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

Finding His Passion In Football

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press

Just recently we talked about Mike Brannigan, an autistic young man who is currently one of the best young athletes in the country, and now another young man from the autism community is making headlines for his athleticism. Meet Josh Bailey, a senior at Lakeland High School in Michigan, who is a star member of his football team – even being appointed captain for their first game this season (they use a rotating captain system).

It’s an amazing story, really. At 2, Josh was diagnosed with autism and didn’t learn to speak until 3 ½. Growing up he was seen as shy and was depressed because he felt he was missing something from his life. There was a lot of intervention and a lot of hard work (explained by Josh’s dad in this Detroit Free Press article).

Then, when Josh was in high school, he found his passion – football – and it opened a whole new world to him. Now standing at 6-feet-6-inches and weighing 270 pounds, Josh is an enthusiastic and integral part of the school’s team.

Granted, this is an extraordinary story, not what you’d typically expect. As DFP article discusses, you may see autistic teens be part of a team, but it may be more of a solitary type team (such as chess, etc.) because of social stress. But Josh was able to harness his natural focus – or fixation, as it’s noted – on football, which has really brought him out of his shell. As he said,

 “I’m autistic and proud. I’m not afraid to be open about it. I’ve been through a lot through autism. I turned it from something that hindered me as a child and now I can show people, ‘Hey, a kid with autism is making it in football.’

“People can call me an inspiration, but I’m just living my dream. I got through a lot and I’m still here standing. I may fall but I will not give up. I will keep rising again.”

Amazing! You can read more about Josh and his journey here.

Lynsey, Community Manager