Rutgers University Debuts First-of-its-Kind Program for Adults With Autism

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Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, announced Wednesday its plans for the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS). To be located in two buildings on the university’s Douglass Campus, the center will offer university jobs to up to 60 adults with autism who are living off campus. A clinical staff and graduate students will be there for support.

Phase two of the project will offer a pilot residential program for 20 adults with autism who will work on campus and live with Rutgers graduate students in an integrated apartment-style residence.

“There is no other program like this at any other university,” Mary Chrow, Associate Dean for Advancement at the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, told The Mighty. “This comprehensive residential facility, with a day program facility where we’re training our undergraduate and graduate students how to work with adults with autism, is the first of it’s kind.”

The program is potentially a solution to the dual problems of lack of services for adults with autism after they age out of the school system and lack of professionals with adequate experience and training to work with them. Rutgers intends to demonstrate how educational institutions can become part of the answer to these problems.

“I think what’s particularly unique is the training,” Chrow told The Mighty. “We think we’re going to train at least 50 undergraduate and graduate students a year, from all disciplines — education, social work, psychology and across multiple disciplines to develop expertise in working with adults with autism.”

Chrow says there is also potential for this model to be used for people with all kinds of developmental disabilities, not just autism. Plans to open the first phase of the center are set for fall of 2018, after a few years of fundraising. The project will be completely privately funded and cost a total of $35 million.

“We’d love to see other universities also take a look at what we’re doing and replicate it or work with us,” Chrow said. “We see potential in university campuses as a way to train and educate the next generation of professionals, but also to provide jobs for adults with autism who are under-served and underemployed in our society.”

 Get more on the program from the video below:

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To the Woman Who Warned Our Town About the 'Scary' Trick-or-Treater

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To the woman who posted this on my town’s Facebook page:

“Scary adult looking guy trick or treating with a Michael Myers outfit holding a huge fake knife!! He is by himself. Terrifying!!”

That’s my boy you’re talking about. 

While I did respond to your comment on the page with all the dignity and grace I could muster, it hasn’t really left me. My son was trick-or-treating in a costume during regular trick-or-treating hours. (The post appeared before 8 p.m.) He did exactly what other trick-or-treaters did – rang the bell, said, “Trick-or treat” and left. He didn’t do anything bad or wrong. We got him a good costume – a costume, you know, like what you wear on Halloween? Yes, he’s older than the average trick-or-treater. Is he taller than most? Probably. Though at 5’6″, he’s maybe not as tall as your post would have the good folks of our town thinking. 

What I didn’t mention on our town’s page is the fact that my son is autistic. While he is chronologically 17, he is far more sweet and innocent than most other 17-year-old boys. He has no friends to trick-or-treat with, as he has a lot of trouble with social situations. Halloween, with the protection of a costume, is a day that’s easier for him to get out and talk to people. So one of us (his parents) takes him around. He enjoys it, and it makes him happy. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

I could go on about thinking before you post on social media. About responsibility as an adult and community member. About how you don’t know him, or me, or our family. About judging from appearances. All of that is all fine and good. But maybe you just posted what others were also thinking. And I feel like I can teach you (and anyone else who might be thinking the same things) something more big-picture. 

I saw much on the Internet this year about the Teal Pumpkin Project, which is about providing allergy-safe treats for kids with food allergies. I think it’s a fine idea. There is no pumpkin for my boy, though. So to my friends, neighbors and the woman who found my son scary, next year (because he will trick-or-treat again if he wants to) – if a taller-than-normal trick-or-treater comes to your door alone, don’t be afraid. He’s actually one of the sweetest, kindest, not-a-mean-bone-in-his-body people you could ever hope to meet. You are lucky to have crossed paths with him.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability and/or disease. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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I Made a Video to Show What It’s Like to Have a Brother With Autism

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This is a short video I made about what it’s like for me to have an older brother with autism. I hope you enjoy it and see how blessed I am to have Mitchel as my brother. I love him to death, and I want everyone to see how awesome our bond is.

Below is an edited transcript of Spencer’s video about his relationship with Mitchel.

