As autism rates continue to climb, so too does the problem of safety-related incidents, many of which result in injury or death. In the past year alone, it seemed as if a month didn’t go by without some kind of tragic story involving wandering, bullying and/or abuse involving individuals with autism.
To help address these issues head-on, the National Autism Association, in collaboration with AutismCollege.com, has announced the availability of a free online safety conference that will take place throughout the month of February. Educational webinars, all 90-minutes in length, will
cover topics addressing sexual-abuse, bullying, suicide, wandering prevention and restraint & seclusion — all for parents and caregivers affected by autism and other related disorders.
"Autism Safety and Crisis Prevention" will feature presentations by topic experts, followed up by a Q&A session for participants. The webinar schedule is as follows:
Saturday, February 11, 8:15 am – 9:45 am PST, Dr. Nora Baladerian, Ph.D. will present “How Can Parents Reduce the Risk of Sexual Abuse of Their Child or Young Adult?”
Saturday, February 11, 10:00 am – 11:30 am PST, Dr. Lori Ernsperger will discuss “The 3 R’s to Bullying Prevention for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Recognize, Respond, and Report.”
Wednesday, February 15, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm PST, Dr. Joshua Feder will discuss “The Problem of Depression and Suicidal Ideation in Autism and Related Disorders.”
Saturday, February 18, 8:15 am – 9:45 am PST, Wendy Fournier of the National Autism Association will discuss wandering prevention and response.
Saturday, February 18, 10:00 am – 11:30 am PST, Pat Amos, M.A. will discuss “Preventing and Eliminating the Use of Restraints and Seclusion.”
It’s worth noting that the National Autism Association, who is helping to put this conference together, has an excellent track record of advocating for increased safety awareness within the autism community. In fact, they are a member of The Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education
(AWAARE) Collaboration. This is an organization comprised of some of the nation’s largest autism groups, focusing on preventing wandering-related
incidents and wandering-related deaths within the autism community. They offer a great PDF safety brochure that can be downloaded
Be sure to check out the first set of safety webinars a week from this Saturday and make sure you tell others about it. Just one piece of information you take away from these sessions could help avoid an unfortunate situation and may even save the life of someone you love.
Today is January 31, 2012. For Derek Hoare, this simply means it’s day number 230 — the number of days his 10-year-old daughter with autism has been kept from him by Child Protective Services (MCFD) in Canada.
The tragedy began in Abbotsford, British Columbia on June 16, 2011 when Canadian authorities removed Ayn Van Dyk from her home after a wandering-related incident.
Hoare, a single father of three, briefly lost sight of Ayn while she was playing in the family’s backyard, which was surrounded by a 6-foot fence. Hoare immediately called police and a frantic search found her safe over in a nearby neighbor’s backyard.
Four days after the incident, Canadian authorities whisked Ayn away to a psychiatric facility where she was given dangerous and powerful antipsychotic drugs, maintaining they were simply lightening Hoare’s load. Ayn has been kept away from the family ever since.
We have previously covered this story, never believing this nightmare would continue for so long. Unfortunately, it has and by the looks of it, could continue for
the foreseeable future.
Last week on a blog supporting Ayn, Derek was quoted as saying the process of getting his daughter back could continue well into 2013 and is being handled through a painfully slow legal system.
We need to rally around Derek and draw additional media attention to this story. The fanfare has died down because the process has taken so long but in the meantime, the Canadian government continues to steal precious time away from this beautiful little girl and her father — time that they will never be able to get back.
Government intrusion in the lives of its citizens continues to increase and if situations like these are allowed to continue, they will only repeat
themselves — next time, it may even be your child. Spread the word of this injustice and help bring Ayn home:
February 12, 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of Autism Sunday, also known as the International Day of Prayer for Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Founded by UK couple Ivan and Charika Corea in 2002, Autism Sunday has grown into an international phenomenon, with some of the world’s top religious leaders acknowledging the special day of prayer, observed on the second Sunday of February. As with previous years, churches of all denominations (and their parishioners) will be asked to pray for the autism community and those
affected by the disorder.
Autism Sunday first began at a church service in St. Paul’s Cathedral (London) and was initially a small idea, but has since grown into a major
worldwide event, recognized in the past by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu and British Prime Minister David Cameron, just to name a few.
If your church is not aware of Autism Sunday, please send emails and make phone calls to help spread the word. A note in your church’s bulletin and/or newsletter will also go a long way in helping to let others know about it.
