The Return

Posted on

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.


Join Us On Facebook

Posted on

If you haven’t checked it out yet, please take a look at the Facebook page dedicated to this blog, which also has posts from great contributors like Autisable.com, Autism Speaks, and many more resources.  You’re sure to find something that will touch your heart, connect with others, give you another resource and see the wonderful work that your peers are doing in the Autism community.  It’s located at www.facebook.com/BeyondAutismAwareness

If you are already with us on Facebook, thank you for your support and tell your friends.


Taking On Autism As A Family, And A Community

Posted on




The power of love and social media has propelled family members of 2-year-old Tyler King into a spotlight for which they weren’t quite sure they were ready.

That spotlight is blue, and it shines on autism during Autism Awareness month in April.

Tyler’s 10-year-old brother, Cole Reedy, made a simple video for Facebook telling everyone how much he loved his brother, who had just been diagnosed in January with autism and 10 other disorders commonly associated with autism. Cole also asked people to display blue porch lights being sold by the national Autism SpeaksLight it Up Blue” campaign to support families dealing with autism.

“The outpouring of the community has been above and beyond belief,” said Tyler’s dad, Seth King.

King said the family has received responses from over 15 states, and Cole’s video has been shared by hundreds of people.

Cole says he was just trying to let others know that his little brother is “awesome” just the way he is.

“It’s nice that people know what it’s like and there are other kids with it too,” he said.

Tyler’s mom, Hannah King, who is a first-grade teacher at Villa Grove Elementary, said the family wasn’t quite expecting to “come out” in such a big way, after running the gamut of emotions through Tyler’s testing and diagnosis.

“We’ve learned to embrace the challenge instead of hide from it,” she said. “We’ve all come along way.”

The King family hopes to keep the momentum going Friday in their hometown of Villa Grove by hosting a Blue’s Cruise fundraising event. Families are asked to meet at about 7 p.m. at The Scoop ice cream stand on the south end of Main Street for a car cruise to view and count the dozens of blue porch lights that are displayed at homes and businesses around town.

For extra fun, cruisers can count the number of lights they see along the route, and the official number will be posted back at The Scoop.

The cruise is a free event, but 10 percent of the days’ proceeds at The Scoop will benefit Autism Speaks — plus money from sales of T-shirts and a special “Blue” music CD for the event.

Cassandra Gunter, owner of The Scoop, is helping to organize the activities and also sold blue lights from her shop.

“The Kings have embraced this diagnosis and have shared their talents and leadership qualities to encourage us to unite as a community and support families on their journey with autism,” she said.

The kids in the community will also get involved Friday by visiting The Scoop for special blue ice cream cones throughout the school day. Hannah King has organized field trips for the elementary students as a character building activity to demonstrate ways to support others and the community.

“I think it’s great that the kids are learning about it too, so they know we aren’t all the same and that’s okay,” Gunter said. “It’s definitely heightened awareness in this community.”

To finish out the month, Hannah King is working with a local fitness group, Chix in Training, to sponsor a family-friendly run through town. It will be at dusk and runners will carry glow sticks with them. Details are still being worked out for an evening in late April.

She says the best part of the experience has been connecting with other families with autistic children and sharing feelings and ideas about their experiences.

“We learn from other families and they learn from us, and that’s been the tremendous part of it,” Hannah King said.


If you go

What: Blue’s Cruise autism awareness fundraiser

When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 19

Where: The Scoop in Villa Grove

Cost: Participation is free; donations to Autism Speaks may be made at the Villa Grove State Bank to the Tyler King for Autism Awareness fund (all money will be donated to Autism Speaks)


The Legend Of Xena, Warrior Puppy, And Her Best Friend Jonny

Posted on


 Click this link to view the associated video:


JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — A puppy, thrown away and left for dead on the side of a DeKalb County street, almost starved to death.

Seven months later, she is living up to the name her rescuers gave her — Xena the Warrior Puppy.

She is alive, well, and working miracles for all in her life.

One miracle is that Xena survived the abuse.

Another is what she is now doing for other abused animals.

And the biggest miracle is what Xena is doing for the little boy in Johns Creek with autism whose family just adopted her:

This just might be a match made in heaven.

Tuesday afternoon, Xena the Warrior Puppy was running around the yard of her new home in Johns Creek with her new best friend, Jonny Hickey.

How far they’ve both come. Together.

In September, Xena was near death, a victim of severe neglect.

The rescue group “Friends of DeKalb Animals” found Xena and somehow was able to nurse her back to health.

