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.

A Look Back at 2015

Here we are again…another year coming to a close (time flies!). It was quite a full year with much to talk about. Before we bid an official goodbye to 2015, we wanted to reflect on some highlights that this past year has brought us.

Invaluable insights. There are a lot of people that write about autism (myself included…), have opinions about autism or research autism, but the perspectives that are truly invaluable came from those that have autism.  For example, in attempt to build a greater understanding of autism, we learned of a brave boy named Jackson Cook who gave a speech to his third-grade class about his autism. There was also 7-year-old Molly-Raine Adams, who wrote a list describing the qualities of a true friend, as well as Michael Whary, a teen from Ohio that made a video for parents children with autism, sharing how autism doesn’t make him different, it makes him Michael.

New diagnostic tools. There has been so much new research unveiled this past year and we may be getting closer to getting some concrete answers on the parts of autism that still remain unknown. There are also new diagnostic tools being developed and evaluated that could help in the early detection and diagnosis of autism. Two promising techniques included a MRI-like scan that could identify autism within two minutes and a sniff test that looks at responses to smells.

The call to vaccinate. The debate over vaccinations, particularly the MMR vaccine, came screaming back to the forefront this year following an outbreak of measles. It was a time to reflect on the importance of vaccinations and how they save lives. Even President Obama weighed in on the debate saying, “There is every reason to get vaccinated – there aren’t reasons to not.”

Acts of kindness. There were many heartwarming stories coming from the autism community, and thanks to social media we all got to hear about them! These are the types of stories that remind us there are good people in this world and it’s that kind of positivity that’s worth sharing.  Some of our favorites include how a community saved a birthday party, how a class’ cheers helped a young boy’s fears, a special birthday party invite, and, most recently, a story of an extra caring Santa.

Last, but certainly not least, we met Julia. Sesame Street introduced us to the newest member of the neighborhood, Julia, who is the show’s first character with autism. Julia is part of Sesame Workshop’s initiative, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, which looks to offer ways families can overcome common challenges and foster ‘an affirming narrative around autism for all families and kids.’

Great strides and stories coming out of 2015, and we look forward to what is ahead. Wishing you and your family and healthy & happy new year!

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Cover Girl

Cover GirlMeet Kiley Lyall, the first runner with autism to be on the cover of Women’s Running magazine. Kiley was selected as the magazine’s cover girl by readers as part of a contest.

Running since the age 8, Kiley, now 24, has a number of races under her belt and has done it all while dealing with autism, mild cerebral palsy and life-threatening seizures. Kiley’s mom, Kathleen, explains in this article, the sport has improved her daughter’s condition.  She said, “With everything she struggles with, she realized that running made her body feel so much better. She started talking more, and she started wanting to run more because it made her feel better.”

Kiley is a great inspiration and being on the cover of this magazine is much more than just a photo. As Kathleen said, “We’re hoping that it will open doors for these other athletes that have limited abilities, and just promote what they can do. Everyone thinks that running is this big elite thing – and it does take motivation and determination – but we want to change perception of these individuals and let people know that they’re very, very capable of achieving their goals.”

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Caring Santa

Every year at Christmas time, you may be fighting an internal struggle – should we go visit Santa or skip it? Sure, you’d love to have that moment with Santa—your child is excited about Christmas, that’s for sure—and getting a good picture with him would be a bonus. BUT, if that Santa visit is in a mall or another high-traffic location, chances are that it’s a big sensory storm for your child—the lights, the music, the crowds, the waiting—and it may be just too much for them.

The good news is that many places are now offering special times for children with autism to visit Santa in a more sensory-friendly environment. It was an offer like this that allowed Erin Deely and her husband to take their son, Brayden, to see Santa at their local mall in North Carolina. The Deelys thought their chance of having Brayden visit Santa and get that traditional holiday snapshot was not possible after their son was diagnosed at age 3. But thanks to the Caring Santa program, organized by Autism Speaks, Brayden got to hang out with Santa on his own terms. As Erin explained it, “He (Santa) got down on his stomach and just started playing with him. They didn’t even talk to each other, really, they just bonded and played, and Brayden started to be really excited and started looking at him and smiling.”
caring santa

Thanks to this Santa, Brayden and his family had the holiday experience they had always hoped for. And while the Caring Santa program is in malls in 120 cities, there are similar sensory-friendly Santa events happening in additional locations, so chances are there’s one near you.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

The Impact of Our Words

I am CadenceThis is a note that captures a conversation between a mother and her 7-year-old daughter, Cadence, who has autism.  It’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming – and above all else, it’s a good reminder that we, particularly us adults, need to recognize that our words and actions can have a tremendous impact on our children. It was overhearing other adult discussions among parents and listening to the news that led Cadence to believe she was “bad” for having autism.  As Cadence’s mom, Angela, shared in her message on “I am Cadence

What ‘messages’ are children hearing—from ourselves, from other parents, at school, from media and in the general community? And what are the ‘take home’ learnings, spoken or unspoken, they are internalizing from these messages?

