FINALIST to the The 2015 USA Best Book Awards

Finalist of The 2015 USA Best Book Awards!

Christmas came early to John and our family. My book, Living Autism Day by Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage, made it as a FINALIST to the The 2015 USA Best Book Awards (Parenting and Family)! http://www.usabooknews.com/2015awardannouncement.html
With this, I would like to send out my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who had made this happen.

Autism in itself is a huge challenge and your constant support truly touched me and my family particularly John. All my book’s awards, I offer them in gratitude to everyone who continually motivate me to go the mile in raising Autism awareness and acceptance.

This award is for you.

For those who wish to know about my book, you can check out my website for a sneak peek: http://livingautismnow.com/book/.

To order, simply go to http://livingautismnow.com/buy-now/. (for Amazon deliveries)

Once again, from the bottom of my heart—THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Autism Needs To Be Studied, Heard, Accepted – Epidemic or Not!

Autism Needs To Be Studied, Heard, Accepted - Epidemic or Not!
Photo Credits: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-superhuman-mind/201310/the-left-hemisphere-hypothesis-autism

I have noticed recently that my inbox is flooded with reports, studies, research and what-have-you concerning the growing rate of autism. Most of these studies are out to debunk the idea that this pervasive developmental disorder is not an “epidemic”. It just so happens that diagnoses nowadays are more reliable and efficient to the point of being advanced. Children as young as a few months can even be diagnosed using tech-savvy systems never before imagined.

But what do these reports and studies are really trying to expose? Are these people helping the autism communities who are struggling to meet their autistic kids’ needs for better services? Let’s say there is some truth to autism not an epidemic, now what? Can they show us the underlying cause of the disorder? Do they have foolproof treatment that can completely cure these children and adults who, in their daily lives, are struggling to be accepted in a society that is so easy to shun away from the not-so-ordinary?

I have nothing against reports and studies like this but when it offers nothing but yet, another dead-end, that’s when I get really disappointed. We need more experts and professionals who can clearly draw the line on what causes the disorder and how it can be either prevented or cured. If there is no cure, present us with new alternative treatment then. When one presents a problem, a solution is always necessary. Saying that it is not an epidemic amid the increasing rate of children being diagnosed and, offering no clue whatsoever on how it came to be is truly disturbing.

There are so many things going on with autism. From vaccines to diabetes to environmental concerns, the list of possible causes can make one’s head spin. Add to the pile the seemingly worsening state of accepting such disorder as something commonplace in the society. Yesterday, I was reading this news about a man who was targeted just because he has autism and, it broke my heart into tiny little pieces. I cannot fathom what the family must have felt to hear such horrible findings from the police. I have no strength to grasp such an idea if it happens to my son.

We are at a crossroads where autism is indeed increasing at a steady and alarming rate. Many nations have also opened its doors in recognizing that such a disorder has become a rampant issue and with these individuals safety at stake, a collective effort must be done to guarantee that they be studied, understood, and embraced.

Saying that it should not be a cause of worry because it is not considered an epidemic is akin to telling people that “It’s okay to swim as there is only a single shark in the water.” Epidemic or not, experts should double their efforts in finding answers instead of throwing more questions. Instead of sending us mixed signals, perhaps, it is high time for them to gather their heads together and help solve this baffling disorder. Enlighten us, pretty please. This cloak of mystery can sometimes feel suffocating.

Tsunami of teens with autism’ reaching adulthood in coming years

Tsunami of teens with autism
Jemana Elsharkawi, left, is seen on her wedding day with her brother Adam Elsharkawi, who has autism, in this Aug. 8, 2015 handout photo. (Tegan McMartin/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The question of who will eventually care for their autistic son, Adam, weighed heavily on Deborah Pugh and her husband until their daughter stepped forward to lift the burden.

Adam Elsharkawi, 24, will live with his parents in North Vancouver, B.C., working part-time in a bakery, and will eventually move in with his sister, Jemana, and her husband.

