Love, Sex, God, & Autism

LSGA1 Love Sex logo April Mitchell final web

For years, people have asked me, “How did Jeremy Sicile-Kira  become the person and painter he is today? What is your  your story? How did Jeremy’s Vision  come about?”  Well, here it is! I’ve created –  a 70-minute multimedia storytelling event appropriate for Keynotes, Fundraisers and Special Events.  This keynote can be adapted to your events needs: it can be accompanied by workshops with learning objectives, or  shortened for end-of-year-dinners and fundraisers. “Incredible … powerful… inspirational…” are comments offered by those who saw the premiere in San Diego this past July.

Love, Sex, God & Autism, is  a universal and inspirational story about resiliency and adapting to change. In my 70-minute storytelling event, I humorously and lovingly wrestle with the trials and tribulations of my family’s successful attempt to change the prognosis given to my child – life in an institution.  It’s the hysterical and heartbreaking personal account of a young man’s quest for love, and a family’s search for normalcy – or at least inclusion!  Along the way,  I explore how my upbringing  provided me with the grit and  resiliency  I would need as Jeremy’s mother. Life-changing gifts are discovered, affirming our family’s belief that being “not like the others” means being different, but not less.

For more information, or to book this presentation, please contact us at Autism College.

The Affects of Autism in Families and in Partner Relationships

 By Chantal Sicile-Kira, BA

Editorial Note: This article originally appeared in Family Therapy Magazine in May/June 2008

Family life  is all about relationships and communication:  relationships between two people in love, parents and children, siblings, extended family members. Yet, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are all about  communication challenges, misunderstanding of social cues, and lack of emotional understanding,  thus affecting every relationship in the family. In marriage, if one of the partners is on the spectrum, there will be more difficulties than the usual marital conflicts. Sibling issues are exacerbated  by having an autistic sibling and/or a parent on the spectrum. Communication and social challenges  can also impact the adult’s work situation. Before looking at how to best provide support, a better understanding of the particular difficulties autism infuses into the family unit is necessary.

Autism: It’s a Family Thing

It has been estimated that the divorce rate is in the 80% range  in families with children who have autism (Bolman, 2006).   Despite high rates of marital conflict, many couples do not reach out for  couples therapy.  Lack of respite is a major reason.  For most, finding  a babysitter with whom then can safely  leave  an autistic  child who has  toileting issues, little communication skills, aggression and other inappropriate behaviors on a regular basis is difficult (Sicile-Kira, 2004). Another reason is their lack of belief that they will find a therapist understanding of their particular circumstance and offer any true guidance, thus preferring to use the precious  time away from the child to confide in a good friend.

Marital stress around the child usually  starts when one or both of the parents realizes the child is not developing properly. Couples who have a child who  does not seek their attention in the usual  way  (i.e.,  eye contact, reaching out  for or giving of  affection, searching them for comfort when hurt) find it  hard   not to  feel rejected or unimportant to the child. For those whose child develops normally and then regresses around 18-24 months, there is the added loss of  the child they knew slipping away. Consider also that a couple looks forward to having a child, and each person had his idea of what the expected child will be like.  When the child does not match the expectation,  or regresses, there is a loss and anguish felt by the parent not unlike the stages of grief that people who  lose a loved one experience (Sicile-Kira, 2004).

Other stages of added stress are: getting a diagnosis (family physicians are reluctant to make a diagnosis on a condition once rare for which they have no set treatment plan to prescribe); getting services (a constant struggle); dealing with adolescence (sexual development appears, uncontrolled tantrums can be dangerous as the teen gets bigger); and post high school (the realization that few adult services are available) (Sicile-Kira, 2006).

Keeping  any marriage healthy takes  time, and all too often,  time  gets swallowed up by the autistic child’s needs.  Many children with an ASD   have difficulty  sleeping, meaning that at least one of the parents is sleep deprived. Usually, a role division takes place as one parent, usually mom,  becomes the  autism expert,  while dad works harder to earn money or opts out. Differences of opinion exasperate an already difficult situation – how much time, energy and money is to be spent on helping the child is based on personal philosophy, and in this the couple may clash.   Over time, dad becomes frustrated at the demands of their wives to interact or play with a child who does not know how, and moms become frustrated at the lack of involvements of their partners.

As well, a common pattern among moms is to wonder what they did wrong – drinking or taking medications  during pregnancy, exercising too much, allowing the child to be vaccinated, thus adding  feelings of guilt to an already stressful situation. Also, the couple eventually feels  isolated because they feel it is hard to take an autistic child to people’s homes and are uncomfortable inviting people over.

Sometimes the couple becomes closer than ever, bonded in their shared circumstances. Unfortunately, usually the stress of dealing with autism and all it entails – the constant and necessary advocacy at school, the fighting for services and supports, the added financial burden, trying to handle behaviors and meltdowns at home – becomes a  wedge pushing the spouses  further and further apart. Overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted, the couple’s communication becomes  impaired and even autistic-like, lacking emotion and reciprocity.  This can affect other children in the family.


Unlike the parents who are totally focused on the autistic child’s needs, grandparents are concerned about the effects of autism on their adult children (the parents), other grandchildren and future generations.  They also suffer stress similar to that of parents and siblings. Grandparents  are concerned about the difficult situations they see their own children experiencing. They may provide the autistic child’s parents (who may be depressed, single, or divorced) with necessary support in the way of childcare, financial support and advocacy. But, they may also contribute to stress because of conflict regarding behavioral symptoms and treatment (Hillman, J. 2007). Sometimes grandparents  get involved in the blame-game about the possible causes of the child’s autism, which can be particularly terrible if the couple splits up and there are disputes over custody.

Grandparents may want to help by babysitting, but most do not have the training in behavior management or may not have the physical strength  required to handle behavioral episodes. They may just want to play with the child and spoil him/her, and end up feeling rejected  by the lack of ‘typical’ exchange.


The challenges of having a brother or sister on the spectrum can have both  positive and a negative effects on  a sibling. The factors that affect how a sibling adjusts include: family size, severity of the brother or sister’s impairment, age of the sibling at the time of the diagnosis, gender and age of sibling, and their place in the birth order.  The parents’ attitudes and expectations have a strong bearing on how a sibling adjusts.

Many siblings develop a maturity  and sense of responsibility greater than that of their peers, take pride in the accomplishments of their brother and sister and develop a strong sense of loyalty. Siblings of ASD children are usually more tolerant of differences in people and show compassion of others with special needs. However, many siblings feel resentment  at the extra attention the child with autism receives, and some feel guilt over their good health. When little, they may think  they can ‘catch’ autism from their sibling. They may also feel saddled with what they perceive as parental expectations for them to be high achievers. Many feel anxiety about how to interact with their brother or sister, and feel rejected by the lack of reciprocality. Often there is a feeling of resentment at having to take on extra household chores, coupled with restrictions in social activities. When one of the parents has AS, this creates another set of challenges.