Cadence expressed what many children may be feeling, but unable to say, so let her words spread far and wide so we all may be more compassionate and respectful.

Lynsey, Community Manager

1 in 45 Children with Autism

1in45According to a new government estimate, about 1 in 45 children in the U.S. has autism. The estimate, which comes from researchers at the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), is based on data collected during a yearly survey, from interviews of parents about their children, and is the first report of the prevalence of autism in the U.S. to include data from years 2011 to 2014.

While this looks like a substantial increase from the CDC’s last estimate, which was 1 in 68 children and just announced over the summer, the previous estimate was determined from a different survey that gathers information from children’s medical records and it was based on data collected during 2010.

The reason for this increase may not necessarily be that there are more children with autism than there have been in previous years—meaning, there’s likely no factors such as environmental conditions, etc. that can be causing the increase. Instead, the rate increases could be attributed to growing awareness of autism and more children being more appropriately diagnosed on the spectrum versus other conditions. The way in which data was collected and the questions that were asked of parents have also been restructured a bit, which may have also impacted the data collected. (read more about that here).

And while the 1 in 68 rate will still be treated as the best estimate, the newly reported number can be an indicator that the 1 in 68 is an underestimate.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Chef Chase

chasenyurface.com

chasenyurface.com

This is a budding chef named Chase Bailey. He’s a 13-year old based in California and host of his own cooking show on YouTube. Chase was diagnosed with autism at 2-years-old and his mom, Mary, was given some tough warnings at that time about Chase’s future – he may never get a job, learn to socialize or lead an independent life.  One of the things Chase struggled with early on was eating—like many on the spectrum, the various textures, smells and tastes were overwhelming for him. He stuck with a basic diet of pizza, chicken, french fries, cookies and chips.

That all changed, though, when he started watching cooking shows with his grandfather. He, as explained here, got hooked on watching people enjoy the food they were eating and then asked to start trying some of the food he was seeing on TV. Among his early requests – fried alligator and frog legs.

This discovery of food led to the creation of “Chase ‘N Yur Face” on YouTube, where you can watch Chase cook up all sorts of culinary treats (and get visits from other chefs!)

It’s a great story and good reminder of the importance of finding inspiration and something you connect with – no matter what it may be, and no matter how big or small it is – because it was brings out the best in us.

Check out http://www.chasenyurface.com/

Lynsey, Community Manager

Keeping Up with Santino’s Dragons

santinosdragon.myshopify.com

santinosdragon.myshopify.com

We wanted to share a little update on one of our favorite featured kids from this past year. Back in May, we talked about Santino Stagliano, who was diagnosed with autism more than five years ago. With his parents’ encouragement, Santino was able to direct his love of drawing and dragons to create beautiful t-shirts that he is selling and donating half of the proceeds to the Center for Autism. Best of all, this process had given Santino a boost of self-esteem and a way to connect with people.

Now, fast-forward only a few months and Santino’s Dragons is expanding, doing amazing things. Santino, who is 10 years old, recently visited William Penn Charter school to share his story, his t-shirts and autism awareness with other kids his age. As his dad explains, Santino wasn’t even able to speak to anyone six months ago. And now, he’s talking in front of large groups of kids and fielding questions from students.  For example, while at Penn Charter, he was asked:

How do you make dragons? “It’s what you feel inside, and you just do it,” Santino said.

What special things can you do? “I can climb trees, I can swim fast, and one time I went on this ride that teenagers usually go on, and I wasn’t scared at all.”

Who inspires you? “I get inspired by this person,” he said, pointing to his mom.

Santino also started a program called “Find Your Dragon,” which is designed to help children with autism express themselves and make friends. And if that wasn’t enough, he also chooses one child every month and does something special for them.

What an amazing kid – he is truly an inspiration. I have a feeling this will be one of many updates we’ll be doing about all of the tremendous and impactful work he is doing.

Check out more on Santino’s Dragons Facebook page.

Lynsey, Community Manager