Teens with Autism and Driving

By Anita Lesko, BSN, RN, MS, CRNA

For some teenagers, getting a driver’s license might symbolize their freedom and new life as an adult. But not every teenager counts the days until they get their driver’s license. I learned to drive in high school along with the rest of my classmates. At that time in my life, I didn’t know I’m autistic. What I did know, however, was that I felt scared and instinctively knew I wasn’t ready to drive. I did great on the written exam. Being behind the wheel out on the road with the instructor was a different story.

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How Childhood Jobs Prepared me for Success as an Adult with Autism

By Anita Lesko, BSN, RN, MS, CRNA

I have the good fortune to be a friend of Dr. Temple Grandin. We have a lot in common. We are both autistic, and we share a very similar youth that played a big factor in our adult life. We both started having jobs at a very early age. Temple often talks about her early days, when her job was to greet guests at the door for her mom’s dinner party, and take their coats to hang up. Yes, it was a job. She was given a responsibility to carry out.

Among her numerous other childhood jobs was the one I, too, did for many years — mucking out horse stalls. In conversations with Temple on the phone, we’ve talked about those days of our teenage years spent shoveling out one stall after another. We both love horses and being around them. It was peaceful and it was also a form of therapy. In essence, it was our occupational therapy.

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Tips for Overcoming Challenges with Special Needs Hair Care

“Brush Up” with These Helpful Tips

By Elayne Pearson, C.A.S., Special-needs Preparedness Specialist, is an award-winning writer, poet, presenter, advocate, author, and actress.

In the late 1980s, individuals with disabilities were coming into the bright spotlight of media and society, and my husband, Rod, and I vowed we would never keep Heidi (our sweet little daughter with Down syndrome) “shielded” at home like families frequently did in the past. Her sisters were proud of her, too, despite frequent rude stares from others. One thing I always did to bolster our confidence before going out with my little chickadees was make sure their faces were clean and hair was brushed, with a bow, barrette, or headband added including little Heidi. Her munchkin-angel face looked even cuter with curls, ribbons, and bows.

Fast forward a few years. Heidi’s late-onset autism (unbeknownst to us) created an extreme sensitivity with anything around her face, such as lip balm, sunscreen, eyeglasses, and all hair accessories. First, her annoyance was baffling, then frustrating, then down-right aggravating. Heidi detested anything in her hair, and seemed oblivious to pain when she pulled out a barrette, curler, flower, elastic, or ribbon. It drove me crazy.

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Autism Training in Law Enforcement and the Call to Action

By Carol S. Weinman, Esq., C.A.S., National Speaker and Author

The willing desire to work together in unraveling the puzzle of autism is growing among law enforcement. The number of calls I receive to present on the topic of autism and police training increases every day. The reason: law enforcement officers want to better understand the complex mindset of those with autism spectrum disorder and more importantly, learn how to interact with them.

Hardly a month goes by anymore when the media isn’t reporting about someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who is arrested or has an unfortunate police encounter. That’s because what appears to be suspicious or criminal activity is behavior characteristic of an individual with ASD. So, how can a police officer know the difference? Well, the first step in prevention of these traumatic incidents among police officers and the ASD community is education.

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Leveraging Visual Support for Neuro-divergent Children

Creative Ideas To Offer Better Visual Support For Neuro-Diverse Children

By Guest Contributor Evan Brown

Leveraging visual support for neuro-divergent children entail using a visual item, such as a picture card or mood boards, to communicate with a child who exhibits a shortcoming in using or has difficulty understanding language. Visual supports can be in the form of lists, written words, objects, drawings and photographs. Ample research stands as evidence that visual supports provide one of the best communication mediums for children with developmental disorders. When employed for children on the autism spectrum, a visual support serves two main purposes: helping the child communicate with those around them, and aiding parents in communicating better with their child.

temple grandin

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Summertime is Here! What’s the Best Camp for Your Child?

Summer is here, and finding the camp for your child can be a daunting task. There are a plethora of options when it comes to summer camps, but how do parents choose what works for their child?

To ensure that your camps are up-to-date with the latest research and information to support your child, it is important that they receive training and certification. Be sure to ask for and check for their credentials. If your child has special needs such as autism, many organizations such as YMCA and even Beaches Resorts Kid’s Camps have received staff-wide training and are designated as Certified Autism Centers through IBCCES. See below for some important considerations when looking for the perfect camp for your little ones this summer.

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Special Needs and Transitioning into Adulthood

By Elayne Pearson, C.A.S., Special-needs Preparedness Specialist, is an award-winning writer, poet, presenter, advocate, author, and actress.

It’s May, and some nice graduation announcements have arrived at the house. While I’m happy for each student, it occasionally picks at an old wound from Heidi’s high school graduation (or the lack there of). I ponder if I did the right thing by not having our painfully shy teenager participate in the formal commencement exercises like her Special Needs Educators had encouraged.

It’s hard to know whose advice to listen to.…

Back when Heidi was in preschool, Kim Peek, the autistic savant who inspired the Oscar-winning movie, Rainman, was traveling around the country sharing autism awareness. Kim was a phenomenon. When he and his father, Fran Peak, were invited to speak to a nearby Christian youth group, I was strongly prompted to attend.

The peaceful drive through rural towns with their snow-packed fields, farms, and shaggy horses felt surprisingly at home to me.

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The Magic of Better Speech & Hearing Month

By Kerry Magro, Self-Advocate, National Speaker, and Author

When we think of the impact of Autism Awareness Month in April, we sometimes forget May’s Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) that had an impact on those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Organizations have spearhead efforts to start a conversation for those with these communication challenges.

This month has a special connection to me as I was diagnosed with autism at four. Being in special education settings, I was often in classes with students with a wide range of speech, language and hearing disorders. Our supports were very challenging in our public school setting due to limited funding going to special education. Until 4th grade, before moving to an out of district school for those with learning disabilities, we only had one special education class ranging of students from the ages of 6-14. I often think about how this month could have truly benefited me as a student but also our educators. It’s the same way that I never knew about Autism Awareness Month in April as a child because it was never introduced to me or my classmates.

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To the Speech Language Pathologist of Those with Special Needs

By Kerry Magro, Self-Advocate, National Speaker, and Author

Dear Speech Language Pathologist: I don’t know how you got your start. What your role was in helping those with special needs. Some of you have helped pave the way to diagnose while others who are reading this may have assessed and helped those with a wide range of speech and language related challenges. You may work in a school, business, rehabilitation center, hospital, private clinic – you name it. You often spend countless hours of your time both giving all you can to see your students and patients succeed, and for that I wanted to say thank you.

Each day I see you help students swallow, pronounce different words, use text to speech software and speak without stuttering. You are also there with encouragement when you see them reach a new goal in their development. You provide encouragement to them when they are struggling which is just as important. And you do that because you care. You care because you have a passion for our loved ones. It’s a passion I’ve seen firsthand as someone who was diagnosed with autism at an early age.

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Special Thanks to Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists

Anita outsideBy Anita Lesko, BSN, RN, MS, CRNA

We do it every day, without thinking about it.  Talking.  It’s how we communicate with everyone, from loved ones to co-workers, business associates and total strangers.  It is our key to life.  If that key is somehow not functioning correctly, that door won’t open like it does for everyone else.  You may even be trapped inside your own body not knowing how to get out.  Thankfully, there are very special people who can enable the individual to “activate” that language key, opening the world for them.  Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists are the professionals who give the gift of a new life to those needing such help.

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