Sensory-Friendly Activities Ease Winter Blues

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“Oh, the weather outside is frightful…”

In these long winter months, many NC families are looking for indoor entertainment. It’s too cold to jump on the backyard trampoline, too icy to run at the park. Many will turn to indoor play areas, shows, and movies.

But these are not always good options for families who have loved ones with autism. Individuals with autism often are sensitive to sensory stimuli, and they may react in ways that are not typical, which can lead to judgment by others. They need a flexible and accepting environment so they can enjoy the activity.

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See a photo story from DPAC’s “Grinch”: https://spark.adobe.com/page/NBM0fNDJ6NbTF/

Fortunately, more and more businesses and organizations are offering “sensory-friendly” options so individuals with autism and their families can enjoy the same activities as other families. An example last month was the “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” at Durham Performing Arts Center, made possible by sponsors Duke Health and SunTrust. DPAC’s special matinee included adjustments to the production, including fewer loud noises and flashing lights; designated quiet sections; and volunteers to assist families.

The showing was a great success and much appreciated by area families. One parent wrote, “Thank you so much for this special show! My 6-year-old son had the best time of his life. It was such a relief to be in a theater and know your child can feel free to be who he is, without having to worry. He laughed, sang, spent some time in the aisle, and wasn’t overwhelmed by the lights or sounds (as he sometimes is).”

grinch 1.jpgAnother said, “I cannot thank you enough for today’s performance. Hundreds of families in our community went to the theater today that would have otherwise not considered it. When you have a special needs child, it is hard to get out of the house sometimes. It is hard to spend money on events that you may have to walk out of within minutes if your child’s behavior isn’t in line with norms. Today, DPAC gave us a welcoming environment. We enjoyed a show and felt the support of DPAC staff and the other families surrounding us. Children around me were laughing and cheering.”

We thank DPAC, Duke Health, and SunTrust for making this experience possible for our families!

Find activities near you

Some movie theaters in NC now offer sensory-friendly shows; check with your local theater. AMC Theatres offers them in the Charlotte and Triangle areas, saying “we turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing! Our Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month.” Check their website for more information.

ASNC Chapters are another great resource for sensory-friendly activities as well as social events that are family-friendly with a welcoming atmosphere. A few examples:

Find events on our calendar; find a Chapter near you on our website.

And finally, be sure to join ASNC’s Facebook group, where events and activities from around the state are posted.

Looking for a Place to Belong? Join an ASNC Chapter

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Pender County Chapter

Fall is a great time to join one of the Autism Society of North Carolina’s 50 Chapters and Support Groups around the state. The beginning of the new school year also marks the restart of the groups’ activities and events.

ASNC’s Chapters and Support Groups are led by generous parents or family member volunteers who join together with other concerned individuals to create a welcoming and inclusive community of support for individuals with autism and their families. “So many of our members tell us how happy they are to finally have somewhere to turn and how good it feels to not feel alone,” said Amy Irvin, mom and a member of the leadership team for the Sampson County Chapter.

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Robeson County Chapter

Emily Green, a member of the Forsyth County Chapter said, “I consider these people my truest friends. I can trust them to watch (and understand) my kids or ask them for information about services, extracurricular activities, or medical advice. I love being part of such a supportive and accepting group of people that always have an answer, a suggestion, or know where to point you to help find one.”

If you live in one of the following areas, you can take part in one of our new or revitalized Chapters and Support Groups: Caldwell County, Halifax County, the High Country (Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga and Wilkes counties), Lee County, Macon County, Rowan County, Wayne County, or Wilson County.

Kristi Ford, Leader of the new Lee County Support Group, said the group has been planning meet-up events and playdates to get together regularly. “For this year, I’m most excited about seeing us mold together as a group, see friendships form, and for our children to become playmates,” she said. “Living a life of autism can be isolating for the whole family, so I hope we can reach families in our area to let them know that there are others walking the same journey and we can all have fun together.”

