Parent: Ok, let’s pick out a gift for Mama
ASD child: NO. I want elmo/thomas/Xbox 360!
Parent: Yes, I know. At Christmas we give gifts to other people. What would Mama like?
ASD child: I don’t know.
Parent: Well, do you want to get her this necklace?
ASD child: No.
This scenario is even more awkward for a single parent attempting to help their child pick out or make a gift for them.
This year, Empower Autism is hosting an alternative method for gift-giving. We are structuring the gift process so that kids create presents for their parents with the help of our volunteers. They help wrap them up, label them and bring them back to their parents (who are munching snacks and socializing in another room if they wish).
When: Sunday Dec 11th 3-5pm
Where: UNCA (New Hall room 118)
Please RSVP via email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend. Let us know how many adults and kids to expect.
Our popular cooking group is back! We have received so many compliments and requests to continue this program, so we revised it and are offering it again this fall. It is for adults and older teens in the Asheville, NC area. Please contact us for more information. THANKS!
The Spectrum by Dragonfly Forest is my favorite new project! It is so gratifying to work on something that is so much fun for everyone involved! Our interns are talented and dedicated, the activities they come up with are inspiring and hilarious, and the kids are so relieved to be somewhere that is clearly explained and, most importantly, super entertaining.
You can read our blog and see photos of us having a blast.
Last spring, the Autism Community Center piloted some fabulous activity groups which were designed for people on the autism spectrum. A lot of people had a great time attending cooking, music, theater, art and hiking groups, but, unfortunately, the center closed due to financial challenges. See a video from our old writing and illustrating group!
This fall, Empower Autism is partnering with Dragonfly Forest to bring those activity groups back! We will run groups for 6 week sessions, starting mid-September, under the name ‘The Spectrum’. We have added exciting new clubs like Urban Outings, and are bringing back old favorites like Video Gamers Club, and Hiking Group. Groups and Clubs are generally about 1 hour long, and meet once per week. People will be able to register fully online if they wish, and sign up for more than one group.
Stay tuned for more details on this exciting new partnership!
Both sessions for campers with autism were a huge success this summer! Dragonfly Forest is a free camp for kids with autism, and this year we had two sessions, each with about 70 campers. I’m always happy when the campers enjoy themselves, try new activities like the ropes course and archery, and overcome their anxiety about staying overnight–but this year I was especially proud that our program hired adults with autism to be counselors.
Attempting to recruit adults on the spectrum in a city that I don’t live in was challenging, but I got in touch with a few people, and 4 of them agreed to work at camp. Being a camp counselor is not an easy job–it involves a high level of flexibility, and the culture here at camp is extremely social. There is very little alone time, and the schedule is constantly changing. I was really excited that any adult on the spectrum wanted to be part of it.
Our staff is fairly diverse. We have counselors from different backgrounds, and we spend quite a bit of our training time addressing diversity and encouraging our staff to honestly acknowledge differences, and appreciate them. Having counselors and campers with autism meant that we were also encouraging an appreciation of neurodiversity. Everyone is always receptive to the idea of diversity appreciation, but sometimes the reality of it is more difficult. I’ll be posting more about our experience with this in the next few weeks–stay tuned.
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with almost 100 families with autism. Each of those families has been really different, but some common themes exist in all of them: the capacity for hard work, a broader definition of what it means to be human, and a hard-won sense of the ridiculous. : )
One of the most rewarding parts of my job at the Autism Society of North Carolina was creating home-programs that included organized systems for addressing difficult parts of the day, social needs, developing maturing interests, and exploring employment possibilities. In these difficult financial times, many people are losing services like those the Autism Society provides, and there are not a lot of private options.
I’ve assembled a team of people at my business, Empower Autism, INC., who are well-versed in autism and family dynamics, and we are designing home-programs privately for family with autism. If you have something that just isn’t quite working in your family or your home, we can design a system or plan to help you address it. I believe that a REAL plan uses the strengths of a family, and fits naturally into the current pattern of the family.
We design creative, appreciative, plans that fit a family’s lifestyle, and we make it affordable.
Give us a call, or send us an email to find out more.
(828) 919-0313. Sylvia@empowerautism.com
TIME magazine is running a photo essay by Mike Belleme about the autism program at Dragonfly Forest in Philly! I had the privilege of creating this program, and I’m SO proud of it. There is a hilarious picture of me getting mobbed by a bunch of campers on there too. It’s funny what gets immortalized huh?
Mike is a really talented photographer–and he freelances–so you better hire him quick, before he hits the big time!
Today I just want to say that I’ve had a great time this week in the Autism Community Center activity groups. It was really fun to record videos of kids having fun in the gym, and to hear people talk about their work in writing & illustrating. As you can see from the pictures, I’m not the only one having fun!
Today we started our writing and illustrating group for the Autism Community Center of Asheville! This was taken at the end of class, when people were explaining their art or writing. You can see more videos from the Activity Groups on the Autism Community Center website.
I had so much at this group today. It was the first day, so everyone was a little anxious, but once we got going it was awesome.
As you may know, I work for Dragonfly Forest, a free camp for kids who have autism. This year, we are presenting at several conferences about campers with autism, and making a typical camp setting more accessible for kids with autism. Here is one of my main points about the difference between a camper with autism and a neurotypical campers.
You and I and other neurotypical people are constantly social-referencing. That means we are using other people’s behavior to guide our own behavior. In a group, we look at other people to see what they are doing. If everyone heads over to look out the window, we sort of want to do that too.
We study each other’s tone of voice and facial expressions closely, and use that information as a social cue for own behavior. In fact, we even mirror other peoples facial expressions when they speak to us (imagine a friend telling you they got some sad news, your mouth will turn down, and your eyes get soft, almost as if you had received the sad news yourself). We ‘instinctively’ know when a class or meeting is almost over because everyone starts rustling their papers and gathering their bags. In contrast, people with autism are often self-referencing, which means they are checking in on themselves, and using their own feelings to guide their behavior instead of using others behavior to guide them.
Examples of social cues (things that you know how to interpret even though no one ever explained them to you):
Self-referencing (and missing social cues) can lead a camper with autism to
You can help a camper who is self-referencing by: