World-Renowned Artist with Autism and Mom Give Inspiring TED Talk

Therapy room at Lighthouse Autism Center with toys on a table with blue chairs and book shelves above

World-Renowned Artist with Autism and Mom Give Inspiring TED Talk

Tim Sharp is an Australian artist and the creator of  superhero Laser Beak Man. When Tim was diagnosed with autism at 3 years of age, doctors advised his mother Judy to institutionalize him. She did no such thing and worked with Tim at home in the hope of one day hearing him speak. After several attempts to communicate with Tim, she tried drawing – he was immediately enamored. Soon Tim began drawing. Then his love of superheroes led him to create his own caped crusader in the form of Laser Beak Man – a duck with a cheeky sense of humor.

Now at 25, Tim speaks eloquently and his art has been seen in galleries all over the world. Laser Beak Man was even turned into an animated series that aired in Australia and on Cartoon Network. Watch the TED Talk above to learn how Laser Beak Man became a global sensation.

To see the Ted Talk click the link below.

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Beware of False or Misleading Claims for Treating Autism

Spotting False or Misleading Claims

April is National Autism Awareness Month, a fitting time to think about the growing need for concern and awareness about autism.

One thing that is important to know up front: There is no cure for autism. So, products or treatments claiming to “cure” autism do not work as claimed. The same is true of many products claiming to “treat” autism. Some may carry significant health risks.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays an important role in warning these companies against making false or misleading claims.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1in 68 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and are almost five times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe autistic children as having difficulties with social interaction, displaying problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, exhibiting repetitive behaviors and having narrow, obsessive interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling.

“Autism varies widely in severity and symptoms,” says Amy Taylor, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatrician at FDA. “Existing autism therapies and interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about improvement,” she adds.

In addition, FDA has approved medications that can help some people manage related symptoms of ASD. For example, the FDA has approved the use of antipsychotics such as risperidone and aripripazole to treat children 5 or 6 years of age and older who have severe tantrums or aggression and self-injurious behavior. Before using any behavioral intervention or drug therapy (prescription or over-the-counter), check with your health care professional.

The Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), a not-for-profit organization of parents and professionals committed to improving the education, treatment, and care of people with autism, says that since autism was first identified, there has been a long history of failed treatments and fads.

According to Gary Coody, R.Ph., FDA’s national health fraud coordinator, the agency has warned a number of companies that they are facing possible legal action if they continue to make false or misleading claims about products and therapies claiming to treat or cure autism. Some of these so-called therapies carry significant health risks and include:

  • “Chelation Therapies.” These products claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals by binding to them and “removing” them from circulation. They come in a number of forms, including sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops and clay baths. FDA-approved chelating agents are approved for specific uses, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, and are available by prescription only. FDA-approved prescription chelation therapy products should only be used under medical supervision. Chelating important minerals needed by the body can lead to serious and life-threatening outcomes.
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber and has been cleared by FDA for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers. It has not been cleared for autism, among other conditions.
  • Miracle Mineral Solution. Also known as Miracle Mineral Supplement and MMS, this product becomes a potent chemical that‘s used as bleach when mixed according to package directions. FDA has received reports of consumers who say they experienced nausea, severe vomiting and life-threatening low blood pressure after drinking the MMS and citrus juice mixture.
  • Detoxifying Clay Baths. Added to bath water, these products claim to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body, falsely offering “dramatic improvement” for autism symptoms.
  • Coconut kefir and other probiotic products. These marketed products claim to treat autism and gastrointestinal illnesses associated with autism. They have not been proven safe and effective for these advertised uses.

Coody offers some quick tips to help you identify false or misleading claims.

  • Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.
  • Personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence.
  • Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, so be suspicious of any therapy claimed as a “quick fix.”
  • So-called “miracle cures,” which claim scientific breakthroughs and secret ingredients, may be a hoax.

The bottom line is this—if it’s an unproven or little known treatment, talk to your health care professional before buying or using these products.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

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Autism drowning risks tackled with swim program

Paula Tyrie’s family is moving to a house just two blocks from the Rahway River, and she already has her emergency plan:

If her 10-year-old autistic son goes missing, one of her teenage twins will look in the park. The other will head to the river.

That’s because half of all children with autism are prone to wandering, and their fascination with water puts them at risk for drowning.

To address this double-whammy of danger, the advocacy group Autism Speaks is funding private swim lessons in hopes of imparting a life-saving skill.

“High five!” instructor Johanna Safranski urges Nick, her student, at a recent private lesson at the Center for Lifelong Learning in Parlin. By reaching his arm out of the water to slap her palm, he’ll mimic the beginning of the crawl stroke.

“I want him to be able to enjoy himself, and if he’s ever in a situation where he’s in water unexpectedly, to try to save himself,” said Tyrie, watching the lesson from the bleachers.

Parents like Tyrie point to the case of Avonte Oquendo, the severely autistic Queens teenager who bolted from his school last year. After a city-wide search, his remains were found washed up on the shore of the East River three months later.

Autism expert Walter Zahorodny said he doubts children with autism are drawn to water any more that all children are. What makes them different is the inability to grasp its inherent danger, and a delay in processing safety rules, he said.

For example, while Nick Tyrie’s mother said he loves playing in the pool, he really doesn’t distinguish between the shallow end and the deep end — to his peril.

“That’s what scares parents — the lack of fear,” said Safranski, the swimming teacher.

A 2012 study found that half of children with autism had attempted to leave their home, school, or other supervised setting at least once after the age of 4. Of those, half were missing long enough to cause concern. Some parents even reported their child attempted to bolt several times a day.

“Many children with autism, especially between the ages of 4 and 12, have a greater likelihood of walking away”

“Many children with autism, especially between the ages of 4 and 12, have a greater likelihood of walking away, leaving their home, or leaving the secure area where the family is vacationing,” said Zahorodny, director of the New Jersey Autism Study and a faculty member at Rutgers University’s New Jersey Medical School in Newark. “And of course that causes panic with the parent.”

More than a third of wanderers do not have the language skills to communicate their name, address, or phone number.

In another survey, two out of three parents of wanderers reported a “close call” with traffic.

While encounters with traffic caused plenty of concern, drowning caused the majority of deaths from wandering from 2009 to 2011.

The Autism Speaks scholarships pay for four private half-hour lessons.

Nearly 5 years old, Cayden Rinehart speaks only a handful of words, yet appears to understand all of his swimming teacher’s instructions — even if he sometimes ignores them.

His grandparents have a pool that he loves, said his mother, Christy Rinehart, of South Amboy. Yet, they have to put on his swim vest the minute he arrives at their house, because otherwise he’ll jump right in without it.

Safranski said children with autism tend to be visual learners, so she shows them what she wants them to do instead of merely telling them. She may even move their legs back and forth in addition to telling them to “kick.”

“You just have to do it ten different ways until something works,” she said. “We do things over and over and over and over.”

The biggest challenge, it turns out, is discouraging her students from drinking the water. Cayden’s a drinker, constantly trying to slurp up the puddles along the pool edge. He even requires constant parental vigilance when he’s taking a bath, his mother said.
At home, he’s learning how to spit out toothpaste, which they hope will translate into the ability to blow bubbles while under water.

It was Safranski who heard about the Autism Speaks swim scholarships and applied for a $2,500 grant. Aquatics and Fitness Center program coordinator Katelyn Dauphinee said that after handing out flyers, they got 100 applications for 42 slots. They are hoping to run a second set of lessons soon.

“It’s a life skill they need,” she said.

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“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Features Digital Artists with Autism

(July 11, 2014) – Blockbuster prequel “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is in theaters today and it is jam-packed with dazzling special effects. Some of those scenes were done by digital artists on the autism spectrum. 20th Century Fox contracted six distinguished students from Exceptional Minds to work on 43 shots in the film. Exceptional Minds is a non-profit vocational school for young men and women with autism preparing for careers in movie post-production.

This isn’t the first time Exceptional Minds students have worked on big Hollywood films.  In the past three years the school has worked on 5 productions, like Oscar-nominated “American Hustle.”

“Upon meeting the students, and seeing all their inspired work and devotion to their craft, I knew they would be a great fit for (post-production) for ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,’” said Ryan Stafford, the film’s visual effects producer with 20th Century Fox.

Movie industry professionals started Exceptional Minds in September 2011 with the mission of helping young people with autism transition from high school into digital arts careers. A 2012 Family Services Community Grant from Autism Speaks of $25,000 helped the vocational school fulfill their goal of proving to the world – the film industry in particular – that young adults with autism could perform highly skilled visual effects and animal work and earn a living. The grant funded their job development program and has allowed them to launch the careers of the first group of graduates – six of which worked on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes!”

Famed actor and autism advocate Ed Asner was on hand at the graduation ceremony to hand the students their diplomas. Watch the graduation below.

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