An Asperger Marriage 

As Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) has only been recognized since 1994, there are many adults with AS who have been misdiagnosed and treated for  mental illness. Although traditionally 3 out of 4 children diagnosed with an ASD are male, there is growing consensus that there may actually be more  females with Asperger’s Syndrome who have been  misdiagnosed with other conditions. Keep in mind that the information below is  based on  heterosexual partnerships,  although  same- gender relationships occur just as it does in the population as large.

Sometimes the diagnosis of an adult follows  that  of  their child, sometimes it follows marriage therapy, and sometimes it is problems at work that  finally lead to a diagnosis. A spouse  may seek out a therapist  with complaints of  a cold, uncaring,  and unemotional husband, although she may have chosen her mate because he appeared  calm and reliable. An AS adult may appear depressed because of  the flat affect, monotone and lack of direct eye contact.  Others may appear controlling and rigid, insisting everyone in the household stick to the same schedule and participate in the same activities, due to a need for sameness and inability to empathize. It is this lack of  empathy that has the biggest impact on the partner with AS ability to understand their spouses, as well as any children,  and to recognize that their needs, perceptions and thoughts are different from their own (Aston, M. 2005).  Poor empathy in the AS parent may contribute to behavioral and psychological problem in the children. However,  a parent with AS, may be better able to better understand and cope with the a child who has the same diagnosis.

Anxiety and stress can run high in adults with Asperger’s due to the difficulties in communication and social interaction. Most lack what we think of as ‘common sense.’ Body language and subtexts of intonations are lost on them, so that they may hear the words that were spoken, but not understood the real message or context. Persons on the spectrum can be honest to a fault and  may make inappropriate comments in public, thus appearing rude and uninterested in social situations.

These same communication problems effect a person’s ability to keep a job or move up the corporate ladder. Temple Grandin PhD, author of Thinking in Pictures and animal scientist, often speaks about how she almost got fired from her first important job because she kept writing letters to the CEO telling him how he could improve the company. She had no clue that the hierarchy at work dictated how, what, and to whom you communicate. Often times when a company is downsizing, the people laid off are the those who did not establish social relationships at work.

Physical demonstrations of affection can be difficult  for those  adults who  suffer from sensory processing disorder  and are overly sensitive to touch. Often the AS spouse is surprised that his partner and  children are feeling unloved and unsupported, not realizing that his behavior does not show the support and love he says he has for them.  The inability to read non-verbal communication makes it difficult  to differentiate between when their partner  wants to have intercourse or just a snuggle.  Some couples report that the partner on the spectrum insists on routine even  in  sexual activity (Aston, M. 2003).

Finding out that a partner has an ASD can provoke different feelings. One of them is anger at missing out on aspects of a marriage that the partner was looking forward to. Another feeling is relief that the partner is not trying to shut the other one out, he is just unable to provide the emotional response needed (Slater-Walker, C., and Slater-Walker, G. 2002). For children the reaction is similar. The positive aspects of having a spouse with Asperger’s can  include  the realization that they are in most cases loyal, honest and dependable.  Those who are diagnosed as adults who knew they were different feel empowered and relieved once they receive the diagnosis, as now they have a starting point for finding strategies that are helpful (Carley, M. 2008).

How  Therapists Can Help

There many ways in which therapists can help the family unit. For all those who need more information or need access to a support group and are not yet hooked into recourses, the Autism Society of America has local chapters that can be helpful.

Couples need to be encouraged to acknowledge  and face the emotions of the grief cycle (i.e., denial, grief, depression, anger) and the loss of the child they were expecting, and to work through these emotions. Misdirected anger is often released at school personnel in Individualized Educational Program (IEP) meetings or taken out on service providers, thus alienating the very people who are there to help them.

Encouraging couples to regularly schedule time together without the children is important. However, this suggestion is useless  unless the therapist can support  them in devising  a practical plan for  finding the respite help they need.

The lack of qualified babysitters can be a very real obstacle to finding  time together or continuing therapy. Working on good communication skills and  looking at how they can support each other is important. The couple  needs to realize and accept that their partner may react differently to having an autistic child and a different viewpoint when it comes to how much effort and money to put into treatment, as well as what kinds of treatments to pursue.

Encouraging dads to  take a more active role  with agreed upon treatments, generalizing some of the skills the child has learned through his ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) program, helping with structure, limit setting and discipline can be very helpful. For this to occur, dad needs more information and training. Perhaps coming up with some dad-oriented informational materials could be useful. A good on-line support group for dads is

In the same way, providing available and willing grandparents with information and a little training that can enable them to step in and give the parents a few hours of respite can be beneficial to all involved. Explaining to them why their grandchild acts they way they do (i.e., sensitivity to sound and light, not being able to make sense of the world, lack of communication skills) is helpful.  Suggesting they  offer to  do a specific task, such as  teaching the child to catch and return a ball or play a simple game, or  teach a simple learning skill which needs much repetition and positive reinforcement, can be helpful. In this way they could  understand both the effort needed and the excitement to be had in teaching their grandchild an interactive skill. Grandparents will feel empowered knowing they are making a positive difference in the family’s life, the parents will feel supported and more relaxed. Information geared towards grandparents can be found on the  Grandparent Autism Network  at

To the non-autistic sibling, knowing that they can ask questions and discuss their feelings about their sibling and autism is important. By helping parents understand the needs that siblings have is helpful,  as sometimes these get lost in the shuffle. The non-autistic children need some quality time   alone with their parents on a regular basis Parents need of be aware of the sibling’s feelings in order to develop strategies of support  to help him/her  adapt.

Providing the siblings with information about autism  (such as why their sibling acts they way he does)  in a positive manner at their age level is necessary, and there are many children’s books available now that that can be very helpful. Joining a support group for other siblings of special needs children can be extremely helpful so they do not feel they are the only ones going though this, see for more information.

The siblings need to be reminded often that they have just as much of their parents’  love as their autistic sibling, even  if  parents may need to give more time and attention to their brother or sister with autism. It is important that the non-autistic sibling have a private autism-free zone  to call their own, and a secure place to keep their precious objects. They also need to see that the sibling with ASD is given consequences if he wrecks their things, and that he is expected to improve his behaviors over time. For children of an AS parent,

For a mixed marriage between an  Asperger and a non-autistic partner  to work,  each spouse  needs to recognize the differences they have and  why. If the partner  with Asperger’s  refuses to  acknowledge that his behaviors and actions towards his/her partner are unacceptable, then  there is little hope for the relationship.

Understanding the deficits, reinforcing the strengths and  acknowledging the needs of each partner is helpful. Teaching the willing AS partner behaviors that are important to his spouse (such as greeting her  when he walks in the house, asking about the partner’s day at work, giving her a kiss) is effective. Research for my new book  (Autism Life Skills to be published by Penguin October 2008) indicates that those willing to learn can be taught expected behaviors and strategies. Some of these include teaching them the ‘hidden curriculum’ (i.e., what non-autistics automatically learn and take for granted, making lists for visual learners).  For more social competence at work, having a mentor there who can explain the non-autistic expectations, and writing a list or drawing a map of the hierarchy and expected communications at each level can be well-worth the effort. GRASP – The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome is a good on-line network for people on the spectrum  Information for  partners and families can be found on these two websites : Asperger Syndrome  Partners & Individuals, Resources, Encouragement and Support. ; Families of Adults Affected by Asperger’s Syndome

Author Biography

Chantal Sicle-Kira, BA is President of  Autism Making A Difference,Inc. which provides consultation, training and seminars on ASDs. Satellite map She is the author of Autism Spectrum Disorders (2005 ASA Outstanding Book of the Year), and Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, both published by Penguin. Her third book Autism Life Skills will be published Oct 2008.