Jennifer Clapton, leader of the Halifax County Support Group, said, “We are excited about growing as a new chapter and increasing parent involvement. We also are very interested in offering ongoing social outings for our kids.”

Malinda Pennington said the Wilson County Chapter is excited about its second year. “We want to be able to support the unique needs of every family such as those with girls on the spectrum, young children school-age children, and adolescent/ adults with autism.”

No matter where you are, click here to find a group near you, or check out our online calendar to see events.

 

Make 2016-17 Your Child’s Best School Year Yet

Elementary school children writing in class

It’s almost here again – back-to-school time! Are you ready? Or does the mere thought of a new school year make you anxious? The Autism Society of North Carolina wants to partner with you and your child for a successful school year.

Please take advantage of the resources we offer.

IEP-Toolkit-webToolkits: We have many easy-to-use, accessible toolkits to guide you through challenging times. Several are on school-related topics: The IEP, Behavior & the IEP, and Bullying. All of these free toolkits can be read online or downloaded and printed: http://bit.ly/ASNCtoolkits

Autism Resource Specialists: We have 17 Autism Resource Specialists across the state, standing by to consult with you. They are all parents of children or adults with autism themselves, so they have firsthand knowledge and a unique understanding of what you’re going through. They strive to empower families to be the best advocates for their children. Find the Autism Resource Specialist serving your area: http://bit.ly/AutismResourceSpecialists

Podcasts: Several of our Autism Resource Specialists got together for a back-to-school discussion. Listen in with our podcast titled “Back to School: What You Need to Know and Do for a Successful Start!” You can check out the complete list of available podcasts here: http://www.autismsociety-nc.org/podcasts

Workshops: Our Autism Resource Specialists also share their expertise through workshops, both in-person and online. Some upcoming webinars are IEP Basics: Frequently Asked Questions, IEP Notebook: Taming the Paper Monster, and Preparing for College Starts at Home. We also have many workshops in various locations; find the complete schedule here: http://bit.ly/ASNCWorkshopCalendar

backtoschool Coupon_0816_web2ASNC Bookstore: If you are looking for books and videos, our bookstore is the place to go. The ASNC Bookstore is the most convenient place to find the very best autism resources, with over 600 titles. Bookstore staff members are always willing to share recommendations on particular topics. And until Aug. 31, we have a 20% off sale with code BTSS2016! Browse online: www.autismbookstore.com

Chapters & Support Groups: ASNC has more than 50 Chapters and Support Groups around the state. Chapters provide a place where you can receive encouragement from families facing similar challenges and share experiences, information, and resources. Find one near you: http://bit.ly/ASNCChapters

Our blog: Of course, you already know about our blog because you are reading it right now. But have you subscribed? You don’t want to miss the educational posts from our Autism Resource Specialists or Clinical staff. One recent education-related post was College Options for Students with ASD. Use the search box at the top right to look for posts on particular topics.

Stay connected: Last but not least, connect with us! Sign up to receive our monthly email newsletters and the twice-yearly Spectrum magazine at http://bit.ly/ASNCStayInformed. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We are constantly sharing helpful information, and we don’t want you to miss any of it.

Still have questions? Please contact us so that we can help you find the help you need:

800-442-2762 (NC only)
919-743-0204
Autism Society of North Carolina
505 Oberlin Road, Suite 230
Raleigh, NC 27605
info@autismsociety-nc.org

 

Thank You, from One Mom to Another

 

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Sherri Krewson Garner, Leader of the ASNC Crystal Coast Chapter, shared this post about her gratitude for another mom and leader.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to another chapter leader! In 2000, after going through a divorce, I moved from Lincoln County to the coast of North Carolina to be near my family. I had been my daughter Sydney’s advocate since she was diagnosed at age 2 as “mentally delayed” or having a mild intellectual disability. But over the years, things didn’t add up; she just didn’t seem to fit in that category. When Sydney was 11, I heard about Asperger’s Syndrome, and this seemed to fit.

