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

 

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

 

 

Puzzles Bakery and Café

www.puzzlesbakerycafe.com

www.puzzlesbakerycafe.com

There are so many efforts underway for autism awareness and it’s amazing to see how much those efforts have opened doors for– and many people’s eyes to – the autism community. However, one area that doesn’t often get as much attention, but truly needs to, is the support of adults with autism. There are a lot of people that still think autism is a ‘childhood disorder’ that people tend to ‘grow out of.’ But as we know, there is a large, and growing, amount of underserved adults with autism – many who had services and support throughout their entire life until adulthood, when those services were no longer accessible.

So, what can be done? One big step in the right direction is how some companies are creating jobs for those touched by autism and/or providing training to develop the skills people need for employment. One small cupcake shop making a big impact is Puzzles Bakery and Café based in Schenectady, NY. Half of the staff at this café has autism. The owner, Sara Mae Hickey, who has a sister on the spectrum, saw a need in the community for employment opportunities for young adults with autism and said, “A lot of us are exposed in our everyday lives, but it’s really great to put a face on that and to know that the person bringing you lunch may or many not have special needs and that’s just normal.”

The café offers pet therapy and other programs for those it can’t employ. Since Puzzles opened, they have received 600 applications, but the café can only employ 25.  (check out more in this article).  That just goes to show that a tremendous need exists, and places like Puzzles, while a start, can’t do it alone. It’s our hope that others follow in their footsteps so that we can continue to support all people touched by autism throughout their life.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Wedding Story

loveandautism.com

loveandautism.com

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.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

The Best School Speech

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 couldn’t agree more! Check out more on Jax’s speech here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Making Friends

Making FriendsSocial 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.”

To further his important point, he went out and asked his Asperger Syndrome Awareness Facebook community: Do any other ‘Aspies’ struggle making and maintaining friendships?

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

You can read Bryan’s full post here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Spectrum Singles

Spectrum Singles 2A mother-daughter duo has created something new for the dating world – an online site for singles with autism. Olivia Cantu and her mom, Kristen Fitzpatrick, are both on the spectrum and felt that there was a need for a site where people could meet for potential dating and friendship opportunities – so they came up with SpectrumSingles.com.

As reported in People Magazine, the site uses a large questionnaire, called the Spectrum Compatibility Test (SCT), to match users. Topics such as social comfort, attention tendencies and other areas are covered, and then users are grouped based on their preferences.

It’s still a fairly new site, but it’s already getting lots of great buzz and feedback. Check their site or visit them on Facebook.

Lynsey, Community Manager