Aston, M. 2003. Aspergers in Love: Couple Relationships and Family Affairs. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Aston, M. 2005  “Growing up in an Asperger Family.” Counseling Children and Young People (CCYP) Journal.

Autism Society of America, 2008. “Family Life.”

Bolman, W. 2006. “The Autistic Family Life Cycle: Family Stress and Divorce.”

Carley, M. 2008 Asperger’s from the Inside and Out: A Supportive and Practical Guide for Anyone with Asperger’s Syndrome. New York: Perigee.

Hillman, J. 2007. “Grandparents of Children with Autism: A Review with Recommendations for Education, Practice, and Policy.” Educational Gerontology, P 513-527.

Sicile-Kira, C. 2006. Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum: A Parent’s Guide to the Cognitive, Social, Physical and Transition Needs of Teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorders. New York: Perigee.

Sicile-Kira, C. 2004. Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Other ASDs. New York: Perigee.

Slater-Walker, C., and Slater-Walker, G. 2002. An Asperger Marriage. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.




Your Child With Autism: Life as an Adult & Planning Ahead

The colors of my life as a young boy web

The Colors of My Life as a Young Boy   

Happy days are represented by yellow and green for the calm of doing nothing. Blue for the knowledge my mom gave me. Truly my mom gave me hope represented by white. Truly my mom was the first one who saved me from despair represented by little strokes of red. Greatly my life was mostly pleasant  represented by the color of nice light orange. Gold from above is helping. Greatly my life is better now. – words and painting by Jeremy Sicile-Kira

Thinking about when your child ages out of school services is pretty scary for most parents of teenagers with autism.  The reality is that parents can create a successful future for their child.  But it doesn’t just happen overnight – it’s about having a plan and using the IEP process.

If there is anything I’ve learned as a parent of a child with autism, it’s that you can’t just leave it up to the system – school or adult services –  to figure it out. You have to be involved.  It’s important for parents to realize that when your child ages out of school into adult services – your child ages out of mandated services. Under IDEA – the Individual with Disabilities in Education Act – all students are guaranteed a free and appropriate education.

When your teen or young  adult  either graduates from high school or ages out of school services (at age 22 in most states) – there is nothing guaranteed for your adult child.  Your adult child may be eligible for services, but that does not mean that he or she will receive services. It means they will be eligible to get on waiting lists.

This is why it’s important to  plan ahead and to use the  IEP system to get the goals and objectives on the student’s IEP to learn what they need to learn in order to be successful adults. There are life skills that  every person needs to learn to be able to get and keep a job, enjoy their free time,  live as an adult as independently as possible.   The ITP – Individualized Transition Plan  – exists to plan for the student’s hopes and dreams for their future as adults. Once the ITP is written, the IEP should have goals and objectives that reflect the ITP. Just like your child’s earlier school years, don’t accept the status quo in transition programs because ‘that’s what we do here’ if it doesn’t fit your child’s needs.

Every student is different, but  goals and objectives can be written for every type of person – every student’s ability. Everyone is able to learn – but educators and parents have to be cognizant of HOW that student learns best and WHAT motivates them. Do they have something they really like to do? What are their strengths? For some it is not as obvious. For example, Jeremy just liked to stim, mostly. He liked looking at colors and patterns on  book covers and on rugs. Then he liked learning, and writing when he learned how to communicate by typing – which was a long process.  Then he discovered painting – which he did not like as a child, probably because of the sensory aspects.  Turns out those patterns he liked, were really full of colors he was dreaming about at night. But we didn’t know that till he was 23 years old!

The point is, never give up on your child –  or teenager – or adult. Learning is forever. But it is only while your child is still eligible for  mandated school services under IDEA  that  he or she  will be guaranteed the educators  and supports needed to learn. But be cognizant that the school system can’t do everything.  What can you do that will help your child prepare for the future, or how can you support  your child’s educator  and classmates? For example, If your child has a certain interest, can find someone to mentor him in that after school? Is your child learning to do some chores? Can you find your teenager a volunteer job so he learns responsibility? Can you partner with other parents and support each other and possibly create some options together?

Obviously, this is easier in some cases that for others. We’ve had to spend a lot of time and energy over the years to create opportunities for Jeremy because of his sensory-motor challenges. Jobs or functional living skills that require a lot of fine motor skills are really challenging for him.  Meanwhile he has a productive life doing what he loves, while still working on those living skills he needs to learn. He has a great support team, and  has his independence, but we  are still involved in helping him create his adult life based on his wants and needs. And there is no way we could do it alone, or that any agency could do it alone. It does take a village!

My son Jeremy and I co-authored A Full Life with Autism  so that  parents and educators could learn more about the reality of adult services is, and to offer suggestions on how to best prepare a student with autism for real life. Model programs that parents and professionals have successfully created together are provided.  We hope the book  informs you, and inspires you to plan ahead using the IEP process and whatever else you can do. We also hope  it will inspire parents to get involved and  help create the future with other like-minded parents and professionals. Together, we can make a difference and create the future.

Chantal Sicile-Kira is an author, speaker and consultant on autism, adolescence, transition services and the effects of autism on the family. Chantal can be reached here.  Feel free to leave comments below.

Full Life Book w Border

Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Overview

Here’s an article  contributed  a few years ago by Marci Wheeler, MSW From Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. The information is still pertinent today.

Academic Supports for College Students with An Autism Spectrum Disorder:  Quick Overview

Each year more information about the college experiences of those on the autism spectrum is written by their parents, professionals and these students on the autism spectrum. “Temple Grandin” a biopic movie of Temple’s life premiered last year on HBO, and won several Emmy and other awards. Included in the film, of this very accomplished woman with autism, is a significant look at Temple’s experience at college. This film also reminds us that fellow college students need information to better understand their peers on the autism spectrum and how to include and support them. There is much more to college life than academics. Intellectually these students are often very bright but many may face a variety of “hidden challenges” that can undermine their ability to navigate a typical college campus and perform well in class. This article will discuss some of the challenges and possible academic supports for students on the autism spectrum.

There is a wide range of functioning and abilities seen across individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Generalities are hard to make except to say that communication and social skills deficits are present. There are also neurological differences that affect everyone on the autism spectrum. However, each person is affected in different ways. The sensory perceptions, motor skills, learning styles and coping strategies are often affected and may cause “hidden” challenges that are not understood by those supporting these students. As a result of these challenges the observable behaviors of students on the autism spectrum may make them appear inattentive, bored, rude, defiant or possibly even on drugs. Ritualistic or repetitive behaviors, an attachment to incongruous objects and additional unusual communication and social skills (especially under stress) can make some of these students seem odd and bring unwanted attention to them.

