October 21, 2015

Meet Sesame Street's First Character with Autism: 'We Want to Create Greater Awareness and Empathy'

Sesame Workshop's first muppet with autism, Julia
Fuzzy favorites Grover, Abby and Elmo are joined by their newest muppet pal, Julia, a character with autism, in Sesame Street Workshop's new nationwide initiative. 

Launched Wednesday morning, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children aims to reduce "the stigma of autism" with the introduction of the first muppet with autism. 

The initiative, created for communities and families with children ages 2 to 5, includes a free downloadable app that incorporates video, digital story cards designed to make daily life tasks easier for families of children with autism and storybook materials for providers, organizations and caregivers. > More

April 15, 2015

Managing ASD Wandering Tendencies on all Fronts…

By Lori McIlwain, National Autism Association

For parents of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are prone to wandering or bolting away, it can feel like an overwhelming challenge to keep them safe in any setting. Over the last three years, roughly 13% of ASD wandering incidents happened from a school or school-related environment according to the National Autism Association (NAA). Other settings can be just as frightening. Trips to the store, a relative’s home, or vacation settings can create opportunities for escape, leaving parents hesitant to leave the home.
While it’s very possible that a wandering incident can occur outside of the home, the right steps can help reduce the risk.

Simply discussing the issue of wandering with your child’s school holds extraordinarily value. If your child has a history of wandering or bolting, ask his or her school for a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). Based on its findings, a behavioral intervention plan (BIP) should be developed and used consistently between home and school. Here are other tips to consider:
  • For a child who demonstrates bolting behaviors due to fear or stress, ask the school to assign a “safe place” in the building your child can go to. The goal is to keep your child in the building and easily located.
  • For extreme wandering cases, petition the school to assign a 1:1 aide for your child. Ask a doctor to write a note on your child’s behalf if necessary. (A medical code is established for children with autism who wander. Talk to your child’s doctor about the medical code v40.31.)
  • Make sure the school has all emergency response protocols up to date. Ask for a copy of these protocols.
  • Don't forget buses and field trips: any safety plan at school should carry over into bus/transportation and field trip settings.
  • Transitions to different classrooms can be a time of high risk. Ask the school to ensure your child is never left unattended. We recommend a “hands off, eyes on” approach.
  • Make sure the school knows that if your child is ever missing, they should immediately call 911 and search areas of highest threat first, such as water and busy roads. Also ask in writing that you be notified of any wandering incident, large or small. 
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Lori McIlwain has a 15-year-old son with autism and is co-founder and board chair of the National Autism Association (NAA). In 2007, Lori began advocating for federal resources that would reduce and eliminate emotional trauma, injuries and deaths associated with autism-related wandering/elopement. She has also advocated for federal laws that would eliminate dangerous restraint and seclusion practices in public and private schools. Through NAA, she has launched multiple safety initiatives and direct-assistance programs.