As the years went on and the struggles continued, I found a local support group and we started the Crystal Coast Chapter of the Autism Society of North Carolina. I started out as secretary, became co-chair, and am now the leader of the chapter. As a chapter, we started with a support group meeting once a month. Then as we saw what families needed, we added meetings on topics such as IEPS and school issues as well as social activities. Once a month, we have a social event called Friends & Fun to celebrate birthdays, and we also have Music with Mary, a casual music therapy class. Our biggest fundraiser, the Crystal Coast Run/Walk for Autism each May, raises money that enables us to do these special events at little to no cost to families.

Being a part of the chapter was a help to me and my family, but when Sydney was 18, she began running away from home at night. I would follow her in my car down the highway and call the sheriff. They told me what I already knew: They couldn’t make her come home because she was 19 and an adult. But was she? Could she make the right decisions? Could she take care of herself? She didn’t have a job and hadn’t graduated school. I spent nights crying, feeling that after 18 years I had failed because in every IEP, my ending goal was for my daughter to graduate from high school. It sounded simple, but it wasn’t, and it was my goal.

Sydney said she wanted to live with her dad, so in the spring of 2015, I obliged and had him come and take her to live with him at the other end of the state. Even though we were divorced, he and I continued to work together for her sake and remained supportive of one another. But he was taking on a role that was foreign to him; until you deal with the issues every day, day and night, you can never truly understand life as a parent with a child on the spectrum. Sydney started having a lot of trouble at her new school and in her new home life with a parent new to dealing with these issues.

Sydney’s dad called asking what to do. I felt just as helpless as he did; I had walked in those shoes but did not have an overnight fix. So I got on my computer at 11 o’clock that night and searched for the ASNC Chapter in Lincoln County, thinking they could provide some support. I proceeded to write an email to Ginny Hall, who co-leads the Lincoln County Chapter alongside Kristie Robertson, asking her to please reach out to Sydney’s dad because he needed help and I was a six-hour drive away.

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Ginny and Sydney

Ginny was in my eyes sent from God! She helped my daughter so much, especially on school issues. They had hard times, but she never gave up on my daughter. She worked with Sydney’s father to find the resources he needed, including in-home treatment and medications. Ginny also became a true friend and confidante to Sydney.

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Sydney and her mom, Sherri

This June, I traveled to Lincoln County for my daughter’s high school graduation and to meet Ginny for the first time. I had been feeling so guilty, and thanked her for all she had done. Ginny said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It means so much to me that she took time away from her family to help my family. Ginny Hall, I thank you as one autism mom to another and as one chapter leader to another!

It does not matter how we get to the IEP goal, just that WE DO! I only hope I support other families in my chapter in the same way.

 

Have you found an ASNC Chapter to be your “village”? The Autism Society of North Carolina has more than 50 Chapters and Support Groups around the state. These groups are led by generous parents or family member volunteers who join together with other concerned individuals to create a welcoming and inclusive community of support for individuals with autism and their families.

ASNC Chapters provide a place where you can:

  • Receive support and encouragement from families facing similar challenges
  • Share experiences, information, and resources
  • Raise awareness about the needs and the abilities of individuals with ASD
  • Learn realistic, practical solutions for autism-related concerns
  • Feel welcomed, accepted and understood

 Click here find a Chapter near you.

Make This Your Child’s Best School Year Yet

school desk

Are you ready for back-to-school time? Or does the mere thought of a new school year make you anxious? The Autism Society of North Carolina is ready to partner with you and your child for a successful school year.

Please take advantage of the resources we offer.