Some students on the autism spectrum may experience sensory overload and/or be distressed by the social and communication demands of a class. They may have learned “acceptable” strategies to cope and have the ability to stay focused on their intellectual pursuits such that they can navigate through their classes (at least the classes in their chosen major) and pass as “normal”. Some students expend a lot of energy, at all costs, to blend in and not be detected. Unfortunately, for some, this may result in them leaving the university without finishing a degree as the stress is too great. Also, on any college campus be assured that there are students who have not been formally diagnosed or students that are not diagnosed until their college years.

Professors and other instructors need to be aware of possible supports that a student on the autism spectrum might find necessary to participate in class and complete classwork. The following six sections briefly state a common concern for most students and list some possible issues and accommodations. Each student on the autism spectrum has unique needs and should work closely with instructors and other college staff to design an individualized plan of proactive support and response to challenges if they arise.

Communication Skills
By definition (following diagnostic criteria) all students with an autism spectrum disorder have some problems which may interfere with receptive or expressive communication. Some of these differences are very subtle and can lead to misunderstandings that are misinterpreted as volitional acts on the part of the student. Students with an autism spectrum disorder may be very articulate and have a large vocabulary which may “hide” their communication challenges. Those supporting students on the autism spectrum should become aware of each individual students weaknesses in this area. Some of these are listed below along with possible accommodations.

Receptive difficulties often experienced by students on the autism spectrum include processing verbal exchanges more slowly, misunderstanding sarcasm, idioms and jokes, very literal interpretation of words, and misunderstanding gestures and body language.

The expressive difficulties of individuals on the autism spectrum may include problems initiating communication; even for those students who at first glance may seem very articulate and even very talkative. Those on the autism spectrum may have trouble staying on topic, turn taking and following conversational “protocol”. Some may be slower to organize thoughts and speak, and/or their voice tone and volume may be unusual. Idiosyncratic use of words and phrases may be present.

Accommodations for a college student with an autism spectrum disorder might include providing the instructor’s lecture notes or a note taker to help key in on important information, providing study guides for tests, allowing a longer verbal response time from the student and allowing for important exchanges of information to be done in written form. It would also help for instructors to be clear, concise, concrete and logical when communicating as well as asking for clarification; don’t make assumptions about what students truly understand.

Social Skills
Social skills might not seem important in a class setting, but, in fact social difficulties can and do impact the classwork of many students on the autism spectrum. Many college courses require class participation and group work as part of earning a grade. Just going to class with peers necessitates the use of social skills. Some social difficulties and possible accommodations are discussed below.

The social challenges for a student on the autism spectrum include problems understanding others perspectives, sharing space and making eye contact. Many high functioning individuals with an autism spectrum disorder have extreme social anxiety and have difficulty negotiating with others, and interacting and working in pairs or groups. These students likely will not understand the “unwritten” classroom etiquette and will often misinterpret facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. Possible accommodations for students on the autism spectrum include allowing for short breaks to leave class and/or allowing the student to have a “social buffering” object which might include a computer, book or other object that initially might seem distracting or “out of place”. Honoring the student’s chosen level of eye contact w/o judgment can be helpful. If there is group work assigned for class the instructor might assist in the formation and monitoring of pairs or groups of students to assure the proper inclusion of the student with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Also providing written rules for asking questions and other classroom logistics (as needed) may support students with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

Sensory Differences
Though currently sensory issues are not part of the diagnostic criteria for an autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing issues seem to affect the majority of these individuals. Some on the autism spectrum have an extreme over sensitivity or under sensitivity to input, from the environment to the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. A significant number of persons experience synesthesia. Synesthesia may affect any of the senses. Synesthesia is phenomena in which the actual information of one sense is accompanied by a perception in another sense. Listed below are some common sensory differences and accommodations that may be important in a class setting.

Common visual and auditory sensory difficulties experienced by students on the autism spectrum include florescent lights that may appear to flicker and certain “bright” colors that may produce “overload”. Someone may see better from a “different” angle or may hear low level frequency sounds emitted by florescent lights. Also certain “typical” classroom sounds may be perceived as “painful” such as the movement and use of desks, people and other objects in the room. Often a person on the autism spectrum may not filter out extraneous sounds and/or may hear sounds in the next room.

Sensory issues related to the sense of touch and/or the sense of smell may occur. For example, certain textures may be “painful” and/or individuals may crave certain textures. Students on the autism spectrum may be disturbed by people accidentally bumping them or the feel of a particular desk or chair. They may wear “unusual” clothing, footwear or accessories because of sensory differences. Also students may be sensitive to certain odors and certain smells may cause “overload”. Some who are very sensitive may be affected by scents from certain perfumes, deodorants and soaps.

Possible accommodations to support a student with sensory differences include allowing hats, sunglasses and tinted lens glasses to be worn and allowing ear plugs or ear phones. Also allowing the student to choose their seat and helping to assure it is always available may be important. If requested by the student, an alternative writing instrument for tests and assignments and/or a computer for in class work, tests and assignments might also be an appropriate accommodation.

A student with an autism spectrum diagnosis may find that a small sensory item brings comfort in class. It is likely, if a student uses a sensory item, that it is inconspicuous but this may not always be the case. Be aware that a student may make a last minute request for a seating change and/or to leave abruptly due to sensory overload. Help devise an acceptable plan to address urgent sensory issues for the student.

Motor Skills
Both fine and gross motor skills may be affected in individuals with an autism spectrum disorder. In addition motor planning and poor awareness of body in space are two areas that often affect motor skills for these individuals. Often fine and gross motor skills as well as motor planning skills are very uneven. Listed below are possible problems in these areas along with possible accommodations.

Fine motor challenges for students on the autism spectrum might affect writing, drawing, turning pages, using utensils, playing an instrument, using locks and keys, and manipulating small objects. Gross motor challenges may affect walking (may have “odd” gait), running, sitting and balancing. Motor planning and the awareness of the placement of their body in space can affect the ways in which an individual moves their body and is able to navigate themselves to accomplish all motor tasks.

Possible accommodations for students on the autism spectrum with motor skills difficulties include allowing a computer for in class work, tests and assignments, providing a note taker, allowing work assignments done at a slower pace, providing models and step by step instruction, providing extra time to take tests and providing readers and scribes (or technology that reads and takes notes). Further accommodations might need to be considered for students taking physical education courses in which motor skills differences might provide further complications.

Learning Style
Students with an autism spectrum disorder often have a very uneven learning profile. They often excel creatively in a non-conventional way. Students on the autism spectrum tend to have excellent long term and rote memory abilities. Executive functioning deficits cause these students many problems. Many are thought to be right-brained thinkers. Most need to like and trust an instructor before they can perform in a class. Some common learning challenges, strengths and possible accommodations are listed below.

Executive function challenges experienced by students with an autism spectrum diagnosis include general organization and planning skills, problems with impulsivity and problem solving and the ability to monitor themselves in the completion of a goal.

Along with the executive functioning deficits, common learning barriers include poor sequential learning, easily bored with repetition once something is learned, attention problems, literal thinking, nebulous sense of time and as mentioned previously, perspective taking deficits. Other issues that impacts learning for students on the autism spectrum are the fact that they need to understand why something is important, relevant or meaningful to them and they may not realize they are having academic difficulty until it may be too late or too difficult for them to rectify on their own.

The strengths of students on the autism spectrum can sometimes help them compensate for their weaknesses. These students can do quite well academically, especially in their chosen field, and their strengths should be respected and used whenever possible. For example these students may have extremely good visual and visual-spatial skills. They often learn best from whole to part (complex to simple) and they can be very creative; out of the box thinkers. These students can also show an amazing knowledge on topics of interest which is most often their major field of study at the university.

Possible accommodations for students on the autism spectrum to support their learning style include providing review sheets, work checklists, and “sub” deadlines and/or intermittent “check-ins.” If possible provide hands on learning, models, demonstrations and other visuals. If possible, pair with peer mentors who might help with feedback and provide “proof-read” opportunities and ongoing structure to keeping on target with work assignments.

Instructors can help support students on the autism spectrum by providing reinforcement at every opportunity. Other accommodations that might be helpful for some students are allowing advanced negotiation of deadlines, extra time for tests, and/or a separate “quiet” place for tests.

Instructors and other college staff can also encourage the use of calendars (computer, traditional, phone w/alarms). Most likely the student has experience with using an organizational tool or tools, of choice, before coming to college. However, sometimes in a new environment the tools and skills used and learned to compensate for executive function deficits do not transfer easily to a new setting. Because the setting has changed, the student may need time “extra” transition time to begin the use of these tools and to maintain routines in the new environment.

Coping Skills
Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder frequently describe themselves as dealing with a lot of anxiety and stress. Sensory sensitivities, social and communication expectations as well as transitions and unexpected changes often trigger this anxiety and stress. It is during these times when these students may display behavior that can seem bewildering, rude or disruptive. Most often when a student displays these behaviors they are doing what they know to do to cope. In fact, these sometimes “confusing” behaviors are often experienced as calming. Included below are examples of coping behaviors in which students with an autism spectrum disorder may engage and possible accommodations.

When under stress, students on the autism spectrum may engage in stress relieving activities which look odd and may even make others feel uncomfortable. These activities may include body rocking, pacing, waving or flapping hands or fingers repetitively, chewing on their clothing or body, “lecturing” on a topic of interest or they may display the “opposite” emotion for the situation. They also may abruptly leave the situation with no explanation before or afterwards.

A possible accommodation in helping the student cope, in the moment, might be to discretely ask the student if something is overwhelming and/or ask if the student needs help or wants to leave. Do not discourage or interrupt behavior unless truly disruptive and understand that student does not intend to be disrespectful. Allow sensory items and/or other “comfort” objects. A student, who is having a hard time coping, might not realize when s/he is being disruptive and needs to leave. The instructor and student can agree on a cue that the instructor can give to signal to the student that it is okay/time to leave. They can also agree on a signal, to inform the instructor when the student is overwhelmed or confused.

Ideally, preparing young adults with an autism spectrum disorder for the demands of college has started years earlier. With a proper diagnosis, individualized early intervention and careful transition planning, college students with an autism spectrum diagnosis, will be better prepared to advocate for themselves. At the same time college professors and other staff at post-secondary colleges and universities need to be prepared for students on the spectrum who are seeking to be a part of these institutions in greater and greater numbers. These students must be given reasonable accommodations to provide an equal opportunity for pursuing a college education. Many great minds and opportunities for society could be lost if individuals on the autism spectrum are not supported in their post-secondary academic pursuits.


The information in this article is based on Marci Wheeler’s work at the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University-Bloomington; including her role as Advisor for the Students on the Spectrum Club at Indiana University – Bloomington.

If you need more information about supporting students on the autism spectrum in a university/college setting, please contact your local autism organization or campus office for students with disabilities to find out who can assist. Indiana residents can contact Marci Wheeler at or phone (812) 855-6508.

With Special Thanks to the members of the Students on the Spectrum Club at Indiana University – Bloomington for sharing their insights as they navigate the college setting.

Attwood, T. (2007). The complete guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Harpur, J., Lawler, M. & Fitzgerald, M. (2004). Succeeding in college with Asperger Syndrome: A studentguide. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Palmer, A. (2006). Realizing the college dream with autism or Asperger Syndrome: A parent’s guide to student success. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Prince-Hughes, D. (2002). Aquamarine Blue 5: Personal Stories of College Students with Autism. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Wolf, L.E., Brown, J.T,. Bork, G. R. K. (2009). Students with Asperger Syndrome: A guide for College personnel. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.


How To Start A Great New Year

         Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

My son, Jeremy, is a New Year’s baby. From the moment I was given Jeremy’s due date – January 10, 1989 – I was admonished by my sister the nurse practitioner to make sure not to go into labor during the holiday season.

Whatever you do, don’t give birth on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day; that’s the worst time to have a baby – the hospital staff who are working either don’t want to be there, are getting drunk or are hung over.

We are living in Paris at the time, and  we are invited to a New Year’s Eve party being thrown by other expats in their  loft in the 6ieme  arrondissement. We don’t own a car, so we take the metro.  Obviously, I don’t drink any alcohol at this point, but I still try to dance as much as my 8.5 months pregnant belly will allow me to.  You can stop me from drinking, but not from dancing!

Just after midnight and after ringing in the new year, we decide to head home, about 2 miles away in the 12th arrondissement. The metro and the bus have stopped running for the night,  and  there are no taxis to be had, this being New Year’s Eve. We start walking in the general direction of our apartment,  still  hopeful of catching a cab after it has dropped off a client. After about a mile, we are walking in front of the hospital where Jeremy is supposed to be born in ten days. There is a park bench and I sit down.

Let’s stop here; I’m too tired to walk and it’s conveniently located in case the baby decides to come early!

Little did I know… Another half hour goes by, still no taxi , so we walk  all the way home. We are in bed by 3:00 am. A few hours later I feel what I presume to be the start of labor pains.  I call the hospital and describe what I am feeling, and they tell me to come in to the hospital NOW. I wake Daniel up.

We have to go, we are having a baby! I need to get to the hospital!

I make him a cup of expresso, two shots, because he is not a morning person.  I take a shower.  A woman wants to feel clean and look nice when giving birth (an oxymoron, I know).

When I get out of the shower, Daniel is not getting ready – he is putzing  around – putting away clean dishes, straightening the silverware drawer, emptying the garbage, all at a leisurely pace.  I am not feeling calm,  I yell:

What are you doing??? We have to go to the hospital!

He replies,

Yeah yeah, relax,  The baby is not due for another ten days! Calm down!

We go downstairs to the street to get a taxi. We realize we may have a problem getting one as it is early New Year’s day, about 7:00 am, and because according to movies we have seen, taxi drivers do not want to pick up pregnant ladies about to give birth. They don’t want their cabs messed up. We spy a cab and Daniel flags him down and I hide my discomfort and we tell the cab driver we are going to the hospital to visit a sick aunt. He takes us to the hospital.

Meanwhile, all I can think of is what my sister told me:

Whatever you do don’t have a baby on the New year’s Eve or New Year’s Day!

Sigh. Some things you can’t control. When we get to the hospital, the nurse checks my vital signs and how much I’ve dilated, and she says

Yup, it’s happening today; I’ll tell the midwife you are ready!

Daniel drops the bag he was carrying – the bag that you are told to have packed two weeks before you are due to go to the hospital – and he exclaims,

Oh no, I can’t believe it; I thought this was a dress rehearsal, I was just humoring you!

I could have killed him on the spot if I hadn’t been in so much pain.

Needless to say, Jeremy was born that day despite it not being a good day to be giving birth in hospitals. Everything went well.  It was a wonderful start to a New Year, for which I am forever grateful.


Frog Legs for Breakfast – Camping a la Francaise

People  often  ask how did I build the character I have to  survive all the challenges I’ve faced as a parent of a young adult with autism, including ‘negotiating’ with the systems in place to help us?  The answer is simple: I survived camping.

chantal snake

The word ‘camping’ conjures up different images for everyone. Mention camping to my husband   Daniel –  whose mother was  a  Puerto Rican from Manhattan and his father a Romanian from Detroit-  and here is what he pictures:

A 1960’s green station wagon, parked in a rest stop,  close to  flushing toilets, hot running water, and a Greek diner. His mom and sister sleep in the station wagon where the seats have been folded down, a mattress laid on top to make a nice cozy bed with blankets and fluffy pillows. Screens cover the open windows so the bugs can’t get in. Daniel and his father sleep in a 4 person tent pitched nearby. In the morning they rise and stretch, refresh themsleves in the cozy warm rest stop bathroom and get dressed. They drive to the closest Greek Diner or Howard Johnson, sit in a booth  and have a nice warm breakfast and fresh coffee.

My parents were French Alpinists before becoming French immigrants on Staten Island. They treked in the Alps carrying what they needed to survive in the wilds and sleeping in two-man  pup tents they had sewn together.  Camping meant battling the elements.

So my visual of camping is somewhat different than my husband’s. I see six children covered in soot sharing three small faded old handmade pup tents in a former cow pasture –  evidenced by the cow patties that are left behind – surrounded by woods, 15 miles away from any other humans.

My father was a project manager for a construction firm in New York.  Eventually he was  assigned overseeing the construction of a power plant  in Louisville, Kentucky.  During the school year he commuted back and forth from Staten Island to Kentucky. But during the summer, my parents would pack us all up and take us camping for two months in the Louisville area so that we could be together. For two months each of  three summers, the cow pasture is home.

In the middle of the field is a one room old, rickety wooden shack where maman and papa sleep and where we all take cover during scary lightening and thunderstorms punctuated by torrential downpours of rain which reduces the cow field (and cow patties) to a mud pond. We keep our supplies in the leaky shack  and every other Sunday a rural roman catholic priest comes to celebrate mass for us (now that I think of it, maybe he was giving us last rites).

At a safe distance from the shack and tents is the one-hole wooden outhouse all eight of us share. There are no lights, and when use the outhouse we take a flashlight even in daytime to make sure no snakes are waiting for us in the hole where we sit to do our duty.

There is a large campfire maman uses to cook and heat water  to fulfill the basic needs of eight people, and next to it a picnic table where we eat. The pots on the campfire are old, and dented, stained black from the soot  which emenates from the  campfire which is kept lit 24/7 when it is not raining. Soot from the fire covers everything we have at the campsite. The only running water besides torrential rains is the stream below where my dad takes us frogging on moonlit nights.

The worst part about camping is not the frogging; it’s the sleeping in the narrow short pup tent. Every night I crawl in to my side of the tent, the left side, careful not to knock down the short pole in the middle of the tent holding up the ceiling. The tent is very low to the ground and the tent’s ceiling at it’s highest point is only 12 inches away from my face if I am lying on my back.   As a little girl, I can handle snakes but I absolutely abhor spiders; I have nightmares about them, usually the black widow sort.

Unfortunately, every morning when I wake up, the inside surface of  my tent which I share with one of my sisters,  is full of between 10 to 20 Daddy Long Legged spiders. Up close, these spiders look like one giant eye with  8 skinny, long legs coming out of that eye. Here is my first dilemma every morning upon waking up: I must get out of my sleeping bag in the narrow short tent without touching the canvas siding of the tent, because if I do the spiders will start moving.  And I am certain they will crawl all over me.  The second dilema is deciding: Do I stay face-down  as I carefully crawl out from the tent backwards so I can’t see the spiders but I imagine  them jumping on to my back  as I try to leave the tent?  Or do I roll over on to my back and  shuffle out of the tent feet first, with my eyes wide open so I can keep my eyes on the spiders, terrorized that at any moment one or more of them will jump on me?

My siblings, who know about my fear of spiders are relentless. Every morning before eating breakfast we must  air out our sleeping bags and empty the tents. And every morning one of them, ususally my older brother, grabs a spider by one of its legs and chases me around the campsite. I quickly learn to run fast, very fast. Once I am so terrified that I run all the way to the closest dirt road a quarter of a mile away before realizing I am wearing nothing but my big white panties. No matter that there is no one around for miles to see me, I am mortified.

After the spider chase torture ritual every morning, it is time for breakfast cooked over an open fire. If  we are lucky, we have frog legs for breakfast. There is a steep path leading to the stream below, which becomes a mudslide whenever it rains. At the bottom of the path, an old wooden rowboat is tethered to one of the trees that overhangs the river.  The rowboat is so old  that most of the  paint is peeled off, but you can tell that at one time it had been green. The water in the stream is murky and the sun barely ever reaches through the large tree branches that hang over it, tree roots sticking out making perfect resting places for all types of reptiles and insects.

Occasionally, when the moon is bright my dad takes take us ‘frogging.’ There are parts of frogging I really like: getting into the rowboat at night with the moon shining and fireflys  glowing,  insects buzzing, and feeling like we are going on a real adventure.  What I don’t like is the killing the frog bit. The idea behind frogging is to have frog legs for breakfast. As our parents never cease to remind us,

Papa: “ Cuisses de grenouilles, Frog legs are an expensive delicacy served in the finest of of restaurants in France. We are so lucky to have all these delicacies hopping around  for free, waiting to be harvested for our dining pleasure.”

I never can understand why my friends recoil when I told them about my frogging experience.  I imagine they  haven’t had  the good fortune of tasting frog legs cooked over an open campfire.  They didn’t know what they are missing.

The oldest four children climb into the rowboat with my dad, and we each have our job to do. Two of us row the creaky old boat, one of us  holds a flashlight and shines it over the river looking for frogs, one of us carries the burlap bag, and my dad holds the pitchfork. The pitchfork is smaller that your regular farmer’s pitchfork,   it looks more like  the miniature pitchforks sold with devil’s costumers around Halloween. But the prongs on this pitchfork  are real metal, thin and sharp.

Before we get into the rowboat, my siblings and I fight over who gets to do what. Everyone’s favorite job is holding the flashlight. It beats bagging the frogs and is less strenuous than rowing. It’s dark on the river, with overhanging branches of the trees blocking any moonlight. I like being in control of the flashlight because then I can shine the light  and  actually see – if I want to- all the weird things out there making noises. Whoever controls the flashlight controls what everyone sees because it is pitch black on the river.

We all sit quietly in the rowboat and wait till we hear the croaking  of  frogs and then  I turn the flashlight on the frog and aim the beam  right in  his eyes. The frog is blinded by the light, and he sits frozen, unable to move. My sisters  row the boat closer to the poor frog as I keep the beam of light steadfastedly aimed at the frog’s  eyes. Papa lifts the pitchfork up and spears the frog in his belly and my brother quickly moves in with the burlap bag and voila! in the burlap bag he goes! We always catch at least a dozen, we are 8 people and a pair of of frog legs  does not provide much nourishment – as delicacies rarely do.

Yes indeed, camping is good training for facing your demons.


One Person’s Experience with The AGI Residential/Daily Living Support Online Course

Jeremy Sicile-Kira wrote the following blogpost in January 2014. He had the opportunity to have two new staff members take the The AGI Residential/Daily Living Support Online Course, which provides best and evidence-based practices for those who support the daily-living needs of transition aged students, young adults and adults with autism and related disabilities. Jeremy wrote about his experience and his thoughts about the curriculum. Jeremy recently reached his dream of moving out into his own place. Jeremy’s  comments below, were originally published in an Autism Research Institute newsletter. Jeremy is the co-author of A Full Life with Autism

Jeremy and JL
Kindly having well-trained Direct Support Providers is frankly the key to having a successful life for me and others like me. Two new direct support providers who joined my team nicely had the opportunity to take the online AGI Residential/Daily Living Support course. Frankly they learned more about autism then I could kindly teach them. Basically the Autistic Global Initiative (AGI) course greatly gave them a really firm foundation for understanding why I was the way I am. The course justly explains key elements about how to figure out why we act the way we do and how to best support a person with autism of different abilities. Kindly general information about autism is not always nicely explained in training given by organizations who hire staff to support people like me or other types of autism. Often training for support staff is about legal, medical, safety and health issues. Kindly they may train on how to handle behaviors, but not about why we have those behaviors. Kindly the support staff who went through the AGI training frankly had a better grasp of self determination than before they started working with me.

The new staff following the course learned nicely faster and more completely how self determination in reality applied to my life and justly how it meant they had to kindly learn all the best ways to support me.

I am very grateful that my two new staff members had this opportunity. They greatly learned how to insure that my dearly-needed supports were in use. Frankly having plans is the most important support. The staff help me to schedule my time so I have work, chores, learning, and social activities. Mixed in to my schedule are strategies to help me stay regulated. Greatly my mother in the past helped with this scheduling; now greatly trained staff can help me build my own schedule. Having a plan means believing that I very nicely know how to prepare myself mentally for the day. Having a plan is important to avoid stress and anxiety.

Justly the very kind support staff behave better when they have an understanding of what causes difficulties for me. Greatly my hope is that I won’t very much need to be supported every day in the future, and that I can become more independent. The AGI course gave the new staff a better understanding of techniques to help me learn how to physically move my body to learn and do functional living skills. Truly my body gets stuck. This means that when I try to move it does not respond to my command. Greatly the staff made conversational remarks about the course and I could tell they were learning more and greatly improved every week.Justly I noticed that their confidence grew as their knowledge did. Nicely when staff feel comfortable, I do as well. Justly the staff understands how to best support me when I experience anxiety and PTSD. Frankly nice staff make me feel safer when I’m out because I know they can help me stay calm. My comfort level goes up when I feel safe.

Greatly my mom does not need to train new staff who took the AGI course about autism, only about Jeremy-specific training that I want my support staff to have. Truly I feel more happy knowing that when I move out to my own place there is a program that can help with training new staff.

Jeremy and Handsome


Transition to adulthood: Jeremy is moving into his own place!

Jeremy (a bit overwhelmed with so many people invading his space at the same time) and part of Team Jeremy.

Jeremy (a bit overwhelmed with so many people invading his space at the same time) and part of Team Jeremy.

Jeremy is moving into his own place. Months ago, when we found out that Jeremy  received the approval and supports (from the powers that be) to make Jeremy’s dream a reality, I enthusiastically stated in an AutismCollege blogpost that Jeremy and I would be blogging about the process of preparing for this major transition – in the hopes that some of the information would be useful to others.

As John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  Here it is, almost six months later, and we’ve had no time to write.  I’ve moved over fourteen times since I was a baby, so I’m no newbie when it comes to moving into a new home. But for Jeremy, moving meant more than just transferring to another living space. In the book, A Full Life with Autism, Jeremy and I described  some of the preparation that has been ongoing for years. Here’s what the last six months have entailed:

  • Learning to be more independent in certain home skills:  Learning physical tasks is challenging for Jeremy due to his visual processing and motor skills. Practicing in a familiar environment helps before transferring the skill to a new environment. We have to break down tasks into simple steps.
  • Learning what it means to be a good housemate: As soon as Jeremy knew that his dream was coming true of having his own place shared with another person; he wanted to know what it meant to be a good roommate. He asked a young man he knows at his volunteer job to have breakfast with him so he could ask him what to look for in a roommate, and how to be a good roommate. He had heard this man talk about his roommates, so he figured he might have advice. Then, Jeremy wrote some simple rules for himself to follow, ie “The first rule is that I need to do my dishes when I make food.”
  • Finding the right apartment in the right neighborhood: Jeremy has always wanted to live in the neighborhood he grew up in because everyone knows him. When he goes out shopping, or walking the dog or to the beach, people stop and talk to him. That’s important to him.
  • Finding the right housemate: Jeremy needed to find someone who would share the apartment with him (each have there own bedroom and bathroom). Jeremy needs 24 hour supports, and the apartment-mate would be responsible for being there most nights. LifeWorks (the company that was vendored to provide supports and supervision to make all this possible) found Jeremy’s housemate.
  • Finding the right staff: We are lucky in that we have wonderful support staff that have been with Jeremy for years, but we needed more people to fill all the hours on the schedule, and LifeWorks  found people that were a good addition to the existing Team Jeremy.
  • Staff training: Because of Jeremy’s communication challenges, training was and continues to be a high priority. New  ‘Team Jeremy’  members receive a certain amount of training so that they- and Jeremy -can feel comfortable and safe as they go about their day.
  • Preparing the apartment: Having the apartment as functional as possible for Jeremy helps him be more independent. Where everything is placed in the cupboards, how everything is organized is what makes him successful in completing tasks. Think about how someone with limited visual skills and limited motors skills needs to be able find and get what he needs for everyday life – that’s what Jeremy needs to be as independent as possible.
  • Having his sister Rebecca’s advice on his décor: Jeremy was very clear as to what he wanted in the apartment (very little) the colors he wanted (solid, no patterns and lots of green) and what he wanted to hang on the walls (a few paintings representing calmness, friendship, love). But he wanted his sister- whom he has helped move away to college and into different living situations there- to help him find the furniture needed in the living room and to help him with figuring out where to hang his chosen paintings and posters.
  • Earning the money to pay for his rent: Jeremy is responsible for his share of the rent, and he wants to earn money from his painting. Mom is helping with the marketing at the moment (anyone want a painting, prints or cards? Contact me!).

There is undoubtedly much more to add to this list, but this is a good start. At time of writing, September 1st is the official date for Jeremy’s full-time move to his apartment.  Just like Jeremy learning the skill of pointing to letters to communicate, being ready to move out away from his parents did not happen overnight. He has been preparing for this transition for many years (read A Full Life with Autism).  It’s a process, and it is still ongoing. There are sure to be bumps in the road, but that’s life. We feel grateful that wonderful Team Jeremy and LifeWorks are here to support him  as he takes the first steps of living his dream.

All you need is love …

Love&AutismAs parents, most of us are concerned with the basics in regards to our children with autism: “Are they getting their educational needs met?”  “When they grow up, where will they live and will they be employed?”  Of course, these are important concerns. But so are creating  connections with others, and developing healthy  relationships. It’s not always easy to know how to help our children foster relationships.  If you are a parent or educator in Southern California, then you are in luck. Love & Autism: A Conference with Heart is taking place in San Diego on August 23rd and August 24th.

Jenny Palmiotto, LMFT,  Owner and CEO of The Family Guidance & Therapy Center of Southern California  decided to host this conference, and Jenny explains why in this blog post from the RDI Connect website: “As a professional who works directly with the autism community, the version of autism that the media depicts is far narrower than the diversity of people whom I have the privilege to work with on a daily basis. Likely the most devastating myth that I hear about individuals with autism, is that “people on the spectrum” do not want or need relationships. The most worrisome part of this falsehood is when loved ones and individuals on the spectrum start to believe this debilitating myth. It is crucial and long overdue that we discard this limiting belief. Relationships define lives, everyone’s lives. Our primary goal in life is to love and be loved; this does not change when you are born with neurological differences associated with autism. Love is an innate and fundamental part of being human.

Many people struggle to find love and trusting relationships; some of those people have a diagnosis called autism. The diagnostic criteria for autism include social deficits as one of the three hallmarks of the disorder. However, the core deficit in interpersonal relationship does not mean that there is not a desire or longing to connect with others. Individuals on the autism spectrum want and need relationships at all phases of their lives.

New research shows the bi-directionality of autism, meaning that when an infant that later becomes diagnosed with autism interacts with his mother, he is more withdrawn, responding less to his mother’s attempts to interact and then, in turn, the mother’s interactions become more directive and less responsive/sensitive. The early relational disturbances that mark the parent-child relationship for those on the spectrum frequently extends over the course of life with difficulties in developing friendships and later intimate partnerships. Regardless, individuals on the spectrum feel the same emotional longing to belong and to be a part of something special at home, on the playground, in working/professional relationships, or as part of a team. The problem becomes: how can individuals on the autism spectrum get the closeness they want and deserve?

The ability to give and receive love is far more than a social skill that can be learned; it takes perseverance, reflection, risk, and trust. Our brains are experience dependent organisms, meaning that an individual has to experience relationships rather than simply learn about them in isolation. Professionals working with individuals with autism need to begin by understanding the neuro-science of attachment and love. It is essential that autism professionals do more than stop aberrant behaviors. We need to make sure that our interventions and methods have relationships as the primary focus. Relationship building cannot be secondary to behavioral skills training. Developing the “we” is important from the first moment of life and thus should also be central within our treatment options for those on the spectrum. Fulfilling reciprocal relationships are not only possible for all individuals on the spectrum, they are imperative to living a full and satisfying life.

If you are interested in finding out more about how to help your child, spouse, sibling, or loved one on the spectrum develop rewarding relationships; please join us at Love and Autism: A Conference with Heart on August 23-24th 2014. We know you will LOVE this event.”

To receive more information about the conference, sign up here.

Student and Military 50% off if they email, or event text (619)607-1230 a picture of their student or military ID.

Regional Center Members  can attend for FREE after Regional Center funding – email  for links.

For any questions, please contact

Free Webinar with Dr. Suzanne Goh: Getting the most out of brain-based treatments for autism

On Monday August 25th, at 6:00 pm PST  (9:00 pm EST) Dr. Suzanne Goh will be participating in a two hour webinar moderated by Chantal Sicile-Kira, hosted by MomsFightingAutism.  To participate in this free interactive webinar, please sign up here:

Topic:  Getting the most out of brain-based treatments for autism

A wealth of therapies are now available for children with autism. Choosing among them, knowing which to prioritize, and understanding how they may interact can be a challenge for parents. This seminar will present some of the latest neurological research to help guide parents in these important decisions.

Topics that will be covered include:

–       Diagnosis and managment of mitochondrial dysfunction inautism

–       Neurologically-based approaches to behavior and language intervention

Guest Speaker:  Dr. Suzanne Goh

Headshot SuzanneDr. Suzanne Goh is a board-certified pediatric neurologist with expertise in the evaluation and treatment of children with neurological conditions that impact brain development, cognition, and behavior.

Dr. Goh received her Bachelors of Arts degree, summa cum laude, in History and Science from Harvard University (1993-1997). She went on to attend Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar (1997-1999). In 2004, she graduated from Harvard Medical School, cum laude. Dr. Goh completed her Pediatrics internship at Massachusetts General Hospital and her Pediatric Neurology residency at University of California San Francisco.

Following a postdoctoral fellowship in the Pediatric Brain Imaging Laboratory at Columbia University, she joined Columbia’s faculty as Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, with joint appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology. At Columbia she also served as Co-Director of the Developmental Neuropsychiatry Clinic for Autism and Related Disorders where she oversaw a multi-disciplinary team of physicians and psychologists specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism.

Dr. Goh’s research has focused on mitochondrial and other metabolic disturbances in autism. She has also conducted brain imaging research to identify differences in brain circuits in children with autism. She has been affiliated as an author or reviewer with several leading neuroscience journals, including Neurology, Annals of Neurology, Pediatric Neurology, & Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. She has taught at Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of California San Francisco.

Dr. Goh is co-author of the book Spectacular Bond: Reaching the Child with Autism and ASD Unlocking Language: A Program to Teach Language and Communication

For more information go to  Dr. Suzanne Goh’s website.

Moderator: Chantal Sicile-Kira

Chantal-Sicile-Kira-homeChantal Sicile-Kira’s passion for empowering others, her love of writing and her personal interest in autism has led her to become an award-winning author of five books, speaker, and leader in the field of autism.  Her first award-winning book, Autism Spectrum Disorder, was updated and  published in January 2014. She has been involved with autism spectrum disorders for over 25 years as both a parent and a professional on both sides of the Atlantic. A tireless advocate for those on the autism spectrum, Chantal founded Autism College in order to provide practical information and training  online about autism.