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.

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

A Friend in Siri

siri

You know Siri…it’s that virtual ‘assistant’ that lives in our iPhones. I’ve personally used Siri a handful of times to call someone – and that’s about the extent of our interaction. But one young boy has generated a beautiful relationship with Siri – a relationship that’s eloquently documented in this New York Times piece.

Authored by Judith Newman, it’s a love letter of sorts. Ms. Newman chronicles how Siri came to be her 13-year-old’s (Gus) best friend – something she is grateful for. It started as a way for Gus to get his (what seemed to be an endless) fill of information on trains and planes. But it grew into much more. As Ms. Newman explains:

So how much more worthy of his care and affection is Siri, with her soothing voice, puckish humor and capacity for talking about whatever Gus’s current obsession is for hour after hour after bleeding hour? Online critics have claimed that Siri’s voice recognition is not as accurate as the assistant in, say, the Android, but for some of us, this is a feature, not a bug. Gus speaks as if he has marbles in his mouth, but if he wants to get the right response from Siri, he must enunciate clearly…

She is also wonderful for someone who doesn’t pick up on social cues: Siri’s responses are not entirely predictable, but they are predictably kind — even when Gus is brusque. I heard him talking to Siri about music, and Siri offered some suggestions. “I don’t like that kind of music,” Gus snapped. Siri replied, “You’re certainly entitled to your opinion.” Siri’s politeness reminded Gus what he owed Siri. “Thank you for that music, though,” Gus said. Siri replied, “You don’t need to thank me.” “Oh, yes,” Gus added emphatically, “I do.”

We encourage you to read the full NYT piece so you can enjoy this mom’s amazing observations.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Broccoli Compound = Autism Treatment?

broccoli

Apparently so! A new study is showing that a compound extracted from broccoli sprouts may improve some social and behavioral issues that can impact children with autism. Specifically, it’s a compound called sulforaphane and it’s found in broccoli and some other veggies.

So, you may be wondering, how would this broccoli compound help? It’s related (as described here) to a phenomenon known as the ‘fever effect’ seen is some autistic children – where issues such as repetitive behaviors temporarily fade when a child has a fever.  This improvement could stem from that fact that a fever triggers a heat-shock response that impacts those behaviors – - and this sulforaphane has been found to trigger such a heat-shock response.

Keep in mind that this preliminary study was small and brief – and everyone in the study didn’t respond to the treatment (in fact, about 1/3 didn’t have a positive response). But it’s something new to look at – and it has promise – and we should expect that it will be studied further.

Check out more on this study here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

CAR Autism Roadmap

CAR

If you’re in the Philadelphia area (or the tri-state area), there’s a great new resource now available from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The hospital’s Center for Autism Research (CAR) created a website for families touched by autism called the CAR Autism Roadmap.

It’s a helpful place to visit if you’re just starting out after a diagnosis or even if you’ve had autism as part of your life for years because it offers guidance and a huge directory for those searching for therapists, support groups, doctors, dentists, education support, etc. It also has articles written by CHOP staff and specialists.

When you’re starting out with a diagnosis, figuring out what to do next – or who to go to – can be completely overwhelming, so this Roadmap can help make that transition smoother. Or, if you’re looking for some new therapies or just new local resources, this site can help with that too.

You can check it out here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Young Artist’s Works Are Big Sellers

Lately we have been talking about some extraordinary young people who have found a passion. Young Iris Grace is also one of them. Even at the young age of 5, she has discovered her talent for painting – and her work has already been sold to private art collectors all over the world.

Iris is only now starting to talk and painting was introduced as a way to help with speech therapy, joint attention and turn taking – and then her parents realized she had a gift for painting and could concentrate for about 2 hours each time she paints. Her artwork is so beautiful and all of the sales for her art go towards more art materials and ongoing therapies.

Iris Grace

Iris Grace

'Raining Cats'

‘Raining Cats’

We invite you to visit Iris’s website for more info.

Lynsey, Community Manager