Armenia Joins List of Countries to Benefit From ICare4Autism’s Curriculum Training

autism armenia

Narine Vardanyan joins ICare4Autism administration after the 2014 Annual Conference. (Left to Right: Program Director Suri Gruen, Educational Director Gili Rechany, Armenian Representative Narine Vardanyan, ICare4Autism CEO Dr. Joshua Weinstein)

ICare4Autism is proud to partner with Narine Vardanyan with the International Child Development Center this summer, helping to bring autism therapies to the Armenian community.

Beginning in Mid-July, Ms. Vardanyan will join staff at Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices School and Center for Children with Autism, where she will receive in-depth training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). With the educational enrichment and experience ICare4Autism will offer during her one month stay, she hopes to return to her country and provide cutting-edge training to professionals in the Armenian community.

Ms. Vardanyan’s training program will include full immersion in curriculum development. This hands-on training will give her experience in ABA by observing the children, teachers, and therapists as behavioral improvement plans are crafted for each child.

She is making this trip across continents after attending the 2014 International ICare4Autism Conference. After she was inspired and moved by the conference speakers and their presentations, Ms. Vardanyan paid a visit to Shema Kolainu. Here she was able to tour the school and meet all the staff members, who will now act as her instructors during her immersive ABA training at the facility.

We are happy to join with Narine Vardanyan so that she can deliver much-needed autism behavioral therapies to her own country of Armenia.

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Posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism Awareness, Autism Causes, Autism Education, Autism International, Autism Media, Autism News, Autism Research, Autism Resources, Autism Symptoms, Autism Therapy, Autism Travel, Autism Treatment, Featured | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Twin Sister Gives Her Brother a Day to Remember

autism graduation

Aly and Anders Bonville have been inseparable since the day they were born. So it’s no surprise that they walk across the stage together at their high school graduation ceremony from Oak Mountain.

At first, family members in Birmingham, AL were nervous on how he would react. Often times in a big crowd or surrounded by lots of noise, Anders gets overwhelmed. But once he stood on the stage, all you could see was a huge smile as he turned to his sister with a look that said “I did it!”

When the twins were were 2 years old, Anders was diagnosed with autism and became non-verbal. Like many twins, he and his sister developed a very strong bond. They had their own language to communicate with one another. Even when their own mother couldn’t understand her son, Aly would often be his voice. Since then she’s always been his protector and caregiver.

In the 5th grade Anders attended a different school. Worried the kids wouldn’t accept him, she set up an “Ask Aly” box. Every week she would come in to answer any questions the kids had. They wanted to know everything about him. What his favorite color was, if he would ever talk again, and what it’s like to have a brother with autism. This really helped the students understand Anders, encouraging them to interact with each other a lot more.

The two also share their love for music because it really brings people together. As little kids they would dance around while their mother played the guitar. Aly was soon inspired and learned how to play some instruments herself. She would play music for her brother as he rocked from side to side.

After graduation Aly will be attending Auburn University, where she received a full scholarship, in the fall semester. She plans to pursue music as her major and hopes to be come a band director in the future.

Aly wanted to make sure her brother shared in the moment for their graduation ceremony. Their mother, Kristy, was so proud they were able to celebrate both of their accomplishments.

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Can Video Games Improve Social Interactions?

video games for autism

Many people today have mixed feelings about using technology. While some use it to connect to people all over the world, others use it as a way to retreat from society altogether.

It comes as no surprise that autistic people often use it for the latter. It is easy for them to immerse themselves in a virtual world, where they are isolated from the clamorous demands of reality. Parents may complain that staying up in their room all day watching YouTube videos or playing video games is antisocial.

However, that notion may change in the future. New research into nonviolent video games promoting storytelling over action may have social benefits for people with autism.

Previous research on this subject suggests that games provide a more immersive experience and “enhanced” interest when they provide motivation to continue playing and satisfy the social needs of the player.

According to Daniel Bormann of the University of Freiburg, “The motivation to engage in and enjoy video games corresponds with principals that apply to human motivation in general.”Moreover, he adds that successful game franchises give players a wide variety of options to develop the game’s story or environment, provide well-balanced challenges, or “meaningful social interactions.”

The aim of this new study, published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Science, was to find out whether this immersion is created by storytelling and whether it affects players’ ability to evaluate the mindset of other people.

The researchers assigned participants to play one of two games–– “Gone Home” or “Against the Wall.”

