An Ethiopian Mother’s Hope for Her Child

autism in africa

Autism Spectrum Disorder is known to affect about 1% of the total world’s population. However, resources, education, and awareness is not so readily available for all. But Zemi Yenus, mother of two, was determined to give her son a better chance. 

Yenus travelled to Los Angeles, CA where she put down roots and became a successful cosmetologist. In 1996, she decided to take her business back to her hometown of Addis Ababa and opened Ethiopia’s first licensed beauty school, Niana School of Beauty, with 6,000 students. 

Although professionally she was succeeding, at home it was a slightly different story.  Her son Jojo was not developing at the same pace as his other brother. While in California a doctor explained her son was simply a late talker. It wasn’t until they took a trip to the UK that he was diagnosed with autism. Like many parents, she felt helpless and didn’t know what to do.

At this point Yenus did everything she could to learn about the disorder. She soon developed a teaching method that incorporated the Ethiopian alphabet and sounds. The Abugida Fonetiks technique combined sounds and visual images to help the child read, write, and speak.

After a few years, Yenus founded the Joy Center, the first school specializing in teaching children with autism. Jojo was her first student starting at the age of 8 years old. Within a year his communication became stronger and he was able to say “mama.” Then came a very happy moment, wherein Jojo uttered “love you, mama.” This commemorated a truly joyous occasion for the family and a great accomplishment.

Now the school caters to 80 children who have access to music classrooms for social international and occupation therapy rooms to help strengthen fine motor skills. 

Yenus’s successful achievements with her son caused quite a buzz around the town. The stigma surrounding autism and learning disabilities has changed tremendously in her area. What was once thought to be witchcraft or otherworldly, has now gained a far better understanding and acceptance. Even the Ethiopian government supports equal rights for all disabled individuals.

Her love for the school children eventually pushed Yenus to give up her business in the name of autism advocacy. Soon she developed new techniques and provided educational resources in her community. In the future she hopes to provide for all children in need within her country and within Africa. Here at ICare4Autism, we too support international global awareness and better resources. We have started an Autism Africa Initiative which has teamed up with the Karisa Foundation in Ghana. For more information please visit

Written by Raiza Belarmino

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Posted in Autism Advocacy, Autism Africa, Autism Awareness, autism blogs, Autism Causes, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Education, Autism in the Family, Autism International News, Autism Therapy, Autism Travel | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

5 Tips for Autistic Teenagers Transitioning to Adulthood

adulthood for autistics

With the rise in the number of children being diagnosed with ASD, we must also anticipate their transition to adulthood. This specific time in one’s life can be a very scary experience for both the child and the parent. An 18 year old is considered an adult whether or not they still require a caregiver or continuing education.

However, a lot of stress can be alleviated with proper preparation. Here are a few tips to consider:

1. Apply for guardianship or conservatorship. This is a legal proceeding in which the parent can ask the court to deem their child unable to effectively make decisions about healthcare, legal, or financial issues. This is often a long process with many forms to fill out and people often make mistakes. It’s not necessary but you may find it helpful to have a lawyer or legal aid to assist you. There are also different forms of guardianship. For example, some only deal with financial issues while and others are more inclusive. Every state may have their own requirements and procedures so it’s best to contact your local county courthouse. Often, you can apply a few month’s before the child’s 18th birthday.

2. Apply for Social Security benefits. At 18, a young adult is able to apply for Social Security and disability benefits. These opportunities can result in funding awards. Visit for more information.

3. Obtain a State Identification Card. Having a photo ID is necessary in today’s world. It’s required to board planes, open bank accounts, make some purchases, etc. You will have to apply in-person at the DMV. They do require more documentation such as a US Passport, birth certificate, SSN, and proof of residency. You can log onto for your state’s specific requirements and fees.

4. Sign up for Residential Placement. There may be some residential facilities available in your area but it can take a while for an opening so consider putting your name down right away.

5. Keep less than $2,000 in your child’s name. Many benefits are only given to children that have little or no assets listed under their name. You can also sign up for special trust accounts for services that aren’t typically covered.

These are a few things to keen in mind when your child is moving on into adulthood. Although each county’s policies and procedures may differ, each process is generally the same idea. It is best to contact your local courthouse or government entity for detailed information and proper paperwork.