The promoters of Autism Sunday are also asking social media advocates to get involved. On Autism Sunday, please tweet as many messages as possible with the hash tag #AutismSunday to get the topic trending.
We hope you’ll consider getting involved and help make an eternal difference in the lives of those affected by autism, which is estimated to be
around sixty-seven million people around the world. I have personally seen the power and impact of prayer in my own family’s life and encourage everyone to participate in this special day.
It has been a long time since I have been profoundly moved by a television show that has left me feeling hopeful regarding the interconnectedness of humanity. For anyone who believes things happen for a reason, this will be your new favorite show. Having previewed their new baby on Wednesday, January 25, 2012, Fox will enjoy seeing news about this series spread in the coming months. When it debuts on March 19, 2012, it will be seen around the globe in more than 100 countries within 3 days’ period of time and try to achieve a level of connectedness by the fan-base as never before. Arguably it has been something people have been complaining about for quite some time about the US or Canada having exclusive access to a show, and other countries having to wait to see it, sometimes many weeks, sometimes many months, sometimes never, which leads to seeking access on torrent sites which ultimately results in the demise of a show because no one is live-viewing it anymore.
The story centers around Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) and his son, Jake Bohm (David Mazouz). Labeled “severely autistic”, Martin never believed in the diagnosis given to his child and seems to be just trying to do whatever he could to make a connection with his son, yet fully accepting and loving his child at whatever place he was (very Son-Rise-esque).
I am a mother with a child with severe autism. In the weeks leading up to the show, I seemed to be getting a lot of negative feedback about that–not ANOTHER show about another kid with autism–as if autism is the célèbre-du-jour of Hollywood. Indeed kids or adults with autism were turning up everywhere on every show either as part of the main cast or as a guest star. There are a few shows that got it right, but most did not. Most people with autism are not savants (only about 10%). While parents with autism appreciate the desire to bring awareness to the spectrum disorder, when it is depicted incorrectly, it hurts our cause. The general population has grown tired of hearing “My child has autism.” They scoff at you like you are just part of the misguided parents who need to have a diagnosis for their child. Or, you have the medical community trying to reclassify the spectrum of autism to water it down so it does not appear to be an epidemic (a blog for a later time). Even I started viewing this show with a bias.
FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS:
The show opens with a narrative from Jake about numbers very similar to the a belief borne from the red string of fate, a Chinese legend that said the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles of those that are destined to be soul mates and will one day marry each other. The two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break, a concept very similar to soul mates. But Tim Kring, the creator of Touch, twists this idea even further to tie a group of individuals together.
Fans of Jericho (or Three Rivers or Hawaii-Five-O) will be thrilled to see that Carol Barbee is executive producer on this pilot. Executive producer Peter Chernin now has another hit on his hands after enjoying great success with Terra Nova and New Girl, also on Fox. Also sharing executive producer co-credits are Katherine Pope (also of Terra Nova and New Girl), Kiefer Sutherland, and producers, Neal Ahern, Jr., (Terra Nova, Parenthood), and Dennis Hammer (Heroes, Crossing Jordan).
The show opens with Martin at his job at the JFK airport in New York where he is gathering a bunch of cell phones that were left in the lost and found and unclaimed, to his son who is fascinated by them. One of them rings as he is walking away. Apparently it is the owner of one of the phones trying to get the phone back after losing it at Heathrow Airport in London 2 days previously. He is not looking to get back the phone itself, but rather photographs within the phone. Apparently it is her birthday “tomorrow” but he is now in Mumbai. And he seems to be in great emotional distress. Martin’s phone is ringing so he places the man’s phone down in a bin. His son is in trouble. “I pay your school good money to keep my son safe. Are you grasping me?” Oh yes, I was relating to this character very much.
He’s off to talk his son down off an electricity tower, and I mean that literally. Meanwhile, the cell phone gets mixed up on top of some luggage. Jack Bauer is scared of heights? What? Oh wait, wrong show. It is hard NOT to put Kiefer automatically into the role of Jack. The workers want to know if the numbers 318 have any special meaning to Jake but Martin shrugs it off. A report to child services is going to need to be made.