“Against the Wall” requires players to scale an infinite wall in a fictitious landscape. “Gone Home”, however, is a story-based game where the player takes on the role of an American college studentwho returns home from studying abroad to discover that her family is missing and their house abandoned.

After playing these games for 20 minutes, all participants took part in a task requiring them to “assess the emotions behind facial expressions” and did a survey on the degree of immersion they experienced while playing the game.

The study shows that players of the narrative-based game were more immersed than players of “Against the Wall.” Feedback generated from the survey suggested that this immersion in the game’s plot helped the players better perceive “opportunities for meaningful choices and relationships.”

Researchers found that the narrative elements of “Gone Home” also improved the players’ theory of mind: their ability to assess the mental state of other people.

Though the authors acknowledge that the effects of game-based storytelling needs further examination, the results are still promising. Clinicians and game developers could use this knowledge to develop treatment methods for people with impairments in social skills, such as autism spectrum disorder and social anxiety.

Written by Nina Bergold

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Do ESY Programs Give Autistic Students Equal Chances At Success?

autism school

The year is 1943. Leo Kanner has just formally documented Autism Spectrum Disorder.

At first, change is slow and small. Those with autism receive education in private institutions, or psychiatric facilities, where they are treated with cookie-cutter approaches designed for other mental disabilities. A one-size-fits-all education is provided for a condition that is highly unique for each individual.

Fast forward to 2015. With a greater understanding of autism comes a new era of individualizing education for those with disabilities. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, students are entitled to programs that extend beyond the traditional school year. These federally mandated programs are called Extended School Year (ESY) Programs. The systems are designed to advance progression of a student’s IEP goals.

The IEP Team (including the parents of the student in question) decide on the eligibility of the student to participate in the ESY programs. While some parents are unsure about whether additional education during school vacations can be beneficial, many teachers agree that ESY can make an enormous difference.

Annie Sabin, a Specialized Academic Instruction teacher of ten years at Mira Mesa High School, believes, “With Extended School Year programs, the student is allowed to focus on transition skills that you can’t focus on in a traditional school year. For example, trying to practice with the city bus more.”

Also, requiring the student to practice continuous social interaction with peers also benefits their progress.

“It’s really the social activities,” remarks Sabin. “Kids need help to facilitate social relationships.”

Yet, despite the intentions of individualized education, significant disparities exist between various ESY programs across the nation.

A 2010 forum allowed parents in different states to detail the various ESY programs and to describe the education that their children were receiving. Due to budget cuts, students in Los Angeles were not offered ESY. The same unfortunate situation happened in South Carolina. Also in California, all students with various disabilities were lumped together in the same groups, which can be both good and bad.

A Florida parent also brought up an alarming fact.

“In Florida teachers aren’t required to have ASD training unless 100% of students in class have ASD,” the parent states on this Age of Autism thread. “Found that out at an ESE meeting- something not mentioned during IEP meeting.”

The drastic differences in the quality of ESY programs across the nation pose a pressing question: how can we ensure that all students with disabilities have an equal chance of success, if not all programs are executed equally?

Before deciding whether or not to have your child participate in such programs, evaluate your specific programs carefully. No school or school district can deny a student ESY programs during the summer, or during any other break from school throughout the calendar year. But if the program does not seem to satisfy your child’s individual needs, the student has a right to opt out of participating and look into better summer programs and tutoring services.

Despite the appeal of a more individualized approach to education, the quality of ESY programs differ drastically throughout the nation. Many things have changed in regards to education since 1943. But one thing remains true: a one-size-fits-all education is not what one-of-a-kind students deserve.

Written by Samantha Mallari


The forum:

Photo source:

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Posted in Arts, Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism America, Autism Awareness, autism blogs, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Education, Autism in the Family, Autism Research, Autism Symptoms, Autism Therapy, Autism Treatment, More Autism Information, Public Policy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

App Could Help Greatly With Diagnosing Autism

autism apps

Ron and Sharon Oberleitner are the owners of Behavior Imaging, a business that makes products especially for autism spectrum disorder. They also have a son, Robby, who has low-functioning autism.

Robby wasn’t diagnosed until 18 months old, which is what inspired his parents to create their business. The Oberleitners say that they missed out on early intervention and do not want other parents to miss that window of opportunity.  They are from Idaho, a state with a 10 to 11 month waiting list for an autism diagnostic assessment.

