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.

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

 

Reaction to Jerry Seinfeld’s Self-Diagnosis

NBC News

NBC News

If you’ve spent any time online the last few days, you’re very likely to have come across the news that comedian Jerry Seinfeld speculates he is on the autism spectrum. If you haven’t yet seen/heard it, this all came out of an interview he did with NBC News’s Brian Williams, during which he said:

“I think on a very drawn-out scale, I think I’m on the spectrum. Basic social engagement is really a struggle. I’m very literal, when people talk to me and they use expressions, sometimes I don’t know what they’re saying. But I don’t see it as—as dysfunctional. I just think of it as an alternative mindset.”

When I first read what he had to say, my initial reaction was–well, that could be possible.  And certainly lots of respect to him to share something that personal.  But then my next thought was – people are going to be mad. And I can definitely understand that too. People may (and did, here for example…) think—just because Jerry Seinfeld struggles with social interaction doesn’t mean he has autism…many people are not comfortable socially, but that doesn’t mean you can just diagnose yourself as being autistic. And like I said, I completely get that perspective.

But what I was happy to see was that, for the most part, the reception of his self-diagnosis was met with positivity. The spectrum is wide and the severity at which autism can impact someone is greatly varied. With as many people being diagnosed with autism today, we can bet that there are many others who may have very high-functioning autism that don’t have an official diagnosis – and are able to get through life without much, or any, real intervention.  And he’s not the first celebrity to recognize himself with autism – others such as Dan Aykroyd and Daryl Hannah also are believed to have autism.

What I really like from this is that he went out there and identified himself with something that often carries stigma.  If nothing else, he was able to bring some awareness and light to the autism discussion and he’s also done much for autism in a charitable fashion as well. And while he, himself, may not represent the majority of those touched by autism and the impairment it can have on their development, if he’s able to use his public status to further raise awareness, then hats off to him.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Favorite Fall Gluten-Free Recipes

Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup Gluten Free Goddess

Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup Gluten Free Goddess

Fall is officially here, and with that comes some great seasonal fruits and veggies (think pumpkin, squash, apples, etc.). For those of us following a gluten-free diet, here are links to some of our favorites for the fall – whether they’re incorporating some of those seasonal foods or just some good comfort staples for when it’s cold outside.

Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Soup (from Gluten-Free Goddess)

Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili (from Cookie + Kate)

Crunchy Top Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeai (from The Fountain Avenue Kitchen)

Autumn Bread (from Taste of Home)

Pumpkin Spice Donuts (from The Detoxinista)

Banana Oat Pancakes (from Mountain Mama Cooks)

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal (from Healthful Pursuit)

And with Thanksgiving around the corner, keep an eye out for a holiday recipe edition coming soon.

Lynsey, Community Manager

PS – If you have a favorite gluten-free recipe, share it with us!

100+ Genes Tied to Autism (New Study)

cover_natureSome new research that came out is getting a lot of attention. As we are still without a known cause of autism, this particular research could potentially prove to be a step closer to having a better understanding of what may cause autism.

Two studies were published in Nature that showed dozens of sets of genes are closely connected to the development of autism. As discussed in this article, the research claims that 60 genes are within a ‘high-confidence” threshold—meaning that mutations in those genes are 90% likely to increase the risk of autism. (Previously only 11 genes had been identified with the ‘high-confidence’ threshold.)

It went on to show that these genes appear to be clustering around three sets of biological functions—(1) the development of synapses (which are responsible for communication among nerves); (2) the creation of genetic instructions; and, (3) DNA packaging within cells.

With environmental factors being a possible theory of what may cause autism, this research may now steer scientists more toward genetics.

As with any new research and findings, more investigation is needed – but their initial discovery is very compelling.

Read more about this study here.

Lynsey, Community Manager