On the way home, they stop at a gas station. Martin gazes at his son in the rear-view mirror while gazing over at the school bus filled with children talking and acting like normally developed children. My heart sinks. I know EXACTLY what this character is feeling. How many times have I done this with Patrick, just for a brief second wondering what life would be like? Martin and I share a common bond in addition to the fact that they are our only living child so we know really no other kind of life. He looks into the rear-view mirror and his son is gone, having taken off to go over towards the bus. Another similarity to autism–so I’m still very hesitant. How many of us turn away for a second and our kids with autism take off? Martin talks to his son like one would talk to their loved one in a coma, hoping that something they say will jar their loved one to respond in some way, desperately longing for that contact. I have been in this place, too, where Patrick was seemingly catatonic (but very noisy, unlike Martin’s Jake). Martin notices the number on the bus: District No 318. In the store, the TV is showing a story on “The Children of 9/11″ and the struggles they endure. A man is trying to buy a Lotto ticket. Jake looks up as the man calls out the numbers: 87 1 9 20 31 11. Jake grabs the Lotto ticket and runs to the car, locking the doors. He writes down these numbers on pages of numbers he already wrote previously and hands the ticket back. The man says, “You ought to keep that kid in a cage.” Oh yes, that is something we’ve had to endure hearing before. But this is actor Titus Welliver from “Lost” so I expect dark mystery to surround him.
Then we see a beautiful young singer, Kayla Graham (Karen David) on stage, surrounded by her fans, recording her performance on a cell phone that looks very similar to the one found at JFK. She does not believe she’ll ever be a big star. Her co-worker, Niles Borne, (Simon Delaney), tries to encourage her, saying half the company was there to support her tonight. He tells her that we all have a destiny, and hers is to be a big star. The cell phone, he believes, is the key. He found that the cell phone had traveled all around the world and now her recording was on it. The phone apparently right now is in Dublin, Ireland. He sticks the cell phone into the luggage of someone headed to Japan and away the cell phone goes.
An alarm set for 3:18 goes off at Martin’s computer. He goes in to put Jake to bed. Jake has apparently lined up cell phones. He mentions that the doctor said he was going to grow up bigger than him and how was that going to work? I’m already living that. I’m 5’3″ and my 16-year-old son is now 6 feet tall, and has seizures. The cell phones go off. Jake has all of them programmed to show the numbers 87, 1, 9, 20, 31, 11.
A family in the Middle East, Baghdad, is the next bunch introduced. The son is trying to imitate Chris Rock and wants to be a comedian. They need an oven to keep their bakery. It will cost 800,000 dinar (about $687 US dollars). The only way to make that kind of money is with shady characters who make people blow themselves up. His friend suggests they check out Hassam’s place.
Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) from family services show up at Martin’s door the next morning. One reality disconnect: They do not show up that quickly. I already dislike this woman, so she did a great job as an actress. She lists his inadequacies as a parent, supposing that the state could do a better job. Another reality disconnect: The writers did not Google: State facilities, Texas, fight clubs, Department of Justice report, Corpus Christi. “The financial challenges will only increase as your son gets older.” I can relate to that statement, but do you know what the first thing is to get cut when state budgets are on the line? Yep, people with disabilities. Good thing Martin lives in New York versus let’s say Texas.
Martin shares that her wife died in the 9/11 tragedy. While Clea is trying to “talk” with the silent Jake, Martin sees the numbers in the newspaper: The numbers belong to the new Lotto winner. The man (Randall) who bought the ticket realizes he is a winner and places a phone call to a woman. He says he wants to come home now.
Simon (the owner of the cell phone now off to Japan) is on a plane and calls a woman. He is on his way to Tokyo. He wants to be there for “her” birthday (the child) but the woman is short on conversation. She also appears to be in emotional pain. My first thought was a divorce. He asks her if they took any photographs of Lily while they were on vacation besides for the ones on his phone; a tear streams down her face as she says no.
Clea tries to explain the strange coincidence off as it being part of Jake’s autism, which Martin insists is NOT his diagnosis. Martin said that for all he knows Jake does not speak because he has nothing to say. Martin says he is trying to communicate; Clea belittles his thought to wish fulfillment. Her character then starts softening up, trying to say no one is judging him (but they are).
A young Japanese woman goes through the bag of the man who came from Ireland, the one with the cell phone in his bag. She and her friend, Izumi, are in a fan club of a group called “The Morticians” who are from Ireland (actually a band based out of Waco, Texas). The man lives in Tokyo but wants to have some fun with the young girl before going home. She grabs the cell phone in his bag and leaves.
