Anita Lesko and Abraham Nielson will be getting married this weekend, and they have planned something significant to mark the occasion – they’re going to have the first all-autism wedding.
Both Anita and Abraham on the spectrum, and their entire wedding party and all the participants – such as the ring bearer, harpist, cake baker, groomsman, etc.) identify as autistic. They met initially through an autism support group, which was led by Anita, and after some time they went to dinner. As Antia describes,
“We got into these big conversations about our feelings, our emotions and our loneliness issues. That was the night that we fell in love with each other,” she says of that evening in May 2014.
The wedding will take place at San Diego’s Love & Autism: A Conference with a Heart, a conference organized by Dr. Jenny Palmiotto to bring awareness to the fact that every individual deserves to be loved.
Anita said, “People on the spectrum tend to not get invited to parties or weddings or anything. I figured our wedding could give folks on the spectrum an opportunity to get to attend a wedding and be part of something like that.”
Congratulations to Anita & Abraham! You can read more about their story here.
Jackson Cook is one impressive 8-year old. He took a very brave step at the beginning of his school year at the Twin Cities German Immersion School, where he is in the third grade, by giving a speech about autism. You see, Jackson, nicknamed Jax, wanted his new class to understand why he’s easily frustrated or avoids eye contact – and why he needs extra help sometimes. So, with help from his mom, Jax wrote a heartfelt speech, which he read to his class. In it, he shared:
“Raise your hand if you know what autism is. Raise your hand if you know that I have autism. It makes some parts of my brain work really well and some parts of my brain work not very well. Doctors don’t know what makes some brains have autism and some brains not have it. I have it, but Charley doesn’t, even though he’s my twin brother.
Sometimes I need help learning things that other brains automatically know. Like my brain tells my body that it is not comfortable to look at someone in the face when they talk to me.
The autism in my brain is something that I like, and something that I don’t like, but it’s part of me, just like your brain is part of you.”
When asked about Jax’s speech, one of his classmates said, “I thought it was a good speech because it was really nice and really brave.”
We know that for every four boys diagnosed with autism, there is only one girl diagnosed. And while that ratio may imply that autism is more prevalent in boys than girls, it doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the case.
According to a new study, there are significant brain structure and behavior deviations between boys and girls touched by autism. Girls with autism often display symptoms differently—specifically, girls tend to show less repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, a narrow scope of focus, or even the need for rigid routines are not as prominent.
What this means is that girls with autism could be getting overlooked, or it may make it harder for them to get the right kind of therapy. This type of study could prove extremely helpful in understanding how autism differs between the sexes, leading to better diagnostic criteria and treatment.
Prepare to be blown away by talent! Seven-year-old Jacob Velazquez, featured in this video, showcases his amazing piano skills with a medley of Taylor Swift songs, such as “Bad Blood” and “Shake It Off.”
Jacob, who has autism, gives a shout-out to Taylor at the start of the video, saying, “I’m your biggest fan and I hope you can sign this for me one day.” (holding up her album “1989”). And it looks like Jacob’s wish will come true – after sharing the video online, Taylor responded via Twitter saying, “I HAVE to give you a hug for that beautiful piano medley you did! Please come to a show on my tour and say hi to me? My treat.”
This may come as no surprise to some of the parents reading this post, but a new study has shown that many people with autism are exceptionally creative.
Researchers in the study used the Alternate Uses Test, which asks participants (some who have autism and some who don’t) to think of possible uses for everyday items such as a brick or paper clip. As described, this test is usually used to measure divergent thinking–a thinking style in which creative ideas are generated through the exploration of as many possible solutions to a single problem. And while participants with autism tended to come up with fewer responses, the responses they did come up with were considered more unique and were typically not the common responses to the questions, showing a remarkable level of creativity.
The researchers were, at least, a bit surprised by the findings – the study’s lead author said to the Huff Post that “people with high autistic traits could be said to have less quantity but greater quality of creative ideas. They are typically considered to be more rigid in their thinking, so the fact that the ideas they have are more unusual or rare is surprising.”
Let’s be honest, we all want our children to make friends. And with autism, finding and maintaining friends can be met with varying levels of challenge. So one mom, Dawn Dudley, took it upon herself to make it a little easier for her daughter – as well as other girls touched by autism – with creation of My Circle of Girls. This group, based in North Carolina, was founded by Dudley to bring girls with autism and their families together – with the opportunity to make friends, know each others’ struggles and celebrate victories.
Each month the group gets together for social and service activities in the community. The purpose is focused on getting the girls to bond while offering them fun experiences. And in just 18 short months since the group was formed, it’s already getting get praise – in fact, Dawn says that parents have told her that the group has been more effective than some of the therapies they’re pursuing for their daughters.
This is such a great concept, and obviously a much-needed one. With autism being diagnosed in boys four times more than girls, there really aren’t any girl-specific programs available. So while My Circle of Girls is based in NC, there is already interest coming in from other states to build similar groups, so we hope this is a format that gets picked up for many other young ladies to benefit from.
Social struggles are a part of what many people with autism tend to face. While those touched by autism may find making friends to be difficult, the notion that it is impossible for autistic individuals to make friends is exactly the assumption Bryan Chandler is setting out to dispel. Bryan has Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) and – as he shared on The Mighty – feels that “we may have difficulty making friends, but we’re certainly able to make friends. It needs to be the right kind of person who’s willing to understand and accept the individual for who he or she is.” He goes on to say that the “general perception of autism makes me want to fall into my shell and recluse myself from the world. So my advice would be to stop talking and start listening to those on the spectrum.”
The numerous heartfelt responses were varied – with some invaluable insights. Here are just some of them:
“I have very few close friends, and many of them also have Asperger’s or another form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We get along because of mutual understanding of each other’s strengths and limitations.” – Rhiannon Hartwell
“I can make friends. It’s maintaining them [that’s] hard.” – Evenstar Hebert
“My desire and need for isolation is so great and I almost never feel lonely…nurturing my budding friendship with the time and attention needed is very difficult for me.” – Dymphna Dionne Janney
“I just enjoy being with those few close friends who I have a great bond with. My acquaintances just don’t know how to relate to me completely.” – Chris Buley
Two new interesting studies have come out – one focused on the rate of autism and the other on a possible hormone that is linked with social difficulties.
The rate of autism has been continuously increasing over the years, with the latest figures showing that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. The rate increase hasn’t been attributed to anything specifically, and questions are mounting as to what has caused the increase. A new study, however, may have provided an answer – the rate is likely due to a change in the way children are being classified and diagnosed. A team from Penn State University looked at special education enrollment and found that the increase in students designated as having autism could be offset by nearly equal decrease in students diagnosed with other intellectual disabilities often seen along with autism. So conditions that were once likely classified as something else are now being identified as autism, probably due to broader awareness.
Another study showed that children with autism who struggle with “theory of mind” – the social skills that deals with the realization that other people have different perspectives, feelings and experiences – have lower vasopressin levels. Vasopressin is a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and may play a role in social behavior. There are currently no medications that effectively treat social deficits, so this could prove a target for future focus.