A Dad's Journey

Father of Autistic Twins Speaks Out

If the title didn’t work, perhaps the visual might have helped produce a yawn, but if you were autistic, it’s likely that nothing would work.  That’s because you would have to actually be watching someone’s face or be interested in what they were doing.   Although the rest of us might replicate a yawn, in fact couldn’t help ourselves from yawning right back at someone, such empathy simply doesn’t happen when you’re autistic.

“The iPad wasn’t designed with autistic children in mind, but, anecdotally, the results are seemingly miraculous,” say’s well known technology bloggers (and Apple Critic) John Gruber.
There appear to be more and more cool apps being designed for our kids and it appears that the iPad (or tablets in general) are the preferred device.
Check them out for yourself:

Among Leo’s favorites are:

First Words

Shape Builder

i Write Words

Tappy Tunes

Stories 2 Learn

Others can be found HERE and HERE.

The interesting part about being able to identify autism at a very early stage (3 months or younger) is the real possibility that the child could begin treatment to shift its hard wiring and initial apathy for social clues as soon as possible.   That might be the future of potential treatments.

Here’s a story from NPR about a young autistic lady who is also a biomedical engineering major at Wright State University.

She has been blogging about the social interactions of neurotypicals.  Essentially, giving us a Margaret Meade anthropological view of typical folks.  It’s interesting to listen to her take on what’s acceptable and what is apparently social taboo.  We’re apparently more hard wired for this than we think and it may take an autistic to give us perspective.

“See Me”

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This is the latest expression that my son Sean has implored I speak into his ear.   Usually, his request are for nonsensical expressions.   He tells me what he wants to hear and then pulls me down so I can whisper the words back in both ears.

Although I tend to think the latest choice is just random, I am reminded of the advice given to me by my author friend “Bill Stillman” who reminded me to always assume intellect.

Can’t say I’m shocked to hear this statistic.   Although it’s not nearly as high as the 80% “urban myth” rate it’s still twice as high as those in the control group.  Unfortunately, it seems to raise as the children get older which is the opposite of the control group.  Good time ahead.

I received this e-mail from Dr. Karl Smith who is behind the DDTrainer Software.  His message speaks to the subject better than I ever could:

Dr. Ivar Lovaas has passed away.  So many of us parents of children with autism have a deep gratitude and respect for this person that dedicated his life to making a difference for individuals with autism.  Dr. Lovaas applied and proved that ABA methods were effective for individuals with autism.  My own son was able to start learning at 2 ½ when we started using the ABA methods.  Up to that point my son had been slipping further away in early intervention to the point he had no expressive or receptive language, his babbling had diminished to “mamamamamama.”, and he was becoming increasingly frustrated.  We owe the life my son now has to this man who decided to make a difference.

There is now a small army of professionals that are continuing to refine and apply ABA methods after Lovaas started this work and showed the way.  Dr. Lovaas’ work inspired me to apply the methods to educational software so that our kids could at least learn some of what we need them to know on their own time.  I was amazed that educational software did not include the basic principles of ABA and software was therefore usually ineffective with our kids.  So I dedicated my life to helping individuals with autism and other learning challenges and now my company is impacting tens of thousands of individuals with autism.  We have so many people to thank for helping us in our mission to create effective and affordable educational tools especially for individuals with autism, but without Dr. Lovaas we would not have even started this mission.

Our condolences and deep gratitude go out to Nina, Eric, and the rest of the Lovaas family.  A whole community of individuals with autism, their families, and others are better off for the life of Dr. Lovaas.  There are countless stories of how Dr. Lovaas has changed our lives.

-Karl Smith
Accelerations Educational Software

Interesting, if not unexpected study, that shows there’s a bit of the aut in all of us, at least those of us with an autistic child.   A recent study found certain communication issues, inability to pick up on social norms and a high prevelance of OCD among autistic siblings and parents.

I don’t know which ones you fall into but I think I would have to plead guilty to all of the above.

Some traits of autism inherited, study shows

Eye-movement tests may help doctors better diagnose and treat autism

updated 8/2/2010 5:26:15 PM ET

WASHINGTON — Close relatives of people with autism often have subtle differences in the way they move their eyes, researchers said on Monday in a finding that might help doctors better diagnose and treat the condition.


My son Sean has been experiencing greater and wilder mood swings, but I’m hesitant to put him on meds.  The kids we’ve seen put on these mood drugs experience tremendous weight gain and seem to be sleep walking.  That’s why I find articles like this encouraging:

Seaside Therapeutics Inc. is announcing positive results from a Phase 2 trial for a drug candidate to treat fragile X, the most common form of autism.

Officials at the Cambridge, Mass.-based company say it is the largest study of its kind on the syndrome and produced improvements on specific neurobehavioral metrics.

This is from my local YMCA newsletter…

Dave Ferrell and his son Blake, will be competing in the New Jersey State Triathlon on July 24 in Mercer County Park.  In addition to training and competing, Dave has made a cart and boat to participate in the triathlon with his son Blake, who is a special needs swim student at the Y.

Good luck Dave and Blake!