptoms.

While it wouldn’t be able to take the place of a full evaluation, and it will certainly require much more research, this may be a way to aide in the clinical diagnosis in the future, offering us a little more insight into how our brains are processing information.

You can check out more on this research here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Autistic Siblings Not Necessarily Similar

Nature Medicine - siblings studyIn a recent report published by Nature Medicine, scientists have found that most siblings with autism do not share the same genetic risk factors and are as distinct in their behaviors as any brothers and sisters – which is a surprise to many.

As discussed in this New York Times article, scientists analyzed genetic material from 85 families using an approach called whole-genome sequencing. And they found that 30% of the 85 sibling pairs in the study shared the same mutation, while about 70% did not.

By having different mutations, this means that the impact, and symptoms, of autism can vary greatly, even among with closest of relatives. (One family is discussed in the NYT article as an example – two brothers sharing an autism diagnosis, one will approach strangers, the other is much more shy; one loves computers, the other doesn’t; one brother is continuously on the move, while the other usually parks himself in the same place.)

The saying of “if you know one person with autism, then you know one person with autism” really holds true, even when it comes to individual families.

Read more about the study here.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

She Knows What Causes Autism

We live in a world where we’re trying to isolate a cause for autism. There are literally studies coming out every day with a new potential trigger. We’re seeing the results of some of the hysteria from this as measles – a possible deadly and once-eradicated disease – is now being spread since people are opting to not vaccinate their children in fear of autism. (Check out our last post for more on the need to vaccinate your children.)

So when we came across this beautifully written piece by Carrie Cariello entitled “I Know What Causes Autism,” it was a good reminder to take a step back for a moment. While it’s often complicated, she captures what is needed for a delicate emotional balance and does so in a remarkable way.

Read more from Carrie Cariello’s on her blog.

Lynsey, Community Manager