Adam hasn’t been told yet that he will one day have to move. Pugh knows parents of children with autism who aren’t as lucky.

“It makes me feel incredibly fortunate that my daughter is actually prepared to do this, incredibly fortunate,” she said. Pugh said a “tsunami of teens with autism” will soon reach adulthood, and many families are struggling to plan for their children’s future care.

One in 68 children live with the complex neurobiological condition that affects their ability to communicate and interact with others and often results in repetitive behaviour and attachment to routines or objects, said the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Some will be able to live independently but others won’t, as the symptoms range from mild to severe.

Continue reading…

Social Streams 2015-11-13

13th of November 2015 11:45 AM

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A couple of months after we’ve finally settled down in our new home, an exciting development came our Johnny’s way. Apart from adjusting easily to his new school and meeting new friends, he has developed (though, he loved cooking with me when he was young ) a penchant on culinary cooking. So, we enrolled him in a culinary tech class and yes, such a sweet sweet surprise! [ 359 more words. ]

http://livingautismnow.com/smells-like-christmas/

13th of November 2015 09:03 AM

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D.L. Hughley Breaks Down When Sharing Story About Son With #Asperger’s Syndrome –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

13th of November 2015 05:02 AM

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BALL BENEFITS #AUTISM RESEARCH PROGRAM –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

13th of November 2015 01:02 AM

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This is #AWESOME!
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

12th of November 2015 11:01 PM

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Few housing options available for adults with #autism say family and experts –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

12th of November 2015 09:01 PM

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Adult #Autism: Funding in need of new direction

#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

12th of November 2015 09:04 AM

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‘Tsunami of teens with #autism’ reaching adulthood in coming years –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

12th of November 2015 07:25 AM

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What a fantastic review of my book, website and advocacy as a whole! I’m sharing this with you in the hope of reaching out more to others and, most importantly, in raising awareness for autism.

Here’s the link to the review — —

I would truly appreciate if you read the review thoroughly and come visit my website, too, at http://livingautismnow.com/ . My book is still available in Amazon.com and Amazon.ca which you can conveniently access on my website.

To Lorna d’Entremont of KidsCompanions.com, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your wonder-rific thoughts. You completely speak my mind. Bless you and your advocacy, too.

To everyone— let’s join hands in pushing for #autism_awareness and #autism_acceptance!
The best time is NOW.

12th of November 2015 05:04 AM

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Adult #Autism: The unique challenges of age –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

12th of November 2015 01:03 AM

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Police Charge 2 Officers in Death of Boy With #Autism
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_Justice

11th of November 2015 11:02 PM

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“Report: #Autism Now Throughout the Years 2011-2014 “
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

11th of November 2015 09:01 PM

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A Fitting Reminder for the Season of Gift-Giving >>>>

Danger warning about popular children’s toy could change your holiday shopping list –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autism_CARE

11th of November 2015 09:02 AM

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Loras College launches program to help students with #autism succeed in college –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismCARE #autism_EDUCATION

11th of November 2015 05:02 AM

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#Autism workshop held in Chipley –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismCARE #education

11th of November 2015 01:02 AM

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When the School’s Response to My Son #Eloping Was ‘This Happens’ –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismCARE #SAFETY #Wandering

10th of November 2015 11:02 PM

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Rutgers plan for #housing work opportunities for adults with #autism
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismCARE

10th of November 2015 09:02 PM

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Boy with #autism saves choking classmate, says ‘SpongeBob’ taught him Heimlich –
#AUsome! #livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness

10th of November 2015 09:02 AM

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Rutgers launches center for adults with #autism
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismCARE #fundraiser

10th of November 2015 05:01 AM

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Russian educators want to replicate USU #autism program –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismCARE #education

10th of November 2015 01:01 AM

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New center will help adults with #autism
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismCARE

Smells Like Christmas

John at his Culinary Tech Class
John at his Culinary Tech Class

A couple of months after we’ve finally settled down in our new home, an exciting development came our Johnny’s way.