Back in New York, Martin is leaving Jake at the boarding facility. Obviously no research has been done here either. These state facilities do NOT look like this gorgeous facility. My heart wrenches for Martin not only for having to leave his son in one of these places, but also that he cannot even hug him to say goodbye. Personally, I’d skip the country and run. No one is ever taking my kid from me. Martin then goes to visit the grave of his wife, Sarah. He says, “They say God never gives you more than you can handle. But I think he has this time.” Oh dear, the tears start streaming from my eyes. How many times have I felt and said the exact same words, or felt extreme anger at people who have said that to me, not having the slightest clue what our lives are like. He looks down to find a FDNY badge with the numbers 318 on them.
The Japanese girls see Kayla Graham’s video and decide to start up a fan club as they believe she is probably already a big star in Ireland. They are going to enlist the talents of their friend, Takezo, who runs the Jumbotron at Shibuya. They will get him to download “everything” on that phone and put it up on the Jumbotron (you can see where this is going). They’ll pass the phone to another client at 4:00 p.m. , who is catching a plane to Kuwait in 3 hours.
A search for mutism and cell phones leads Martin to the door of The Teller Institute that lists the following: Mysticism, Mythology and New Age interpretation; a rise in diagnosing behavioral disorders; for a select few, mutism is a false diagnosis; this is a beginning in a shift of consciousness. (Okay, now I’m thinking Mayan 2012 theories here). We are witnessing an evolutionary step (I’m thinking Alphas here). We must listen to their message. How string theory and quantum entanglement…. (I’m thinking Fringe). The geek that I am (and conditioned Lost fan) looked up the link to http://www.tellerinstitute/electromagnetism.html but it does not exist. He gets an address to this institute: 318 West Tesla Street, Bronx, NY. SWEET. It would have been really great if the address actually existed. A bath-robed Professor Arthur Dewitt (Danny Glover) answers the door. He talks about electromagnetism and that some kids (mostly) are just tuned into the right frequency. Interestingly, he gets Martin an orange soda, the same kind Jake drinks. Apparently Jake has discovered the Fibonacci mathematical sequence on his own. He shows him pictures of the curve, similar to how Jake lined up the cell phones. “The universe is made up of precise ratios and patterns. You and I–we don’t see them. But if we could, life would be magical beyond our wildest dreams, a quantum entanglement of cause and effect where everything and everyone reflects on each other. Every action, every breath, every conscious thought connected. Imagine the unspeakable beauty of the universe he sees. No wonder he doesn’t talk. ” Martin, excited, responds, “My son sees all that?” The professor continues, “Your son sees everything–the past, the present, the future. He sees how it’s all connected.” Martin responds, “You’re telling me my son can predict the future?” The professor adds, “I’m telling you, it’s a roadmap. And your job now, your purpose, is to follow it for him. It’s your fate, Mr. Bohm. It’s your destiny.” I know have complete chills. I see the parallels of my own life being reflected in this story. My Patrick has accomplished a great deal in his 16 years on this earth; my purpose is for him to fulfill his destiny. I have often felt like his conduit.
Back at the school, Clea becomes a believer when Jake uses popcorn to make the numbers 2, 1, 2, 9, 2, 0, 6, 9, 2, 2, the numbers which was her mother’s phone number before she died. And then her cell phone rings with that number. He goes over to circle 18 on the March calendar.
The Lotto winner is headed to Lynchburg, Virginia.
Martin looks at Jake’s numbers again and gets a phone number. Using modern technology, he puts it into the reverse phone numbers feature of a web site and it comes up as Grand Central Station at 87 East 42nd Street. Eighty-seven is the first number of the Lotto sequence. Clea knocks on his door; 3/18 is “today.” Martin is not sure if he is supposed to stop something from happening or make something happen, not only to happen on 3/18 but AT 3:18. Twenty-two minutes to Grand Central Station? Yeah, right. He better live close-by. When he locates the phone, there is a man talking on it. When he turns him around, he realizes it is the man from the store, the one who punched him. Now Martin punches back. The police break up the fight. It’s now 3:19 and Martin thinks he has failed.
Back in Iraq, a group of men walk in on the young boy at Hassam’s and they hide. They have a bunch of cell phones, including the one with Kayla Graham’s recording on it. A little girl sees them, but does not appear to give them away, but one of the terrorists comes back in. They catch him. He tells them about the oven and you can see the evil in their eyes. You know they are going to make him do something bad.
