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.

New Vaccine Study Re-Confirms No Link to Autism

Another study has come out that again shows there is no link between vaccines and autism. This one, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, focuses on siblings of those touched by autism.

JAMA

The research –as discussed in this article – shows that brothers and sisters of children with autism were not at a higher risk of developing the disorder if they were vaccinated compared to the siblings of those without autism.

This is significant because separate studies have found there is an increased risk of autism among those with older siblings on the spectrum, which could be contributed to genetic and environmental factors. But because some have a fear that vaccines– specifically the MMR vaccine – are linked to autism, parents of autistic children have been more hesitant to vaccinate their younger children.

This study-and others related to vaccine safety—are important so we can feel confident and comforted that we’re making the right decisions for our children. Opting out of vaccines has led to several outbreaks of diseases/viruses that we would be protected from getting, such as the measles. Much is being done to combat the fear of vaccines and this study is an important reassurance that a link doesn’t exist.

Read more about the study

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Santino’s Dragon Drawings

Satino Dragon Drawings / Facebook

Satino Dragon Drawings / Facebook

Art can be a powerful outlet, a great means of expressing yourself. This is certainly the case for Santino Stagliano, a 10-year-old boy from South Philly. Santino, who was diagnosed with autism 5 years ago, is called “The Dragon Master” by his little brother – in honor of Santino’s love of these fire-breathing creatures. And when Santino has a bad day, his parents buy him a plain white t-shirt so he can draw a picture of a dragon with markers – always a way to cheer him up.

On one particularly bad day last month – after getting teased by kids at the park – his parents bought him some shirts to draw on, and then Santino’s mom, Lisa, posted pictures of his creations on Facebook. The next day he had requests from a handful of people for shirts – then it turned into 50 requests, then 100, and continuing. Santino is selling them for $5 – he’s already sold 150 and has about 500 more on order.

Best of all, Santino – who chose to donate half the money he raises to the Center for Autism – has found a new sense of self-esteem with his shirt sales. As described by his dad, “There’s a little boy who wouldn’t look at you, he didn’t want to be touched…Now he’s hugging people, high-fiving and taking pictures.”  Amazing!

Check out Santino’s story in full– and visit his Santino’s Dragons Facebook page.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Autism Logistics

autismtreatmentcenter.org

autismtreatmentcenter.org

Being a parent is truly a gift, but I don’t think anyone will argue that the role doesn’t come with challenges. And parenting a child with autism sometimes comes with its own unique set of challenges. They might come in the form of, for example, extended tantrums, toilet training difficulties, hitting, trouble going to bed and/or getting up in the morning, and not willing to eat or try new foods.

To help parents deal with many daily challenges they often face, Kate Wilde, director of The Son-Rise Program, has written a new book called Autism Logistics. Kate has worked at The Autism Treatment Center of America for 20+ years, has worked one-on-one with more than 1500 children, and now, through her book, she is sharing guidance and easy to understand techniques.

If you’re familiar with Kyle’s Treehouse, you may already know that The Son-Rise Program was the treatment Jen and Jeff Westphal pursued for Kyle. It’s a home-based option that is designed to help children dramatically improve in all areas of learning, development, communication and skill development – in a fun and loving manner.

So if you’re looking for help on:

  • How to toilet train without pushing or pressure
  • Introducing new foods without a fight
  • What to do when your child tantrums, hits and bites
  • How to introduce tooth brushing, hair cutting and getting dressed in an enjoyable way

(and the list continues)

then you may want to check out Autism Logistics.

And visit The Autism Treatment Center of America for more information about The Son-Rise Program. They’ve got some amazing stories, perspective and instructional videos you can access.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Microsoft’s New Employee Program

MicrosoftMicrosoft recently announced it is starting a pilot program – working alongside specialized employment agency, Specialisterne – that is focused on hiring people with autism. The company hopes to utilize and nurture the unique skills that some on the autism spectrum possess that are particularly aligned with positions at Microsoft.

Mary Ellen Smith, corporate VP of worldwide operations who has a teen son on the spectrum, said, “People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft, each individual is different, some have amazing ability to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code.”

Microsoft is not alone—other companies are also recognizing specialized talents and creating opportunities for people with autism, such as SAP and Freddie Mac. These efforts are extremely important considering only a very small percentage of those on the spectrum are employed – leaving the vast majority unemployed. And the unemployment rate will continue to rise as autism rates increase.