Apart from adjusting easily to his new school and meeting new friends, he has developed (though, he loved cooking with me when he was young ) a penchant on culinary cooking. So, we enrolled him in a culinary tech class and yes, such a sweet sweet surprise!

John making awesome apple pies
John making awesome apple pies

All intent on his purpose of becoming a chef, John would pours his mind over how to prepare the meanest pies. From rolling and kneading of the dough for its crunchy crust to molding it into a perfect pie shell, the awesomely peeled and cored apples, the spices lined up like good platoon of soldiers waiting to be whisked into a gastronomic war of aroma and flavor—his focus is truly awe-inspiring—and yes, leading us to such an awesome home-made apple pie.

Aside from apple, he also loves working on pumpkin and meat pies (goodbye leftovers!), cottage and shepherd’s pie, and so on. Lately, he’s also has been creating fruit flans and now flakey pastries. He is eying a tarts section and a slew of ice cream concoctions he stumbled upon online.

We truly love the culinary school to bits. His chef Del Menchions is not only accommodating, he also nurtures his students encouraging them to give their full potential—and it is working as John seems to be always looking forward to his day in the kitchen no matter how tired he is.

John helping to make chocolate eclair
John helping to make chocolate eclair

While writing this right now, I can smell him cooking up something to perk my senses up. Amid his autism, my Johnny has always been caring and sensitive to the needs of those around him. Soon, he will join the “legally adult” league but I can now rest my head thinking that he will never go hungry with this new life skill.

Anyway, let me just refrain my thoughts on adult autism and its lack of services thereof. Today, I simply want to celebrate the thought of his newly acquired skills—and he truly aced it! He also got plans for Christmas dinner lined up and we are all dying in hopeless anticipation.

How about you, dear friends? How’s your loved one with autism doing? I fervently hope that amid the meltdowns and frustrations, something bigger and more forceful is coming up. It smells like Christmas once again and to some, this could be a challenge. Today, however, let me simply send you a HUGE HUG to keep the blues away.

Dear Teachers, I Wish You Knew This About Kids With Autism

Cover Photo Credits: http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2013/03/08/autism-virginia-breen-susan-senator

Life has never been the same from the day my son John had his autism diagnosis. This pervasive developmental disorder has changed a lot in our lives and even more so when he was in school. It is common for most, if not all, children who have autism to struggle in social situations. It is ingrained in their system. What may seem natural to other kids do not simply come as naturally to other children with ASD and this makes school a rollercoaster ride for them.

To parents, leaving their children with autism in the care of school teachers can be both a breath of fresh air and unending worry. I believe it is common for parents to feel this way. Parents are “born” to be worrywarts, they say, and this is even amplified to those who have autism in their midst. John will be in 12th grade and up to the this minute, amid the compassion and patience his teachers, there is always that lingering fear—and if I am to repeat the whole thing over again, these are some of the things I would want a teacher to know when dealing with a student who has autism:

1. All individuals are unique and autism is no different. There are kids who have a hard time speaking even in grunts or nods while others are complete chatterbox. Some kids may show high intellectual thinking, have penchant for music and math, the arts and the logic. But there are also others who are on the opposite side of the spectrum. In this regard and if it is possible, a flexible academic curriculum should apply. The teacher handling the class should know better what to do and discussing it with parents instead of forcing the kid to cope with the rest of the class would be best.

Dear Teachers, I Wish You Knew This About Kids With Autism - bullying
Photo Credits: http://neuronetlearning.com/blog/bullying-experiences-of-children-with-autism/

2. Children on the spectrum have different interests. Let this be your guide in motivating them to learn. My son John has a penchant for sea creatures and he would listen intently on activities that mention them. All other kids in a class have different interests, too. Perhaps, finding a common interest among them will not only increase their interest, it will also improve their socialization skills.

