Spreading Acceptance: How to Create & Share Your Own Story

donnaBy Donna Sigurðardóttir, founder of I am UNIK

My daughter’s future is bright.  She is thriving at school because they are meeting her every need with an admirable flexibility, thoughtfulness and respect.  All of which has been achieved with close cooperation between home and school, something that I believe are key factors in improving a child’s quality of life.  Why? Because, on one hand we have the child’s parents, who are experts in the child and on the other hand we have the teacher, which is an expert in teaching methods and goal setting. When these two respect each others roles and take the time to listen and work together, magic happens!

Our teacher’s mentality is priceless.  They have so much respect for my daughter and they put every effort in customizing her curriculum and learning environment to her needs. As an example I could mention that she always arrives late for school. Is that okay? Imagine this; she arrives into an empty school building and is exposed to minimum sensory input, which means that her stress levels are low and she gets a good start of the day. Otherwise it would take her teachers about an hour to unwind her after a chaotic school start and a maximum sensory input. That kind of a solution requires flexible thinking and caring.

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Why Dr. Stephen Shore is One of My Favorite Autism Advocates

kerryBy Kerry Magro, Self-Advocate, National Speaker, and Author

I’ve written many articles about how the lack of having a peer role model growing up on the spectrum affected me. I didn’t know about Dr. Temple Grandin and others who had autism that I could look upon to show me how far I could go. As I reached adulthood though I learned about advocates such as Dr. Grandin, Carly Fleischmann, Alexis Wineman, John Elder Robison, Amy Gravino, Jesse Saperstein, the list goes on and on.

One person though who I particularly look up to is none other than international speaker Dr. Stephen Shore. Stephen Shore is not only a dear friend but also one of the biggest role models I currently have in my life.

Stephen Shore Kerry Magro PhotoWhen I first met Stephen it was at an Autism Society of America conference. He immediately befriended me and wanted to get to know me better. After our first meeting I’d go on to read several of his books and later would be able to contribute a chapter to a book he co-authored called College for Students with Disabilities: We Do Belong. I to this day use his quote “if you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism” in a majority of my presentations. It shows how wide and unique our spectrum truly is.

Another quote which I enjoy from Stephen is on his website where he mentions the “unlimited potential for people on the autism spectrum.” What a wonderful message. I think that’s something our entire community wants to see for our loved ones.

Now even years later it’s been astonishing to see how many times our paths have crossed. Although we are only a trade ride away from each other, me being from New Jersey and Stephen teaching in New York at Adelphi University, we still end up running into each other around the world speaking at different events. Most recently, our paths even crossed at ISCRD 2017 hosted by IBCCES in St. Augustine, Florida.

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How Childhood Jobs Prepared Me for Success as an Autistic Adult

Anita outsideBy Anita Lesko, BSN, RN, MS, CRNA 

I have the good fortune to be a friend of Dr. Temple Grandin. We have a lot in common. We are both autistic, and we share a very similar youth that played a big factor in our adult life. We both started having jobs at a very early age. Temple often talks about her early days, when her job was to greet guests at the door for her mom’s dinner party, and take their coats to hang up. Yes, it was a job. She was given a responsibility to carry out.

Among her numerous other childhood jobs was the one I, too, did for many years — mucking out horse stalls. In conversations with Temple on the phone, we’ve talked about those days of our teenage years spent shoveling out one stall after another. We both love horses and being around them. It was peaceful and it was also a form of therapy. In essence, it was our occupational therapy.

All the childhood jobs we did prepared us for the day when we’d start our careers. We were used to working, showing up on time, following orders from a boss, figuring out how to get a job done. It was just a regular part of our life. So, when the day came to embark into our careers, we really didn’t have to transition into anything. We were already there.

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3 Tips for Social Workers and Autism

socialworkersBy Taveesha Guyton, Social Worker & soon-to-be CAS

I am a social work professional whose expertise is working with the intellectually-disabled and population of individuals with autism. I really love my job and who I work for.  My sole purpose in my position is to provide resources, education and advocacy for this steady growing population, which affects 1 in 68 births in the United States.

1. Listen to you clients.  What I want for my clients is very different from what they want for themselves.  Many times in the field, professionals who work with clients look at the end result versus looking at the here and now. I have learned to listen what is being said and sometimes what is not being said.

2. Provide Choices.  Providing choices. It is important to exercise the ability to choose. Providing options are the best way for people to find out what they like and do not like and it also helps create more conversation about many other things. Choice making is a skill I feel is not exercised enough with this population. (Check out great visual support ideas here.)

3. Ensure proper supports are in place.  What is needed for this individual with autism to maintain a ” normal” life is usually the question asked and how do we as  a professionally supportive community help create this world for this individual? Will the individual need vocational rehabilitation because their goal is to earn competitive wages? If the individual’s goal is to live alone, will this person need the assistance of a Supported Living Coach? Will this individual need guidance for activities of daily living such as medication management, making doctor’s appointments, meal preparation and grocery shopping? What about socialization and community-based outings? Will the individual need someone to help integrate them into the community?