Back at Martin’s the 3:18 alarm goes off again on his computer; he notices there is a message on his answering machine. Randall Mead is calling him. Randall Mead who won Lotto; Randall Mead who was on the phone at Grand Central Station leaving Martin a message on his answering machine. He was a fire fighter on duty who tried to save his wife that tragic day. He was part of Ladder Company 318 on 9/11. He went to the 87th floor of the North Tower. His wife was alive, barely conscious and bleeding pretty badly. He carried her down 31 flights of stairs, but could not carry her any further. He convinced himself that she was dead, but the truth was he was not sure if she really was. He had been thinking about her for 10 years and had been playing the same lotto numbers every week for 10 years. 9, 11, 2001, 87th floor, 31 flights of stairs. He had wanted to try to make the numbers come out right. He was going to give all the money away. Then Martin hears himself on the phone answering machine, the encounter that happened at Grand Central Station. Then he hears Randall Mead’s name on the TV. Apparently the bus from the gas station had overturned in a bad rain storm. He pulled the kids from a burning bus. He said to the reporter if he had not missed his train, he would not have been there. Martin heads out to see his son, but his son escaped the state facility. Martin still does not know the further repercussions of this red thread.
Flash over to the Jumbotron where Simon, who is now in Tokyo, tries to call his phone: 44, 077, 0090, 0488. He gets Kayla Graham who is back at her day job. He wants her to find out where his phone is, but it is in “an invalid territory.” Kayla appears on the Jumbotron. He pleads with Kayla to please help him. Lily’s picture is in there, his daughter who died a year ago. Simon looks up at the Jumbotron and sees Lily’s pictures. It brings some peace to a grieving father. In Iraq, Simon’s phone rings. It is hooked up to a bomb that is now attached to our character’s chest. He pleads with Kayla to tell the world he was not a bad person; she tries to help him not explode. With all these wonderful connections, my heart was hoping this young man wouldn’t be blown up, that he would get his happy ending, too. Kayla tells him there is always a choice. They bond over Chris Rock. She asks him what would make him not do this. He tells her, “An oven.” She knows a guy (Simon) in restaurant supplies.
Martin and Clea find Jake at the tower. Jake narrates again: “The ratio is always the same: 1 to 1.68 over and over.” Kayla’s co-worker sees her video on YouTube with 1,621,318 views. Simon makes it home to his wife. Martin overcomes his fear of heights and climbs the tower to talk to Jake. Jake says, “Will these words be used to hurt or to heal?” Randall gets on a bus to Virginia. Martin tells Jake that he followed the numbers and people were saved. “I don’t know if you can even hear me, but I can hear you, Jake?” I’m sobbing at this point. How many times have I said this to my nonverbal son? Jake crawls over to him and for the first time in Martin’s life, gave Martin a hug. I have raccoon eyes by now; my mascara is flowing everywhere. I remember the first time my child have me what I call a half-hug. My dear friend who I shared my glee with said to me that she appreciated me sharing these things with her because it made her appreciate her neurotypical child even more. She never realized the things she took for granted, the comment that made me realize that Patrick’s purpose was for people to appreciate the people in their own lives and not take even simple things as eye contact for granted.
Jake grabbed Martin’s cell phone and pointed him on his next mission: 718-673-5296
Where I end my belief is this: How does Martin’s phone still work in that monster rainstorm?
My message to Tim Kring: Season 1 of Heroes was awesome. Touch has the possibility of great things that may start people thinking more about the ripple effect of their own actions, and acting more kind to each other. Don’t screw it up, okay? Save Touch, Save the world.
Among the many autism-related stories I have read, written and edited over the years, there are some that have left a profound and lasting impact on me. Stories involving wandering-related deaths involving children with autism are always heartbreaking, as are stories involving injustice suffered by those with autism and their families — of which, Ayn Van Dyk, Neli Latson and Aislinn Wendrow all come to mind. However, there is one story in particular that has been extremely troubling, not only because of the initial events, but also the aftermath and lack of closure that followed.
In August of 2009, a 20-second YouTube video (posted below) was released and showed a Pittsburgh-area teacher slapping and verbally abusing a student with autism. The incident, which occurred in March of 2008, revealed every autism parent’s worst nightmare: a physical assault at the hands of someone who’s job it is to care for and educate a special needs child.
