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.

Teen Helps Parents of Children with Autism

This amazing video was created by Michael Whary, an Ohio teen who is truly making a difference. Michael, who has autism, is working to become an Eagle Scout – and to do that, he needed to complete a service project that benefits the community. So he took the opportunity to create a video that aims to help parents of children with autism, sharing how autism doesn’t make him different, it makes him Michael.

And we can say we’re quite impressed! Also, speaking of achievements, not only is Michael working to become an Eagle Scout, he’s (as noted here), a member of his school’s track and field team, ROTC and marching band. (Keep in mind that Michael’s family was told that he would never ride a bike or drive a car – and you’ll see he can do both quite well!)

We invite you to check out Michael’s video!

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Look At Me

Look At Me
Technology has become a great tool that has helped many touched by autism to communicate, work on social skills and it also can be an overall learning aide. And now Samsung has released a new app called Look At Me that claims it can help children learn how to better maintain eye contact.

The app, which is available on Google Play, was developed by doctors and professors at Seoul National University Bundag Hospital and Yonsei University Department of Psychology. As discussed in this article, Look At Me uses photos, facial recognition technology and games to help children identify emotions and communicate with other people. The team that created the app had conducted a clinical trial and said that 60% of the 20 children that participated showed improvement in making eye contact.

Check out the app here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Top 5 From 2014

2014Hello 2015! Yes, the new year is now here and underway, but before we officially say goodbye to 2014, let’s take a look at some of the more prominent news and stories from the past year:

  1. 1 in 68 – Autism rates continue to increase. The Center for Disease Control reported that the number of U.S. children with autism soared to 1 in 68 – a 30% increase from its last report two years prior. Still without a confirmed known cause, or causes, the reason for this increase can’t be determined, although growing awareness and better identification of autism in children may be playing a part in that increase.
  2. Jerry Seinfeld thinks he’s autistic…but then doesn’t. Probably one of the most buzzed-about stories this year was when comedian Jerry Seinfeld — during an interview with NBC News’s Brian William — said that he thought he might be on the autism spectrum. Although he later took that claim back, his self-diagnosis was met with both support and criticism.
  3. Amazing Acts of Kindness.  Helping someone – an easy thing to do, and something that could profoundly impact someone. These types of stories are always our favorite, and we hope there are plenty of them in 2015. Check out a couple from last year such as William’s Mail and Lunch Buddies.
  4. Athletic Super Stars. We saw some truly incredible athleticism this year – and met some amazing kids celebrating remarkable achievements. We heard about Jason “J-Mac” McElwain who ran the Boston marathon in under three hours, as well as Mike Brannigan, who is one of the top 10 high school runners in the U.S., and Josh Bailey, who is a star member of his high school football team.
  5. Learning More.  It was another year full of new information and studies. It seems like a new study comes out almost every day. There was, for example, the one that showed environment is just as important as genes in looking at how autism runs in families; or, the study that show children with autism may have an overload of brain connections. All of this research and discovery is so important maybe we’re getting closer to understanding this complex condition. We hope continued research, awareness and, above all else, compassion remains prominent in the year ahead.

We wish you all a very happy New Year!

 

 

ExtraSpecialTeas

Extra Special TeasThis is a very special time of year – with the significance of giving onto others being celebrated.

With that in mind, we are asking you to join us in a special event to support friends of KTH, Scott and Cherrie Sanes. Scott and Cherrie have an adult son with autism, and in thinking about their son’s future, they came up with a beautiful idea – create tea shops that employ adults with special needs. ExtraSpecialTeas will be a wonderful win-win for everyone!

To help Scott and Cherrie get their concept up-and-running, we are asking you to help us raise $5,000 by next Tuesday — #givingtuesday – December 23. And, KTH plans to match every dollar raised up to $5K, meaning we could give ExtraSpecialTeas $10,000 before the holidays!

So if we can count you in, donating is really easy – just click on this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/extraspecialteasHoliday/fundraiser/jeniferwestphal and donate! No donation is too small.

Please consider helping ExtraSpecialTeas raise the money they need to open this exciting tea house designed to employ adults with special needs.  To learn more about ExtraSpecialTeas and its mission, click here:  https://www.crowdrise.com/extraspecialteasHoliday/fundraiser/extraspecialteasinc

Thank you for your consideration.

Wishing you a joyous holiday season!