3. Be perceptive of their behavior. To others, a meltdown and negative behavior are just that. No, these things happen for a reason. This is their way of telling you something that they cannot verbalize. When a child “misbehaves,” try to look beyond the misconduct. Take note of what triggered such a behavior and from these observations, finding an alternative for him or her to learn. Patience is a virtue and this is what counts more in this aspect.

Dear Teachers, I Wish You Knew This About Kids With Autism-youngest son
Photo Credits: http://naturemoms.com/blog/tag/youngest-son/

4. Sensory issues are common not only to children with autism but with neurotypicals as well. Loud sounds, rowdy behavior and other discomfiting gestures are just too much for them to take. Schools have occupational therapists and reaching to them to ask for sensory-friendly ideas would help a lot.

5. Be precise in giving instructions. If you want a child to clean up a mess he made, scolding him won’t help. Teaching him how to do it properly, however, will deliver a more positive reaction. Instead of telling a child with autism to “clean up his mess,” be precise by telling him to “throw crumpled paper into the trash bin.” Metaphors and generalized thinking are foreign to them.

6. Never use a child with autism’s weakness when stressing a point. Some teachers do not even know that they are a hairline short from bullying these kids. To the others, this is some form of “constructive criticism.” Well, their brains do not work like others. Precision—this is where they thrive. When you say something in the negative, they will simply perceive it as it is.

7. Be sensitive to their needs. Parents do not ask teachers to give special attention to their autistic kids but, as much as possible, teachers should know when to impose discipline. Never do it when they’re hungry, over-stimulated, fidgety, angry, nervous, or any situation where they are emotionally unstable. Shouting does not help. Talking in a calm soothing voice or leaving him in a quiet corner to feign for himself (but still maintaining your eyes on him) will help bring back his emotions in check.
8. Last but not lease, never attempt stereotype his behavior with that of others. Telling him “kids like you are all the same” will only confuse him. Telling him precisely what is and not acceptable will make him learn more. Instead of lumping him in an over-generalized category, providing him with a concrete example on how to do things will come a long way in shaping up his behavior.

Dear Teachers, I Wish You Knew This About Kids With Autism-activities for autistic
Photo Credits: http://autism.lovetoknow.com/Activities_for_Autistic_Children

Teachers are supposed to be role models for fortitude. They are considered as second parents to our kids. There is no doubt that working around kids with autism and other disabilities can test their patience and endurance. It is scary to hear news on teachers causing undue harm to their students with special needs nowadays. Human as they are, keeping an open mind and reaching out to parents will help ease their burden. Autism or not, our children are works in progress. We are just here to support them. All they need to do is call our attention.

Cruising the Caribbean with Autism in Tow

Sailing on a cruise ship is one of the best antidotes to stress. Luxurious and relaxing, it is an experience that many families would love to enjoy. But for families with autism in their midst, this can be challenging. To others, this could also mean an impossible dream. Unlike others whose main concern is to simply pick out the date, the places to pursue and where to point their camera, families with a member who has autism has other concerns that need to be met to make the trip worthwhile.

After the success of my book, Living Autism Day by Day: Reflections to Give You Hope and Courage, in October, I decided to go on a cruise with my 17-year old son, John, who has autism in December. Having been through a lot in the past months due to the rigorous promotion of my book, John’s therapy and school, facilitating the sale of our home, and other matters put my stress hormones in haywire.

So, I decided to discuss with John if he was amenable to being on a cruise ship. As expected, his excitement is over the moon. Just so you know, most individuals with autism have this penchant for water. It could be because it relaxes them but, overall, most of them love being near bodies of water. Most cases in autism wandering are also somewhat related to this particular fondness.

Luckily, today’s passenger cruise ships are quite accommodating to individuals with special needs. We choose Independence of the Seas though, as John had this current in Haiti and ziplines. For other autism families out there who are also planning on getting into a cruise ship and do not know what to do here are some tried-and-tested tips which may come handy to you and the whole family.