At a fundraiser in November, 11Alive News shot some video of Xena, wagging her tail, nuzzling up to the people around her, healthier and stronger.  Xena’s miraculous recovery had made her an international Facebook sensation, and she was raising tens of thousands of dollars for the care of other abused animals.

And at that fundraiser in November, Xena ran straight to two people she didn’t know, a little boy and his dad, and “introduced” herself.

The news camera caught a glimpse of it, the photographer not knowing, then, that the father and son Xena was greeting was Jonny and his dad.

Jonny’s autism had made him withdrawn, reluctant to speak and interact with others.

He fell in love with Xena.

And she fell in love with him.

And in late March, with Xena fully recovered and ready for adoption, she moved in with Jonny and his family.

The two became inseparable.

Suddenly Jonny is a chatterbox.

And he wanted his mom, Linda Hickey, to make a YouTube video of him telling the world about the month of April — how did Jonny know it is “autism awareness” month, and it is also “prevention of cruelty to animals” month?

“My name is Jonny,” he says on the video, “and this is my puppy, Xena. Well, my Xena was hurt really bad. By some not-so-nice people. And I have autism. So I think we make a pretty perfect team to spread the word to be nice to animals, and nice to kids like me.”

How far they’ve come, together. A match made in heaven.

On April 21, Friends of DeKalb Animals is holding another fundraiser, at Fleur’tee Bee Boutique, 1440 Dutch Valley Place, NE, in Atlanta, from 2pm to 5pm. Xena will be there, one of the stars of the event’s “kissing booth.”

Lynn Herron of Friends of DeKalb Animals told 11Alive News Tuesday that Xena, and her story of heartbreaking, near-fatal suffering, and her recovery, have drawn attention to the work of her organization rescuiing abused, abandoned and neglected animals. Herron said people who have followed Xena’s Facebook page have donated about $30,000, so far, which has made it possible for Herron to establish the Xena Shelter Fund for the most severely abused and injured animals, like Xena was.

Herron said DeKalb County Police have not yet been able to find out who abused Xena, but the case remains open, with a reward of $2,500 to anyone who helps lead police to the abuser:

DeKalb County Police Sgt. Tim Medlin: 404-294-2645
DeKalb Animal Control: 404-294-2996


In Her Own Words: Alexis Wineman

Posted on


Please click this link to view the video: http://cnn.com/video/#/video/health/2013/01/17/hf-alexis-wineman.cnn

(CNN) — I knew there had to be a reason my family and I went through tough days together. I didn’t understand why then, but the past couple of weeks have put so much into perspective.

The lonely days of pacing around my kitchen seemed like some of the longest days of my life. If anyone had told me then that I would be wearing a crown, an evening gown, heels and a swimsuit in front of a live audience with bright lights and television cameras hovering around, I’d have been the first one to dismiss it.

I realize now that even my toughest days pale in comparison to the toughest days of others living with an autism spectrum disorder. I’ve been given this opportunity to use my voice for those who don’t have one or have yet to find theirs.

My path may not be one that another person would choose, but I challenged myself to enter the Miss America competition because it seemed like the peak to my own personal Everest. It also seemed kind of ironic: a girl who was told she was different and considered an outcast by many, in the nation’s biggest beauty pageant.

I knew I would face challenges and even some skepticism, but I never expected the outpouring of support that continues to come in.

Winning the America’s Choice title during the competition was the highest honor for me. The fact that so many people, to whom I am a total stranger, took the time to elect me as their contestant of choice is something I am still trying to comprehend.

The glitz and the glamour may have faded from the wonderful experience of Miss America, but my commitment to raising awareness about autism and building bridges of acceptance grows stronger each day — especially after I read e-mails, Facebook posts or tweets from the people who have supported my journey.

I will be successful if just one person encounters a child who is overstimulated without staring, if one teenager invites an “outcast” to lunch or just smiles at him or her, or if one employer gives a job to someone who might not be able to look the interviewer in the eye.

I also hope that families reading my story who feel isolated or have concerns and questions about their children know they are not alone — there is a wonderfully loving community with people just waiting to be your friend and mentor.

One thing I have learned in partnering with organizations likeAbilityPath.org and Generation Rescue is that the special needs community is one of the most loyal and supportive groups anyone could join. I’m honored to be a part of this new circle of friends, and have no doubt that it was the people who found me relatable and believed in me that helped me become America’s Choice.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know there is a lot for me to do to make sure people really get that “Normal is just a dryer setting.”