In the video, a student named J.R. is violently slapped by his teacher, at which point she screams, “Stop moving your chair back. Move it! And you stay back there! I’ve had it with you!” The video was secretly recorded by a student aid, who claimed to have witnessed the same teacher physically assaulting the non-verbal youngster on previous occasions.
I spoke to J.R.’s mother about a year ago and at the time, little had taken place in the way of closure. In fact, the YouTube user who originally uploaded the video, a family friend, wrote the following last year:
"Update: This teacher was let go from her job, but no charges have been filed against her or the school district. The cameras that were supposed to be installed in all of the class rooms (sic) at this school…it has not happened."
This story is a sobering reminder of the constant vigilance that is needed when dealing with schools, teachers and caregivers that are involved in the lives of children with autism and other special needs. Hopefully, J.R. is doing well now and his family has been able to move on from this. Reopening old wounds is not the intention here, but this story should be a constant reminder of how vulnerable our children can be and how important it is to know exactly who we are entrusting them with.
Last year, we reported about an upcoming autism documentary from producer/director Richard Everts that involved a 40-day cross-country trip and 20 different autism families, speaking 5 different languages. At the time, producers of "The United States of Autism" were seeking funding for post-production expenses and marketing of the film. It now appears they are one step closer to getting it released.
Last week, it was announced that "The United States of Autism" was submitted to its first film festival (TriBeCa) in New York City. If selected, the film will be shown at TriBeCa in April (coinciding with Autism Awareness Month).
In following the progress of this project for about a year now, it’s evident that the entire production team, as well as the families involved in the film, have invested countless hours in ensuring their stories and voices are heard. Let’s rally behind these folks to make sure this film gets the distribution it deserves and has an impact in 2012.
Check out the trailer below and be sure to Tweet, Share and +1 to help spread the word.
An interesting article has been posted over at ShiftJournal.com by Amy Sequenzia, who has described herself as a non-speaking autistic and self advocate. In her post entitled "Non-speaking, ‘low-functioning,’" Amy takes issue with the stereotypes and labels that are often assigned to those with autism, particularly those who do not have the ability to speak. Her article begins as follows:
"I am autistic, non-speaking. I am also labeled “low-functioning”. This label is a pre-judgment based on what I cannot do. It makes people look at me with pity instead of trying to get to know me, listen to my ideas.
I am a self-advocate and I can type my thoughts. But, at the moment I show up with my communication device and an aide, my credibility, in the eyes of most neurotypical people, is diminished…"
The term "low-functioning" has become such a common part of the autism community’s vocabulary, it’s safe to say that only a handful have
given thought to how its application can affect others. But as Amy demonstrates, word choice does matter and can often profoundly affect the very individuals we are professing to help.
I recall the first time another parent corrected me when I used the term "autistic child" when describing a little boy with autism. This mother pointed out that the proper description should be "a child with autism," because the person should always come before the disorder.
I remember at the time thinking this was just an overly-sensitive, politically correct observation. However, as the years have gone by, I’ve learned that it’s important how we describe individuals with autism because ultimately, those definitions are what shape the perceptions of the general public. And once stereotypes set in, they are almost impossible to undo.
Case in point, Amy continues with the following:
"All the labels given to us only help to make myths seem like the reality. By classifying non-speaking autistic as low-functioning, one is lowering expectations for the autistic individual. He or she is not given a chance to express him/herself and maybe show hidden abilities."
I think many of us have much to learn from Amy and others like her. Those with autism are not some pitiable statistics to be discounted or marginalized, but rather brilliant, beautiful individuals who just happen to experience the world a little differently than most.
To read the entire article by Amy Sequenzia, click
In what appears to be an increasing trend in both movies and television, characters with autism (or autistic traits) have become a focal point of
interest for both writers and producers. As we mentioned last week, a new Tom Hanks movie is set for release later this month, revolving around the 9/11 attacks and a young boy with autism. In "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," nine-year-old Oskar Schell, who has high-functioning autism, must come to grips after his father (Hanks) is killed in the World Trade Center attacks. The discovery of a mysterious key by Schell causes him to embark on a remarkable journey of healing and discovery.
Coincidentally enough (or not), Fox has announced a new series that will also revolve around a 9/11 widower and a child with autism.
Beginning January 25, 2012, "Touch" will follow Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) as he struggles to connect with his non-verbal eleven-year-old son, Jake. Trapped in his own world and inability to speak, Jake keeps himself busy by disassembling phone parts and other repetitive activities, all while seeing the world in a unique way.
