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.
Being a parent is truly a gift, but I don’t think anyone will argue that the role doesn’t come with challenges. And parenting a child with autism sometimes comes with its own unique set of challenges. They might come in the form of, for example, extended tantrums, toilet training difficulties, hitting, trouble going to bed and/or getting up in the morning, and not willing to eat or try new foods.
If you’re familiar with Kyle’s Treehouse, you may already know that The Son-Rise Program was the treatment Jen and Jeff Westphal pursued for Kyle. It’s a home-based option that is designed to help children dramatically improve in all areas of learning, development, communication and skill development – in a fun and loving manner.
So if you’re looking for help on:
How to toilet train without pushing or pressure
Introducing new foods without a fight
What to do when your child tantrums, hits and bites
How to introduce tooth brushing, hair cutting and getting dressed in an enjoyable way
Lately we have been talking about some extraordinary young people who have found a passion. Young Iris Grace is also one of them. Even at the young age of 5, she has discovered her talent for painting – and her work has already been sold to private art collectors all over the world.
Iris is only now starting to talk and painting was introduced as a way to help with speech therapy, joint attention and turn taking – and then her parents realized she had a gift for painting and could concentrate for about 2 hours each time she paints. Her artwork is so beautiful and all of the sales for her art go towards more art materials and ongoing therapies.
We invite—actually, encourage– you to read Ron Suskind’s recent piece for the New York Times, in which he beautifully captures the journey he and his family have been on since his younger son, Owen, was diagnosed with autism. Owen was just 3-years-old when he was diagnosed—a once chatty, engaged child full of speech went silent, stopped sleeping, wouldn’t make eye contact. It was, as doctors determined, regressive autism.
Something that remained even after autism had silenced Owen was his love of Disney movies. And it was this love of Disney movies that led their family down an interesting road because, as they learned over time, they were able to use these Disney movies to connect and communicate with their son – and it turned into something that they devoted a lot of their lives to cultivate.
Yes, the title of this is correct – a family is fighting for their beloved chickens! Why?, you might ask. Well, Ashleigh and Joe Hart, and their 3-year-old son, J.J., who has autism, live in DeBary, FL., a small town near Orlando. A while back, Ashleigh and Joe bought a few chickens in an effort to add fresh eggs to their meals. But they got much more than fresh eggs from the experience. What they found is that J.J., who barely spoke and had temper tantrums – and who had limited success with occupational, speech and other related therapies – had an amazing response to the chickens. He connected with them, and has brought out an outgoing boy who loves to chase after the chickens and hold them.
So that was the good news. The bad news is that their town of DeBary, as noted by the Today Show that did this segment on the family, limits the kinds of animals that can be kept in residential homes. Its city council had approved a one-year pilot program that allowed the family to keep the chickens, but that pilot program is coming to an end and city has decided to not allow it to continue. Not surprisingly, this decision was met with a lot of negative feedback, considering the great benefit these chickens have had on J.J. Many people have noted their support for the Hart family on the town’s Facebook page, and, as reported, the family has hired a lawyer to try and figure out how they may be able to keep their treasured feathered friends – plus they have created a Change.org petition.
Facing autism can be so daunting, and as parents, we would do anything and everything to help our children. How wonderful is it that the Harts found something that truly connected with their child and brought out such happiness in him. And how sad that J.J. and his family may have that taken away. Hopefully this family and their town can come to a favorable resolution.
Lynsey, Community Manager
UPDATE! Good news – it’s been reported that the City Council has scheduled a vote for Dec. 18 that will hopefully determine a resolution that would let J.J. keep his chickens as a reasonable accommodation under the Federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts.