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  • Exceptional People

    Exceptional People with Autism This page is dedicated to those that show us that people with autism - a disability in social interaction and communication - also have some wonderful talents and gifts. I showed these to my son, Matt, to help him see that autism is not just a disability. Autism means "exceptional" and special". His wonderful reaction to viewing the talents of other autistic people brought about the idea for this page. Matt knows he is different. He knows I see him as both exceptional and special. After viewing these video clips and reading these stories Matt now sees himself as special too. If you know of a video or story for this page please send me the link. David Patton - author, "Dummy - a memoir" David, dyslexic and autistic, took me on a wonderful, heartfelt journey of his early years in his new book, "Dummy - a memoir". The voice of the young David was loud, strong and full of emotion. I found myself right there with him in the dim halls of his alternative school awaiting trouble by those that would bully him, right there jumping the fence with him as he sought to get away from his emotionally damaged and very angry girl friend, and even felt the cold panic of being trapped in a snow tunnel by his brother. I was amazed at his recall of his childhood and was impressed by his ability to bare it all to the world. Unable to read or write, David dictated his story as an example of the struggles and the triumphs of his youth. The only draw back? I want more! David is again dictating a book, this next one on his adult life - and I am looking forward to reading about how he overcame the numerous obstacles laid before him in adulthood. David Patton is a voice of struggle and hope - shedding light onto the emotional price of having a disability. Kyle Coleman - non-verbal, but can sing! Kyle's autism has kept him almost mute all his life - that is until mom took him to music therapy in 2009. Now, at age 25, Kyle will be releasing his first album on Autism Awareness Day this April. His voice in song is amazing - perfect pitch and strong. Go Kyle! Great instincts, mom! Read the story and listen here. David Militello- singer David was a contestant on America's Got Talent in 2008. At 9 years old, David won the hearts of Americans in his rendition of the Jackson Five song, "Ben". A beautiful child and a beautiful voice - watch the youtube performance of David Militello. Tony drake - R&B singer and guitarist "Tony Drake is blind and autistic, but plays Blues and R&B like nobody's business. Stinging guitar licks and a true soul sound is what he's all about" . Listen to him play - The Tony Drake Story. James Hobley - exceptional dancer! James was a finalist in the 2011 Britain's Got Talent. Watch this wonderful performance of self expression through dance - James Hobley Daniel Tammet - math wiz "Daniel Tammet is a twenty-something with extraordinary mental abilities, Daniel is one of the world’s few savants. He can do calculations to 100 decimal places in his head, and learn a language in a week. This documentary follows Daniel as he travels to America to meet the scientists who are convinced he may hold the key to unlocking similar abilities in everyone". Watch The Boy with the Incredible Brain Jason McElwain - Autistic Kid Owns the Court A coach puts in his team's manager, a young autistic boy named Jason, in for the last 4 minutes of a basketball game and the young man catches fire - sinking six 3-pointers back to back! Absolutely amazing and inspiring video! To watch and cheer for Jason, as this Autistic kid owns the court, click here. Blue Light Club Alan Stokes' Blogger site has a special area called the "Blue Lights Club". Very exceptional people on the spectrum. Check out the Blue Lights Kyle Forbes - hero A local 10-year-old boy is being hailed as a hero. He says he used what he learned in Cub Scouts to save his teacher's life. The amazing young man explained to Eyewitness News how he reacted in an unusual situation with maturity well beyond his years. Kyle Forbes, 10, is no ordinary kid. Most everyone will agree upon that. But now he's being honored by his school and his Scout pack for springing into action Tuesday to save his teacher's life. For Hyde Elementary School teacher Sheri Lowe, every day teaching art class now is a gift. "He saved my life," said Lowe. It was about 10am Tuesday when she and Kyle were alone in her classroom. Lowe was eating an apple and choked. They showed us how he reacted. "And I was choking and he squeezed me like that twice. The first time it didn't work, so he goes, 'I got it, Mrs. Lowe.' And he does it again, and he does it exactly the right way and the apple came out," said Lowe. Kyle says he learned the Heimlich maneuver last year in Cub Scouts and that his dad reinforced the teaching. "I just knew what to do immediately and I just like hurried over there and did it exactly right," said Kyle. Lowe calls Kyle her hero, and it's a title he's happy to accept. "Let's get back to the interview about the hero thing," said Kyle. "I mean, that was the first time I've ever saved someone's life, in an accident. That's the first time I've ever done it." Kyle is autistic. He has a passion for learning and like any child he wants to fit in. "Before I was just like a normal kid, always being picked on. Then I was like a superhero. Everybody was cheering me when I came down to the office to get an award. Everyone clapped at me when I got back," said Kyle. Lowe wonders what would be today had Kyle not been with her. "He's in my prayers, and um, (to Kyle) tell me not to cry," said Lowe. "He is my hero." Kyle's father is quite proud of his son. He says this is proof that children with autism can do anything others can do and that they should never think otherwise. HOUSTON Reprinted from a post on Autism Spectrum Disorder, through my eyes Autism Lights Those exceptional individuals who inspire us all. Marnol Scaggs - writer Adam writes science fiction - and is very creative. His first novel is on Barnes and Nobel's website as a nook book - allowing everyone to read it exactly as he wrote it. Having autism hasn't stop this young man from pursuing his dreams. Go Adam! Here's his description of Dawn of the Dragons of Eden "A young man exploring a rock formation discovers a clutch of dragon eggs. The young man and his friends bond with the dragon hatchlings and begin a journey. The journey begins when the young dragons and their riders are forced to deal with an alien menace. The alien menace is a race of insect like creatures bent on destroying the human colony on Eden." If you would like to get a copy, just click on the title. Global Visitors Honored as one of the - TOP 30 AUTISM BLOGS In bookstores Dec. 16, 2014 Purchase a signed-copy direct from the author for $22.95 (plus tax and shipping) Upcoming Events Quotes Recent Blog Entries Recent Photos Newest Members Autism and the World According to Matt

  • Get the Book!

    Listening with the Heart - A guide to understanding non-verbal communication in the autistic child for parents, teachers, and professionals Special Hardcover Edition - only at Barnes and Noble Press! Order here! Free shipping. Click to purchase through Amazon! Reviews - 5.0 out of 5 STARS! The best part of life is what we share. How do we share if we can't communicate? If we are very, very, blessed we will have someone in our world who has the love, patience, and steadfast determination to listen very hard. So much so that they can actually decipher the unspoken, and in turn, teach us to really hear and be heard. Endless research and study done through the eyes and instincts of a scientist, teacher, author, and most importantly, a mother, have afforded us this invaluable insight into the skill of communication. Matt, a moderate to severely autistic and non-verbal child, had a lot to say. His mother teaches us how she learned to listen. "Listening with the Heart" is a combination of observational science, and storytelling, told by someone who has navigated the difficulties of raising a non-verbal autistic child for over 30 years. The author understands that real communication goes both ways - an understanding which allowed her to see the child, get to know the child - and not focus on just the autism. This highly engaging book not only discusses the 12 different ways in which an autistic, non-verbal individual communicates, but also shares many heart-warming stories from Liz Becker's personal experiences. Her success in communicating with her son, and him with her, has lead to her son living on his own - independently - which is a rare and amazing accomplishment for an individual with his degree of autism severity - and a wonderful tribute to the power of understanding non-verbal communication. - Gayle Johnson-Cartland, RRT. From the back cover "Listening with the Heart - A Guide for Understanding Non-verbal Communication in the Autistic Child, for both Parents and Professionals" "93/7 Rule: 93%of communication occurs through nonverbal behavior & tone; only 7% of communication takes place through the use of words. -John Stoker" Liz Becker found this to be true from Matt's early age diagnosis of moderate/severe mostly nonverbal regressive autism. In her book, "Listening with the Heart - A Guide for Understanding Non-verbal Communication in the Autistic Child, for Parents, Teachers, and Professionals",the most amazing line I held close to my heart is, "He spoke with his heart, I listened with mine - and amazingly, we heard each other". This extremely inspiring book, is written for parents and professionals. Her instinctive insights into nonverbal / minimally verbal children with nonverbal behaviors in Autism children and adults prove they do communicate, we just need to read, see and listen to their language. It is not a short cut to communicating- it is a lifelong journey. Matt has proven that with his Mother's perseverance in communicating with him, he can and has achieved more than many neurotypical children and adults. He is an independent and amazing young man, not because of his autism, but because his mother never gave up on learning to communicate his way and he was heard. Readers will find in this book many ways to communicate with nonverbal or minimally verbal autistic children as well as the ones not labeled autistic. Reading this book has made me more aware of the many ways we communicate with nonverbal language. I thank Liz Becker for giving me more insight into peripheral vision as a communicative activity - of which I have already started in my therapy sessions. This book is remarkable! You will find yourself in a whirlwind of proven ideas that work. She gives all professionals (teachers, therapists etc...) and parents a roadmap to communicating. I hope parents, teachers and therapists use this book as a resource to learn new ways to understand and communicate with nonverbal and minimally verbal Autistic children. She teaches readers that understanding the child's language and them any ways to communicate invites us all to see each and every Autistic child as a unique individual, and learn not to ever compare - or to give in - to social norms, but Always! Always! Keep investigating with our eyes wide open. - Deborah Simons-Johnson,MS, CCC-SLP, IBCCES Advanced Autistic Specialist Autism and the World According to Matt Click to Purchase - through Amazon Reviews: 5.0 out of 5 stars The World According to Matt Shines Light on Autism “They say you must walk a mile in another person’s shoes to really know them. Liz Becker is an Autism Mom who walks a marathon in her autistic son’s shoes and details it beautifully in her book Autism and The World According to Matt: A collection of 50 inspirational short stories on raising a moderate/severe mostly non-verbal autistic child from diagnosis to independence. This delightful collection of stories is a love letter from a mom who refuses to accept the 1990 view of autism that is imposed on her son, and instead embarks on a journey to uncover the beauty of who her son really is. The stories encompass everything from the trials and tribulations of potty training to helping Matt get his own apartment. Becker’s style of writing evokes an Earl Hamner simplicity, making you feel as though Walton’s mountain has visited the land of Autism. The result is lush and beautiful, you feel as though you are a part of the family that continually gathers ranks to protect Matt and help him safely make his way to independence. Readers will find themselves laughing along as both mother and son find the way to communicate in a world filled with complexities, half-truths and unrealistic expectations. They will cheer as Matt enjoys victories large and small and, like me, they will likely shed a tear when the road blocks seem just too tall to scale. Do yourself a favor and read this inspirational book from a Mom who helped to forge a path for Autism parents before Autism Speaks, before insurance reform and before there was any reason to hope.” - Shannon Penrod, Host, Autism-Live Book Reviews for Autism and the World According to Matt Inspiratonal, January 11, 2014 By Margaret ". . . . I am an Exceptional Student Education Specialist for a public school system. This family’s compelling journey will be a recommended read to my colleagues as an example of what a child with a moderate-severe autism disorder is truly capable of achieving, both in a supported home environment and in the general education setting." 5.0 out of 5 stars I cried. I laughed. I love this book . December 31, 2013 By Kay Schwink "I am the sibling of more than one autistic person. I, too, am "on the spectrum". It is rare to find someone who can so eloquently express what it IS to be autistic. I cannot pretend to know the struggle of Matt and of his mother, for my autism is "high-functioning". This book, however, made me FEEL as if I could understand and know what it means to love, or, be, or teach a "moderate/severe, mostly non-verbal" autistic person." 5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVE MATT'S WORLD December 31, 2013 By Esther Flores "This book shares all the raw emotions of both laughter and tears that go along with the Autism world". 5.0 out of 5 stars Honest humor January 4, 2014 By Marilyn Garnto ".... Her honesty with a perfect pitch of humor is a great read as we all struggle to understand and encourage children to find their happiness how ever that may look in their world". 5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read January 1, 2014 By Bryan "A must read for teachers, parents, siblings or anyone who is interested in autism. ... She navigates and expands the boundaries of autism with humor and sometimes a few tears." 5.0 out of 5 stars Well done ! January 8, 2014 By S. Keller "Special education teachers and health professionals, especially, need to avail themselves of this resource that Liz and Matt have made available to all of us". 5.0 out of 5 stars The World According to Matt, a superb read, - Autism Daily Newscast February 7, 2014 "What instantly struck me while reading was the incredible bond between Matt and Liz and that most importantly she saw and still sees the world today through Matt's eyes"

  • Non-verbal Communication

    Take a look at the 12 ways we send signals about who we are and how we feel. This list is my own personal observation list (copyright 2019) – not one provided by any one person or therapist. As you read through them note not just how many you already use to convey meaning, but also how many you use to extract meaning from another person. Touch (haptics) Facial expression Eye contact and gaze Gestures Paralinguistics Writing Art Music Body language Proxemics Personal Appearance Speech TOUCH Touch is vital – “touch is an important modality through which infants and mothers communicate; it is also a vital means through which infants self-regulate and explore their surroundings” Touch It decreases stress by down-regulating stress hormones. Without touch infants fail to thrive. 3 senses must be integrated correctly in order to perceive the world – •Tactile •Vestibular •proprioception Haptic – a combination of touch with awareness of body position. Tactile (touch) Receptors bring in information from the outside world – Skin – pain, temperature, itch, pressure, vibration, textures, etc When something isn't working as it should the child may show certain characteristic behaviors - Pulling away Avoiding textures Pain does not register correctly Withdrawal behaviors – a protective behavior from environmental overload . Vestibular Receptors in the inner ear detect rotational movement and changes in the head’s movement relative to gravity. Characteristic Behaviors - Twirling and spinning – retraining the brain to detect rotational movements. Lining up toys Spinning toys Proprioception Sense of the body’s position at any given time. Receptors found in joints, muscles and tendons, relays information about bending and stretching, and allows for fine motor movements. Body position is held subconsciously and adjusted as needed. Characteristic behaviors Holding a pencil – from a weak to a strong grasp, and from chaotic lines to smooth deliberate lines. May stand differently on occasion. Facial Expression The two types of expressions originate in different parts of the brain - . 1. Macroexpressions – voluntary 2. Microexpressions – involuntary, and thus harder to conceal Early in development the child puts the various expressions into only 2 different categories – approval or disapproval. ´Macroexpressions – appear obvious and involve the entire face. Being able to recognize obvious expressions (Happiness, sadness, anger) happens much sooner than complicated expressions (disgust, surprise, fear). ´Microexpressions – concealed emotions that show only in the blink of an eye. Eye Contact and Eye Gaze The degree of eye contact can signal comfort level. A lack of eye contact can suggest fear or apprehension. Retraining the visual integration centers in the brain after the onset of autism can be slow but the lack of eye contact doesn’t always last as learning is taking place. It’s not a problem with the eyes or eyesight, it’s more to limit the amount of visual stimuli streaming in all at once. Gestures Gestures are movements of the limbs or body in a specific way in order to express thought. Easier for the child to use their own forms of gestures but it's not easy for them to read them in another. Paralinguistics Non-verbal vocalizations and paralanguage. Basically, it’s not what you say, but how you say it is what really matters. Laughing or crying is tied to thoughts – its not “for no reason”, and research has shown that sounds emanating from others are perceived differently than those for neurotypical children. Researchers found that the participants were able to detect vocalizations of happiness more quickly than those conveying anger or sadness. Angry speech produced ongoing brain activity that lasts longer – the brain pays special attention to anger sounds. For the main care-giver, reading the child becomes almost intuitive. But remember that for the child, reading the message in return is much harder. Writing List- making is easier than understanding sentence structure and in repetition of list-making enhances memory consolidation. Making lists organizes thoughts. The brain section involved is the cerebellum, which is required for cognition (acquiring knowledge, understanding through thought, experience, and the senses). – The cerebellum puts it all together, connecting muscle movement with detailed thoughts and feelings. Research shows very few specialized neurons (Purkinje cells) but a greater neuro-inflammatory processes within the developing cerebellum of autistic children. Writing and art go hand in hand, as art provides a visual representation of the word. Involvement of this brain area is suggested for behaviors such as hand-flapping, spinning, and the need to line up toys. Art Art includes many forms of expression: drawing, painting, photography, even reading or making maps, schematics, and architecture. Art is a way to express what we see, what we feel and what we love. Much can be gained by examining art and using art as a way to communicate. Art adds depth to words that may be difficult to say verbally. It provides insight into what we think and dream about. Never take art for granted - it's so much more than just pictures. Music Music is a conveyor of non-verbal communication, just like art. It’s a conversation between the one playing the music, and the one listening to music. Again, both are expressing emotion. But music has something that art does not – actual words and language. Unlike spoken language, however, the words sung are not blocked in the speech processing area - language is more readily understood. According to Kimberly Sena Moore Ph.D., music therapy can be used, “ . . . to elicit spontaneous speech, to work on specific articulation patterns, and to increase their respiratory strength. Singing and speech utilize distinct and shared neural pathways, which can make singing a tremendously beneficial therapeutic option for strengthening neural connections needed for speech production .“ (Moore, 2013). Think of it this way - the information traveling along in side by side neural highways. The one for the spoken word is still under construction and there are detours and possibly dead-ends. But right next to it is the highway for the words being sung – and the entire highway from point A to point B is free and clear . . . all the way to the speech center. Words get in. Language is processed. We all receive song in basically the same way, autistic and neurotypical. Body Language Body language is an unconscious expression of emotion. Fidgeting, pacing, standing, or sitting can reveal anxiety or relaxation. It’s not just unconsciously used, but also unconsciously perceived by the person watching. It therefore plays a role in how we feel the other person is feeling – an unconscious communication for both parties; giver and receiver. Body language can reveal either positive or negative emotions. The hand movements and twirling, now referred to as stimming behaviors, are a body language expression of emotion – not self-stimulatory behaviors as most will tell you. Body language is an unconscious expression of emotion – and stimming is a unique form of body language. They're not trying to self-regulate, they're trying to express a feeling that they have no other way of expressing... So, while stimming is an all-encompassing term for the seemingly odd behaviors seen in early childhood autism, like the flapping of hands, it’s also highly inaccurate. Those odd behaviors are saying something... there's a reason for them and that reason can be found in the unconscious expression of emotion. Proxemics Proxemics is the distance a person puts between themselves and another – their physical proximity. We all have a personal space, but for an autistic child that distance is amplified. Invading one’s personal space results in an anxious, uncomfortable feeling. For Matt, it was a signal of fearfulness - distance is safety. A purposeful distance had to be maintained in order to remove himself from an environment that was too stressful, or away from a person he was fearful of. Proxemics was a conscious act – whereas body language is unconscious. The subtleties of body language provide clues to thoughts and feeling of the person being watched, but distance always meant the same thing – he either liked where he was, or he didn’t. Personal Appearance What a person wears, how they style their hair, growing a beard or shaving, wearing jewelry, choosing whether to have tattoos, deciding on clothing styles and colors, all are a part of our own personal appearance and depict the person we wish to display to the world. It’s that first impression we wish to project. Confidence is perceived by others by our attire. In addition to the professional attire that may be required, we still tend to express our individualism through the accessories – the colors we pick, our body art in the form of tattoos and jewelry. Our self-expression through our attire can take years to perfect. We don’t want to look like a simple droid for any specific company - we are more than that. So we personalize our attire to reflect the individual person that we are. As we grow older we evolve, and our own personal style evolves with us, reflecting our true self more and more. The autistic child's need to express individualism is like anyone else. Allow them to choices in attire, in decorations, in colors and accessories. The choices made reflect their individualism. Speech ´“. . . the presence of even one word, or some echolalic speech, appears to be a significant predictor for the acquisition of spoken language after five years of age.” (NIDCD, 2010). Echolalia - speech practice. The repeating back what has been said. For example, “How do you feel today Matt?” for which Matt would reply, “How do you feel today?” The non-verbal category encompasses a wide range of abilities – or disabilities. In its own way, non-verbal is similar in some aspects to the spectrum. There are lots of variations, from mute, to difficulties in producing speech, to being able to speak - but choosing not to. Maybe it’s too overwhelming. Maybe it’s confusing. ´For Matt, language use is more confusing and in many cases incomprehensible. It’s why he looks to me to clarify when someone is asking him certain questions. Matt prefers to avoid speech when possible, because most of the time how a person says something does not match their body language or facial expression. It causes uncertainty in how to reply. ´Matt is also non-verbal. It’s a unique and mysterious combination. This is why when I speak of Matt’s difficulty I simply use the phrase, “mostly non-verbal”, as it reflects an ability to speak, but for whatever the reason, does not wish to speak, or uses very little speech for communication. Outer monologue Self-talk, talking to one's self out loud. Many autistic individuals have this self-talk behavior and most are told to try and control it, as talking to oneself was thought once upon a time to be a sign of mental illness. It’s actually just the opposite. Self-talk – talking aloud to yourself – is actually beneficial. “. . . There’s a growing body of research to indicate that self-talk can help memory recall, confidence, focus and more” (Borzykowski, 2017). Self-talk – the outer monologue – is actually a sign of high cognitive functioning. “Our findings are just a small part of a much larger, ongoing stream of research on self-talk, which is proving to have far-reaching implications. “Not only does non-first-person self-talk help people perform better under stress and help them get control of their emotions, it also helps them reason more wisely.” (Borzykowski, 2017).

  • Matt's Awards

    Graduating with Honors Matt with one of his friends at graduation in 2005 - note the cool honor cords around his neck! Simple Awards Start the Ball Rolling Towards Big Achievements! 1992(age 6) T-Ball; Sheffey Dodgers 1993(age 7) Job Well Done! Award T-Ball; Sheffey Dodgers- District Champions 1994(age 8) A Super Good Student 1996 (age 10) Certificate of Recognition - 4-H Share the Fun Presentations Dramatic Reading Certificate of Achievement - Second Annual Young Writers and Illustrators Awards Competition Special Olympics 1997(age 11) Special Olympics First Place: Running Long Jump - 2.0 feet First Place: Softball throw - 20.04 ft First Place: 100 yard dash - 17.10 sec. Academic Excellence Awards Reading English Spelling Math Science Health Social Studies 1998 (age 12) 4-H Public Speaking DARE - Commonwealth of Virginia: commitment to say no to drugs Special Olympics First Place: Running Long Jump First Place: Softball throw - 21.5 ft First Place: 100 yard dash Odessey of the Mind competition Academic Excellence Awards English Spelling Math Science Health Social Studies Arbor Day National Poster Contest - winner for Sheffey School - went to state competition 1999 (age 13) Special Olympics First Place: Running Long Jump - 1.96 m First Place: Softball throw - 22 ft First Place: 100 yard dash - 21.28 sec. Odessey of the Mind competition School Science Fair - Grand Prize (Greenhouse Effect on Global Warming) Wythe County Science Fair - Regionals: Honorable Mention - Biology Academic Excellence Awards Reading English Spelling Math Writing Science Health Social Studies International Food Fair - 2nd place Outstanding Attendance 2000 (age 14) Special Olympics First Place: Running Long Jump - 2.61 m First Place: Softball throw - 29.6 ft First Place: 100 yard dash - 17 sec. Odessey of the Mind - competition (2nd place) School Science Fair - Grand Prize Academic Excellence Awards Reading English Spelling Math Writing Science Health Civics President's Education Award -(signed by Bill Clinton):Outstanding Educational Improvement 2001 (age 15) Art Contest - Salem Fair; First Place (sketch of the national capital building in DC) 2002 (age 16) Who's Who Among American High School Students Science Fair - First Place Acedemic Letter Art I Letter Academic Letter - Earth Science 2003 (age 17) Academic Letter - Algebra 1-part 2 Who's Who Among American High School Students Citizenship Award - FCHS Outstanding Performance for dissecting a pig in biology ;) National Honor Society- Induction Matt with his friends on graduation day! 2004 (age 18) National Honor Society Who's Who Among American High School Students Delegate Carico Academic Award Outstanding Student - Geometry Part 1 2005 (age 19) National Honor Society Who's Who Among American High School Students Top 10% (Student rank - #4) Senior Academic Letter GPA - 3.812!!!! Global Visitors Honored as one of the - TOP 30 AUTISM BLOGS In bookstores Dec. 16, 2014 Purchase a signed-copy direct from the author for $22.95 (plus tax and shipping) Upcoming Events Quotes Recent Blog Entries Recent Photos Newest Members Autism and the World According to Matt

  • World Autism Awareness

    World Autism Awareness Day On April 2, Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization, will mark the annual celebration of World Autism Awareness Day – a global effort to heighten awareness about a disorder affecting millions of individuals and families around the world – with a series of high profile awareness events and initiatives. World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) was established by a resolution passed unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, making autism one of only three health issues to be recognized by the UN with its own “day.” World Autism Awareness day - 2015 April is Autism awareness Month - Can we please stop stimming? (the Word - not the Behavior). Stimming? Seriously? Oh Please! Autism awareness for me means doing what I can to dispel the myths and inaccuracies of what is and isn’t autism. This year I would like to talk about stimming – it’s a derogatory, inaccurate term and I would like to see it melt into the past, like institutionalizing autistic children. It’s called “Stimming” – short for self-stimulatory behavior – and it’s an all-encompassing term for the seemingly odd behaviors seen in early childhood autism, like the flapping of hands. Who am I to want to demand a change in medical terminology? I’m one of the first autism moms - from before the surge in prevalence. My son, Matt, and I have been doing this for a long time and in my opinion the term is highly inaccurate. I see no “self-stimulating” behavior, and the words themselves feel derogatory, as if my child was unable to feel anything and had to flap to simply stay awake. My son was diagnosed with regressive childhood autism in 1988. The severity of his disorder was brought home by the recommendation by an entire team of specialists to institutionalize him – he was only 2 years old. I went against that recommendation and brought my moderate –to-severely autistic, and mostly non-verbal, son home instead. We learned about autism the old fashion way – by observation, trial and error. We have navigated the choppy waters of autism, and pushed the boundaries of what experts thought autism was, for Matt’s entire life. Years ago when the term, “stimming” entered the conversation on autism I thought my head would explode. Seriously? People really think they need to self-stimulate? Think about it a moment…. A child who is bombarded by huge amounts of environmental stimulation coming at them from lights, sounds, textures, tastes, etc., does not need to self-stimulate to “feel” anything. They already feel way more than the neurotypical child. It’s another one of those phrases that begs the question, “Who came up with this stuff?” For Matt, the behavior made itself known through his hands - a twisting of his hands at the wrist – back and forth, back and forth, and flapping on occasion, just to mix things up a bit. So, while he didn’t actually flap his hands constantly, he did move them constantly. The term didn’t exist for this type of behavior – but the doctors and therapists at the hospital where he was diagnosed certainly had an opinion about it – I was to stop him from doing it. Grab his hands and hold them still. And like a good little drone, I did – for about 2 weeks. Within those 2 weeks I was observing my son, watching and learning and wondering why he would “self-stimulate”. I came to the conclusion that it was emotional communication trying to be released from little boy who had trouble getting his emotions out. When he was excited, those hands were turning quickly – almost a blur. When he was content they moved in a slow, methodical rhythm that denoted calm. When he was anxious – they flapped. Communicating emotion is much more difficult then say, wanting a drink of water. Wanting a drink he could point to the glass or to the faucet or to the refrigerator. Wanting to tell me he was joyful and excited? Hmmm….. Nothing to point at. His emotions were in his hands. Communication was in their movement. Do I really want to grab his hands and make him stop? To be fair, I am only an expert on Matt – not autism. I couldn’t tell you about other autistic children. I was only able to read Matt’s behavior and observe the link to his emotions. Actually, there were no other autistic children around at the time – Matt had a rare 1:10,000 communication disorder called autism, and no one had ever heard of it. There was no Internet – no one to share notes with or compare behaviors with. So maybe, just maybe, his “stimming” was different than other autistic children – and only another parent can say whether or not they noticed the connection to emotions too. Feel free to let me know. I do know that as he got older, and could communicate better with facial expressions, his hands didn’t twist or flap as often, and when a few words made it into his vocabulary that could describe how he felt, the flapping went extinct. Stimming – it’s an awful word that suggests a child is not communicating with his environment – and feels nothing….. I hate the term. It has nothing to do with autism. Emotional communicating behavior would have been more accurate. And as for holding his hands still? As I said, after a few weeks of doing what the “experts” suggested I just gave up. I watched him twist and flap and I knew his brain was working on how to repair communication roads. I felt – I knew – that he was doing it for a reason, and I would not interfere with the process. It came to me one bright, sunny morning. We were sitting in the kitchen, my husband and I, and Matt was on the back deck just twisting and twirling around. How old was he? Three? Four? He had his Hot Wheel cars and a ramp to run them off of, and oh my, was he just the happiest little fellow. My husband looked at me and said, “Shouldn’t we stop his hands from doing that?” “No” I replied – a smile on my face. “Look at his joy . . .” We watched the happiest person on earth roll one car after another along the ramp and into a flight pattern across the deck. Each car then crashed several feet away and the response to the flight / crash sequence was pure joy. Matt twirled in a circle and twisted both hands over and over, until he went to pick the next car for next aerial mission. “He’s so happy . . . let him flap”. And I never again quieted his hands. Turns out I didn’t have to. Matt did it himself, in his own time. The years flew by and those “stimming behaviors” (ugh! Just using it here hurts . . .), disappeared for the most part. Matt grew and learned and moved forward every year. He graduated number 4 in his class, with honors, in 2005 (the same year Autism Speaks was founded). In 2013 he moved into his own apartment. Matt is again doing the impossible – (still a trail blazer, that one), and I am so very proud of him. My advice to those new to autism and the flapping – let’em flap. And during the month of April – Autism Awareness Month - can we please push to change that terminology from the inaccurate “stimming” to something more accurate, like “emotional communication behavior”? Who’s with me? World Autism Awareness Day – April 2 - has rolled around again and the battle cry for acceptance instead of awareness is again all over social media. The acceptance campaigns complain about awareness and try hard to convince us that awareness is no longer needed – such an awful thought. There can be no acceptance without real awareness and many people – especially the mildly autistic - seem to have a difficult time understanding that. Shall I share a secret? I think of those on the spectrum and hereby confess that I am still seeking awareness myself – even with having raised a moderate / severely autistic child for 29 years! Acceptance has never been the issue - ever. Awareness however, that’s a different story. You hear people say, “If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person with autism” – but they don’t really seem to understand that phrase. Let’s see if I can get this across without offending half the people with autism. I’m betting I can’t . . . because awareness is still lacking in most of the autism community about others on the same spectrum. Hold onto your hat . . . The high-functioning side of the spectrum has advocates and writers and people whom recognize their autism and have a voice. The problem is most can’t seem to see the difference between themselves and an individual on the opposite end of the spectrum – those not in the high-functioning range like themselves. Some are professional people with spouses, kids, careers, and talents that can shine brightly and bring comfort and empowerment to others like them. They may have difficulties in some areas of socialization, or with some environmental stimuli, but they enjoy life – a full and wonderful life - where they are free to pursue those dreams and be those advocates, but unfortunately, in reading their stories I find they seem to have no clue to the difficulties of others with autism along the various degree -points across the spectrum. Sometimes their words even come off as cold-hearted, and I admit that I have stopped reading their books and articles as a way to help my own son - because, quite frankly, they demonstrate a lack of awareness of autism as a whole. Now don’t go taking that all wrong. Their stories are still valued as they reveal something else - a way to embrace their unique qualities, take pride in their differences, and while this type of awareness is glorious (good for them), they don’t speak for my son. To see things from their point of view has been difficult for me. Not one article or book has changed my view of my own son’s autism or given me an ‘Ah-ha’ moment as to how to help him. Sorry, but it’s true. Nevertheless, I kept reading them for a different reason – as a way to open my mind to see things through their eyes, at their level of autism. I admit I did find them helpful in understanding a few of my friends on the milder side of the spectrum – and for that, I thank them. In my own search for awareness of the milder side of autism I have found it even more comforting and understandable in conversations with a dear friend of mine, Kay, who is high-functioning. She has been wonderful and enormously helpful in illuminating the struggles of an autistic woman on that end of the spectrum. But she’s a rare one. Many I have asked fairly simple questions of, just shut me down, as if it were insulting to them to share with a non-autistic person. But most high-functioning advocates really are a blessing to the awareness of high-functioning autism. Unfortunately, many in that group are pushing to drop awareness campaigns in favor of acceptance campaigns – and yes, there is a difference. For the most part, those talking the loudest about autism and acceptance have so little in common with my son that I find their complaints on acceptance to be rather petty in comparison to Matt’s struggles. Yes, I just said that most sound ‘petty’. I’m being truthful here, not looking for Brownie points. Try to envision it from my point of view. I see mildly autistic individuals with jobs – good careers - and I see them having a spouse and children – a nuclear family with friends – an actual support system. Here are people who enjoy the freedom to live their lives as individuals, make choices, strive and reach monumental goals. They have a voice! They are being heard. Woohoo! Good for them! But . . . as I read and listen to them I realize they have very little in common with the struggles of my moderate / severe autistic son. I have even been attacked on social media sites more than once for talking about the struggles of my son and by those who claim to have autism. They seem to feel they know more about how to raise him than I do. It’s hard for me not to think their unaware of the spectrum. Their concerns seem fairly minor to me when my main goal for 29 years has been to keep my son from being institutionalized - so, in my mind, in my world, their grievances seem petty in comparison. Their remarks simply reveal an unawareness of a spectrum. Do you get that? I would give anything for Matt to have such opportunities in his life, for things to be as “easy” for him. Oh for heaven’s sake, don’t go jumping up and down and pounding your fists quite yet – I am not saying their concerns are minor to them – only to me in comparison to my son. Yes, they have a right to push for more acceptance of who they are, and their drive and courage is not something to be ignored or belittled by society – but they are the ones in the news, the ones screaming for acceptance and shunning awareness (as if we don’t need it anymore) and thereby keeping the autism light shining on their struggles – and their struggles don’t match up very well at all with my son’s struggles. I say, go ahead, strive for acceptance for those similar individuals on the higher end of the spectrum, but stop complaining about awareness campaigns. Awareness to me is everything. You see, my son was raised before autism’s giant surge, back when the prevalence was 1:10,000 and no one – not even his own doctor – knew what autism really was. Matt had already graduated high school by the time an awareness campaign was even conceived. We did this – got Matt through school, taught him interactions and how to be responsible enough to live on his own - without awareness and I know just what awareness has done for him since – it’s a big deal. HUGE! Awareness means when he joins a recreation center that others know how to speak to him. It means police officers will know what not to do that would cause him harm and anxiety and stress. It means his doctor knows that just because he says he’s fine, doesn’t mean he really is. Awareness if absolutely gigantic for Matt maintaining his independence! So while those on the high-functioning end are wanting to scrap awareness and push for acceptance, those on the moderate end of the spectrum still need that Awareness, thank you. And let’s go a step even further – Awareness is desperately needed for those on the severe end. The severe end never makes it into the news. Those parents don’t have much support at all. Awareness could do wonders for them. I read about those parents’ who truly need help 24/7 with their grown severely autistic children. They struggle just to maintain hope. They are in constant need of support – emotionally and physically. Every day they search for a way to cope with a life they never saw coming, a child that is massively loved, but taxing on the mind and body. They do everything they can to help their child – love has no boundaries in such things. Their children – grown or not - have no bowel control and wear diapers, they wear headgear to prevent self-inflicted brain damage because they tend to slam their head repeatedly into walls. Their daily activities include washing feces off walls, trying to feed them, trying to take them for a doctor visit, trying to communicate with their child. These autistic individuals – on the severe end of the spectrum - can’t speak a word and are trapped in a body they have no control over. Why can’t awareness campaigns shine a light on them? The world needs to hear their plight also and in hearing and becoming aware of severe autism something could be done to help these families in crisis. Maybe autism research would ramp it up a bit - find the cause, find the cure? How very different from the milder, high-functioning side of the spectrum to the severe end. Now see if you can find that common thread between them that gives each a diagnosis of autism. They are like night and day and the threads of commonality are hard to see, aren't they?. In any awareness campaign for autism the first thing the public needs to know is that autism is an idiopathic neurological disorder – basically, brain damage. Just the word “damage” makes those on the higher end fill with rage – but awareness would let them realize that autism IS damage. It matters how much has been done to the brain. So whereas a little damage can be embraced as making one unique, a lot of damage can be a lifetime of being trapped in a body you can’t control and voiceless to communicate your needs. Matt has little in common with the severe end also, but much more in common with those individuals than he does with the high-functioning end. I have found that it’s very hard to find that common thread throughout the spectrum unless you really, seriously, look for it. We are fortunate that Matt does speak some (even though he is mostly non-verbal) and that’s a huge deal in communication efforts. He can do so much more because he can make he needs known in one form or another (gesture, facial expressions, voice) and he’s not self-injurious. That last one was actually why he was given that “moderate / severe” diagnosis - because he lacked that one single trait – injurious behavior. It’s a ginormous difference. Don’t ever think it’s not. Matt is unique – just as each child on the spectrum is. I am an expert in my child’s autism – just as each parent is for their own child. We share a common thread, the parents of autistic children, but we are as different as our children. And so all I can really do to help the autism community is to spread awareness of what I know. I write of my own path with my son – what helped, what didn’t, what he can do, what he can’t do - yet. In sharing my stories I may be able to help someone, somewhere, who has a child with more threads in common on the spectrum to Matt than to either high-functioning or low-functioning,(from those whom are mild or severe autism). And as I work with Matt I am still trying to be more aware of the differences of those on the spectrum – but it’s hard. After all, isn’t it human nature to want to discuss the similarities? But Awareness is about the differences. What can you do to be more aware? Focus on each child’s individual needs: his talents, his capabilities and areas of struggle. Stop comparing this one to that one as to which is learning faster or more. Remember, Autism is an idiopathic neurological disorder – basically brain damage of unknown origin (yep, I just said “damage” again!), and until people get that – get that the damage can be mild or severe or literally anywhere in between, then awareness campaigns must and should continue. Just I as I am only an expert in Matt’s autism – not autism in general – and therefore do my best to shine a light on the autism level he has: his struggles, his successes., I urge those on various points along the spectrum to shine a light on their specific level of autism and to please stop making generalizations about autism as a whole. Let society see that autism takes many, many different forms, contains various levels of ability, and involves a plethora of struggles. And yes, keep in mind that if you’ve met one person with autism, then you have met ONLY one person with autism. It really is that simple. Be aware that to increase your own awareness of autism you will need to seriously dig past that comfort zone and really examine the full spectrum. Try to understand that autism is NOT just some evolutionary leap within the brain (as many people tend to believe) . . . Its brain damage (I’m sorry, but it is). Take heart in the fact the brain can repair some of that damage by re-wiring itself as the child grows, and it will continue to do so throughout an individual’s entire life-span. That means a child’s environment – both at home and in an educational setting – will have an enormous effect on the continued growth and success of that specific child. Keep in mind that the amount of growth will also be determined by just how much damage was caused initially. Now, combine the degree of brain trauma with the overall learning environment - this is why there is a spectrum. In addition, there’s lots of variables that can influence the brain’s ability to heal. Now, think about the prevalence of this idiopathic neurological disorder as it nears 1:50 children. An epidemic of children with brain damage, ranging from mild to severe and everywhere in-between. Maybe now you understand why I continue to stress that “Awareness Is Everything”. Take the time to share your experiences with others - spread the awareness! Light it up blue Autism Speaks promotes autism awareness each year by asking for major structures around the world to be lit with blue lights starting on the evening of April 1 - 2. Although thousands will turn blue for the night, our own White House has yet to join the movement. Send your own note to the president to please light the White House blue. How will you light it up blue? A single blue bulb lit on the front porch is enough to get the conversation going. Global Visitors Honored as one of the - TOP 30 AUTISM BLOGS In bookstores Dec. 16, 2014 Purchase a signed-copy direct from the author for $22.95 (plus tax and shipping) Upcoming Events Quotes Recent Blog Entries Recent Photos Newest Members Autism and the World According to Matt

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    Global Visitors Special Hardcover Edition! Barnes and Noble Press - click here Click to order - NEW BOOK! Listening With the Heart Autism and the World According to Matt About the Author Liz Becker, M. S., Ed., is a published research scientist, college instructor, published 5-Star Author, and mother of two. Her youngest son Matt, was diagnosed with severe, classic regressive autism n 1988 at the age of two. Liz has been a pioneer of the autism community ever since, refusing to accept the dogma of the time that autistic children needed to be institutionalized. Instead, Liz found a way to communicate with her non-verbal son using her instincts as a scientist and as a mother. Her insights into non-verbal communication are revealed in her new book, "Listening with the Heart". "Listening with the Heart" , is the first book to examine the non-verbal forms of communication as strategies for understanding the non-verbal autistic child and provide strategies for 2 way communication without relying solely on speech. Her first book, " Autism and the World According to Matt " revealed the challenges, joys, heartaches and successes on raising a child on the severe end of the spectrum at a time before anyone even knew there was a spectrum. Matt is now living independently - a feat just as rare as his condition once was, even though he is still moderate / severe autistic and mostly non-verbal. This website, " World According to Matt " has been helping people for almost a decade and currently reaches 127 countries and 7 million people. She has been a featured guest on Autism Live, Everyday Autism Miracles, The Autism Channel, The Hour of Joy Show, and has articles and interviews in Autism Daily Newscast, Autism Parenting Magazine, Roanoke Times, and others.She is a frequent short-story contributor to the Autism Support Network and was one of the first authors to be highlighted as an Autism Light (#13 out of now over 400 people). Liz lives in Virginia with her German Shepherd, Zoe and her 2 Conures, Max and Doc. She has two grown sons; Christopher and Matt. + SHARE Upcoming Events Quotes Recent Blog Entries Recent Photos Newest Members Autism and the World According to Matt Liz Becker 5-Star Autism Author Interview with SJ Childs April 2022 This is what hope looks like - A New Adventure, A new Memory – and a Bonus I’m all about going on adventures and Matt is so easy to please when it comes to taking part in one. As a photographer, Matt is thrilled to see new things and record it all in photographs and video. On our last trip to Grayson Highlands State Park we were sitting on the giant outcrop of rocks in Massie Gap and looking toward the mountain ridges of North Carolina and the large peak within the park where the Visitor’s Center and Gift Shop are located, when Matt and I saw a person standing on the tallest peak of rock – we both pointed at the same time. “Oh my gosh, Matt! Someone is standing up there! Does that mean there’s a path?” I asked. Matt replied, “Yes! Twin Pinnacles!” We decided right there and then that we must do that hike, and made plans to hit it before the fall was over. Yesterday was that day. I picked Matt up around 2pm. He was wearing what I asked – tennis shoes. Matt wears sandals almost all year and for every hike he is in those sandals, but we had researched a bit about the Pinnacles and it was designated as a hard trail – rocks… lots and lots of rocks. Matt needed footwear that gripped the ground and I talked to him about this. He would allow that change because he was determined to complete the trail – hard or not – and he trusted my judgement on the need for good footwear. Our drive was a happy one – for a while. Matt was so excited he was actually dancing in the passenger seat to the music on the radio. Then we hit a snag – road construction. We slowed to a crawl… and time was ticking by. Matt was restless. I had him google-map our destination so he could keep track of our progress and get his mind off our slow progress. We finally made our exit 45 minutes later and Matt sighed audibly, shifted in his seat and sat up straight, eager to be once again on our way to our new adventure. The rest of the trip Matt was counting down miles and telling me where to turn, and with each exclamation of our progress his excitement increased. We made it! We parked close to the Visitor’s Center and went in to grab a water for each of us and a map of the trail. As we headed out to the Twin Pinnacles trail, Matt’s outer monologue was in full force – “We made it, OK, now we walk this way and head left… it’s going to be hard, but I have my shoes…” The first part of the trail was flat and wonderfully level ground, the path was covered in Aspen leaves. Our footfalls were soft and light. As we came to the first sign I knew Matt would need a picture and stepped back so he could frame it just so…. And then as we walked on he talked about the information he had just read, and I was enjoying his outer monologue about the birds and plants and possible bears that we could come across… “Be bear aware, right, be aware . . .” The trail split – it’s a loop and we could choose to go either right of left. To the left was a sign pointing to Little Pinnacle – so we went left. The trail became a series of stepping rocks going uphill and I was glad I had my walking stick as my knees hate doing steps. My knees are those of someone my age – stage 3 is what my orthopedist had called them while reminding me that stage 4 was knee replacement time. For the most part I baby my knees, wanting to put that inevitable surgery off as long as I can, but I have to hike too – as long as I possibly can. Matt knows this about my knees, and my back. He took the lead straight off and walked purposefully slower, knowing his mom was slow and old. “I’m not that old, Matt, walk faster please…” I would say and he would speed up for a while. He’s very protective and couldn’t help but worry about me. This concern was really apparent each time a large set of stones were ahead in the path. Once he spotted the rocks he would instinctively reach back his hand to lead me through the dangers. This protective behavior is a left-over from when I had back surgery and needed help moving during that first year of recovery. Matt has since been very concerned about just how much I can do and how far I can go. He does this concerned behavior subtly, never making a scene or pushing me to careful. He just stretches back his hand just in case I feel the need to be steadied . . . “I’m good, Matt – no problems yet!” I said happily, and Matt dropped his arm back to his side and resumed taking photos every 10 feet to record his journey and talking to himself about what he saw and where he was going. I listened to him chat away and was in doing so, knew just how important this particular adventure was for him. After walking a while – and by the way, it was a beautiful walk under the swaying Aspens, with leaves falling gently around us in the cool crisp air – we came upon a spur to the left – the Little Pinnacle. “Look! Little Pinnacle, Matt!” I exclaimed and we headed up the boulders slowly toward a clearing. The clearing was caused by the outcrop of giant stone, and immediately we felt the full force of the wind. This was not a gentle breeze. This was one of those winds that could knock you off your feet if you’re not careful – and I could see it on Matt’s face that he was worried about the wind . . it was a long way down. I put down my walking stick and grabbed the rock with both hands, keeping low and going slowly and purposefully upward to a flattened area where I could sit and take in the breath-taking view. I knew Matt was watching me… Matt put down his walking stick, and talked himself into the climb. “Ok, use both hands, stay low, be careful, and hold on to your butt!” Matt moved slowly upward and made it to the flat area of rock. I chose that spot because a large rock lay behind us like the back of a car seat, and enough to protect him from the wind and any possibility of falling. I leaned against the back rock and showed Matt that the wind couldn’t blow me away . . . he steadied himself and then leaned back releasing a sigh of relief. We both marveled at the 360 degree view from the top – absolutely breathtaking. Matt relaxed . . . we were safe. I knew exactly the moment he felt safe as he declared “Time to take even more photos!” I took several photos myself – such an amazing view - then put my phone away and watched my son. He was ecstatic to be in this place, at this moment in time, on this beautiful blue sky, fall day, and he was recording the entire 360 view. Watching him, I knew this would be a wonderful memory for him. I knew by the smile on his face, the intermittent “Wow” every few seconds as he gazed upon the world beneath us. I knew, because I could see the confidence and courage on his face building, standing on this outcrop of rock – the Little Pinnacle - in the fierce wind . . . oh yes, this would be a day to remember. When we were ready, Matt climbed down a few steps first, then he reached up his hand to assist me in the climb down. “I’m still good, Matt, thanks” I said, and Matt watched me a bit longer to be sure I would be fine, then suddenly turned away – something had caught his eye. Matt saw an eagle gliding high above us on the thermals – he absolutely had to take a photo of that! He no longer worried about mom, and walked away to get a better shot. I smiled. Eagles floating on thermals were one of my favorite things too – I completely understood the attraction. I did get down from the rocks just fine – I was slow, but fine – but because I took too long to get on flat ground I wasn’t able to get a picture of the eagle. Fortunately, Matt was more than happy to show me the many photos he took, and they were all very beautiful and I told him so…. He smiled. I do believe I know what I’m getting for Xmas from Matt . . . a beautiful eagle photograph. The next part of our journey was a series of uphill and downhill and uphill again on rock stepping stones and I was wearing down. A big shout-out to the Boy Scouts and those rest shelters they built along the path. I used every one of them. I can only be on my feet for 45 minutes to an hour at a time before my back locks up and I freeze in place – being able to sit was everything to me, and there were no fallen logs or larger rocks to sit on, so those rest spots meant everything to me. They allowed me to continue going after relaxing my back for a while. During my rests, Matt would look at me concerned, and I would assure him I was doing well and would be up and moving again shortly. He would then take those moments to, of course, take even more photos, but also to look around to make sure no bears would join us. Be bear aware. Back on the trail we soon came across the spur for Big Pinnacle. We started up and then one of my steps came down strangely and I let out a yell. Damn… hurt my ankle. I looked at Matt, the concern building on his face. “I think that was a sign for me to take it easy for a bit – that means you do this climb on your own . . . “, I said looking at Matt. Matt’s face lit up – I could see his YES!! Just under the smile. He wanted this, oh man, did he want this – a solo hike on the rocks of the hardest peak. “OK!” he replied, and immediately turned away and headed up those steep rocks to Big Pinnacle. I watched as he walked into the glare of the sunlight shining between the tree limbs… I lost sight of him in that glare. As I sat there rubbing my ankle, I had a few moments of the “what if” – normal protective-mom stuff. “What if he falls?”, “what if he gets hurt?”, “what if he meets a bear?” . . . I seriously hate the intrusions of the what-ifs. I consciously shut that crap down, and focused instead on listening, trying to hear the “Wow!” I knew he would exclaim from the top. Sure enough, I did hear the “Wow!” and I knew this was more than just viewing the world from on high – this was a really big deal for him personally. He hiked the hardest part of the trail alone, without his mom, as an independent man. My heart was about to burst from the simple knowledge that my son was at the top of the world, feeling whole and strong, and worthy as a human being. He was demonstrating to no one but himself his own courage and determination. I couldn’t see it – but I could feel it – the enormity of it - just as strongly as if I had been standing right next to him to witness it. When he came down he was beaming, and that sunlight behind him enhanced it and made him look as if he had been spiritually blessed. He sat down beside me and showed me his pictures from the top – marvelous, wow-worthy pictures. He had done what he came to do – now it was time to complete the loop and go back to the Visitor’s Center. He had been successful and was now walking on air. The rest of the hike was more difficult – lots of uphill climbs that were steeper and I decided the next time we did this I would go to the halfway point and then return the way I came – but I did make it, and more importantly, so did Matt. He did exactly what he set out to do – climb both pinnacle peaks and complete the loop of 2 miles of mostly difficult terrain. As we were driving through the park toward the exit, I asked him if he wanted me to pull over at the park lookout to get any more last minute photos and was met with a resounding, “YES!” I pulled into the parking lot and as Matt jumped out I found I was definitely moving slower… everything hurt. I walked to the front of the Jeep and sat down on the bumper. My legs felt wobbly and my back was screaming at me. My right ankle was sore, as were both my knees. I looked up. There was Matt – pointing his camera directly at me. Let me say that again . . . Matt was pointing his camera at ME!. Matt was taking photos of ME! OMG! Matt never takes photos of people – unless prodded to do so. This was unexpected and unsolicited. This was new. This was my bonus to the day. I felt like the most special person in the history of the world! My son wanted pictures of ME!! So that’s my story. It was a new adventure and one that brought wonderful moments that I will never forget. I made memories for myself, and I provided Matt with new memories too. And, to top it all off, I got a bonus – Matt took pictures of another human being – and I feel so privileged that it was me he chose to be his first. It’s a bonus to this entire year. I have spent this year trying to give my son the new experiences he craves (while staying away