To read the original article please visit

Written by Raiza Belarmino

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Posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism Awareness, Autism Employment, Autism Symptoms | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Singapore’s First Movement Therapy Studio Opens

movement therapy singapore

Opening up a dance studio was always a childhood dream for young entrepreneurs Garcia Chua and Denise Lwin. But the end result became something so much more than they originally thought.

In September 2014 the two women decided to leave their jobs as pre-school teachers to pursue their new business – Wings to Wings Dance Development Center. They lucked out by landing an amazing four story building at a prime location in Singapore.

A student at Wings to Winds can find the traditional ballet or jazz classes or more modern styles like hip-hop. They have even broadened their business by offering more fitness centered sessions such as yoga, zumba, cardio ballet, and k-pop.

However, one thing very unique about the studio is that they offer a class for special needs children. This idea wasn’t always part of their plan, but it was inspired by an experience Lwin had with one of her students. Chua took notice and, with her Child Psychology background, advised Lwin to use a more structured approach to her teaching.

The technique worked and got the duo to thinking. They knew they needed to bring more therapy sessions like this to autistic children in Singapore. Soon Chua discovered Joanne Lara’s Autism Movement Therapy technique and signed up for her course in Kuala Lumpur.

Wings to Wings is Singapore’s first and only dance studio that offers specific therapy to help children with autism. Their unique dance therapy works to strengthen coordination between left and right cognitive functions by using repetitive moves. Through these dance exercises, children are able to develop the cortex and connection of both sides of the brain.

Furthermore, their teachers have been trained to manage common behavioral issues. Music can be displeasing because it may be too loud or high pitched and the children respond by screaming or crying. However, through these classes, instructors hope to teach children a healthier way in responding to loud noises.

Both young women have pioneered a new movement in Singapore that not only raises awareness but provides its community with a valuable resource.

Original article from Asia One found here

Written by Raiza Belarmino

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Posted in Autism Advocacy, Autism Alternative Treatment, Autism Awareness, Autism Causes, Autism Education, Autism News, Autism Resources, Autism Symptoms, Autism Therapy, Autism Treatment | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Outstanding New Musical About a Boy with Autism

autism musical


Lately, many stories of individuals living with autism have been making the transition towards theater. Books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, a novel by Mark Haddon, has become a popular Broadway Play using grids and electronic drizzle to represent the active mind of an autistic teenager. But there is still so much we don’t know or have yet to discover about how autistics view the world.

Max Understood is a play about a 7 year old autistic boy whose world is comprised of objects and sounds from noises, music, filmed projections, and an onstage moving landscape. It’s unknown how much of the play is actually an accurate depiction of the autistic perspective.

However, the parents’ struggle and determination for their child is the true heart of the play’s storyline. Michael Rasbury, an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia, is the author, sound designer, and a composer for the play. He loosely based the main character off of his experiences with his autistic son, also named Max. One part of the play, which is particularly striking visually, involves his son’s fixation with power lines. He even uses Google Earth’s satellite view to memorize its locations in relation to streets.

In the play, the main character repeatedly watches the movie The Wizard of Oz. Other viewers may focus on Dorothy or her friends, but Max’s eyes are drawn to the yellow bricks. Rasbury strategically lays of a projection of power line grids over the yellow brick road that leads to the Wizard.

He also includes other experiences such as Max’s repetitive speech behaviors, wherein he recites phrases from books or commercials. In the play the boy has an interactive toy that provides information about all 43 US Presidents. Later, Max lists all the facts he’s memorized, often at unexpected times in a conversation. This impressive recitation ability is a common characteristic many autistic kids are known to have.

At the start of the play we see Max flapping his hands and yelling in response to the constant neighborhood noises just outside his window. However, once those noises stop he starts to create his own sounds which causes his parents to become distracted.

The plays creator’s Rasbury and Nancy Carlin have been working on its production since 2007. It has reached the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut and the New York Musical Theatre Festival, after wrapping up its last show at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. They hope the audience sees the play’s portrayal of isolation that autistic kids and their parents go through.

Click here to view the original feature from Newsweek that this article is based on.

Written by Raiza Belarmino

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Posted in Arts, Autism Advocacy, Autism America, Autism Awareness, Autism Events, Autism Media, Autism News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fifth Grader with Autism Wins National Essay Contest

breaking barriers essay contest


The Major League Baseball Education Program conducted the essay contest ‘Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In life’ in honor of the accomplishments of legendary Jackie Robinson. Contestants are instructed to write about a barrier in their lives and how they used one of Jackie Robinson’s nine values to face it.

These values include citizenship, determination, justice, commitment, excellence, persistence, courage, integrity, and teamwork. The goal is to teach children that obstacles are a part of life, and in turn, empower them to overcome hurdles.

There were over 16,000 essays submitted with just 10 winners selected. One of them is fifth grader Aidan Hamilton from Bethlehem Lutheran School in Lakewood, Colorado. Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, and Colorado Rockies pitcher LaTroy Hawkins presented the award at a school assembly.

For his great achievement, Aidan won himself a laptop and a new tablet for his teacher Jeff Haverkost. His classmates received No. 42 Robinson jerseys. The Colorado Rockies also donated bobble heads and more than 300 baseball tickets to the school.

For most of Aidan’s life he has struggled with epilepsy, so much so that he had to leave school halfway through the academic year. During that time, he had to re-learn how to read and write.

Just last year he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. In his essay he writes about the ways he’s different from other kids. Just like Jackie Robinson, he excluded from activities and people were often unkind to him. He can relate to how much courage it took Robinson to take the field knowing most didn’t want him there.

Despite his conditions, Aidan was able to overcome many obstacles with the help of his mother and grandmother. This year Aidan not only made honor role but achieved first honors. He knows that he may need more help than other kids but he’s still determined to be a good student quoting Robinson “I hate to lose.”

In the future, Aidan hopes to become a broadcaster- a football analyst, to be more exact. He has a gift with talking, jokingly saying he never stops speaking.

Written by Raiza Belarmino

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Posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism America, Autism Awareness, autism blogs, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Education, Autism News, Personal Essay | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Asperger’s Are Us: A One of a Kind Comedy Troupe

autism comedy troupe


It all started in the in Massachusetts during the summer of 2010, when the parents of three boys- Ethan Finlan, Jack Hanke, and Michael Ingemi- sent their sons to an autism camp.

This summer camp was a place where kids with Asperger’s could intermingle with other kids who also had the disorder. The boys then met their camp counselor Noah Britton and by the end of the summer, they became the best of friends. When the three boys turned 18 they created Asperger’s Are Us along with their counselor, the first comedy troupe featuring only entertainers on the autism spectrum.

Like any other comedians, it was clear what they wanted to do: make people laugh. Their content they created were inspired by things that they found funny. The troop’s performances were well-recieved and created a buzz around the area. Local and eventually national news have covered the troupe’s story.

The witty young men use this notoriety as an opportunity to speak out about autism-rights activism. Often television and movies will falsely portray Asperger’s Syndrome. Ethan, Jack, Michael, and Noah make it a point that they are not here to poke fun at people with autism or to prove they can be funny despite having it. They would like to show they are funny because they are, well, funny. Their hilarity is appeals those with Asperger’s (or Aspies as they call it) and non-Aspies alike. It does deal with mature material so it’s not suggested that children attend.

They are currently in the process of filming their documentary, Asperger’s Are Us: A True Story. Alex Lehmann, director and producer, records their journey as comedians writing, rehearsing, and preforming together. And, as their trailer suggests, to the culmination of their most difficult and entertaining performance yet. Part of the documentary also focuses on their daily lives including private moments of vulnerability and honesty. Lehmann is determined to make the film something they are all proud of. Through this experience he has learned so much about comedy, humanity, and autism.

You can catch them at their next performance, which is free and open to the public, at Drexel University on May 29th. The following day they will be at The Riot Theater in Jamaica Plain, MA for $10.

To view the original article or watch the documentary’s trailer, click here

Written by Raiza Belarmino

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Posted in Arts, Autism Advocacy, Autism America, Autism Awareness, autism blogs, Autism Films, Autism Media, Autism News, Featured, video | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Books to Help You Find the Right Words to Say

autism kid's book

Everyone at times has difficulty finding the right words to say, whether it be in a moment of jubilation or distress.

There are moments and experiences in which our words fail us, strive as we may. The following books, however, help with overcoming this obstacle using a child-friendly approach towards discussing autism.

“The Autism Acceptance Book: Being a Friend to Someone with Autism” by Ellen Sabin (ages 6 and up) is a workbook that provides exercises and stories to help children understand the different sensory, processing, and communicative issues that their peers with autism encounter. It offers a dual focus on instructing children how to be a good friend for those on the spectrum.

