A blog about resources for autism and care and treatment.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ACT Today! for Military Families Founder Karen Driscoll Receives High Honor from San Diego Military Advisory Council

Karen Driscoll and husband Colonel Jerome Driscoll, USMC

ACT Today! for Military Families (ATMF) Founding Member Karen Driscoll will receive a 2011 Achievement Award from the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), for her "untiring efforts in support of military families with autistic children." The prestigious award will be presented on December 5 at the annual SDMAC award breakfast at the Naval Mine and ASW Warfare Complex in San Diego. It is attended by San Diego organizations and corporations that serve the military and their families.

Driscoll is a Marine wife and mother of 3 (one with autism).  She is married to Colonel Jerome Driscoll, USMC.  “Military families shoulder tremendous responsibilities today.  These challenges are compounded for military families with a special needs child.  SDMAC is a great advocate for military families in the San Diego community.  This is a tremendous honor, and I appreciate their enduring support for our special kids.”

Finding appropriate treatment and supports for their son with autism has come at a high cost both emotionally and financially for the Driscoll family. Understanding these challenges are more difficult for younger and enlisted Marines, Karen has advocated for TRICARE policy and family support program improvements to better the lives of all military children with special needs. Driscoll has worked with military families across the country, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, senior military leadership, and national policy and advocacy organizations to bring about positive legislative and family support improvements. She has been recognized by the Marine Corps League (Dickey Chapelle Award), National Military Families Association (Very Important Patriot Award), and the Organization for Autism Research (Jae Davis Award) for her advocacy and focus to improve the lives of military families with disabilities.

Driscoll’s passion to help military children has led her to ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving access to autism services by providing financial assistance to families that cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs associated with autism treatments and other quality of life supports. 

Driscoll was instrumental in launching ATMF, a dedicated fund for military children, and now serves as a volunteer to the organization. The goal of the ATMF fund is to improve awareness of the unique needs of the military family living with autism and access to urgently needed treatments and support services.   In its first year of operation, ATMF has provided assistance to over 120 military connected families through its family grant program.  Grants funded included assistance with applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, medical services, iPads and communication devices, safety equipment, service dogs, legal services, therapy equipment, assessments, and other quality of life supports.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Teens with Autism Often Socially Isolated

I just read this article published this morning on Futurity (.org) about teens with autism having a difficult time socially.
Please read and share it...

A new study finds the majority of adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder experience major obstacles to social participation. Washington University professor Paul Shattuck notes that limited or absent peer relationships can negatively influence health and mental health, especially during the teen years. (Photo Credit: Kundra / Shutterstock)

Hanging out with friends after school and on the weekends is a vital part of a teen’s social life. But for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), social activity outside of school is a rarity, finds a new study published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.
“We looked at data from a group of over 11,000 adolescents enrolled in special education,” says assistant professor Paul Shattuck, an autism expert atWashington University in St. Louis. The group included adolescents with ASDs, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and speech and language impairments.

Straight from the Source

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027176
“Out of this group, teens with an ASD were significantly more likely never to see friends out of school (43.3 percent), never to get called by friends (54.4 percent), and never to be invited to social activities (50.4 percent) when compared with adolescents from all the other groups.”
Shattuck says these findings show that the majority of adolescents with an ASD experience major obstacles to social participation.
“It appears that experiences with peers are more likely to occur one-on-one, and perhaps at home rather than in the community,” he says.
Limited or absent peer relationships can negatively influence health and mental health, especially during the teen years, Shattuck notes.
“One mechanism for promoting social relationships is by fostering participation with peers in group activities such as clubs, scouting, or sports,” Shattuck says.
“Only one-third of adolescents with an ASD are accessing such opportunities, and there is an obvious need for greater supports and services to promote community inclusion for this population,” he says.
The study found conversational impairment and low social communication skills were associated with a lower likelihood of social participation.
Adolescents from families with lower income had an elevated risk for no involvement in activities, but not an elevated risk for limited contact with friends. Age, sex, race, ethnicity, and school context factors were not significantly related to social participation.
Study co-authors are Gael I. Orsmond of Boston University, Mary Wagner of SRI International, and Benjamin P. Cooper of Washington University in St. Louis.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ACT Today! to Host 2nd Annual Run/Walk & Family Festival Benefiting Military Children with Autism