from populated areas), and I’m doing what I can on a limited income. I was afraid I would not be able to give him much this year, as I’m stretched pretty tight financially and it’s hard to find activities that we can do without being around others. But, as it turns out, hiking is enough. Matt continues to blossom and keep me amazed. He continues to remind me that he is a grown man and can do so very much on his own. He also reminds me that he still enjoys his time with me – that he cares about me and that he loves me. This day was another special day for us both. For me, it was also one that reinforced how strong and independent he has become, and what wonderfully caring person he is. It’s hard sometimes, for me to reconcile what I see before me now to the memory of his doctors advising me to institutionalize him at the age of 2 years old. His diagnosis was so very dire . . . and there were no therapies, no strategies, and no medications to help him. All I had in those early days was hope. This wonderful adventure we had today? This is what hope does . . . this is what hope looks like. It's the result of all that hope . . . .the result of never giving up. This is Matt NEW BOOK - Listening with the Heart - A Guide to Understanding non-verbal communication in the autistic child, for parents, teachers and professional. I am sitting here holding my book... thumbing through the pages. I am quite aware of it's heft in my hands, and I am in awe that it is real. The cover design was all me - a bit artsy as it is just a bit blurry - a visual representation of how we tend to have trouble really seeing our children under the autism behaviors. Not sure if anyone would even understand that just glancing at the photo. The inside is completely organized the way I wanted it to look - breaking sections into small digestible pieces that can be read and set aside easily when life interrupts, because life always interrupts . . . The foreword brings me to tears every time I read it - my oldest son wrote it about his brother. It grabs my heart every time. I look at the reviews and I am in awe of each one - 5 stars - their kindness and their candor means so very much to me. I feel blessed. Even the reference pages make me proud - so many scientific studies that highlight each point. The scientist in me would have it no other way. Then there's the real-life stories... so many stories. Stories that reveal how I found the clues I did - the clues left for me by my youngest son as he attempted to train me to communicate with him his way. A journey toward understanding. Discoveries and subtle details. A winding path. A road less traveled. Hope. I hold the book and I can barely believe it. No one else has ever written about the non-verbal communications provided by the autistic child in their attempt to "speak" to those they love. It's the first book of it's kind - and I feel honored to have written it (does that make sense?) This is a memory I will always hold onto... the fulfilling of a dream . . . So many of my dreams were never realized - life happened, you see. But this one, this dream I had for myself, this one came to fruition - and I am allowing myself the time to just "feel" it all..... Waxing poetic... it's what I do... I write and I know things... :) Interview with Shannon Penrod of Autism-Live Non-verbal Communication He spoke with his heart, I listened with mine – And amazingly, we heard each other. The 12 ways in which we communicate - Touch Facial Expressions Eye contact and Eye Gaze Gestures Paralinguistics Writing Art Music Body Language Proxemics Personal Appearance Speech Communication and social interaction requires information to go in both directions and when learning to communicate with an autistic child – an individual with a communication disorder – it is imperative to use all forms of communication and not focus on simply one or two. Keep in mind that attempting to communicate by primarily focusing on speech may actually work against overall communication efforts. Autism is a communication disorder and the hardest part for many is language – including speech. Someone who has difficulty understanding speech can become so frustrated trying to understand what is being requested of them that they may choose to withdraw from the interaction completely, preventing any new learning from taking place. In contrast, using all the other forms of communication in the toolbox in addition to speech, can ensure that even in times of high frustration, stress, or overwhelming fear, that there will still be plenty of ways to effectively communicate compassion, safety, patience, and understanding, allowing the overall goal - the exchange of ideas - to still be successful. Learn more - AWARENESS is EVERYTHING There may be a day when Matt will not get a photo with the Hokie Bird …. But it will not be this day. That was my train of thought as we prepared to go to the 2018 Spring Game at Virginia Tech. Last year we didn’t get that desired photo – the Bird never got close enough and we could not get through the crowd when he was. Matt had several photos, some taken at a distance and a few close-ups, but it wasn’t a “win” if he didn’t get a hug. Now, a year later, Matt was overdue for that Hokie Bird hug. His resolve was as great as my own when we arrived on the campus. Both Matt and I knew today was most certainly going to be the day. It was a beautiful day – warm and breezy. Matt was in high spirits. It was looking like the perfect day – and in all respects so far, it was. As with every “big day”, Matt had not slept the night before. Too much excitement, too many hopes and dreams on the line to rest. He was running on nervous energy – focused liked a laser on hunting that Bird. We entered the South gate and walked around and did the tunnel lap. As we walked I had Matt practice, “Hi Hokie Bird! Can I get a picture?” Matt practiced the sentence several times until he felt sure he could do it. If he found the Hokie Bird and I wasn’t with him, he needed to be able to speak the words – or be ignored like he was at the Duke game. At that game, Matt simply could not say the words and I was much too far back to help him… he never got his hug. We had time to kill and so we went window shopping at the Hokie Store, checked out the views from various openings and took pictures – lots and lots of pictures. No matter where we were or what activity we were doing, I knew Matt was on the lookout for that elusive rare creature. We all looked, but none of us spotted him. It was time to find our seats. We found some great seats on the South end in the end-zone – Matt is very fond of the end zones more than the general home team stands. In his mind, the Hokie Bird loves the south end zone. That’s because there were several fall games over the years where we witnessed the bird hanging out and crowd surfing at exactly that location – and now, this is where we go in hopes of not just watching, but participating in the fun. Unfortunately, the last few years the Hokie Bird had avoided the southern end-zone at the Spring Game. Would he again this year? Tom had come with us to help us in our quest – and that meant there were 3 sets of eyes straining in search of that maroon mascot. It was getting close to game time when Matt yelled out, “I see him!” pointing toward the opposite end zone. There, just outside the tunnel, was the Hokie Bird, doing his happy strut in front of the general seating. We watched as he waved and strutted and did a cartwheel for the kids in the far end of the stands… but he wasn’t coming our way – nope - He seemed to just be focused on that one area – where loads of children had gathered to wave and watch. Oh Hokie Bird, please come this way…. But no. The bird was pretty much going to stay right where he was. Will he get a chance to hug the bird? Will the bird come this way? Will he disappear like last year before the end of the game, giving us no way to catch him? I had promised Matt we would get that bird this year . . . I had PROMISED! I jumped to my feet and shouted, “Come-on Matt!” before I even realized what I was doing. I headed down the steps and called behind me, “Hurry!” Matt popped up and hurried to catch up. This momma was on a mission, and Matt knew exactly what that mission was and where I was headed. But the way was blocked… only those with special passes were allowed on the field before the game. Matt was hesitant – because he knew his momma did not belong there. We both made it down the steps, but as I went onto the field, Matt stayed behind the gate – hesitant and unsure. The closest official gave me “the look” – that stone face, immoveable, professional guard type look that makes even the biggest fans quake. He stared me down and said, “Do you have credentials to be on the field?” “No sir, I do not.” I admitted, “but we need to get a picture of the Hokie Bird with this young man” and then I leaned in and begged. “This man is autistic and that Hokie Bird means everything to him. I just need a picture and we will come right back”. I’m a mom… a mom of an autistic adult who loves that bird… I am not above begging. As I spoke to the official, Matt stayed behind the gate watching. There he waited apprehensively – He looked absolutely terrified, about to jump out of his skin. The look on the official’s face was doing its job. The official looked at Matt and then at me, “You do not have the credentials to be on this field” then paused a second and said, “so come right back”. OMG!!! That’s a yes! I turned and looked at Matt, “Come on Matt, hurry!!” Matt flew through the gate and rushed onto the field. I told him we could go after the bird, but we had to hurry. Matt stayed right with me as we sprinted down the sideline toward our target. The Hokie Bird had no idea of course, that he was being stalked, and he turned to head back toward the tunnel. No Hokie Bird, no! Instead of the tunnel, the bird headed under the North stands and when we were within about 15 feet from him I yelled, “HOKIE BIRD!!” The Hokie Bird abruptly turned and stopped. I was about 5 feet in front of Matt and had just a split second to explain to the mascot that we needed this – that Matt needed this photo. As I finished my sentence, Matt arrived - and the bird leaned into Matt and hugged him. A hug. A Hokie Bird hug. I took their picture, then I used Matt’s camera and took a few more for Matt. Matt was smiling greatly – he had no words… They hugged again and we had to leave. “Matt, I promised the guard that we would come right back – I promised…” Matt understood, and a way we flew back down the sidelines and back to the south end. As we approached the guard he asked, “Did you get a picture?” “Oh yes!!” I exclaimed as I whipped out my phone and found the few I had taken. I showed them to him. “You did a good thing today“, I said to the official, “you did a really great thing today….” The official smiled just for a second then immediately returned to the stone face professional – trying to hide his joy. Matt and I returned to the stands, out of breath but elated. My knees screamed at me as I reclimbed the steps to my seat. When I finally got back to my seat Tom showed me the video of us sprinting down the sidelines . . . wow – we were really flying. Matt spent the rest of the game relaxed and enjoying the plays on the field and the antics of the bird on the sidelines. He wasn’t anxious. He was simply relaxed and happy. All stress had been removed. Oh wait, but there’s more…. Toward the end of the 4th quarter guess who came down to the south end zone? Yes! “Matt! Go!” I shouted and Matt jumped up and headed down the stairs. Tom jumped up and headed down with him. My knees said – ‘no… sit woman’. I watched as Matt inched closer and closer through the crowd that had quickly gathered to see the bird. I stood up, barely able to see the top of Matt’s head – but enough to know the Hokie Bird was right there with him. He was there quite a while, not wanting to leave I bet, and I wondered, did Matt say the words? Was he able to get them out? “Hi Hokie Bird! Can I get a picture?” You can do this Matt, I cheered silently. Shortly afterward Matt and Tom arrived back to their seats, both were smiling ear to ear. Their body language said it all. But what I wanted to know - and I was about ready to jump out of my skin – was Matt able to say the words? I asked Tom. “Yes!! He stuttered just for a second and then said, ‘Hi Hokie Bird! Can I get a picture?’ He did it! The Hokie Bird stopped and gave Matt another hug and a high-five”. Matt proudly showed me his pictures – he was smiling greatly - and giggled - but he couldn’t speak . . . not yet. A little while later he told me all about it. I can’t stress enough how massive this all was. As a child Matt was fixated on Thomas the Tank. As an adult it’s the Hokie Bird who has his heart. It is not just a hug, not just a high-five, and not just one sentence spoken under stress. Each has an underlying emotion. Each was huge!! It didn’t matter that he was 32 years old or that the Hokie Bird is just a mascot. To Matt, that Bird is EVERYTHING. Not only was he overjoyed by the pictures and the touch (hugs and high-fives), but Matt was proud of himself for being able to SPEAK to his most treasured “friend”. And just so we are clear, that official on the field that allowed us to go after that bird, did so because AWARENESS works… I saw it on his face. That official understood the second I said “autism” that this was not just some fan wanting a photo-op. He got it… he bent the rules to accommodate my son’s needs. Just as the Hokie Bird is everything to Matt – awareness is everything to me. It allows me to do my job the best way I can. I am Matt’s ‘Bringer of Dreams’… and today, because of awareness, it was mission accomplished. AUTISM LIGHT #13 Honored on August 11, 2011". There are over 250 Autism Lights now and the number continues to grow. It's an honor to be a part of this autism awareness campaign. Thank you, Alan! There are 455 Autism Lights currently.... a wonderful tribute page. Check out AUTISM LIGHTS Liz Becker meets Temple Grandin! The Joy Sutton Show - The Power of a Mother's Love. Part 1: Interview with just me. Part 2: Interview with both Matt and me. Writer at Large for Autism Support Network! Autism Act of Love Challenge Matt and I took the challenge. I went first so he knew what to do. He didn't like the idea of eyes-closed to draw, so I leaned in as he was drawing and told him it was okay to open his eyes if he wanted to.... but he didn't. Watch and see what happens when pen hits paper!!

