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The Return

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Okay, this took a while, but I’m back at the blog.  I had originally planned on getting back to this right after Labor Day, but I had a slight setback: a thoroughly messed up knee that is pending surgical reconstruction next week.  At the very least while I’m recovering I will have plenty of time to write a blurb here and there, and highlight some things that I think are important to those affected by Autism.

First and foremost, Mike had a great summer and the folks who run the Town Of Oyster Bay‘s GAP program should be really proud of the positive effects that this camp has on Special Needs kids.  Even more encouraging was Mike’s return to school.  So far, so good; no tantrums and no drama as he starts his first full week, and I continue knocking wood and rubbing rabbits’ feet.

This Summer to Fall transition also marked a transition for us as a family; our oldest son started college.  While not too far away, it’s still an adjustment that we all have to make; I still have to do a double-take when I come home and don’t see him playing on his Playstation 3.  Nick is the prototypical big brother, and I know both Tom and Mike miss him too.  Tom may not say so but it’s gotta be hard to suddenly be the big brother of the house now.  Mike has already told us that he misses Nick.  I was glad that he and Nick had a ‘sleepover’ in Nick’s room before he left for college, and again when he came home for Labor Day weekend.

Shameless Self Promotion Alert: Before I forget, if you haven’t already done so, please follow me on Twitter @1andOnlyJustEd and “like” my Facebook http://www.facebook.com/BeyondAutismAwareness where besides seeing everyone of these WordPress posts, I highlight, tweet and share what others in the Autism community have to offer.

Thanks,  It’s good to be back.

Progress, Presentations and Personal Growth

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What a terrific night for Mike! I have been writing recently about Mike’s exploits in his computer workshop class given at Adelphi University by the Nassau County P.A.L. Special Needs Unit.  He learned how to send an email, participated in Google chat, learned how to create a PowerPoint presentation, and learned how to use Twitter and Pinterest, among other things.  At the end of the course each member of the class had to create a PowerPoint presentation on any subject they chose and present it to the class and their invited guests.  He had been really looking forward to giving his presentation.

Of the many things things that stood out about this class, two things that happened last night really made an impression on me.  The first is that Mike calmly volunteered to go first.  Listening to the class, many if not half the class wanted to go last.  One classmate volunteered another to go first; at least to go before she did.  Understandably, some displayed anxiety about getting in front of the group; voicing concern about being made fun of, which would never happen, but the social anxiety exists all the same.  Normally Mike would fall into this group, but not last night; Mike was really proud of his work and wanted to be the first to show it off.

Mike presented not one, but two PowerPoint presentations: “Michael’s Wild and Cool Animal Presentation” (his favorite wild animals) and the second on “Me and My Dad’s Favorite Desserts”.  Needless to say, I was floored; each slide had plenty of pictures and text, and his use of the ‘Vanna White hands’ to show off his slides was priceless.  The dessert presentation had its intended effect: I did indeed come away hungry.

The second thing that stood out was Mike fitting into a crowd.  While this was a Special Needs group, which by my estimation included teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and Mental Retardation among others, and with the overwhelming majority of these kids were familiar with each other, Mike really fit in.  Mike functioned and interacted at comparable levels with his peers.  His verbal skills were probably in the mid- to high-range as compared to his classmates, and he followed appropriate social cues on par with them as well.  This was capped off at the end of the night when, unprompted and unsolicited, he extended his hand to shake hands with a classmate and said “Nice job”.

As we were walking to the car to head home, Mike asked me if I was proud of him.  Of course, I said, and I added that I was especially proud of how he volunteered to go first, and how he shook his classmates hand.

Nice job indeed.

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Hello Twitter… Or, The Usefulness Of Social Media

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Computer class went really well tonight; at first, as usual, Mike was his usual hesitant self about going to class.  But like most things, he warmed up quickly.  I didn’t know what was in store for him and the rest of the class tonight; he just started 2 weeks ago, but had no class last week due to Easter break.  That first class they taught the class about sending emails, adding contacts to their address books, and initiate/respond to/participate in chats with those contacts.  The class is primarily taught by 2 college-age girls, who are supervised by someone from the Nassau County PAL Special Needs Unit.  The class is made up of teens with different developmental disabilities; of those kids, Mike knows one other boy, also named Mike, who lives in the same town and attends the same Special Needs video game club offered by the town library.