ACT Today! will host its 2nd annual ACT Today! for Military Families (ATMF) 5k/10k Run/Walk and Family Festival on Saturday, April 7, 2012, at Tecolote Shores in San Diego, California. The Run/Walk and free Family Festival will be held from 7:00 am – 11:00 am, and hosted by actor/comedian Mark Christopher Lawrence (“Chuck”).

The Run/Walk and free Family Festival will include autism resources, military service providers, food, specialty vendors, concert performances, a celebrity autograph station, kids activity stations, and other Spring activities including a Kids Fun Run followed by a Kids Egg Hunt. Proceeds from the Run/Walk will help provide resources and grants to military children with autism whose families cannot afford the necessary care and treatment their children need to reach their full potential.

“The need for effective and consistent treatment services and supports for children with autism is essential. This is especially important for the mobile military family who is often relocated and experience significant treatment gaps in care and supports. ATMF works to bridge that gap and provides direct assistance to help light the load military families carry,” says ATMF Campaign Director and Marine wife, Andrekka Lanier, whose son has autism. “The ATMF Run/Walk and free Family Festival will raise much needed funds for our family grant program, help to raise autism awareness, and provide the opportunity for the local San Diego community and military family supporters to show their support for these brave families.”

According to Department of Defense data, it is estimated that 1 in 88 military children have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is a complex medical disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 110 children in America is diagnosed with ASD, making it more prevalent than pediatric cancer, juvenile diabetes and childhood AIDS combined.

“Research shows, in the treatment of autism, early intervention and intensive behavioral therapy are imperative to the success of the child’s development,” says ACT Today!’s Executive Director Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson. “We believe we are making a difference in the lives of children with autism. But in order to continue with this mission – we need the community of San Diego to join us in this race to help the families of those who serve and defend our freedoms.”

"Every military family makes special sacrifices...those families with children who have been diagnosed with autism have additional stresses as they cope with an extraordinarily complex bureaucracy to secure the support that these precious children deserve,” says retired Major General Mike Lehnert of the United States Marine Corps.

The 2011 inaugural ATMF Run/Walk and Family Festival, (seen in video above) held in San Diego, had 1200 registered runners, an estimated 1500 attendees at the family festival, and raised nearly $100,000. Last year’s event, along with additional support throughout the year, allowed ATMF to help numerous military children access effective treatments and improve their quality of life, by distributing nearly $130,000 in grants.

Fees to participate in the 2nd Annual ATMF 5k/10k Run/Walk range from $15-$30. For more information about the event, register, or volunteer, visit: www.acttodayformilitaryfamilies.kintera.org.

About ACT Today! for Military Families:
ACT Today! for Military Families (ATMF), is a national program of ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!), a national non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. It was launched in July 2010. ATMF works to improve awareness and delivery of effective autism services, and provides financial assistance to military families to help defray out-of-pocket costs associated with autism treatments, services, and other quality of life programs.

To view the national ATMF Public Service Announcement with actor Joe Mantegna, visit: http://youtu.be/GTQEkGYJQjw.

For more information about ACT Today! for Military Families, visit: www.acttodayformilitaryfamilies.org.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Evening with Temple Grandin, Benefiting ACT Today!

On Monday, December 5, from 6-9pm, Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs, Inc. (TLCAD) will present Autism & Animals, An Evening With Temple Grandin to benefit a designated TLCAD fund to provide service dogs to TERI, Inc. and ACT Today!.

The benefit will take place at L’Auberge Del Mar in beautiful coastal Del Mar, and will feature hosted heavy hors d’oeuvres and a welcome cocktail, no-host bar, opportunity prizes, and a special presentation by keynote speaker Temple Grandin, PhD, arguably the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.