  • Matt's Latest Adventures

    Matt meets Vice-President, Joe Biden! Yep, we went to Spiller Elementary School in Wytheville, Virginia to hear and see Vice President Joe Biden. After waiting 4 hours - on our feet - Joe arrived. During the speech Matt took picture after picture. Then at the end of the speech, VP Biden stayed to shake hands and meet the people. Not only did Joe shake Matt's hand - he signed Matt's t-shirt. Matt is a big fan of Obama / Biden and this event brought more happiness than anyone realizes. Thanks Joe, for putting that beautiful smile on my son's face today! Joe signed Matt's t-shirt. We framed it and it is now hanging in Matt's bedroom. He is so excited - what a great experience! Welcome Joe! August 14, 2012 - the visit to Wytheville, Virginia. Vice-President Joe Biden Alicia Ring (classmate from high school) was there also - too cool! The event of the summer - for Matt! Matt - on Google Images of the event The signed t-shirt! From left to right: Matt, Tom and I Global Visitors Honored as one of the - TOP 30 AUTISM BLOGS In bookstores Dec. 16, 2014 Purchase a signed-copy direct from the author for $22.95 (plus tax and shipping) Upcoming Events Quotes Recent Blog Entries Recent Photos Newest Members Autism and the World According to Matt

  • Autism Prevalence

    Global Visitors Honored as one of the - TOP 30 AUTISM BLOGS In bookstores Dec. 16, 2014 Purchase a signed-copy direct from the author for $22.95 (plus tax and shipping) Upcoming Events Quotes Recent Blog Entries Recent Photos Newest Members Autism and the World According to Matt The CDC report Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders --- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, United States, 2006 What is causing the increase in autism? This study looked at the various reasons for the increase. It's not as simple as "better diagnostic techniques" or "diagnosing younger children". Evaluating Change in Autism Prevalence: Change We Can Believe In? (from Autism Speaks, Feb 3, 2011) The latest stats from the CDC 1:88 children, 1:54 boys have autism. That's the latest statistic from the CDC for the last year surveyed - 2008. It took them 4 years to get this data and one must wonder - was the Korea study more accurate? Latest Stats from CDC. Press Release from AUTISM SPEAKS: New Study Reveals Autism Prevalence in South Korea Estimated to be 2.6% or 1 in 38 Children Research by U.S., Korean and Canadian Investigators Identifies Children Not Yet Diagnosed and Has Potential to Increase Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Estimates Worldwide New York, N.Y. (May 9, 2011) – In the first comprehensive study of autism prevalence using a total population sample, an international team of investigators from the U.S., South Korea, and Canada estimated the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in South Korea to be 2.64%, or approximately 1 in 38 children, and concluded that autism prevalence estimates worldwide may increase when this approach is used to identify children with ASD. “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Total Population Sample,” published today online in the American Journal of Psychiatry reports on a study of all children (approximately 55,000) ages 7-12 years in a South Korean community, including those enrolled in special education and the disability registry, as well as all children enrolled in general education schools. Children were systematically assessed using multiple clinical evaluations. The research by Young Shin Kim, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., Ph.D. of the Yale Child Study Center, and her collaborators Bennett L. Leventhal, M.D., Yun-Joo Koh, Ph.D., Eric Fombonne, M.D., Eugene Laska, Ph.D., Eun-Chung Lim, M.A., Keun-Ah Cheon, M.D., Ph.D., Soo-Jeong Kim, M.D., HyunKyung Lee, M.A., Dong-Ho Song, M.D. and Roy Richard Grinker, Ph.D. found more than two-thirds of ASD cases in the mainstream school population, unrecognized and untreated. “These findings suggest that ASD is under-diagnosed and under-reported and that rigorous screening and comprehensive population studies may be necessary to produce accurate ASD prevalence estimates,” stated Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. “Autism Speaks funded this study to support better detection, assessment and services and to encourage international autism research.” According to Dr. Kim, experts disagree about the causes and significance of reported increases in ASD, partly because of variations in diagnostic criteria and incomplete epidemiologic studies that have limited the establishment of actual population-based rates. “We were able to find more children with ASD and describe the full spectrum of ASD clinical characteristics,” said Dr. Kim. “Recent research reveals that part of the increase in reported ASD prevalence appears attributable to factors such as increased public awareness and broadening of diagnostic criteria. This study suggests that better case finding may actually account for an even larger increase. While the current project did not investigate potential risk factors in this particular population, the study does set the stage for ongoing work to examine genetic and environmental factors contributing to the risk of ASD.” This study is further evidence that autism transcends cultural, geographic, and ethnic boundaries and that autism is a major global public health concern, not limited to the Western world. To date, there is no evidence of differences in the way ASD is expressed in children around the world; however it is possible that cultural factors may impact diagnostic practices and prevalence estimates. As a result, the South Korean study took a comprehensive approach to mitigate potential cultural bias. According to Dr. Grinker, a cultural anthropologist at George Washington University, “Parent and teacher focus groups were conducted to identify local beliefs that might influence symptom reporting and to address stigma and misunderstandings related to ASD. Further, clinical diagnoses were established by Korean diagnosticians with extensive clinical and research experience in both the U.S. and Korea and were validated by North American experts.” The study does not suggest that Koreans have more autism than any other population in the world. What it does suggest is that autism is more common than previously thought and that, if researchers look carefully, especially in previously understudied, non-clinical populations, they may find more children with ASD. In addition to the South Korean study, Autism Speaks is supporting similar epidemiological research efforts in India, South Africa, Mexico, and Taiwan, including the translation and adaptation of the gold-standard diagnostic instruments into languages spoken by more than 1.7 billion people worldwide. “This is the first comprehensive population sample-based prevalence calculation in Korea, and replication in other populations is essential,” explained Dr. Dawson. “Notwithstanding the need for replication, this study provides important evidence that the application of validated, reliable and commonly accepted screening procedures and diagnostic criteria applied to a total population has the potential to yield an ASD prevalence exceeding previous estimates.” “We know that the best outcomes for children with ASD come from the earliest possible diagnosis and intervention,” concluded Dr. Kim and her colleague Dr. Koh from the Korea Institute for Children's Social Development, “Goyang City, host of the Korea study, has courageously responded to these study findings by providing comprehensive assessment and intervention services for all first graders entering their school system. We hope that others will follow Goyang City's example so that any population based identification of children with ASD is accompanied by intervention services for those children and their families.” This research was funded by a Pilot Research Grant from Autism Speaks as well as grants from the Children's Brain Research Foundation, NIMH and the George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research. About Autism Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, one in 70 boys. The prevalence of autism has increased 600 percent in the past two decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown. About Autism Speaks Autism Speaks is the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks' Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $258 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 25 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 13 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit . About the Co-Founders Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, LLC and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children's Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women's Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received numerous awards such as the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership, NYU Child Advocacy Award, Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and The American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In May of 2010 they received Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees from St. John's University in Queens and delivered the commencement address as the first married couple to be bestowed such an honor. Global Autism Prevalence Global stats by the CDC Autism Prevalence and Statistics Read the autism prevalence and statistics report by the CDC. Here's a clip from the report . . . . Prevalence in the United States for years 2002 - 2006 It is estimated that between 1 in 80 and 1 in 240 with an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States have an ASD. ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, yet are on average 4 to 5 times more likely to occur in boys than in girls. However, we need more information on some less studied populations and regions around the world. If 4 million children are born in the United States every year, approximately 36,500 children will eventually be diagnosed with an ASD. Assuming the prevalence rate has been constant over the past two decades, we can estimate that about 730,000 individuals between the ages of 0 to 21 have an ASD. Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with an ASD with an approximate prevalence of 0.6% to over 1%. A recent study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%. Approximately 13% of children have a developmental disability, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.

  • About the author

    Global Visitors Honored as one of the - TOP 30 AUTISM BLOGS In bookstores Dec. 16, 2014 Purchase a signed-copy direct from the author for $22.95 (plus tax and shipping) Upcoming Events Quotes Recent Blog Entries Recent Photos Newest Members Autism and the World According to Matt About the author - Liz Becker Personal: I have 2 children and Tom has 2 children both now in their 30s. Matt is my youngest. Professional: Teacher - I teach biology, microbiology, and anatomy and physiology for Wytheville Community College and for Radford University. Clinical Scientist - I worked in the lab for over 16 years before going back to school. Research Scientist - spiders . . . yep, spiders. I researched how male funnel-web spiders subdued the female prior to mating and found it to be a pheromone. You can check out my research by clicking here. I worked toward my doctorate at Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University in the department of Neurobiology and Anatomy but found I just couldn't juggle the demands of 2 teenagers (one autistic) at home. Besides, my schedule really needed to be on par with Matt's.... so I backed up, and got my Master's (in Education) instead. I always thought I would go back and finish but something peculiar happened - I found I actually love teaching! No regrets.... Author - Autism and the World According to Matt 2-part series on Autism Daily Newscast The four-part series has begun on Autism Daily Newscast- and can I just say....... how AWESOME is this? I am having the time of my life with this book: the reviews, the invitations. I am overwhelmed and honored by all of it!!! Part I - AUTISM DAILY NEWSCAST Part II - AUTISM DAILY NEWSCAST From the local Newspaper: "Mom's autism blog reaches around the world" Source: via Liz on Pinterest Here's the link to the story in the local newspaper, Southwest Virginia Enterprise Radford University Interview This is my Alma mater - and so proud to have been asked to be interviewed for the RU Today online magazine, and featured in today’s edition of From the Dean’s Desk - the news and events section for the College of Science and Technology. Biology Alumna and Autism Advocate Shares Stories with the World My 15 minutes of fame as a scientist .... Here's my research on spiders - in case you are interested in that kind of thing.... Male induction of female quiescence/catalepsis during courtship in the spider, Agelenopsis aperta (Male induction of female quiescence/catalepsis during courtship in the spider, Agelenopsis aperta by E Becker, S Riechert, F Singer. Behaviour (2005. Volume: 142, Issue: 1, Pages: 57-70 ISSN: 00057959). Contact Me Contact me by email - click here.

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