Today’s Autism Hero: The Children’s Miracle Network’s “Give Miracles” Campaign

Posted on


The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) Center for Autism Research is among The Children’s Miracle Network’s (CMN) “Ultimate Gift” beneficiaries for its social media-based holiday fundraising program, Give Miracles. In addition to its social media presence, ads announcing the campaign for CHOP will run in the Wall Street Journal on November 10th and 24th, and on December 1st and 15th.

With 1 in 88 American children affected, autism is one of the most common childhood disorders, yet it remains a mystery in many ways, leaving millions of families desperate for answers about what causes autism; what are the best treatments; and when there will be a cure. Donors who support autism programs at CHOP through the Give Miracles campaign will help unlock the mysteries of this perplexing and complicated disorder and fuel some of the most needed medical breakthroughs of our generation.

Autism research at CHOP

Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is revolutionizing the understanding of autism. CHOP’s multidisciplinary teams in psychology, neurosciences and genetics are spearheading the largest and most innovative autism studies ever conceived. CHOP’s autism experts are applying state-of-the-art research and clinical tools to discover autism’s causes and find new treatments, while providing comprehensive, coordinated, family-centered care and support to meet each child’s specific developmental and educational needs.

Donors to Center for Autism Research can follow gift from donation through final use

Give Miracles provides donors with tangible evidence of their gift, from the initial donation to its final use. It is the first Impact GivingTM program of its kind, as it enables donors to choose the hospital they want to support; the amount and type of gift; and those who donate will remain engaged with ongoing email updates on the gift’s impact for children with autism who are seen at CHOP and far beyond its walls.

“When people donate their hard-earned money, they want to know how it is used,” John Lauck, CEO of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, said. “The Give Miracles program lets donors be involved in the philanthropic process. They can have a direct connection to the impact their dollars are making at the local hospitals and on the kids they are supporting.”

GiveMiracles.org features a social fundraising platform powered by technology powerhouse (www.Fundly.com), allowing a donor to create a customized fundraising page that calls on their Facebook and Twitter networks for donations. This crowdfunding feature allows multiple contributions—especially helpful for addressing large fundraising goals like CHOP’s Autism Center. These miracle-making gifts could also be purchased by single benefactors—such as corporations and foundations.

More information

Learn more about supporting autism programs at CHOP

About Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® raises funds for 170 nonprofit children’s hospitals across North America, which, in turn, use the money where it’s needed the most. When a donation is given it stays in the community, helping local kids. Since 1983, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has raised more than $4 billion, most of it $1 at a time. These donations support research and training, purchase equipment and pay for uncompensated care, all in support of our mission to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible. Learn more at the CMN website


The Business World’s New Geek Chic

Posted on

I don’t know if I necessarily agree with this premise despite the fact that I’m sure it happens.  While this article spells fairly good news to people with Asperger’s, ADHD and Dyslexia, it does nothing for those with plain ol’ Autism, PDD-NOS, etc.  This article may fly in the face of current conventional thinking that says 1 out of every 3 people diagnosed with Autism have “no paid job experience, college or technical schooling nearly seven years after high school graduation.”  Every business wants to find its ‘Rain Man‘; the savant who can sift through reams of mathematical data to find that one gold nugget to bring that particular business to the forefront.  Only 10% of the Autistic population have specials skills which range from “splinter skills” to “prodigious” savants. 

“Among the 10% of persons who are autistic, there is a wide spectrum of savant abilities. Most common are what are called ‘splinter skills’ such as obsessive preoccupation with and memorization of sports trivia, license plates, maps or things as obscure as vacuum cleaner motor sounds, for example. ‘Talented’ savants are those persons whose special skills and abilities are more specialized and highly honed making those skills obviously conspicuous when viewed over against over-all handicap. Finally there is a group of ‘prodigious’ savants whose skills are so spectacular they would be conspicuous even if they were to occur in a non-handicapped person. There are probably fewer than 50 persons living worldwide who would meet the high-threshold definition of prodigious savants, and approximately one-half of that group would be autistic savants.”

I guess I’m glad the business world is aware of the attributes that those with Asperger’s possess.  I only hope that when that proverbial gold nugget is found, the contributions of those on the Spectrum are duly recognized, with part of the bounty shared with the Autism community to further promote awareness, education and opportunity.-Ed

In Praise of Misfits

Why Business Needs People With Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder and Dyslexia

In 1956 William Whyte argued in his bestseller, “The Organisation Man”, that companies were so in love with “well-rounded” executives that they fought a “fight against genius”. Today many suffer from the opposite prejudice. Software firms gobble up anti-social geeks. Hedge funds hoover up equally oddball quants. Hollywood bends over backwards to accommodate the whims of creatives. And policymakers look to rule-breaking entrepreneurs to create jobs. Unlike the school playground, the marketplace is kind to misfits.

