Challenges of Autism

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

All of the pleasure, none of the guilt. Our Saturday show gets you caught up, in a convenient snack pack size. This week….A video game attempts to replicate the experience of autism; spying in space with the help of spectroscopy; a look back to when Peyton Place was in its heyday, almost 60 years ago; the delicious and sweet tradition of capturing maple syrup; making music by “playing” a tower; and a musician gives a private concert in Studio D, then talks about teenage inspiration and her love of pie.

Like a lot of people with autism, Jeff Hudale has a brain that's really good at some things.

"I have an unusual aptitude for numbers, namely math computations," he says.

Hudale can do triple-digit multiplication in his head. That sort of ability helped him get a degree in engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. But he says his brain struggles with other subjects like literature and philosophy.

"I like working with things that are rather concrete and structured," he says. "Yeah, I like things with some logic and some rules to it."

Challenges of Autism

Nov 12, 2010

NHPR correspondent Sheryl Rich-Kern is completing a weeklong series on autism. We'll look at what we've learned about autism and what it means for schools, families and towns.

Guests

Mackenzie is a young adult with autism. She is finishing her senior year at Pelham High School and plans to attend college next year. She is also an artist and is considering pursuing a career as a teacher. She and her mother, Deborah, talk with NHPR's Sheryl Rich Kern, addressing the following questions:

Explain how you worked with a counselor at UNH? What steps do you take? What are your expectations?

Mackenzie - what do you see yourself doing after college?

Under federal law, students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education. That means they can receive the supports they need up until they turn 21.

After that, many of these young adults aren’t ready to live on their own, find jobs or go on to college.

NHPR correspondent Sheryl Rich Kern has the story as part of her series, Challenges of Autism.

Mackenzie Trippier is talking to her parents about going to Greece with the seniors at Pelham High.

Mackenzie is a young adult with autism. She is finishing her senior year at Pelham High School and plans to attend college next year. She is also an artist and is considering pursuing a career as a teacher. She and her mother, Deborah, talk with NHPR's Sheryl Rich Kern, addressing the following questions:

What prompted you to have Mackenzie evaluated? When did you receive a diagnosis? What was your reaction?

Mackenzie - Were you aware you were different?

Ministère Travail Solidarité Fonction Publique via Flickr/Creative Commons

This week, NHPR correspondent Sheryl Rich Kern has been looking into the challenges schools face when teaching children with autism.

The parents obviously face challenges too. Providing the therapy some children need costs a lot of money and time. But come January 1st, relief is on the way. 

In our week-long series Challenges of Autism, NHPR correspondent Sheryl Rich Kern looks into the new legislation.

The standard treatment for autism when kids are young is something called applied behavior analysis or ABA.

Kirsten Murphy is the administrative director of the New Hampshire Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders. She was a key advocate behind the passage of Connor’s Law, a mandate that goes into effective January 1, 2011. The new law will require health insurance companies to cover therapies for children with autism. Murphy is also the mother of two teenage boys diagnosed with autism. She talks with NHPR's Sheryl Rich Kern to answer the following questions:

Who are the families that were depending on Connor’s Law the most and how will they benefit?

These days it’s not rare to find a child with severe autism actively participating in a public school. A generation ago, parents would have sent those kids to a private school or maybe institutionalized them.

But studies show kids with autism improve in a regular public school. There they are able to socialize and learn how to communicate better because they’re copying the other children.

But not everyone agrees this approach is good for all students.

If it seems like you’re hearing a lot about autism these days, it’s likely because more kids are being diagnosed with it.

Nationally the rate of children diagnosed with what’s called autism spectrum disorder is 1 in 100. For boys, it’s 1 in 70. To put that number into perspective, it means that one student in 3 or 4 average sized school classes lives with some form of autism.

How schools should deal with it is up for debate.

NHPR Correspondent Sheryl Rich-Kern has this second part in her series Challenges of Autism.

Parents across the board would probably agree that becoming a parent is a lesson in managing chaos and tolerance. And research shows that parents raising a child with autism experience higher stress levels than parents of children with other disabilities.

But some parents of children with autism say their child’s diagnosis has enriched their lives in ways
they never would have imagined.

Dr. Jorgensen is a project director with the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire and is an assistant research professor in the UNH Education Department. She works with public school teachers, parents and administrators to help them include more students with disabilities in general education classes. She is the author of several books on inclusion education, including The Inclusion Facilitator’s Guide. She talks with NHPR's Sheryl Rich Kern and answers the following questions:

If your child attends public school, chances are they have a classmate who has difficulty speaking, behaves a little differently,  or just doesn’t seem to  socialize well.

A generation ago, we might have called these kids quirky, and that would have been the end of it. But today, an alarming number of these kids are being diagnosed with what’s called autism spectrum disorder.

A decade ago, the prevalence was one in 250. Today, it’s closer to one in a hundred. We still don’t know the causes of autism, and so there’s little hope of a cure.

Dr. Stephen Mott is Medical Director of the Child Development Program at the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He is a pediatric neurologist who specializes in autism, communication disorders and ADHD. He talks with NHPR's Sheryl Rich Kern to answer the following questions:

What is autism? How is it diagnosed?

Are environmental factors responsible for triggering the disorder? What about vaccines?

How can diets affect children with autism? What about vitamins and other supplements?

Curtis Glover is a young adult with autism. He is finishing his senior year at Merrimack High School while also attending Nashua Community College. Curtis is a public speaker who discusses his experience as a person with autism. He and his mother, Sandi, talk with NHPR's Sheryl Rich Kern and answer the following questions:

What was it like for you as a young child? How did you develop social skills in middle school?

Can you see yourself living on your own?

Ari Ne’eman is a college student diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He is the founder of the Autism Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), which works to improve the public perception of autism. Ne'eman believes that autism is a different way of being and not a disease that should be cured. He talks with NHPR's Sheryl Rich Kern, and answers the following questions:

You were diagnosed at age 12. Had you always felt you were different? How did you learn about your autism and how did learning about the diagnosis affect you?

Ari Ne’eman is a college student diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He is the founder of the Autism Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), which works to improve the public perception of autism. Ne'eman believes that autism is a different way of being and not a disease that should be cured. He talks with NHPR's Sheryl Rich Kern, and answers the following questions:

If there was a pill to make you not autistic, would you take it?

What does the term “neurodiversity” mean?