Inflammation in Brain Linked to Autism

Maybe a little closer to understanding a bit more about autism…a new study published in Nature Communications is showing that the brains of people with autism share a common pattern of inflammation related to an overactive immune response.

As discussed in this article, researchers from Johns Hopkins and University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed the data from autopsied brains of 72 people – 32 of whom had autism – and of those that had autism, they found genes for inflammation permanently activated in certain cells. This was the largest ever study of gene expression in autism.

The inflammation is not likely a root cause of autism, but possibly a consequence of a gene mutation. In order to better understand the inflammation’s effects, researchers will need to determine whether treating it will make an impact on symptoms.

As one of the researchers involved in the study points out, the current findings highlights how much we don’t know about the way our immune systems affect brain activity.

 

Lynsey, Community Manager 

William’s Mail

William's Mail 2
Okay, everyone, here’s your chance to make a young boy’s Christmas…William Thomas is a twelve-year-old from Blaine, Washington. William, who is nonverbal but signs and writes his thoughts, usually crafted his Christmas list with things like art supplies, snacks and movies (check out this article).  But this year he asked for something different – mail.

Every day William takes a walk with his teacher to drop off mail, and he something he really enjoys doing. So knowing how happy mail made her son, William’s mom, Kay, made a simple request through Facebook to family and friends asking them to send William a card or letter to make his Christmas wish come true.

As Kay wrote on her page, I have been racking my brains for a couple weeks. I want to make this year special for this most special boy. He has nothing but love in him and I want him to feel the love from others. If you want to help a kind soul this year, I am asking for strangers to send him mail. I want him to know the world loves and values him in a way that he understands and feels.

Kay’s request went on to be shared by thousands and now William is getting mail from people all over the country, and even abroad. He’s so excited to get the mail that his mom lets him open a few a day (while leaving a bigger box to open on Christmas!).

If you’d like to write William a letter, check out William’s Mail facebook page for info.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Reminder: Check Into Sensory-Friendly Santa Now!

For many children with autism, a simple trip to visit Santa at the mall (or any public place) can be a complete sensory avalanche. Bright lights, loud music, long lines, bold decorations…the list could go on…can cause many children (and not to mention, parents) a lot of distress. So much distress, in fact, a lot of families have given up this family tradition altogether.

The good news is that many malls and other places that Santa visits are now making special accommodations to meet the needs of those that have sensory concerns. These sensory-friendly Santa events used to be less common, but over the years they’ve grown in popularity because of their success and now most places are holding such events. Often malls will designate a time in which they’ll lower lights, turn down/off the music, and just make it a more calming environment so that you can worry less about a potential sensory overload.

So if this is something you want to try out, now is the time to start looking around for such an event in your area because they are often scheduled early in the holiday season (and sometimes there’s only one day/time, so we wouldn’t want you to miss out!).

If you want to get an idea about how one of these sensory-friendly Santa events works, check out the video above for a good example.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Lunch Buddies

Tate (center) and two of his buddies

Tate (center) and two of his buddies

I learned about a program called Lunch Buddy – through this article – and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you. Maybe you’ve heard about this type of program  — or, better yet, maybe your child is involved in something like this at school.

The article specifically talks about a mom, Lisa, who established a program for her second youngest child, 13-year-old Tate, who has autism. When Tate was in second grade, Lisa, along with help of her son’s school, brought together students from Tate’s class to have lunch with him on a rotating basis. This served as an opportunity for Tate to practice social skills – asking questions, working on the reciprocity of language, and even body language. His Lunch Buddy program is now in its fifth year, and although it’s been a long road and it took a lot of adult guidance over the course of these years, Tate’s parents are seeing how much he has developed socially in that time.

And here’s the thing, I have no doubt that such a program has been so greatly beneficial to Tate, but what I actually really love from this story is the impact it has had on his classmates that have been helping Tate over the years during their lunches – and recess time – together. Being a lunch buddy to Tate was something they had to sign up for, and it has empowered the kids to know they are helping Tate. As one of the lunch buddies said, “It’s kind of easy ‘cause he likes everybody. He’s just a good friend and he understands you.” Another said, “Some people don’t really listen to you when you talk, but Tate always seems to be listening to you. And he always knows the right things to say.” What an amazing teacher Tate has been to these kids as well.

Lisa discusses the Lunch Buddy program on her blog, Quirks and Chaos, which we encourage you to check out.

Lynsey, Community Manager