The Oberleitners have also created a naturalistic observation diagnostic assessment app, or NODA, as part of Behavior Imaging. NODA gives parents instructions about recording their child while doing a number of certain tasks and then sending the videos to a healthcare provider somewhere in the world.

NODA seems like the perfect answer for families in Idaho. However, Idaho Medicaid doesn’t accept NODA as a diagnosis for autism. Now, the Idaho Legislature is working to change the Medicaid rule.

Currently, Behavior Imaging has been able to receive $3 million dollars in federal grants. These grants have funded clinical trials for the app to prove its effectiveness. Behavior Imaging’s tools are used in 40 different states not only by families, but by social service agencies and schools too. 

Sharon Obleitner, who manages sales and customer support, says that the main goal is to make services more affordable for parents. They are able to do this by having organizations buy memberships and then offer the products to families.

Soon, the company will hear if it has received another three-year, $1 million dollar grant. If they do, they will be able to connect 40 to 50 autism patients in remote areas to clinics in Moscow.

Information from this article was sourced from

-Written by Sejal Sheth

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Companies Increasingly Hiring More Workers on the Spectrum

asd workers

After Daniel McNabb graduated college in 2001, it was difficult for him to get a job. McNabb, who was diagnosed with autism last year, said that he wasn’t on the same page with employers and his personality just didn’t fit.

McNabb is now an employee of Ultra Testing. Ultra is one of many companies who are hiring people on the spectrum more and more. Currently, 80% of Ultra’s workforce is on the spectrum.

After many years of seeking employment, McNabb says that he is finally able to show his work and can contribute to a team. For McNabb and others with autism, there are a number of factors that can cause discomfort. For example, interviews are harder because autistic individuals often times have trouble maintaining eye contact or are sensitive to noise and light.  However, once those issues are accomodated, these individuals are often high-functioning and can help the company in extremely intricate ways.

One of the ways that companies assist individuals on the spectrum is by providing autism-awareness training sessions for other employees. Employees meet with a mentor who has an autistic person in their family. By doing this, other employees learn how to properly interact with their co-workers in a way that everyone is comfortable.

There are more resources than ever available for autistic workers. Noise-reducing headphones can be worn and there are also quieter spaces for them to work in. Some workers also can send emails rather than having face-to-face interactions if needed. Finally, because most employees work at home for Ultra, the company has provided an anonymous survey to increase job satisfaction.

Information for this article was sourced from Bloomberg News

Written by Sejal Sheth

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Posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism America, Autism Awareness, autism blogs, Autism Causes, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Education, Autism Employment, Autism Money, Autism News, Autism Symptoms, Featured | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Policy Expert Joins Forces with ICare4Autism to Help Ghana

kwame fosu

ICare4Autism CEO and founder Dr. Joshua Weinstein met with Kwame Fosu, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs for the Rebecca Project for Justice to discuss our Ghana initiative.

Mr. Fosu, was referred to ICare4Autism by the acting UN Ambassador from Ghana, Philbert Johnson. As a health and foreign policy expert for Africa, Fosu also works as a consultant advising African officials, U.S. government officials, and NGOs protecting African families. He was invited, and agreed, to join our committee on African Americans with autism.

Mr. Fosu will assist in our efforts regarding Ghana helping ICare4Autism reach the Ghanaian government so that we can increase awareness of autism in Ghana, upgrade training and facilities, and expand the overall knowledge base of caregivers and educators.

Additionally, acting as a conduit, the policy expert will facilitate relationships with other US and Ghanaian governmental officials to raise awareness and support for our Workforce Initiative. Mr. Fosu is a strong advocate and supporter of Ghana and our efforts there and around the globe. Back in 2008, his desire to help the underserved drove him to found the Educating Girls to Empower Girls (EG2) initiative in Ghana.

ICare4Autism’s representative Morgan Jacobs will also be working with Mr. Fosu as he will be helping coordinate her trip to serve the autism community at Echoing Hills Village Academy. Here, Ms. Jacobs will lend her expertise as an ABA teacher and doctoral student at Columbia Teacher’s College to the community through her educational workshops. Her workshops will address professionals and parents, enabling them to deliver the most effective, modern therapies to children in underserved communities and helping parents become more aware of these therapies.