Please join us...

Autism & Animals, An Evening With Temple Grandin

Monday, December 5, 2011, 6-9PM
L’Auberge Del Mar
1540 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA 92014

Tickets: $125 | 858-461-6827


Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs, Inc. (TLCAD) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that was established in 1998. Its trainers are all volunteers, dedicated to the training of service dogs for those with limited abilities in San Diego County. TLCAD specializes in training seizure response, mobility, autism, facility and specialty dogs, such as balance and Tourettes. The dogs are given at no charge to the recipients. In turn, the client receives training on the care, handling of, laws, customized cues, and safety of their dog, at which time they receive certification and ownership. TLCAD stays involved in the training and recertification of the dog for the remainder of its life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

6th Annual Denim & Diamonds for Autism Raises Nearly a Quarter of a Million Dollars

ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!), a national non-profit organization based in Tarzana, California announces its 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds for Autism signature event raised over $230,000. This year’s event breaks the national non-profit’s revenue generating record to date. The event, held on Saturday, October 15, 2011 at the Ahmanson Ranch in Calabasas, California was Diamond sponsored by TWIW Insurance Services, LLC, Reaction Audio Visual, Vin Di Bona Productions, BBC Worldwide Productions, Disney/ABC Television Group and Denim sponsored by Austin and Virginia Beutner. Funds raised through the 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds will help provide resources and grants to children with autism whose families cannot afford the necessary tools their children need to reach their full potential.

“With the state of our nation’s economy, we are truly amazed at the generous support, undeniable compassion and overall selflessness that the community has shown this year through the 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds,” says ACT Today!’s Executive Director Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson. Alspaugh-Jackson, whose 9-year old son Wyatt has autism, started the Denim & Diamonds for Autism event in her backyard. “At the time, there were few resources about autism and for parents in need of care and treatment for their child. I am proud to say that the 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds continues to fulfill its mission of helping to alleviate the financial burden and emotional turmoil for many families by providing grants to those in desperate need.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 110 children in America is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making ASD more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, pediatric cancer and childhood AIDS combined.

The 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds for Autism had an estimated 500 people in attendance in support of the cause, including seasoned pro athletes, Hollywood’s hottest young stars, and more who walked the red carpet including: TV host Tom Bergeron (“Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos”), actor Max Ryan ("Sex and the City: 2"), Vin Di Bona (“Vin Di Bona Productions”), actress Ariel Winters (“Modern Family”), actor Nolan Gould (“Modern Family”), model/television personality Brooke Burke (“Dancing with the Stars”), actor Erik Fellows (“Days of Our Lives”), television personality Leeza Gibbons, actor Daniel Goddard (“The Young and Restless”), news broadcaster Nancy Grace, actors Kyle and Chris Massey, actor Mark Christopher Lawrence (“Chuck”), professional dancers Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Val Chmerkovskiy (“Dancing with the Stars”), actresses Juliana and Jennessa Rose (“Pretty Little Liars”), retired LA Laker Jamaal Wilkes, actor Robert Adamson (“Lincoln Heights”), actor Arjay Smith (“Precision”), actor Callan McAuliffe (“I am Number Four”), and actress Florence Henderson (“The Brady Bunch”).

The 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds for Autism was hosted by world renowned autism expert Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh and Alspaugh-Jackson with Headline News – Local Edition Anchor Brad Pomerance as master of ceremony. The evening recognized ACT Today!’s mission and highlighted TV host Tom Bergeron and Rebecca Grossman, founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation. The two humanitarians have led this year’s long list of autism supporters with for their extraordinary work in supporting ACT Today!’s mission. Bergeron received the ACTivist award for raising autism awareness not only in Hollywood, but also across the nation. Grossman received the Golden Cowgirl award for her tireless efforts improving the lives of children with and without autism.

The event included an outdoor cocktail reception plus VIP private reception, a silent auction, and entertainment provided by recording artist AJ Green. A seated dinner program followed the reception with an opening performance by ABC’s “Dancing with Stars” professional dancers Val Chmerkovskiy and Dasha Chesnokova accompanied by Latin recording artist Manny D. The program featured celebrity presenters, live auction and a paddle auction presented by Arizona Goldens, LLC in an effort to raise much needed funds to provide assistance dogs to children with autism. Tenor George Komsky brought guests to an emotional pinnacle as he sang “Prayer” eliciting the need to help those who cannot help themselves. Canadian recording artist Ricky J ended the dinner program with an original song, “Whatta Night”, in celebration of the event. For guests who were reluctant to go home at 9pm, an After Party with live entertainment by JERI CURL completed the event on a high. The program silent and live auctions, a seated dinner program and live entertainment provided by recording artists AJ Green, Manny D, Ricky J, Jeri Curl, tenor George Komsky, and professional ballroom dancers Val Chmerkovskiy and Dasha Chesnokova (“Dancing with the Stars”).

Additional event sponsors included: Sandy and David Stone, Universal City Nissan, Albers Consulting LLC, UnitedHealthcare, CodeMetro, City National Bank, The Auto Gallery of Los Angeles, Lear Family Foundation, New Heights Entertainment, Wells Fargo, Joe Penich Company Realtors, Michael John Image, ONEHOPE Wine, Blue Angel Vodka, Fireman’s Brew, Charity Lives, GLO Salon, AV Party Rentals, Sunshine Florist, Edible Arrangements, Indie Printing, Westlake Magazine, Robert Nettles MD, California Psychcare, Jettlyn Winery, VIP Premium Blend, Fresh Brothers Pizza, Linda Bertch Cupcakes, Rage Models, Four Paws and a Tail, and Isabella Emporium.

The event was produced by D. Plump Consulting.

Events such as the 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds for Autism allow ACT Today! to raise essential funds to provide grants for families in desperate need of care and treatment. This year, ACT Today! has distributed $340,000 in grants to families.

For more information about the 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds for Autism, including photos and videos, visit www.denimanddiamondsforautism.net.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Montana Autism Conference is Free to Parents, Caregivers

Some good news! One of ACT Today!'s proud supporters is offering a FREE conference in Montana on November 19th. Here are all the details...
Registration is Mandatory
The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), one of the world’s largest organizations treating individuals with the state-of-the-art therapy, will host the CARD Montana Autism Conference on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at the University of Montana inside of the University Center Theater located at 32 Campus Drive, in Missoula. The free conference is designed for parents, caregivers, students and practitioners in an effort to effectively address Montana’s population of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 of 110 children in America is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, making it more common than pediatric cancer, juvenile diabetes and childhood AIDS.

The CARD Montana Autism Conference will define autism spectrum disorders, how applied behavior analysis (ABA) can be used as an effective tool to treat individuals with ASD, and explain how recovery from autism is possible.

Speakers include board certified behavior analyst Sienna Greener-Wooten, MA, BCBA and autism advocate Joe Mohs. Mohs, who has recovered from autism, will share his personal journey after a screening of the award-winning documentary RECOVERED: Journeys Through the Autism Spectrum and Back.

Registration is required to attend this free conference. To register, contact Daphne Plump at d.plump@centerforautism.com.

Monday, November 7, 2011

STARS & STRIKES Bowling Tournament Seeks to Raise Much Needed Funds to Help Children with Autism

The STARS & STRIKES bowling tournament, benefiting children with autism, will be held on January 29, 2012 at Bowlmor Lanes in Tustin, California.

ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!) and The Eddie Guardado Foundation (EGF), two national non-profit organizations based in Southern California, announce a celebrity STARS & STRIKES bowling tournament will be held on Sunday, January 29, 2012 from 5 pm to 8:30 pm at Bowlmor Lanes, located at 2405 Park Avenue in Tustin, California. The event, hosted by ACT Today! and EGF, which formed an alliance in January 2011, will help provide resources and grants to children with autism whose families cannot afford the necessary care and treatment their children need to reach their full potential.
Ava and father Eddie Guardado
“Thanks to Eddie's successful baseball career we have felt financially blessed to be able to give our daughter, Ava, all the therapies that she has needed,” says Lisa Guardado, wife of retired Major League Baseball (MLB) Pitcher Eddie Guardado and ACT Today! board member. Through fundraising events like STARS & STRIKES, we hope to help other less fortunate families so that they may achieve their goals and dreams for their children affected by autism.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 110 children in America is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making ASD more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, pediatric cancer and childhood AIDS combined. Guardado hopes the community will come together to raise autism awareness and much needed funds to help children with the developmental disorder.

“This will be our first time organizing a bowling tournament in Orange County,” says Lisa Guardado. “In the past, we have raised about $50,000 at a single event. However, with the community’s help and celebrity outreach, we are confident that we can raise much more.”

Confirmed celebrities playing in the tournament, include (as of November 3): 2-Time All-Star Pitcher "Everyday Eddie" Guardado, LA Angels of Anaheim 4-Time All-Star Torii Hunter, Texas Rangers 6-Time All-Star Michael Young, Texas Rangers 2-Time All-Star Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers Derek Holland, Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew, LA Angels of Anaheim 3-Time All-Star Garret Anderson, Arizona Diamondbacks All-Star Pitcher J. J. Putz, Milwaukee Brewers LaTroy Hawkins, Former MLB Player and Radio Personality Rex Hudler, All-Star Pitcher Jamie Moyer, Milwaukee Brewers Brandon Kintzler, Cincinnati Reds Carlos Fisher, St. Louis Cardinals Brad Thompson, Former MLB Player Adam Melhuse, 2-Time All-Star Pitcher Aaron Sele, All-Star Pitcher Chad Cordero, and Texas Rangers Coach and Former MLB Player Gary Pettis.

Events such as the STARS & STRIKES bowling tournament allow ACT Today! to raise essential funds to provide grants for families in desperate need of care and treatment. In the past year, ACT Today! has distributed $340,000 in grants to families.

For more information about the STARS & STRIKES event, including sponsorship opportunities and tickets to attend the event, visit www.act-today.org.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Autism Coverage Grows

I read this Associated Press article in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday and just had to share the great news!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an autism insurance bill into law Tuesday.
On hand was Alexander Smith, 10, left, of Clifton Park, who is autistic.

Albany, New York soon will require insurers to cover screening, diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorders, which will increase premiums for all individuals and businesses.

Supporters say the new law will include routine toddler screenings, behavioral health treatments, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. That should bolster early and effective treatment and save families as much as $50,000 a year in out-of-pocket cost for 30,000 autistic New York children.

The state Health Plan Association estimates the bill, signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will cost an average family "hundreds of dollars" and employers tens of thousands of dollars.

"For some New York families and employers, it could be the added costs that finally price them out of coverage altogether," said Paul Macielak, speaking for the association of health insurers.

The group wants to negotiate changes to reduce coverage and costs before the law takes effect in one year. The measure was vetoed last year by former Gov. David Paterson as too expensive, but Mr. Cuomo said the current bill puts an important $45,000 annual cap on the coverage insurance companies would have to fund.

Supporters agree the bill will increase insurance premiums for all New Yorkers, but they estimate that cost at just $1 a month, while saving schools and governments $13 million a year in special education, Medicaid and social services costs.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the law debated for seven years is "important and highly compassionate" legislation.

The law "showed how important government is ... how powerful government can be," he said.

Medicaid is the main reimbursement source. Some services are provided in public schools and some insurers provide limited coverage. But many parents struggle to pay for other treatment.

The law takes effect Nov. 1, 2012 for insurance policies issued or renewed after that. Autism spectrum disorders impair thinking, feeling, speaking and the ability to relate to others. They range in severity.

An estimated one of every 110 children in the U.S. is affected, mostly boys.