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.

Sensory Communication Design

sensory communication device 2You hear a lot about various apps you can get on your iPad, iPhone, etc, that can help serve as a voice for those with autism, particularly for those that are nonverbal. This is a similar idea, but utilizes the benefit of a sensory (tactile) experience – and can be an option for people who have sight difficulties.

Industrial designer Jeffrey Brown created the device after realizing that touch, sound and smell could communicate an idea – and from that, he created a board that includes six cubes covered in various textures. Audio is recorded or downloaded for each cube – such as “I need to go to the bathroom” / “I am hungry” / “I want to play now”—and the user just needs to squeeze a cube for the audio to play.

What an interesting and good idea if this is able to provide a voice to some that currently don’t have that ability right now, which could ultimately help alleviate some of the frustration that comes with communication challenges – and provide some independence and empowerment to the user. Read more here.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Autism Breakthrough – The Son-Rise Program

Autism Breakthrough Audio
There are so many therapies out there for autism – it can be overwhelming, to say the least. And because autism is so wide-ranging in terms of severity, and, as the saying goes, ‘if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,’ trying to find the right kind of therapy (or combination of therapies, in most cases) can be an endless…mind-numbing…(insert your own word here!)…journey.

You have to do what’s best, and what you think works, for your child, and that is the ultimate idea at Kyle’s Treehouse.  And as many of you may know, what worked for Kyle and the Westphal family was The Son-Rise Program. If you’re not familiar with the program, it was created in the 70’s by Barry Neil Kaufman and Samahria Lyte Kaufman to help their autistic son, Raun. It’s a home-based, parent-led structure that promotes encouragement and excitement and invites you to join your child in their world to ultimately create a bridge leading them back into ours. (From this experience the Kaufmans established The Autism Treatment Center of America, and their son, Raun–who went on to emerge from his autism–is now its Director of Global Education!)

And not only is Raun the Director of Global Education of the organization, he is also an author. Earlier this year he released, Autism Breakthrough, which is a more in-depth look at the program and why it works so well. And now it’s available as an audiobook. If you want to get a flavor for the book, you can actually listen to Chapter 2: “Joining: Entering Your Child’s World” for free – at this link http://www.autismbreakthrough.com/L/Chapter_2/.

It’s definitely worth checking out!

Lynsey, Community Manager

Dealing with Bullies

The View

Although some of Jenny McCarthy’s thoughts on autism (particularly around the cause of autism) have created some controversy, she’s a mom that’s trying to navigate the often bumpy road of autism. The other week on The View, she brought up the topic of bullying, but with a specific twist that parents of autistic children may specifically face. McCarthy’s son, Evan, is being bullied at summer camp – however, he doesn’t know it.

She explains, My son’s main goal is to make as many friends as possible,” McCarthy said, before adding that she got a heartbreaking email from the camp revealing that the kids he believes are his “friends” are actually bullying him.

They’re laughing at him but he laughs too,” she said. “I said, ‘You have to find the kids that like you and are nice to you. Who do you sit next to in the cafeteria?’ And he said, ‘No one. I ask, and they say no.”

She has mixed feelings about it – on one hand, she is relieved that he’s unaware the kids are being mean, but on the other, she is trying to figure out when to teach him about bullying and what he’s actually experiencing.

What would you do? Or, if you’ve gone through something like this, what have you done? Whoopi Goldberg (McCarthy’s co-host) gave her some – what I thought to be good – advice, which was to talk to the other kids’ parents because they may not be aware it’s happening and they could help address the situation. I would also hope that the camp, knowing they’re aware of what’s going on, is doing their part to stop this type of bullying.

If you are faced with bullying, here are some tips shared by Autism File (based on feedback from their own readers) that could help:

  • Find out what your school district’s (or camp’s) policy on bullying is and be prepared to advocate for better if needed.
  • Share social stories with your child that deal with bullying.
  • Consider a volunteer job at your child’s school (or camp) which will give you an opportunity to watch out for any questionable actions or words that might be red flags for bullying.
  • Employ a buddy system by asking a trusted teacher, aide, or even a non-disabled peer to keep an eye out for any negative actions or words directed towards your child.

Read more of their tips here.

Lynsey Community Manager

Little Hero

Autism may give kids super-power-like abilities because they can often see and hear things that others don’t.  That is, at least, how 6-year-old Avery beautifully sees it when asked about her twin brother, Xander, who has autism. Their mom, Jenn Medvin, is creating a Kickstarter-funded short documentary, called Little Hero, about Xander’s autism as seen through her eyes. As Jenn writes on their page, Avery “does not view her brother as being a special needs child.  Instead, she actually sees him as a superhero.  She believes he has “superpowers” and is very good at “helping people.”  In this documentary, Avery explains their unique and beautiful relationship from her perspective.”

The good news is that the project was successfully funded earlier this month, so keep an eye out for the finished film. (check out the video above as well)

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Jaden’s Voice

Jaden's Voice logo

We’ve been so lucky over the years to come across some amazing people and remarkable organizations in the autism community – and Jaden’s Voice is certainly one of them. This foundation was created in 2010 by Terri Matthews, a mom of three – her youngest child, Jaden, was diagnosed with autism at age two.