I’m Spencer Timme, I’m 20 years old and my big brother, Mitchel, has autism.

You know, people always ask me, “Spencer, what is like to have an autistic brother? Is it hard, frustrating, is it different?” I kind of laugh at the question and I’m just, like, “No,” “Not really” and “I don’t know.” I mean, I guess it’s different in that as an older brother, he doesn’t really give me advice on women or he can’t buy me alcohol. I never got beat up by him all throughout my childhood like most brotherly relationships. But we do have our own unique bond.

And like normal siblings, he still definitely acknowledges that he is the big brother. Whether he says, “Spencer is eaten by the shark” or him saying, “Mitchel is a… girl,” he knows how to provoke a response from me. It’s his way of taunting. He pretends to shoot me all the time in the hallway, and he has a vicious bear hug. Like normal siblings, we can get on each other’s nerves, but we can always sort it out by having a wrestling match. He’s usually calling for Mom and Dad within a minute because he has zero resilience to tickling.

Our relationship is special. Not one person understands him the way I do. Our bond is strong. He is the most important person to me. I will always protect him.

He is a special human being, and I don’t mean because he’s autistic. It’s because he’s one of a kind. He never ceases to amaze me. My mom told me when Mitchel was maybe 8 or 9, my parents were told that my brother should stop his therapy because they believed he was never going to improve his speech or his ability to interact. They said he probably reached his max capacity. He proved them wrong. Last summer, he rode a surfboard all by himself, he sang a song at his high school graduation and he’s even a gold medalist in the Special Olympics. When I ask him what day did we do so and so, he’ll give me the exact date, like, October 7, 1999. It’s incredible.

He can draw, cook, type, sing, surf, dance — he can pretty much do it all — but that’s not the main reason I think he’s special. He has this ability to make everyone around him happy, especially me. He makes me a better person.

He has taught me to find the joy in the little things. He has taught me patience, understanding and perspective. Although I play the big brother role by the way I take care of him, I do look up to him. I learn from him every day.

I think about this all the time — I can’t wait for him to be the best man at my wedding. When I have children, their favorite Uncle Mitchel will always be up for watching Disney movies and playing pirates or princesses with them. I’m so blessed to have him in my life.

Here’s to you, Mitchel — thank you for being my brother and my best friend.

So back to the beginning of this story, my answer to what it’s like to have an autistic brother? It’s incredible.

The Mighty wants to read more stories about siblings, whether it’s your favorite memory or a tough moment that taught you something. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When the Most Beautiful Woman on the Beach Was a Special Needs Mom

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The weather app on my phone clearly stated it was going to be cold and windy at the beach that day, but I was sitting on my sweatshirt and rolling up my yoga pants to keep from dying of heatstroke. A group of college girls walked by in bikinis. I rolled my pants back down, consoling myself on the fact that, much like a good béarnaise, a body can thicken with time. 

It was the end of summer, and we decided to squeeze in one more beach day. I watched the pelicans fly high up in the air, fold their wings in and drop into the water. My 5-year-old son wasn’t watching the birds. He was watching the waves, and my husband took his picture. Next to us I saw a young man of about 15 rush the waves. He let out a startling screech, and his bright red hair ignited under the afternoon sun. His mother was close behind with her chair and tote bag. She was clearly more prepared for the day than I. She actually packed a swimsuit. Her skin had seen its share of UV rays and childbirth. Her hair had a lovely tone of caramel that had been salted with grey, and it whipped around her face in the wind. Her son tumbled into the water over and over, flapping his arms, humming and screeching.

“I hope he doesn’t bother you. I realize he can get a little loud,” she said with a slight Spanish accent. I gestured to my own son whose arms were flapping so much that, had he been winged, he could have met up with the pelicans. This mother and I exchanged the smile that passes for the special needs parent secret handshake. We started chatting in the language of the autism spectrum disorder parent about IEPs, ABA, OT, etc. We watched our boys.

“Does he speak?” she asked me.

“Not until a year or so ago, but yes.”

“My son doesn’t. He has never said a word.”