The show kicks into gear when Bohm learns that his son possesses incredible abilities and gifts involving numbers, all of which connect with people and events around the world.
After watching the preview, I was incredibly moved and am excited at the potential the show has to offer. As a huge fan of "Lost" and a parent of a child with autism, it looks to be right up my alley.
I did find it interesting that although Jake clearly displays characteristics of autism (non-verbal, fascination with numbers, etc.) I could not find anywhere in the Fox promotional info where autism is mentioned. This was also the case with the Hanks movie and no doubt an intentional move by producers and executives of both projects. My guess for this is the desire to avoid creating stereotypes that can result from casting these individuals with autism in a particular way.
I’m really looking forward to watching "Touch" and have marked my calendar for the 25th. I’ve watched the trailer below three times already and have yet to keep a dry eye.
Several news stories have emerged in the past few days, underscoring the troubling and persistent issue of bullying regularly endured by those with autism and other special needs.
In Kansas, 22-year-old AJ Alexander was attacked outside of a Starbucks, leaving him shaken up and with a black eye. The unprovoked assault occurred as Alexander was listening to music and minding his own business. His father says the suspect emerged out of nowhere and attacked his son and cannot say for certain if Alexander, who has autism, was singled out or if the attack was random.
Additionally, in Ohio, 20-year-old Braxton Devault suffered a beating at a bus stop as he waited to be transported to his vocational school. Devault suffers from both autism and epilepsy and believes he blacked out and had a seizure during the attack. His mother is now pleading for the bully to be expelled from school.
As troubling as these incidents may be, they are only the tip of the iceberg and a microcosm of what plays out around the country on a daily basis. Harassment, teasing, bullying and physical attacks are all-too-common for those with autism, particularly those who are high functioning.
Despite greater awareness, bullying remains problematic and while much has been done to address the issue, there are additional steps that need to be taken to ensure children with special needs are protected.
Since parents cannot be with their kids all of the time, advocacy needs to begin with fellow students and neurotypical peers.
As we reported
last year, a heartening story involved a fourth grader who launched an anti-bullying campaign after witnessing his fellow classmate with autism picked on during recess. The story was covered nationally and the boy’s efforts were lauded as an excellent example for other students around the country to follow.
It would be nice to see some follow through on this initiative on a larger scale to ensure we’re doing all we can to protect children and young adults with autism from the kinds of incidents that have occurred during the last few days.
Authorities have announced that they have apprehended 24-year-old Harry Burkhart for a string of arson fires that have left Los Angeles-area residents on edge for the past four days. In total, 53 fires have been set in Hollywood, California and surrounding areas, causing more than $3 million in damage. A Los Angeles County police spokesperson said they "feel good that we’ve got the right guy."
If proven true, there is a possibility that the mainstream media will incessantly fixate on his condition in an attempt to correlate it to his alleged crimes. Hopefully, that’s not the case but if an autism diagnosis is confirmed, it’s very likely to occur.
The truth is, we rarely hear about incidents involving individuals with autism committing crimes. That’s not to say they don’t occur, but past studies have actually shown that those with autism spectrum disorders are no more likely to commit crimes than their neurotypical counterparts (Barnhill, 2007; Griffith, 10 May 2006). Hopefully, the mainstream media will not overlook these facts when reporting on Burkhart’s condition.
Another area of concern is because of the broad definition we now have for autism, a new trend might be emerging involving criminal defense attorneys claiming their clients have "autism" in an attempt to build a legal defense case. In the process of doing so, reports of crimes committed by individuals with the disorder will be on the rise, creating false stereotypes in the process.
The autism community is finally starting to emerge from the "Rain Man" shadow that was cast nearly 25 years ago. The last thing we now need is the new perception that individuals with autism are computer hackers, arsonists and violent criminals
All information in this site is presented for support and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for medical treatment or visiting a licensed medical physician. Visitors who desire to apply or use any information listed herein are urged to consult with licensed healthcare professionals first. All information is deemed reliable but its accuracy can't be guaranteed.
Autism strikes a family’s heart, soul and wallet. Estimates by The Autism Society puts a lifetime of care for an autistic child at $3.2 million. Autism parents know firsthand the brutal toll to the family coffers of therapies that can run $40,000 to $50,00 per year. Families tangle with insurance companies, invariably ending up with […]