On Being a Professor with Autism, and Traveling the World to Destigmatize It

Do not pace back and forth when waiting in line for airport security. Airport personnel will become suspicious. Be aware of your hypersensitive visual sense and avoid looking too intently at the many and varied stimuli in airports. This can make other travelers anxious. When headed to the restroom, do not touch every seatback as you move through the airplane’s aisle. Although you need this for vestibular balance, it invades the private space of passengers. When an international flight is canceled or delayed, employ your autism-based proclivity to systemize; tell yourself airports in every country work the same way and there are set procedures for dealing with change.

These rules are just some of the internal narratives I have developed enabling me to successfully travel around the world sharing my vision about autism and Asperger Syndrome – while being on the spectrum myself.

As a clinical assistant professor of special education at Adelphi University in New York — a university with an award-winning program, Bridges to Adelphi, for students on the spectrum — I have spoken at over 1,000 conferences on autism around the globe. My journey of 48 countries — and all but four of the states in the U.S. — has presented unique challenges, and extraordinary satisfaction, as well. In short, I am on a focused mission (which, by the way, is often the case for those of us with Asperger Syndrome).

My key message is simple, but surprising: To see autism as abilities-based, not deficit-based, which is an inversion of current thinking. Autism commonly brings what I consider to be almost superpowers, such as the ability to assimilate enormous amounts of information and data, a high degree of visual thinking, and the ability to quickly understand systems and mechanisms. In short, I do not travel to cure autism. I travel to celebrate its potential.

Dr. Stephen Shore

People on the autism spectrum have similar characteristics no matter their nationality or race. However, there are great differences in societal awareness, acceptance and appreciation of people on the autism spectrum throughout the world. For example, Finnish people with Asperger Syndrome are accepted into society without question. They are completing doctoral degrees and serving in influential fields like psychology. Not doing so because of Asperger Syndrome would be the same, in Finland, as being disqualified from an academic program because the applicant wears glasses.

While not every country is this welcoming and supportive of people with autism, I found many examples proving that celebrating the abilities, rather than focusing on the deficits, of people with autism benefits everyone.

When I was in Israel, for example, I found the kind of hypersensitive visual sense that people on the autism spectrum often have is greatly valued. Here, armed forces actively seek people with autism to serve as soldiers in Israel Defense Force’s “Visual Intelligence Division,” otherwise known as Unit 9900, which makes use of their extraordinary gifts for visual thinking and attention to detail to bolster security.

In Japan, however, I found that people with disabilities and other differences can have significant problems with acceptance into Japanese society. That said, there is a fascinating study and practice of inclusion happening just outside of Tokyo at the Musashino Higashi Gakuen, an elite private school of 2,500 students. One third of them have autism. Called Daily Life Therapy, their philosophy is to teach all students a balanced lifestyle of physical, emotional and intellectual development. To the casual observer, it is often impossible to discern which children are on the autism spectrum and which are not.

Throughout my global visits from Bhutan to Qatar, there are frequently pockets of best or near-best practice even in the most resource-poor areas, often initiated by parents of children on the autism spectrum. The biggest differentiators are awareness, knowledge and support to education and accommodating those with differences.

I’ve seen people with autism all over the globe valued for the unique set of talents and gifts they bring, from the classroom to the military. We need to continue to rethink autism as a set of valuable gifts and a unique way of seeing and interacting with the world, rather than a disability, to solve our world’s most pressing problems.

Fortunately for me, as a sensory seeker, it’s wheels up to my 49th country next year. Turbulence might frighten the non-autistic person next to me, but the vestibular input from flight and turbulence is actually quite enjoyable to me.

Dr. Stephen Shore is a clinical assistant professor in the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education in Adelphi University of New York as well as an IBCCES Board Member.  This article was originally published by Diverse.


OrlandoVacation.com Becomes Certified Autism Center

OrlandoVacation.com has earned the Certified Autism Center designation and is only the second vacation home rental organization to do so in the country.

The Certified Autism Center (CAC) designation demonstrates the organization’s commitment to ensuring individuals and families with children on the autism spectrum have the best possible experience when traveling. Parents with children on the spectrum often find vacationing and visiting new places to be a challenge due to sensory needs, dietary restrictions and safety concerns. With this certification, guests can rest assured staff are prepared to help all families, regardless of their needs.

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Aquatica Orlando becomes the first water park in the world to become a Certified Autism Center

Today, Aquatica Orlando in conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), announced the completion of a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training as well as an onsite review of the park property and guest experience.  The completion designates Aquatica Orlando as a Certified Autism Center (CAC) as distinguished by IBCCES — the first water park in the world to receive such a distinction. This accreditation follows sister park Sesame Place, which became the world’s first Certified Autism Center theme park last April.