In assisting in the coordination and maintenance of services for the individual with special needs or autism, social workers are able to make the lives of  individuals with autism a little better.


On the Outside of Life Looking In: Trapped Inside an Autistic Body

anita-lesko-1-500pxBy Anita Lesko, BSN, RN, MS, CRNA

Imagine going the first fifty years of your life with an invisible disorder that you don’t know you have.  It affects every move you make, every word you speak, and simply everything you do. You realize you are different than other people and never fit in, only you don’t understand why.  As a child, other children run away from you.  You try and make friends only no one wants to be your friend.  You have all kinds of sensory issues that others don’t seem to have.  Your sense of taste, smell, touch, hearing, and vision are amplified as if you live in IMAX 24/7, 365 days a year.   Every social interaction seems to end up as a negative one.  When you attempt to join in on conversations at work, everyone ignores you as if you are invisible.  You are a target of bullying and harassment, not only throughout your school years, but at your workplace as well.  You spend fifty years feeling like you are on the outside of life looking in.  As if there’s a glass shield keeping you away from joining in with others.  You see people together out in restaurants, in malls, everywhere you go, you see them laughing, talking, having fun. Yet there you are, alone.  You try and get used to it, but deep inside you long for even just one friend.  The feeling of loneliness at times totally consumes you.  Holidays are the worst, as you are aware that others are gathering for big celebrations, as you are home alone yet again.  Sadly, this is all common to individuals on the autism spectrum.

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Meet Twiddle, a Sensory Resource for Autism

Throughout her life, Lily had been marvelous with her hands. She loved creating beautiful knitted sweaters, delicate embroidery and award-winning recipes. As she aged, Lily’s eyesight began to fade, and those wonderful hands became idle and chilled. The Twiddle gave Lily’s inquisitive hands something to keep them active, engaged and warm. Lily was also reminded of how much she was loved, even when her daughter, the creator of Twiddle, couldn’t be with her.

Meet Twiddle, a new Certified Autism Resource that was created as a sensory tool for individuals with autism, dementia and other sensory conditions. Twiddles are playful comfort aids that assist people of all ages with a range of sensory-related conditions. Providing comfort or activity as needed,Twiddles assist in organizing tactile, visual and auditory input. They are also a way of expanding someone’s personal space, and with more than 25,000 sold since 1997, Twiddles provide an affordable, drug-free therapeutic alternative. Continue Reading →


Autism Awareness in Nigeria: Meet Nobelova Gradani

IBCCES Certified Training Partner Nobelova Gradani is educating the Nigerian community about autism in effort to reduce stigma about ASD.


Meet Helen Obiageli Oshikoya, the founder of Nigerian-based Nobelova Gradani. Nobelova Gradani is an IBCCES Certified Training Partner that was created to help train and educate professionals that work with individuals with autism in Nigeria.

As part of their self-funded effort to address the burden of autism in Lagos Nigeria, the organization has been involved in many efforts since 2012, including school-based awareness programs, screening of at-risk children and training of middle-level intervention service providers.

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Reputation Matters: Personal Branding for Autism Professionals

LidaBy Lida Citroen, IBCCES Board Member, LIDA360

Everyone has a personal brand – whether you are a politician, celebrity, physical therapist, or teacher  — that forms their reputation, in person and online. Right or wrong, other people’s perception of us determines whether they want to work with us, hire us, partner with us, or interact with us.

In the 20+ years I’ve worked as a personal branding and reputation management specialist, I’ve helped define, design and re-direct the perceptions of my clients in industries across education, technology, healthcare, finance, coaching, and many more. I can say with all certainty that your personal brand is directly related to the opportunities you attract and the credibility you hold in your field.

As an Autism professional, you interact with educators, students, parents, administrators and other colleagues, who form perceptions of you that directly influences whether they see you as valuable and relevant to them.

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Featured Certified Autism Specialist: Dr. Ann Marie Leonard-Zabel

Featured CAS or ACAS Name: Dr. Ann Marie Leonard-Zabel, CAS, ACAS 1 and ACAS 2; Full Professor of Psychology; School Neuropsychologist; Clinical Instructor and Clinical Supervisor

State/Country: Massachusetts

School/ Organizations: Curry College Department of Psychology; NEALAC Clinic – private practice; KidsInc School Neuropsychology Post-Graduate Certificate Program

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International Autism Training and Certification for ASEAN Professionals in Singapore

St. Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC) in collaboration with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards is presenting a two-day conference in Singapore September 8-9 to bring a world class autism training and certification to professionals in Southeast Asia. The internationally-recognized program is regarded as the gold standard in certification that recognize individuals with advanced knowledge in autism.

During the two-day training conference, attendees will take part in hands-on activities and group sessions with other education and therapy professionals from around the world. Collaborative sessions will teach how to leverage autism traits and characteristics as potential springboards for success in education and health care. Attendees will also take part in engaging discussions on effective self-advocacy, meaningful engagement in the community and how to effectively model training for individuals with autism. Through a series of two-day conference sessions, they will provide attendees with expert knowledge centered around the IBCCES 10 Areas of Autism Competency.

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