I felt a tightness in my chest just thinking about the years before Colin became verbal. I worried for him, of course, but I also lived with a selfish dread that my child would never be able to tell me that he loved me.

As if reading my thoughts, this woman said, “It is OK. I know how he feels.”

People walked by, and for once it was not my son drawing the uncomfortable looks. With every sideways stare or look of disapproval, my jaw would clench and my fist would ball. She noticed them, I’m sure, but her hands hung relaxed over her arms rests, and she sat with a gentle smile.

I believed her.

There were times I said what I was supposed to say, because it’s what a good mother would say. Sometimes it was just words. Sometimes I went through the motions. If she ever felt that way, it didn’t show. Maybe it was as easy as deciding that the truth is, “It is OK.” All of it.

Her son fell into a laughing fit while being tossed around the surf. Her gentle smile broke into a full grin, engaging years of laugh lines. She ran at him, and they began splashing each other. Droplets of water hung in the air, catching the sun and surrounding them in a spiral of diamonds.

I don’t know where those college girls went off to, but it didn’t matter. There was a new most beautiful woman at the beach, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

Follow this journey on RaisingJedi.

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16 Cures for Autism That Without a Doubt Work

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For some reason, many family members, friends and even complete strangers seem to have strong opinions about the causes and best “treatments” for autism. And many of those same people are not shy about sharing their advice with every autism parent they meet.

The Mighty asked our readers for some of the most ridiculous “cures” or “treatments” for autism they’ve been offered.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Don’t give him anything else to eat. He will eat when he’s hungry. This was from a doctor too.” — If You’re Flappy And You Know It Facebook page

2. The best/worst one I have heard is simply, ‘They just need a good spanking,’ because, you know, hitting your kid makes a disability go away.” — Lucas Rainey 

3. I had a friend that was told she should give her autistic 5-year-old camel milk to cure her autism…” — Donelle Butschli

 

4. “‘Send her to my house for a week or two and we will fix that problem!’ Many, many times. Apparently our parenting gave her autism.” — Missy Compeau Bonaguide

5. “‘Going organic’ will cure the autism…” — Leidy Jesse Garcia

6. “Karate. My mother-in-law thinks karate will cure autism. Now, let’s make a list of all the things she thinks I did wrong to cause it in the first place.” — Suzanne Winkowski Zoerb

7. I heard another parent say, ‘I know if I could just take her to see the dolphins and she could look in their eyes, she would be cured.’ It turns out I have a better poker face than I thought. I did not hold my side or roll around on the floor laughing.” — Laura Bryant Sneden

 

8. Magnet therapy. This stranger struck up a conversation with me, and when I mentioned my son has autism, she said she had a friend who took care of a little boy who had autism because his mom did drugs while she was pregnant, and the friend took the little boy to a place where he laid on a table with magnets all around his head, and his autism was cured.” — Kim Osburn

9. Mostly prayer. If prayer worked like people think it does, then what’s the point of having diseases? So that deities get more ‘likes?’” — Bailey Annan Sonday

10. “Wheat grass juice.” — Darlene Stauffer

 

11. I work with children with autism and have a special needs child of my own. I heard a teacher say one of the students with severe ASD just needed ‘boot camp, and a good kick in the shins.’ Whaaaaa?” — Casey Sidebottom Jennison

12. “Getting rid of our dog. Her barking has caused our son’s autism and sensory processing disorder.” — Katie Little Knobl

13. Stick him in a sauna for an hour daily for two weeks to flush out the mercury.” — Lindy Burnett

14. I was told if my son ate broccoli it would cure him… LMAO. Yeah. Ok.” — Donelle Butschli

15. “Chemical castration.” — Kristine Semelis Weiskopf

 

16. The most ridiculous one is that they need to be cured. I would never want to change my son! He’s perfect just the way God made him. Autistic children are beautiful, sweet, intelligent, loving, caring. It’s not them who needs to change… it’s society! Maybe if this world had more people like them, it wouldn’t be so filled with hate.” — Cynthia Rogers

Editor’s note: This piece and its headline are designed to be satirical.

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