So Microsoft is taking a step in the right direction, and we hope more companies will follow suit.

Read more of Ms. Smith’s post on Microsoft’s blog.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Spectrum Singles

Spectrum Singles 2A mother-daughter duo has created something new for the dating world – an online site for singles with autism. Olivia Cantu and her mom, Kristen Fitzpatrick, are both on the spectrum and felt that there was a need for a site where people could meet for potential dating and friendship opportunities – so they came up with SpectrumSingles.com.

As reported in People Magazine, the site uses a large questionnaire, called the Spectrum Compatibility Test (SCT), to match users. Topics such as social comfort, attention tendencies and other areas are covered, and then users are grouped based on their preferences.

It’s still a fairly new site, but it’s already getting lots of great buzz and feedback. Check their site or visit them on Facebook.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Some Perspective

Autism AwarenessAs we begin a month dedicated to Autism Awareness, I came across this beautifully written piece by mom-of-four, Mary Hickey. Mary has three sons on the autism spectrum and she writes about how autism has not been a secret in her family – it’s something that has been embraced so that her sons not only get to understand themselves better, but that there’s a community of support surrounding them.

She also shares her perspective on how she discussed autism with her children, which is something many parents struggle with – how, and when, (and if) I discuss my child’s autism diagnosis with them. Mary’s sons came to some awareness on their own at different ages, asking questions – and it was at those moments that she discussed it with them. And for parents that may be facing a similar situation, she shares what those first conversations sounded like:

Many parents feel paralyzed by figuring out how to approach the initial discussion. I kept the first conversation simple, creating space and encouragement for questions and whatever feelings came up. It differed slightly for each boy, but the overall conversation went like this: “Every person has things that are easy for them and things that they are working on. Your brain works in a very special way that is called autism. It means that some things that are hard for other people, like remembering numbers and all the states and capitols, are easy for you. But it also means that some things, like understanding conversations or what people are trying to say, can be hard for you. It is why sometimes noises, smells and the feeling of things bother you too. But it also means that you are amazing for how hard you work to get through it all! There are a lot of strategies we can use to help make the things that are tough a bit easier. There are lots of people in the world with autism and so many of them have done amazing things. Would you like to learn about some of them?”

While this is a story of how one parent helped her children with their own self-awareness, we honor the broader idea of raising awareness for all, and ultimately, understanding and support. We hope the continued efforts of the autism community – and especially now during Autism Awareness month – will help do just that.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Autism Village

Autism Village

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a resource that can tell you the businesses and places that are the most ‘autism-friendly?’ Think of an app like Yelp! or Trip Advisor, but just for the autism community. This is what Topher Wurts had in mind when he came up with Autism Village, an app that will allow people in the autism community to rate and review places – such as museums, parks, restaurants, etc. – so families can find out what others in the community have found to be the safest, most sensory-friendly, accommodating places to visit.

Topher, whose son, Kirby, has autism, turned to Facebook and Twitter to ask parents about his concept – and the response was huge. Within weeks, thousands of followers encouraged Topher to pursue his idea – and now he’s got a Kickstarter to help launch the Autism Village.

So when this app is up-and-running, and you want to find out, for example, what restaurants near you accommodate special diets, or who is the most highly-rated dentist by other parents, or the safest local playgrounds – you may want to look to Autism Village.

Read some more about Autism Village.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Can a Google Glass App Help Social Skills?

Brain-power.com

Technology is continuously advancing and we’ve certainly seen how it’s being leveraged to help those touched by autism.  Dr. Ned Sahin, founder of Brain Power, is hoping it can be used to help children with engagement and socialization.

Brain Power is a startup that is developing apps that display images of popular cartoon characters on the screen of Google Glass, so that when a child looks at someone talking, that character pops up to draw the child’s attention to the speaker’s face. And when the child turns their heads to make eye contact, the cartoon goes away and the face is revealed. Just like a game, the child earns points for eye contact.

Dr. Sahin explains in this article that he feels using Google Glass has unique advantages over other devices, saying “While an iPad encourages a child to look down and away from the real world, with Glass the child is naturally encouraged to look up into the world…and our device rewards him with looking people in the eye and engaging directly.”

Brain Power is testing its product in a clinical trial at MA’s General Hospital beginning in April, so more to come on what seems to be a very interesting concept!

Lynsey, Community Manager