April 2, 2015

Aspiring Chef Cole Weber Explains Self-Determination In His Own Words

I have autism. People have a hard time understanding what I mean sometimes. Sometimes I don’t understand what teachers mean when they tell me what to do. I always want to do the right thing and be polite to everyone. I am disappointed sometimes that I don’t understand. I would like to have friends, but the students at school are loud and rude and some of them bother me. I like to play baseball with my younger brother Seth. He gets to be on a team. There aren’t any teams for me so we play in the backyard.

When I am upset I do what my older brother Graden tells me to do. Just calm down and breathe. Sometimes when I don’t understand the words people are saying I will play movies in my head. If I laugh it is at the movies and sometimes people ask me why I’m laughing. When I want to get ready for bed, I like to run back and forth up the hallway in my house. It helps me to relax. I also like to keep my body healthy by not eating too much so my stomach hurts and exercising by doing Dance Disney on my Wii. Sometimes I like to just be by myself and watch videos or check Facebook pictures. At school it helps me learn new words when I get to draw pictures. I am a good artist. I like to draw and paint.

I am a sandwich artist. I like to make perfect sandwiches. I like to take pictures of them. I make my own special sauces for them like garlic cream and spicy sriracha barbecue sauce. I pack my own lunches and make pancakes for breakfast. I like to make up my own foods. Maybe I will make a recipe book for sandwiches one day. I like to talk to people and be with people. I like it when they tell me how helpful I am. And how handsome I am.

Self-determination means you have to try to do your best and figure out what to do all by yourself. Even when it is hard. I think if I work in a restaurant one day, I will need to know what to do when my boss tells me something. I will be determined to always do everything just right because I am a very hard worker and never ever give up.

Cole Weber, 18 years old

Student, Bethel High School Hampton, VA

Cole is also a wonderful actor. He can play the ukulele and sing. His voice teacher says that he has perfect pitch.

Therapy Dogs Make a Difference for Boy with Autism

Everywhere we go with Nicholas and Cal I get asked the question, "What does Cal DO for Nicholas?" I wanted to try to capture a moment in our lives and share with you the answer to that question and why it is so difficult to put into words.

Mealtimes at our house used to be a sensory battle. A developmental battle of wills, and all around stressor...and it happened regularly three times a day! Nicholas could draw out a meal out for h o u r s if I let him. Just getting him to sit in his chair was a task.

Now I can't say that Cal makes the mealtime problems disappear because like most things it takes two and Nicholas has to be willing to let Cal participate, however there are mealtimes when the following occurs...

Cal will settle down at Nicholas' feet and Nicholas will spend the meal wriggling his toes against the soft shiny black fur of his friend. This acts as a distraction from the sensory issues driving him crazy with all the different textures of foods and the requirement of sitting in a chair and eating a meal. Part of me thinks that this must be some kind of water torture for poor Cal with the constant wriggling of little toes and swing of feet and rubbing. I have watched intently to see if Cal showed any signs of stress and instead he seems content as if he were getting a massage.

Nicholas would have night terrors; crying out throughout the night in a panic. Thrashing about in his half-sleep/half awake state he wouldn’t let me cuddle or comfort him. Cal now sleeps on the bed or at the feet of Nicholas’ bed every night and there hasn’t been a nightmare since.

Also Cal is there for me. He is my steady place in the storm. When we are out in public and my son begins to display behavior that normally results in judgmental looks, comments, or all around rudeness from passersby; after all you can’t look at Nicholas and see autism, Cal buys me a little extra grace from those around us. I find that I don’t have to go around apologizing for my family. If that one thing were all that Cal provided for us it would be worth it.

So what does Cal do? He brings peace that passes understanding to my son, he allows me to stop nagging my son (sit up, sit still, look at me, take a bite, chew your bite...), he is a brother, and my friend. I wish I could quantify it for you. Trying to explain that when your world is turned upside down and someone comes along and offers to tilt it slightly upright to someone living in an upright world isn’t easy. So please keep asking because I couldn't be prouder of my two boys and all they have accomplished!

A special thank you to all the giving and dedicated hearts at Saint Francis Service Dogs in Roanoke, VA.

Summer Sage

Eighth Grader with ASD Serves on Principal Advisory Committee

Brandon is an 8th grader at Crittenden Middle School in Newport News, VA. His teacher is Sarah Lambrecht.

Brandon has many strengths. He can be a good leader in the right setting. Brandon's interests are video games, Cool Math on the computer, and archery. He shares good ideas in the Principal Advisory Committee, Brandon enjoys being on the committee because he gets to share problems he sees in the school. Brandon said, "I'm glad I joined the Principal Advisory Committee because I hear good ideas from other students."

Brandon has made improvements in his behavior over the last year. He took part in developing more appropriate options when he becomes frustrated, such as taking a break or stepping into the hallway.

Sarah Lambrecht, Teacher, Crittenden Middle School

The Principal Advisory Committee is a group of about 25 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at Crittenden that meet twice a month with the school's principal. They serve as an advisory board for issues relevant to the student body. It operates as a forum in which students can bring ideas and discuss across grade levels. For example, at the last meeting we planned the school's Spirit Week. On the table for the next meeting is the discussion of offering free seating at lunch (a sixth grader proposed this).

We voted on officers and use parliamentary procedures. Brandon Pyle was on the ballot for president! During the voting he asked me if he could vote for himself. I replied, "Of course!". It was amazing to see Brandon discuss and debate with other students about school issues. He often shares his ideas in small groups and with the whole group. At the last meeting, he even asked me if he could help give out the snacks. He is so helpful and has really demonstrates true leadership abilities in the group.

Felicia Barnett, Principal Crittenden Middle School

Elizalde-Santos Excels in Art and Wins Contest

Moshe Elizalde-Santos is an extremely talented youngster in Art at R.O.Nelson Elementary School in Newport News Public Schools. His favorite thing to do is drawing everything insight! During ILA Block Moshe completes fabulous illustrations along with his comprehension activities. He even depicts different facial expressions on all the characters. Moshe's drawings are so amazing that he won 2nd place this school year in the Newport News Public Schools Reflections Contest at the elementary level for Special Category. Moshe was awarded a certificate and a trophy for a drawing of himself and his best friend at school.

Deborrah K. Lewis, Autism Teacher at R.O. Nelson Elementary School

Webcasts by Individuals with Autism

If you have been inspired by what you have read here today, please check out the following webcasts by individuals with autism!

 April is Autism Awareness Month! Please join us as we highlight the successes of those with autism spectrum disorder in our community!