Getting Prepped for Flying

Wings for AutismSummer is just about here, and for a lot of us that means trips to celebrate graduations, weddings, family gatherings, and just good ole’ vacations are on the near horizon. You could be considering flying to your destination, but may be understandably hesitate if you’re concerned how your child/grandchild may do on the plane. Airports and planes can be a source of distress – due to long lines, going through security, plane noises, etc. With that in mind, some airports are hosting programs that will let you ‘practice’ flying – allowing your family to go through the process of flying without actually taking off. This way, your child/grandchild can get a feel for everything in a comfortable environment. Here are some of the programs currently underway, and more are being created in various airports across the country.

Have you tried any of these programs? If so, let us know how it went!

Lynsey, Community Manager

Prom Date

Prom Photo

I really love this story and wanted to share it with all of you (in case you haven’t seen it).  Nineteen-year-old Jon Larson, who has autism, was able to do something his parents never thought was a possibility – he attended his junior prom. His date for the evening was Maddi Colbeth, a fellow student at Clear Lake High in Wisconsin. Jon and Maddi met through a school club that, as noted in this article, encouraged friendships between disabled students and those without disabilities.

After Maddi joined the club she noticed that Jon was eating lunch alone and started eating with him–and they’ve had lunch together every day since. When it came time for Jon’s junior prom (Maddi is a senior), she asked Jon if he wanted to go and said, as that same article notes, “I knew he wouldn’t have gotten the chance if it wasn’t for me asking him, so I thought he deserved the chance to go. I thought he would enjoy that.”

And it seemed he did – they prepped in advance for the dance, even visiting the restaurant they would eat at ahead of time to get familiar with everything. At the prom, Jon danced and had a good time.

The friendship between these two teens is a wonderful thing to see, and I’m so glad Jon’s dad shared this story on Facebook. My hope is that more schools take on a similar club so others can benefit from such special bonds and experiences.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Study Connecting Placenta to Identifying Autism Risk

It seems like a study comes out every other day regarding the potential cause of autism, or even what may put children more at risk for developing autism. We’re still very much in the dark, it seems, about what is the cause of autism, with researchers leaning mostly toward a genetic link.

Even in the past month or so there’s been studies suggesting everything from an antidepressant that may cause autism, to an epilepsy drug taken during pregnancy posing a higher risk for autism, to excessive multivitamin use causing autism in young children.

However, one study that has been widely covered recently is about early detection of autism. The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, looked at placentas at birth to determine the chance of being at risk for autism. Researchers looked specifically at women who already had children on the spectrum and found their placentas (following the delivery of their newborns) were different than others. The difference identified were abnormal folds and abnormal cell growth in the placenta. As noted in this WebMD article, the placentas from the at-risk pregnancies (meaning they already had children with autism, putting them at a higher risk for having additional children on the spectrum) were eight times more likely to have two or more of these abnormal folds than samples from not-at-risk deliveries.

Check out this NY Times article for additional details.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

A much buzzed-about film coming out of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival is “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors.” It’s a story about a young Mexican-American teen (“Ricky”) with autism who runs away from home and escapes into the NYC subway system where he is put out of his element and faces tough obstacles like hunger, among other things. While at the same time, above ground, his mother and family are in a desperate race to find him.

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors The story, which is based a true story about a 13-year-old autistic boy from the Bronx who rode for the subway by himself for three days last year, delves into the struggles that families touched by autism can face, while also, as it’s described, it tells a story “about community, family, togetherness and the undeniable human desire to reach across the daunting chasms that divide us—to connect.”

To get a little more insight into the creation of the film, here are some excerpts from an interview that the film’s director, Sam Fleischner, did with the Wall Street Journal:

On casting the lead role of Ricky, played by Jesus Sanchez-Velez, who is autistic:

“I wasn’t interested in working with a child actor and trying to tell him what it’s like to be autistic. I don’t really know what it’s like to be autistic. I really wanted to cast a kid that was actually on the spectrum.” (Production found Jesus through autism blogs.) He went on to say, “ Jesus looked the right amount like Andres (who played his mother) and he’s a very patient and hard-working kid.”

On being inspired by the real-life story of a 13-year-old autistic boy who rode the subway for three days last year, and learning that the situation is not unique:

“That introduced me to the phenomenon they call ‘eloping.’ Something like half of all autistic kids run away at some point. Specifically in New York, they are often attracted to the subway system.”

To see the full WSJ article, click here.

And to see more info on the film, check out

Lynsey, Community Manager