Based in Philadelphia, Jaden’s Voice is focused on enhancing the lives of underserved children and families impacted by autism—and they’re doing this in a number of ways. For example, they’ve got some initiatives underway such as Jaden Cares Program that will look to establish a single location that offers services for sensory, occupational and behavioral therapy as well as extracurricular activities (music, art, etc.) – basically a one-stop-shop to offer a comprehensive therapy program. This structure gives you back the time you may be using to shuttle back and forth to various locations.

Jaden’s Voice also has the Jaden’s Family Care initiative that will focus on supporting the families of those touched by autism, offering advocacy, support groups and educational opportunities. And they’re doing so much more.

What if you could get all of your child’s various therapeutic needs met in one place? It seems like an ideal concept (at least one that doesn’t currently exist in Philly). We invite you to check them out!


Lynsey, Community Manager

Tips for Tackling Summer’s (No) Schedule

summer
Summertime can be a more relaxed time of year – school is out, vacations are planned, and the often non-stop days (school, therapies, sports, appointments, music lessons, etc, etc…) are scaled back for these few months. The slowdown may be a welcomed change for some, but for many parents, the lack of a regular routine can be challenging (and the source of many child meltdowns).

If you’re finding the no-schedule summer to be tough, the Washington Post shared some tips to help your child cope with this more relaxed time:

  • Make a visual calendar. Use a calendar to label “typical” summer days, weekends, vacations and holidays. Then create a “typical day” schedule that follows the school schedule as much as possible in terms of lunch time and breaks. It can be very specific if you like, or it can be more vague (brushing teeth, bath, etc).
  • Talk through plans (and alternate plans). Talk to your child about having a Plan A, but also a Plan B in case things don’t work out. For example, if you’re planning to go to the pool, tell him that if a storm comes up or the pool is closed, you might do something else, and that is your Plan B. Help your child learn to make contingency plans by talking to him when you have to adjust your own plans. By teaching him that it’s not the end of the world when plans change, you can help him learn how to regulate himself before he has a meltdown. 
  • Avoid developing bad habits. It can be tough to stick to a schedule during the summer, when you just want to relax and let go a little bit, but the more you can keep to a routine for meals and sleep, and continue to limit screen time, the more well-regulated your child is likely to be. 
  • Recognize the warnings. It’s important to know the signs that your child is getting overloaded and remove him from challenging situations before a meltdown if possible. 
  • Be positive. Keep things positive, always. With any child, it’s more effective to reward good behavior than to punish bad behavior… parents should try to praise their child four times for every one time they correct something.

Read the tips in full here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Getting Ready for Fireworks

http://rsfireworks.net

http://rsfireworks.net

The 4th of July can be a fun holiday full of picnics, family time and, of course, fireworks. However, for many on the autism spectrum, loud noises like fireworks can be an extremely upsetting experience. And maybe you learned that the hard way in a past year. But don’t give up hope that fireworks can be part of your holiday – something that the whole family can enjoy together – it just may take a little prep ahead of time.

Here are some things you may want to consider if your 4th will include fireworks:

  • Practice – You may find that there are (sometimes smaller) local fireworks in the days leading up to the 4th of July weekend, so it may be good to do a test run. Talk about the fireworks in advance. Some of the anxiety comes from the unknown, or unexpected, so easing into a larger fireworks display with smaller shows could help alleviate the anxiety a bit.
  • Give a visual – Sometimes having a visual can help better communicate what to expect. You may want to watch fireworks online, or even read a book about going to see fireworks, to help prepare for the real thing.
  • Headphones – If the noise level is just too much – and your child can tolerate headphones (this is an item that usually needs time to get used to as well) – headphones can help cancel out the noise to that they are left just enjoying the beautiful color display.
  • Find a Quieter Place – It might be best to keep some distance between you and the fireworks, so, depending on the location, you may be to enjoy the fireworks from your car or from an outdoor space that is further away.

Whether fireworks are in your future or not, we hope you have a wonderful 4th of July!

Lynsey, Community Manager

Non-Verbal Teen Gives Inspirational Graduation Speech

Yet another truly amazing and inspirational story…this video from KABC in California features Dillan Barmache, a teen who is non-verbal, but with the aide of his iPad was able to address his fellow middle school classmates during graduation.

Dillan spells out words letter by letter, and the iPad’s speech synthesizer vocalizes the words for him, allowing him, for the first time, to express himself.  And Dillan used his speech synthesizer to present his graduation speech, which touched on the challenges he has had as well as the opportunities they will face in high school. Here’s an excerpt (KABC published Dillan’s speech):

When I examine each day, it’s just incredible how a student, an autistic one, could ever feel a part of a class of future academics. Education is a better institution when all students have opportunity, plus a chance to take an idea and see the lessons within. With your mind, no one can place limits on where an idea can take you. Living without a voice creates almost no way to be heard, but there are people who refuse to think in a box. Open your mind in high school. You will learn to think about different ideas, and examine new findings. Always look inside other peoples experience in order to gain another perspective outside of books. Only then are we able to start opening our eyes to the amazing things around us.

And, rightfully so, his speech was met with a standing ovation! Congratulations to Dillan and his classmates!

Lynsey, Community Manager