“Autism and Me: Sibling Stories” by Ouisie Shapiro (ages 8 and up) provides just what it’s title implies. The book contains fourteen sibling accounts of what daily life is like when you have a sibling with autism. It offers a realistic but promising attitude towards the environment typically developing children may encounter as their family adjusts itself to accommodate their autistic sibling.

“How to Talk to an Autistic Kid” by Daniel Stefanski (ages 8 and up) is perhaps one of the more important books on this list. Written by a fourteen-year-old on the spectrum, it provides readers with information regarding the complicated manner with which autistic persons navigate the social sphere. As the author explains, “I want to help kids without autism feel comfortable around kids with autism.”

 “Rules” by Cynthia Lord (ages 9-12) offers a similar approach to “Autism and Me: Sibling Stories.” The novel describes the relationship between a 12-year-old girl and her autistic brother as they learn and grow together.

“The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and Their Parents)” by Elizabeth Verdickand Elizabeth Reed, M.D. (ages 8 and up) gives parents a step-by-step guide for that difficult moment when they will ultimately have to explain to their child what their diagnosis means. The book, targeted more for parents but with a focus on child-friendly language, covers informative material and provides words of encouragement to explain to your child.

Other books recommended on this list (which was written by the mother of a child with autism who also happens to be a librarian) are:

“I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism” by Pat Thomas (Ages 5 and up).

“My Brother Charlie” by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peet) (Ages 4 and up).

“Rain Reign” by Ann M. Martin (ages 9-12)

Original story this article is based on can be found here

Written By Sara Power, Fordham University

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Posted in Autism Advocacy, Autism Awareness, Autism Books, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Education, Autism in the Family, Autism Media, Autism Relationships, Autism Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ICare4Autism Strengthens Support for Autism in Africa

ICare4Autism meeting on Ghana initiative: (Left-Right) Afua Akwaah, Dr. Joshua Weinstein, Morgan Jacobs.

ICare4Autism meeting on Ghana initiative: (Left-Right) Afua Akwaah, Dr. Joshua Weinstein, Morgan Jacobs.

Our mission to connect with the autism community in Africa is well underway with a visit from a Ghanian representative.

ICare4Autism along with Morgan Jacobs met with Afua Akwaah on Monday, April 27 to discuss moving forward with the Ghana Initiative. Ms. Jacobs, a Ph.D. student in Special Education from Colombia University Teacher’s College, discussed with Ms. Akwaah how to best strengthen the support for children and young adults with autism in Ghana.

Jacobs will be traveling to Ghana during July and August to orchestrate workshops for locals to attend. With the help of ICare, both women will be joining Echoing Hills Village, a disability support organization within communities of Ghana. Echoing Hills serves a wide variety of special needs individuals within the country of Ghana, both mental and physical; autism is just one of the many disorders included.

ICare is in the process of developing workshops that will equip the community with up-to-date knowledge about how to properly educate and care for the autistic. Ghana currently has a largely underserved special needs population. Many who struggle with disabilities are shunned from mainstream society and forced to live on the streets.


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Through ICare, Jacobs will be reaching out to those involved in psychology and education in Ghana. However, the workshops will not only be limited to professionals and field staff. Training and support will also be given to parents and caregivers, whose lives often revolve around the care of their autistic child.

Jacobs will spend the first part of her trip actually going into homes and schools. Here, she hopes to become acquainted with parents and teachers, and observe firsthand the daily lives of autistic children in Ghana. After making personal connections and observations, Jacobs will move on to conducting the workshops during her final week with Echoing Hills.

In order to increase autism awareness and effective therapies, a comprehensive list of topics will be covered through these interactive workshops. In addition to training caregivers, Jacobs plans to educate the community about early detection signs, setting up local support groups, and job skill development. She will also be inviting others in the community to speak at the workshops as well, sharing their knowledge.

Click here to learn all about our Autism Africa Initiative in Ghana

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Posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism Africa, Autism Awareness, autism blogs, Autism Causes, Autism Education, Autism Events, Autism International, Autism International News, Autism News, Autism Resources, Autism Symptoms, Autism Therapy, Autism Travel, Autism Treatment, Featured | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Autistic Valedictorian Graduates With 4.0

valedictorian with autism

Montel Medley is the class of 2014’s valedictorian at Surrattsville High School in Prince George’s County Maryland. It comes as no surprise that he has achieved a 4.0 GPA; his own personal struggles may be more surprising.

