THE TALK is dedicating four Friday shows to the topic of Autism

Did you know that April is Autism Awareness Month? There are a number of activities planned nationwide throughout the month and TV shows are also incorporating Autism into their programming. Sunday’s Secret Millionaire featured The Sean Ashley House – an organization for autistic children in Houston. Secret Millionaires Gary and Diane Heavin (founders of Curves fitness chain), themselves grandparents of a six year old with Autism, visited The Sean Ashley House and were touched by the experience. So much so they donated $250,000 to the organization, an incredible act of kindness and generosity.

Meanwhile, CBS’s THE TALK is dedicating four Friday shows to the cause throughout April with host Holly Robinson Peete leading the way. I watched last Friday’s episode and it was touching and inspiring to again hear about the journey Holly and her husband (former football player Rodney Peete) have taken with their son, RJ.

As Holly pointed out, and every parent of a child with Autism can attest, there is so much information to consume, try to understand and then apply as the parent of a child with autism. And of course, because so much is still unknown about the disorder, there is much uncertainty about which treatments work. And when something seems to work on one child, it doesn’t always mean it’ll work with another. So it is incredibly time-consuming to try to stay on top of all of the information that literally comes out on a daily basis.

One great tool for me during my own personal journey has been finding and subscribing to online forums and support groups comprised of other parents of children with autism. I receive numerous emails daily that include articles, tips, questions, coupons for supplements, classes, you name it. And while on one hand this adds a bit to the information overload at times (especially at times such as following the Japan earthquake when there was/is so much concern about potential radiation, etc.). Two groups I belong to that provide great information include AutismRecoveryWA and AllySupport. ALLY is a support group sponsored by Seattle Children’s Autism Center for parents of children significantly affected by autism. Their Yahoo group is the way they register for upcoming meetings and to support each other and stay connected between meetings. AutismRecoveryWA is a listserve associated with the all volunteer parent support organization- Autism Recovery Resources of Washington,~ ARROW~. If you are a parent of a child with Autism in Washington, I encourage you to check them out.

The reason I bring up these support groups is because it was through them that I recently learned of a great music program called Simply Music. Started in Australia, the program has had tremendous success teaching music to special needs children worldwide – and the introduction video showcases children with autism who have benefitted tremendously from the program. I’ve embedded the video below. Interestingly, it begins with an instructor and children from Pleasanton, California (where Renee and I lived before we moved back to the Seattle area just before the twins were born). I found out that the program was starting in Seattle and that the local instructor (Robin Keehn) would be taking a handful of special needs students. I immediately contacted Robin and we spoke about having Stone join the program in May. She said that the majority of students begin the program between ages 5-8 so Stone was the perfect age to begin. Stone has shown a lot of interest in music over the years and recently has been spending a lot of time using a piano and drum app on the iPad – so I think he’s really going to enjoy the program. Robin mentioned that many special needs students respond well to the program because it provides them with a new channel to communicate and express themselves – areas that are obviously a challenge for so many. And Robin is friends with the instructor in Pleasanton – who has a tremendous amount of experience working with autistic children, so she’ll be consulting with her as needed.

So it’s set – he’s going to begin private lessons May 4th and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll be sure to post photos, videos and updates as the program commences.

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