IEP-Toolkit-webToolkits: In the past year and a half, we have introduced easy-to-use, accessible toolkits to guide you through challenging times. Several are on school-related topics: The IEP, Behavior & the IEP, and Bullying. All of these free toolkits can be read online or downloaded and printed: http://bit.ly/ASNCtoolkits

Autism Resource Specialists: We have 19 Autism Resource Specialists across the state, standing by to consult with you. They are all parents of children or adults with autism themselves, so they have firsthand knowledge and a unique understanding of what you’re going through. They strive to empower families to be the best advocates for their children. Find the Autism Resource Specialist serving your area: http://bit.ly/AutismResourceSpecialists

Podcasts: We have recently added podcasts to our list of resources, and one of the first discussions we recorded was “Back to School: What You Need to Know and Do for a Successful Start!” with some of the Autism Resource Specialists. You can check out the complete list of available podcasts here: http://www.autismsociety-nc.org/podcasts

Workshops: Our Autism Resource Specialists also share their expertise through workshops, both in-person and online. Some upcoming titles are Autism: Building on Strengths to Overcome Challenges, Preparing for College Starts at Home, and The IEP Process: Building Success for Your Child at School. Find the complete schedule here: http://bit.ly/ASNCWorkshopCalendar

bookstore couponASNC Bookstore: If you are looking for books and videos, our bookstore is the place to go. The ASNC Bookstore is the most convenient place to find the very best autism resources, with over 600 titles. Bookstore staff members are always willing to share recommendations on particular topics. And until Aug. 31, we have a 15% off sale with code BTSS2015. Browse online: www.autismbookstore.com

Chapters & Support Groups: ASNC has more than 50 Chapters and Support Groups around the state. Chapters provide a place where you can receive encouragement from families facing similar challenges and share experiences, information, and resources. Look for one near you: http://bit.ly/ASNCChapters

Our blog: Of course, you already know about our blog because you are reading it right now. But have you subscribed? You don’t want to miss the educational posts from our Autism Resource Specialists or Clinical staff. The recent post, “Preparing for a New School Year: Calm Parent = Calm Child,” gives you a checklist of helpful tips. Read it here.

Stay connected: Last but not least, connect with us! Sign up to receive our monthly email newsletters and the twice-yearly Spectrum magazine at http://bit.ly/ASNCStayInformed. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We are constantly sharing helpful information, and we don’t want you to miss any of it.

Still have questions? Please contact us so that we can help you find the help you need:

info@autismsociety-nc.org

800-442-2762 (NC only)

919-743-0204

Autism Society of North Carolina

505 Oberlin Road, Suite 230

Raleigh, NC 27605

ASNC’s Maureen Morrell Honored by NC Council on Developmental Disabilities

website_maureenMaureen Morrell, State Chapter Director for the Autism Society of North Carolina, was awarded the Helen C. “Holly” Riddle Distinguished Service Award by the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities on Nov. 19 in Cary.

Morrell has advocated for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families for more than 30 years. She has worked for the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) as part of its leadership team, as a board member, and as a volunteer. Morrell, who began her working life as a nurse, was motivated to advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities after the birth of her first son. Justin, now 36, has autism and lives and works in a residential farm community.

Morrell has worked with many North Carolina agencies and organizations over the years, serving on boards of directors and consulting. “Maureen is one of those rare individuals who has the ability to blend her personal experience as a mother of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder with the role of an informed advocate who can speak to public policy and system issues,” wrote Karen Luken, disability and health consultant, in her nomination. “She has a strong commitment to health across the life course, and her background in public health broadens her approach to how our state can address health concerns.”

Morrell said she was honored to be nominated by her colleagues, who inspire her. She also expressed admiration for the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) and Holly Riddle, who served as NCCDD’s Executive Director from 1990 until 2013. “The Council on Developmental Disabilities is a very important group of self-advocates, parents, and professionals that work very hard to not just advocate for the needs of people with disabilities but also to talk about their strengths and their unique gifts. I have always admired that about the council,” Morrell said. “Holly Riddle is a very passionate, persistent, committed advocate for people with disabilities. She’s done a great deal to advocate for people with disabilities.”

In her current position, Morrell works with ASNC’s 50 support groups and chapters across the state. “There’s nothing I like better than having the opportunity to go to different parts of the state, meet with parents who are trying to help their own children and yet also have the generous spirit to organize and help all the families in their community. It is so inspiring,” she said.

Terri Meyers, one of ASNC’s regional chapter directors, said Morrell’s colleagues appreciate her can-do attitude. “Maureen’s kind and sharing spirit is infectious,” Meyers wrote in her nomination. “She is one who will not only organize and plan, she will roll up her sleeves and get right into the trenches for the cause.”

Morrell also is a well-known speaker and co-author of the 2007 Autism Society of America’s Outstanding Literary Work of the Year: Parenting Across the Autism Spectrum: Unexpected Lessons We Have Learned. In 1998, she received ASNC’s Parent of the Year Award.

Morrell said she was honored to provide a parent’s viewpoint to the work of ASNC. “The organization was founded by parents who were my mentors, and it’s always been a valued voice. I’ve been glad to have the opportunity to look at our strategic plans and add a parent perspective.”

The longtime advocate has no plans to slow down anytime soon; she said there is plenty more to be done for individuals with autism in North Carolina. When asked their greatest need, she replied: “Being welcomed and included in all aspects of life in their community, whether that’s their family, their neighborhood, church, their parks and rec, their school, or employment. And also recognizing that while they have needs, they have strengths and gifts to offer us when they’re given the supports and services that they need.”

The North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities is a 40-member, governor-appointed body with 60 percent of its members mandated as people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities or family members of people with disabilities. Its activities are guided by the federal mandate to “promote self-determination, independence, productivity and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life” for people with developmental disabilities and their families. NCCDD also works to promote a community service delivery system that is personalized to meet the unique needs of each individual with a developmental disability through funding diverse grantees. For more information, please go to its website, www.nc-ddc.org.

Free Workshop: “Autism: How Faith Communities Can Help”

Practicing one’s faith is important to many families of children and adults with autism and other disabilities. Families often turn to their faith communities for understanding, acceptance, and support as they work to meet the needs of the person with autism and understand his or her strengths and gifts. Yet often they struggle to find a faith community that will welcome and include them.

Many faith communities want to help these families. They recognize that their communities are missing the presence and participation of people with autism and their families. Yet they lack an understanding of autism and feel unequipped in the best ways to include families in the life of their faith community.

We hope to bridge this gap by inviting both families and faith community leaders and members to a free workshop, Autism: How Faith Communities Can Help. The workshop will be held Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Manna Church, 5117 Cliffdale Road in Fayetteville. Registration, coffee, and exhibits will open at 9:30 a.m. Lunch will be provided. Childcare is not available.

At the workshop, participants will:

  • Learn about autism and the challenges families face
  • Understand the importance of screening and early identification of autism
  • Connect with community resources for assistance
  • Learn from a panel of church representatives who are working in special-needs ministry
  • Learn how they can welcome and support families in their faith communities

To register for the workshop, click here. For more information, contact Maureen Morrell at mmorrell@autismsociety-nc.org.

A follow-up workshop in February will provide more in-depth training on the strategies that special-needs ministries can use to welcome and include people with autism.

Funding for this free workshop comes through a grant from AMCHP (Association of Maternal & Child Programs). There is funding for a second workshop in Robeson County next year. The purpose of the AMCP grant is to promote the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” This campaign is aimed at improving early identification of children with autism and other developmental disabilities so children and families can get the services and support they need.

Four organizations are collaborating on this workshop: the Autism Society of North Carolina, the Autism Society of Cumberland County, the UNC-CH Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities and the UNC-CH Allied Health Science Department.

ASNC hopes to work with its Chapters and Support Groups to offer this workshop in other places across the state next year. Please contact Maureen if you are interested in helping with this effort.