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Posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism Africa, Autism America, Autism Awareness, autism blogs, Autism Causes, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Education, Autism International, Autism News, Autism Research, Autism Therapy, Autism Travel, Featured, Homepage Slide | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bangladeshi Researcher Maps Out New Autism Genetic Risk Factors

bangladesh autism researcher

Computer scientist Mohammed Uddin and his team at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Canada have created their own way to map out the genetics responsible for ASD.

Uddin, a post-doctoral researcher originally from Bangladesh, co-authored a study recently published in the Scientific Journal “Nature Genetics”. His method involves comparing several different data sets involving the function of genes to specific locations in the brain and the activities performed there.

By sorting these different data sets, Uddin hopes to unravel the different genetic links to autism. Though his research is not unique in this aspect, Uddin asserts that his method is cutting-edge and did not exist three years ago. The scientist hopes that through this process of genetic mapping, we are able to develop methods to predict which children have genes linked to ASD long before the hallmark behaviors start to appear.

The project has been coined the Brainspan Atlas. In essence, the model tracks how certain brain regions change over time by discovering which genes are active as the brain cells grow and change the inner workings of the brain that are responsible for our thoughts and behaviors.

Uddin began his career in Computer Science as an undergraduate with ambitions of landing a glamorous job in Silicon Valley. It was only after taking a class in Computational Biology that he was inspired to pursue his Ph D in Human Genetics. He is currently in the midst of his fellowship with Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children through its Center for Applied Genomics.

This is not the first time a Bangladesh citizen has garnered international attention for autism research and actions planning. In early 2013, The United Nations passed a resolution driven by Bangladesh officials, in particular Saima Hossain Putul, the daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. This resolution calls for global governments to focus attention on autism, compelling them to create a database keeping track of autistic children and their rehabilitation.

Written by Hannah Jay

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Field Day Marathon Won by Autistic Boy

autistic boy wins race

Ten year old Preston Willis of Grandville, Michigan was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in second grade. This week, with the help of his fifth grade classmates, Lillis won his elementary school’s field day marathon.

As one of the school’s biggest events, field day is something that all of the students look forward to. John Barton, Lillis’ teacher, said that this event is one that the kids want to win. However, this year, the students had a different plan.

Barton’s students asked him if they could carry out a plan to help Lillis win the marathon during the field events. He was reluctant at first but decided to give the plan a try.

Lillis said that he never wanted to participate in the field day events because it always gave him anxiety. He also felt like he would never be able to perform as well as his classmates. The boy also said that each year he is usually too tired to run the marathon because it’s at the end of the year. But this year, he worked up his courage and decided to run it.

During the race, Lillis was holding the lead with the majority of his classmates cheering him on. The girls, who had completed their marathon, were waiting at the finish line screaming and chanting his name.

Lillis’ father, Tim Lillis, said that he had chills all over because of the excitement. As Preston crossed the finish line, he threw his hands in the air and his classmates swarmed him.

Preston Lillis thanked all his classmates for helping him win this achievement. Preston’s parents are still both excited about his win and can’t stop talking about it.

This article was sourced from WZZM13

Written by Sejal Sheth

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Expansion of Autism Waiver in Maryland Could Help Thousands

ASD Maryland

In the United States, the average rate of autism is 1 in 68 children. However, in Maryland, the rate is about 1 in 60 children.

The state has a program which provides assistance to families and children with Autism called the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or simply “The Autism Waiver.” The waiver provides assistance and extra services that might not be available to families with children with autism, especially in terms of early intervention programs.

Unfortunately, because of the higher rate of autism in Maryland, the waiver is in high demand and cannot be given to everyone who requests it. The waiver is given to 1000 children every year, yet there are over 3800 children on the waitlist. Some families say that they could be on the waitlist for over five years. This means that if a child is put on the waitlist at five years old, they might not be helped until adolescence, which is far too late for early intervention therapies to be effective.

The autism waiver gives families the opportunity to receive 30 hours a week of specified one-on-one services. This also allows the parents to have some freedom outside of family and work, and spend some time alone.  The program sends professionals who help the children improve their lives at home. 

In 2012, the Maryland Commission on Autism suggested that state funding be increased so that 100 new slots are available each year. Along with that, Maryland’s Medicaid program agreed with the commission’s idea too. This plan would help to serve more and more families who are often left on the waitlist. Creating this plan would also show all families and children with autism that they matter, and that actions are being taken to better their futures and lives.

Written By Sejal Sheth

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Posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism America, Autism Awareness, autism blogs, Autism Causes, Autism Education, Autism Maryland | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed
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