Cruising the Caribbean with Autism in Tow - john zipline

Research

Though not blatantly stated on their flyers, not all cruise liners accommodate individuals with special needs especially children. The key is to find one that has lined up activities catered to your child’s interest. John has this interest with ziplining and fish feeding which was included in the Independence of the Seas. Plus, we are curious as to how Haiti had fared after the great quake, a common interest to us both.

Of course, always check itinerary of the cruise ship. If you may, choose one that requires the least tender use. Accessibility and safety ashore must also be on top of your main agenda prior to booking. See to it that excursions and activities are aligned with your child’s interest.

Early Booking

Booking early, on the other hand, can prove to be of much help. This will give you the best choice of cabin location and amenities. You might want one that’s far away from elevators or stairwells. When booking, it is imperative that you inform the in-charge of your child’s condition so they can note it down. Ships accommodating individuals with special needs often employ equally experienced staff and will subsequently make necessary arrangements for a safer and more enjoyable vacation. This also puts you eligible for priority boarding like in our case.

Cruising the Caribbean with Autism in Tow

Arrive Ahead of Time

As much as possible, consider arriving at the docking point a day earlier to give your child with autism a chance to relax. Traveling can be stressful to them. Some consequences while en route may cause undue anxiety to him or her. A meltdown often happens when there is too much for them to take. This vacation is for both of you to enjoy. Take time to consider that airport dashes and cranky preparations will only put your child at the precipice.

Pack Accordingly

Individuals with autism have certain quirkiness and no matter how simple, it would seem their lives depended on it. John, for instance, cannot leave home without his favorite shirt. It is his lifeline. Your child may also be like that. Even if you are going to a tropical destination, if he cannot do without his parka, bring it along. It will give him the comfort he needs and peace to your ears.

If you also have special equipment needs like wheelchairs or strollers, pediatric oxygen stuff, and so on, you may want to ask these stuffs with the booking agent. Rent them out to free yourself from the inconvenience of hauling them to and fro your home. Some shipping can also arrange specific food, baby formula and diapers, and other supplements delivered to you.

If you are using a travel agent, it is important to emphasize that you will be travelling with someone who has autism or special needs. Phone calls can be easily forgotten as these people talk to hundreds of contacts per day. It would be best to email your specifications and other requirements for him or her to refer to when looking for a cruising ship for you.

Autism: 5 Tips to Your Child’s Healthy Diet

Going on a diet takes a lot of will power and determination. This is even more so when a child has autism. Picky-eating, digestive problems and allergies are just three of the most common problems faced by parents of kids with autism. Repetition is a common element in autism and kids who have it can certainly live off their whole lives eating potato wedges and chicken nuggets, or spaghetti and meatballs, and so on. It does not really matter if a child prefers a certain food that is jam-packed with nutritional value. What matters is when a child favors unhealthy food. It is entirely possible, however, to wean him or her from such unhealthy diet. To jumpstart your quest, here are some useful tips that I have done with my son, John, when he was but a tot. I had highlighted this on my book, Living Autism Day by Day.

1. As much as possible, always involve experts in your first foray to creating a healthy diet for your child who has autism. A registered dietician and an occupational therapist are good options for you to reach out to when trying to address a child’s food aversion or feeding disorder. This should be the first step to tackle as children with autism often suffer from serious gut issues. Having your child checked before undergoing any diet regimen will ensure his or her safety.

2. When introducing new food, do it gently and gradually. Autistic children have specific wants and they thrive on repetition. A carrot is a carrot not a carrot cake. Work around this dilemma by slowly introducing new food in small doses along with his favored food. Putting a colorful vegetable side dish on his favorite Salisbury steak can prove to be disastrous. Integrate small pieces of carrot and potato on the steak itself, in a small amount, will do the trick. The idea is to slowly make him get used to the taste and texture of the new food. This can be challenging but doable.