During his graduation speech he touched on typical subjects such as thanking family and teachers for their support and guidance, coming of age, being an adult, and the future of their careers. The young man then shared something that set him apart from many of his fellow students and previous valedictorians. He began to open up about his personal journey with autism, poignantly stating, “Having a disability doesn’t mean you have a disadvantage. Sometimes it can be an advantage.”

Montel has overcome many obstacles, though his journey to the top was far from easy. At the age of 3 he was considered nonverbal and started to attend programs ran by the Department of Family Services. Soon his vocabulary started to grow. In elementary school he was enrolled in special education classes. However, his teachers realized his high academic ability and sent him to a mainstream classroom. Although in some of the years he required an aide, by his junior year of high school he was completely on his own.

The high school’s autism program coordinator, Aisha Clarke, witnessed Montel’s progression during his high school career. In freshman year, like many of the kids, he was apprehensive in sharing his autism but by 12th grade it became something he wasn’t ashamed of. He now simply tells people, “I think differently.” Through the school’s program he also learned how to develop his social skills and deal with his anger.

For college he will be attending the prestigious Towson University that boasts notable alumni such as Mike Rowe (TV Host), Jermon Bushrod (NFL), and Stacy Keibler (Actress).

Montel’s story is an inspiring one in showing triumph over adversity. Fewer than 60 percent of students with autism get a high school diploma, which is a significant 20 percent lower than the national average. Not only has he exceeded but also helped redefined the stereotype. At Towson University, he plans to major in applied mathematics and is confident that his college career will be met with success.

Original coverage by The Washington Post.

Written by Raiza Belarmino

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Morgan’s Mission

icare4autism ghana


ICare4Autism’s Global Initiative in Ghana is receiving a strong push forward with the selection of Morgan Jacobs, who will be working with Echoing Hills Village to develop their educational needs.


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Morgan Jacobs paid a visit to Shema Kolainu to discuss her involvement in the upcoming Ghana initiative through ICare. Jacobs is currently studying to obtain her Ph. D. in Education from Colombia University Teachers College, specializing in Intellectual Disabilities and Autism.

The special education professional, who has ten years of experience working closely with children on the autism spectrum, was selected by the team at ICare to carry the mission of autism awareness into African communities. Here, she will provide much-needed training to center professionals, enabling them to deliver the most effective, modern therapies to children in underserved communities.

Echoing Hills Academy in Ghana

Echoing Hills Village in Ghana

“I have wanted to travel to Africa for a long time,” says Jacobs. “Autism awareness in Africa is such a big deal.”

Echoing Hills Village is a nonprofit in the African country which provides special services to the disabled. Jacobs has met with ICare on several occasions regarding the Ghana initiative and plans to work with Afua Akwaah and Pastor Lawrence, leaders in autism advocacy at Echoing Hills.

Jacobs’ training will cover methods that staff and parents can use in the school and in the home to manage the care of children with autism. She also hopes to increase advocacy for those on the autism spectrum, who are often ostracized in Africa and accused of witchcraft due to their meltdown and intellectual differences. She also hopes to empower them by sharing autism success stories, and to bolster the success that youth with autism ultimately have in their own communities by providing workforce training to them. Finally, her work will include training sessions designed to help parents detect the early signs of autism in a child.

And as children love games and stories, she also understands just how necessary assistive technology and learning materials are to bridge the gap for kids on the spectrum, particularly nonverbal communicators. By providing books, CDs, and iPads to the children, their education will be augmented in new ways.

ICare4Autism with Morgan Jacobs will be there to lend a hand for children who get left behind when their elders don’t understand what autism is all about. The Ghana initiative has already brought hope to struggling communities anxiously awaiting a day that their autistic children will be given the chance to succeed.

The workshops provided by ICare through Ms. Jacobs will provide special education leaders and families in Ghana with the knowledge and experience to strengthen autism advocacy in the country.

Click here to read all about our Autism Africa Initiative in progress

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Posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism Awareness, Autism Causes, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Education, Autism Employment, Autism International, Autism News, Autism Symptoms, Autism Therapy, Autism Treatment, Featured | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed
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