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
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
Some 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