This week was quite a surprise; I thought they would be using their iPads, which Mike can navigate with ease.  But as I sat outside in the computer lounge a notification came across my phone telling me that Mike was now on Twitter.  After I confirmed that it was in fact him, I thought about this for a moment.

Twitter.

Most parents, if strapped into a polygraph machine (AKA lie detector) probably would prefer that their kids stay off social media if at all possible.  For kids with Autism, I think the opposite is true, at least for me.  Knowing that the majority of Autistic children have some form of communication issue, any new way for them to communicate with their peers and friends is definite step in the right direction.  I don’t believe for a moment that Mike will suddenly become tethered to his Twitter feed, or post his latest Instagram pics of his favorite meals, but on the other hand, it would surprise me either; unlocking that next new thing is something that parents on the Spectrum are always seeking for their children.  Let’s face it; Twitter is a language all its own.  If a child with Autism can communicate via tweets, in a social platform, who’s to say what he can or can’t do?  It is not a coincidence that Autistics are drawn to technology; here is an instance of how that attraction begins, and hopefully allows them to flourish among their peers, and within society.

I didn’t sit in class next to him this week, like I did in week 1.  After class, I asked him how it went.  Mike told me he asked his friend Mike to sit next to him in class today.  He said he talked to him about his favorite movie and about video games, but not much else.

Communication.  It’s a start.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch as it develops.

By the way, here’s a shot of Mike’s first tweet:

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NY Mets Leading The League In Autism Awareness and Acceptance

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Mets Exploring “Quiet” Section at Citi Field for Families With Autistic Kids

(credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – Yes, the Mets are exploring the possibility of selling tickets for a “quiet” section at Citi Field.

The Amazin’s posed the question to their fans in an email survey Wednesday: “The Mets are considering adding a designated ‘quiet’ seating section with lower volume PA announcements and no music or cheerleading. How likely would you be to purchase tickets in that section?”

It “would apply to a section in the second-deck, left-field seats,” which sell for between $20 and $78 apiece under the team’s dynamic pricing plan, according to the New York Post. The paper quoted a few Mets fans who panned the concept, calling it “stupid,” “boring” and “just not baseball.”

But there’s more to the story.

The idea is to make Citi Field more welcoming to families with autistic children, the Mets told WFAN’s Boomer & Carton.

WEB EXTRA: Guide to Citi Field

The franchise wanted to know if the interest in such sections extended beyond their autism awareness days, morning show co-host Craig Carton said Thursday morning. The Mets held their 10th annual Autism Awareness Day on May 6, a 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“If that’s the sole reason you’re considering it, well, bravo!” said Carton. “You want to allow all kids … to enjoy a baseball game. So why not just say that?”

When asked about “quiet” sections on Twitter, one fan responded, “I think giving the parents of kids with autism a chance to see a ball game without having major issues is exceptionally noble.”

#AutismHeros

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I want to try something here.  I want the opportunity to brag about the other kids in our lives: the Siblings on the Spectrum, who truly are ‘Autism Heros’.  As Parents on the Spectrum, a lot of our time revolves around our Autistic child. Now it’s time to shine a light on our other kids, who do so much, and mean so much to our families.

If you have a story, picture, video, or blog post about your Siblings on the Spectrum, please send it to me as a comment to this post, or if you are on Twitter, Tweet or DM me (@1andOnlyJustEd) with your brag, using the hashtag #AutismHeros.  If you follow this blog on Facebook (Facebook.com/BeyondAutismAwareness) you can send your stuff to me that way.  I will gladly publish a new post using your story, picture or video, using #AutismHeros as the title.  (Please don’t use Pingback to send me your stuff. Thanks.)

All our kids are important, and they should be recognized. #AutismHeros

Nick, Mike and Tom: my three goofballs and each other’s best friends.  Mike looks up to Nick and Tom for different things, and they both give him things that only brothers can.  I am proud of both of them!!