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Special Education Survey Results

The results of our annual Special Education Survey are in:  Over 400 respondents – special education administrators, teachers and other professionals – from all over the country weighed in on a range of topics related to special needs education.

Although Autism-specific training and resources continue to be a primary focus, one of the largest increases was seen in the area of student mental health.

In light of these recent findings, IBCCES is hosting the 2019 Space Summit in Houston, TX on May 3rd, and mental health will be a primary focus of this unique one-day event.  Located on-site at the Houston Space Center – an IBCCES Certified Autism Center – this symposium will feature TED style talks by some of the leading authorities in the areas of Autism and mental health.  Attendees will benefit from sessions led by global experts on autism, cognitive disorders, mental health concerns, and innovation in these areasThese topics affect ALL students and adolescents, as well as many educators themselves.

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Zoo Miami is First Zoo in Florida to Earn Certified Autism Center Designation

Zoo Miami is making a commitment to ensure all visitors, even those with sensory needs or on the autism spectrum, have an amazing experience. As part of this commitment, the Zoo recently earned the Certified Autism Center designation, which is awarded by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to organizations who have completed a training and review process with the goal to better serve individuals with autism and other sensory needs.

“Zoo Miami aims to provide each guest with an enjoyable visit and is proud to be designated as a certified autism center. Our staff has undergone training to be able to better serve guests with autism and other special needs,” said Carol Kruse, Zoo Miami Director.

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Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana Becomes Certified Autism Center

Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana, the first-ever Gourmet Inclusive international property by Nickelodeon and Karisma Hotels & Resorts, located in the Dominican Republic, recently completed a training and certification program through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to ensure its staff are prepared to welcome guests on the autism spectrum or those with sensory sensitivities. While research shows that travel is one of the most intellectually stimulating events for individuals on the spectrum, there are not enough trained and certified travel options for families looking for destinations to accommodate their needs. IBCCES and Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana are working to make sure that’s no longer the case.

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Georgia Aquarium Becomes First Aquarium Designated as a Certified Autism Center

Parents with children on the autism spectrum often find choosing vacation locales and attractions to visit a challenge due to sensory needs, dietary restrictions and safety concerns. Georgia Aquarium is the latest destination – and the first aquarium – to become a Certified Autism Center (CAC). The CAC designation, granted by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), means that visitors and families with children who have autism and other sensory disorders can enjoy the best possible experience that caters to their needs.

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Sawgrass Marriott Earns Certified Autism Center Designation

First Resort in Florida to Earn the Designation

Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa is the latest destination to become a Certified Autism Center (CAC) to help ensure guests and families with children who have autism have the best possible experience.

The resort implemented a training and certification program provided by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to ensure staff are trained to work with individuals on the spectrum and to share the resort’s commitment to ensuring all guests are accommodated. For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training for licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. IBCCES created programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry since parents with children on the autism spectrum often find vacationing to be a challenge due to sensory needs, dietary restrictions, and safety concerns.

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IBCCES Announces New Advisory Board Members

The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) is welcoming 3 new members to its Advisory Board. IBCCES is based in Jacksonville, FL, but works in all 50 states and 42 countries to provide certification and training programs in cognitive disorders such as autism, ADHD, and other special needs to education, healthcare and corporate professionals.

“We work hard to ensure we have leaders in a variety of specialties and backgrounds present on our board, including neurologists, special education experts, clinicians, and individuals on the autism spectrum. We’re so excited to announce these 3 additions to our board – we know they will bring a wealth of knowledge to our programs so we can continue to impact the lives of those with cognitive disorders,” said Myron Pincomb, Board Chairman.

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ADHD prevalence increasing around the globe

Over the last 20 years, the prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has increased significantly in the United States; from 6.1% to 10.2%. Countries around the globe are noticing a similar increase as well. According to Department of Health, about 6.4% of children and adolescents are affected by the disorder in Hong Kong, with over 10k new cases in 2017 alone. Dr Patrick Ip, clinical associate professor at HKU’s department of pediatrics and adolescent medicine, attributed the “phenomenon” to more accurate diagnosis and growing awareness about the importance of treatment.*

It’s incredibly important to ensure professionals working with individuals with ADHD and other cognitive disorders are provided opportunities to receive up-to-date focused training options. The Board Certified Cognitive Specialist program includes training on ADHD as well as autism, dyslexia and other related cognitive disorders. Equip yourself with a professional credential backed by relevant training to ensure you’re providing the best quality services for those living with cognitive disorders.




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