3. A gluten-free and casein-free diet has been growing in popularity. The premise of this diet is to eliminate certain food groups that aggravate the symptoms. Though proven effective, this can be taxing. The key here is not to abruptly alter your child’s diet regimen. Yes, it will take a lot of pain when it comes to this. Doable, yes but the perspective must be for long term use and not just for a week or two. There are stores and pastry shops nowadays that sell GF-CF food items and if you have one in your area, slowly introduce this to your child. If not, make sure you have plenty of time to work in your kitchen as this requires dedication and focus.

4. Infusing healthy liquids to your child’s diet will prove to be an amazing move. Try juicing apples, oranges, berries, pineapples or whatever fruit your child prefers. Instead of commercial juices, this one is packed with vitamins and minerals for your child’s growth. Invest in a good working juicer for this.

5. Most kids with autism are known to have gut issues. Adding yogurt or any probiotics to his diet will make his meal more enjoyable and his gut more stabilized. Most kids love this food item and infusing these to your child’s regimen will help compensate minerals and nutrients he loses out somewhere else.

Photo Credits: http://homeremedieslog.com/health-topics/mental-health/autism/diet-2/
Photo Credits: http://homeremedieslog.com/health-topics/mental-health/autism/diet-2/

To make a meal enjoyable, one might consider setting an example for a child with autism. These kids, whether high or low functioning, are very perceptive of their environment. Eating along with your child will prove to be the best course of action.

Photo Credits: http://sunfieldcenter.com/picky-eating-and-tummy-troubles-how-to-improve-mealtime-for-your-child/

Social Streams Nov 3 2015

3rd of November 2015 09:03 AM

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Parents Say Essential Oils Help Children With #Autism Sleep, But Is There Proof? –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismcare

3rd of November 2015 05:02 AM

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Quantitative #autism symptom patterns recapitulate differential mechanisms of genetic transmission in single and multiple incidence families –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismcare

3rd of November 2015 01:08 AM

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Officer fired after assaulting teen with #autism
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismcare

3rd of November 2015 01:07 AM

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Is everyone scared of #AUTISM? >>> Study Suggests Autism Is Being Overdiagnosed –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismcare

2nd of November 2015 11:06 PM

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New system helps first responders understand #autism
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismcare

2nd of November 2015 09:06 PM

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Official: Michigan #autism fund will run dry in a month
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness #autismcare

2nd of November 2015 10:39 AM

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Overwhelmed, frightened, confused? Find out some ways to overcome it.

2nd of November 2015 10:15 AM

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School under fire over ‘mistaken’ formal invite 4 boy with #autism #livingautismdaybyday

2nd of November 2015 10:14 AM

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#Autism Society to raffle Mackinac Bridge tour tickets #livingautismdaybyday

2nd of November 2015 10:11 AM

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FOUND: #Missing 20yo Ivy Tech student with #autism found safe – #livingautismdaybyday

2nd of November 2015 09:55 AM

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Unattended child with #autism found #wandering reunited with family- #livingautismdaybyday

2nd of November 2015 09:39 AM

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#Autism Society Board Chair Dr. Jim Ball Reappointed to IACC #livingautismdaybyday

2nd of November 2015 09:28 AM

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Police Search for #Missing Teen with #Autism Schizophrenia – #livingautismdaybyday

2nd of November 2015 09:25 AM

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Geraldine Dawson appointed to the federal Interagency #Autism Coordinating Committee

2nd of November 2015 09:05 AM

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Police Say Teacher Pushed Boy, 6, With #Autism
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness

2nd of November 2015 05:16 AM

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What Girl Meets World Got Right About Friends, Family, and #Autism #livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness

2nd of November 2015 01:08 AM

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Oxytocin may benefit some children with #autism but it’s not the next wonder drug –
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness

1st of November 2015 11:05 PM

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Temple Grandin gives #autism advice during first visit to UTRGV #livingautismdaybyday

1st of November 2015 10:34 PM

Hope you all had fun trick or treatin’! xoxo John
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness

1st of November 2015 10:33 PM

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Hope you all had fun trick or treatin’! xoxo John
#livingautismdaybyday #autism_awareness

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