What in the World Is Going On, January 2012 Edition - Autism Awareness
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What in the World Is Going On, January 2012 Edition

This first course has 22 participants in it ranging from ages 18 to 65. It begins and ends with camp-style retreats that encourage participants to get to know each other and express themselves in events such as a Canadian Idol-style talent show. To read more about the program, click here.

At the University of Victoria, psychologist Jim Tanaka is using a computer program that helps individuals with autism navigate social interactions in the real world through the recognition of faces. FaceMaze is face-recognition software, developed by the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Centre in San Diego. The program is designed to recognize the messages that are communicated by the complex network of muscles that make up the human face, and it is sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a genuine smile and a phony one.

Dr. Tanaka, a specialist in face recognition, saw the potential this program had for people with autism. In 2010, Dr. Tanaka launched UVic’s Centre for Autism Research Technology and Education, where a small team is developing software programs like FaceMaze to help people with autism learn to read others’ expressions – and to improve their ability to use their own faces to communicate as well. The co-director of the research centre, Joseph Sheppard, is a psychology student who also has autism. He is studying the mechanics of decision-making and the unique memory capacities association with autism. Learn more about the Centre for Autism Research by clicking here.

Easter Seals, supported by Google SketchUp, is hosting its second annual Sketch-A-Space contest to draw attention to the employment needs of people with autism. The winner of the contest will receive $3,000.

Using the Google SketchUp 3D modeling software, contestants are to design a space that represents a dream job, career interests, or plans for future employment. The purpose of the contest is to raise autism awareness and increase community understanding that individuals with autism can be successful in the working world when they have access to the supports they need and find the right job match.

This contest is open to people with autism, as well as those interested in autism. A panel of judges consisting of three experts in architecture and design, along with last year’s Sketch-a-Space winner, JP Saikali, a college student living with autism, will pick the top three entries. Deadline for submissions is January 13th. To learn more, click here.

Each month, I’m hoping to draw attention to great blogs written by people on the autism spectrum. Check out Julia Bascom’s blog called Just Stimming. She is an Autistic writer, and Just Stimming is her internet home and the official depository of her collected writings about disability, disability justice, and growing up and living as an Autistic girl. She started writing when she was 12 and is now a presenter on autistic identity and culture. This is a very poignant and well written blog – another voice that gives great insight into the autistic mind.

Some great new books have been recently published. Unstuck and On Target: An Executive Function Curriculum to Improve Flexibility for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders is a classroom-based intervention approach for high-functioning students ages 8–11 that addresses problems with flexibility and goal-directed behaviour. These two things can be taught just like any other skill—and this how-to manual equips professionals with simple, real-world ways to help students with ASD develop this critical aspect of executive function.

If you are a fan of the Superflex Curriculum, there is a new comic book out in the series called Superflex Takes on Brain Eater. This book focuses on one of the social cognitive challenges seen most often in students, distractibility, with strategies on how to stay on track with every day activities like getting ready for school and listening in class. The engaging comic book is the third in the Superflex series designed to help children learn more about their own social behavior and strategies to regulate it.

I recently discovered a website that is very comprehensive and interactive. The Autism News has articles, great places to visit for people with ASD, recipes, open discussion, tip of the week, product discoveries and much more. Check it out here.

These are the highlights of what in the world is going on in autism for January 2012.


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