My Circle of Girls

dawn-dudleyLet’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.

Check out more on My Circle of Girls.

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

 

Look At Me

Look At Me
Technology has become a great tool that has helped many touched by autism to communicate, work on social skills and it also can be an overall learning aide. And now Samsung has released a new app called Look At Me that claims it can help children learn how to better maintain eye contact.

The app, which is available on Google Play, was developed by doctors and professors at Seoul National University Bundag Hospital and Yonsei University Department of Psychology. As discussed in this article, Look At Me uses photos, facial recognition technology and games to help children identify emotions and communicate with other people. The team that created the app had conducted a clinical trial and said that 60% of the 20 children that participated showed improvement in making eye contact.

Check out the app here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Lunch Buddies

Tate (center) and two of his buddies

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

 

Reaction to Jerry Seinfeld’s Self-Diagnosis

NBC News

NBC News

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