Recruiters have noticed that the mental qualities that make a good computer programmer resemble those that might get you diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome: an obsessive interest in narrow subjects; a passion for numbers, patterns and machines; an addiction to repetitive tasks; and a lack of sensitivity to social cues. Some joke that the internet was invented by and for people who are “on the spectrum”, as they put it in the Valley. Online, you can communicate without the ordeal of meeting people.

Wired magazine once called it “the Geek Syndrome”. Speaking of internet firms founded in the past decade, Peter Thiel, an early Facebook investor, told the New Yorker that: “The people who run them are sort of autistic.” Yishan Wong, an ex-Facebooker, wrote that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, has “a touch of Asperger’s”, in that “he does not provide much active feedback or confirmation that he is listening to you.” Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, says he finds the symptoms of Asperger’s “uncomfortably familiar” when he hears them listed.

Similar traits are common in the upper reaches of finance. The quants have taken over from the preppies. The hero of Michael Lewis’s book “The Big Short”, Michael Burry, a hedge-fund manager, is a loner who wrote a stockmarket blog as a hobby while he was studying to be a doctor. He attracted so much attention from money managers that he quit medicine to start his own hedge fund, Scion Capital. After noticing that there was something awry with the mortgage market, he made a killing betting that it would crash. “The one guy that I could trust in the middle of this crisis,” Mr Lewis told National Public Radio, “was this fellow with Asperger’s and a glass eye.”

Entrepreneurs also display a striking number of mental oddities. Julie Login of Cass Business School surveyed a group of entrepreneurs and found that 35% of them said that they suffered from dyslexia, compared with 10% of the population as a whole and 1% of professional managers. Prominent dyslexics include the founders of Ford, General Electric, IBM and IKEA, not to mention more recent successes such as Charles Schwab (the founder of a stockbroker), Richard Branson (the Virgin Group), John Chambers (Cisco) and Steve Jobs (Apple). There are many possible explanations for this. Dyslexics learn how to delegate tasks early (getting other people to do their homework, for example). They gravitate to activities that require few formal qualifications and demand little reading or writing.

Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) is another entrepreneur-friendly affliction: people who cannot focus on one thing for long can be disastrous employees but founts of new ideas. Some studies suggest that people with ADD are six times more likely than average to end up running their own businesses. David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue, a budget airline, says: “My ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things. With the disorganisation, procrastination, inability to focus and all the other bad things that come with ADD, there also come creativity and the ability to take risks.” Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s and a hotch-potch of businesses since, has both ADD and dyslexia. “I get bored easily; that is a great motivator,” he once said. “I think everybody should have dyslexia and ADD.”

Where does that leave the old-fashioned organisation man? He will do just fine. The more companies hire brilliant mavericks, the more they need sensible managers to keep the company grounded. Someone has to ensure that dull but necessary tasks are done. Someone has to charm customers (and perhaps lawmakers). This task is best done by those who don’t give the impression that they think normal people are stupid. (Sheryl Sandberg, Mr Zuckerberg’s deputy, does this rather well for Facebook.) Many start-ups are saved from disaster only by replacing the founders with professional managers. Those managers, of course, must learn to work with geeks.

Geekery in the genes

The clustering of people with unusual minds is causing new problems. People who work for brainy companies tend to marry other brainy people. Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University argues that when two hyper-systematisers meet and mate, they are more likely to have children who suffer from Asperger’s or its more severe cousin, autism. He has shown that children in Eindhoven, a technology hub in the Netherlands, are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children in two other Dutch towns of similar size. He has also shown that Cambridge students who study mathematics, physics and engineering are more likely to have autistic relatives than students studying English literature. Most employers are leery of hiring severely autistic people, but not all. Specialist People, a Danish firm, matches autistic workers with jobs that require a good memory or a high tolerance for repetition.

More broadly, the replacement of organisation man with disorganisation man is changing the balance of power. Those square pegs may not have an easy time in school. They may be mocked by jocks and ignored at parties. But these days no serious organisation can prosper without them. As Kiran Malhotra, a Silicon Valley networker, puts it: “It’s actually cool to be a geek.”