Every Autism Mom is a Star: But there is only one Eustacia Cutler

What can I say about Eustacia Cutler?  It is impossible to know Temple Grandin‘s story without intuitively knowing the strength, the dogged determination of the woman who never gave up on her daughter.  Even if you knew nothing of Eustacia, her background, her own beautiful telling of her story, A Thorn in My Pocket, you would know her through Temple.   And if you talk to Temple, you learn how much Temple herself is the product of an ethical, and maternal act of faith, in Temple’s inherent worth, autism and all.  At a time science would have instructed her to abandon her child to an institution, she embarked on a deeply personal equivalent of the Apollo mission, sacrificing her own ambitions (which were many for a Harvard-educated young woman of the 50s), and focusing on Temple’s potential.  How richly that journey has paid off – for Temple, and for all of us.

Temple Grandin honored her mother so beautifully at the Emmy Awards.  Even those not entirely familiar with the autism story, or even the movie Temple Grandin, remember the moment when the lady in the cowboy gear brandished an Emmy statuette and gave her mom a shout out.  It was an electrifying moment for autism moms.  Those tributes to Eustacia Cutler have continued to flow since the Emmys.  I wanted to be sure everyone has seen this one. In it, Julia Ormand, the actress who played Eustacia in the HBO movie, gives Eustacia her Emmy statuette at a conference last November.  Noting that Eustacia had once hoped to be an actress, Ormand jokes that Eustacia can use the Emmy as a door stop.  But then, unscripted, Ormand says: “I want you to have it for all the doors you have opened.  I want you to have it for the thing you let go – that you gave to me.”

See video of Eustacia’s Tribute to all mothers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ykBWPpHDsc

Ormand’s explanation of an autism mom’s sacrifices is a restatement of a code we all are familiar with, as autism moms.  “This mother met the challenges of motherhood with such courage.  She did not attempt to be her kid’s best friend.  She said ‘I’m here to give you boundaries.  I’m here to do the tough stuff so you can walk through life empowered.”  Eustacia, in accepting the award, drives the point home.  “This is for all the mothers who work in silence.  Autism is a family disorder — everyone is affected.”

Eustacia, thank you for joinning us in Vancouver.  We can’t wait to welcome our favorite mom – and to be warmed by your triumph.

It’s a Personal Question: Are You Behavioural or Biomedical? Or Both?

Dear friends,
Welcome to this special Autism Vancouver edition of the Autism Today newsletter.  In just two weeks, I will stand up at a podium at the magnificent Vancouver Convention Centre, on the harborfront of one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, and open our 3rd Biennial Behavioral and Biomedical Congress.  I am thrilled by how far we’ve come since our first Biennial Congress.  And imagine our speaker line-up: Temple Grandin’s mom, Eustacia Cutler; Sheila Wagner of Emory University, one of America’s top autism educators; Dr. Bill Shaw, CEO of Great Plains Laboratories, and one of the top advisors to health professionals on the biomedical aspects of ASDs; popular behavioral experts like Stephen Shore and Doreen Granpeesheh; and many others.

I won’t kid you – it’s not easy to combine the true believers from either the purely behavioral or purely biomedical schools of thought at a single event.  Some people feel deeply antagonized by the mere suggestion that both sides could have something to teach us.  Some speakers don’t like the format, some families and teachers don’t understand it.  And imagine trying to explain the significance of such a happening to the mainstream media!  But at Autism Today, we are deeply focused on empowering individuals – people with autism spectrum disorders and their families – on the most complex, personal journey they will face – the path of emergence (some even say, “recovery” and even, “cure”).

The argument over how to define a fulfilled, fully expressed life is as varied and endless as the human race.  Our job, as we see it at Autism Today, is to equip each person and his or her family with information about every legitimate tool they might use to find their own way.  There are not top-down answers in autism.  It’s not only grass roots; it’s deep in the soil.  Success depends in part on a willingness to get dirty!  And on some level, love that process.  Watch the HBO movie about Temple Grandin, or listen to painter Keri Bowers describe her work with her son Taylor Cross, literally spending hours, dipping him bodily into paints, and creating art, or listen to almost any narrative of successful intervention, and you learn – it’s a hands-on process.

Autism Vancouver is still two weeks away.  But it is not too early to give thanks to our champions who will make this such a special event.  None of this could happen without a dedicated staff and the support of our Autism Today friends and family.  We especially wish to thank Keri Bowers, founder of Normal Films, and director of Normal People Scare Me, Debbie Hosseini, author of our newest title, Artism: The Art of Autism – both tireless champions of the arts as a vehicle of emergence — Kelly Lebrock, who has donated her star power and agreed to act as honorary hostess of our Gala, and Diana Graling, of Helms-Briscoe, whose invaluable logistical counsel is helping us to run a tight ship in Vancouver.

For those unable to join us in Vancouver, I hope you won’t mind this special Congress edition of the Autism Today newsletter.  Please remember we will be broadcasting segments of the Congress via webcast every day of the Congress, April 7-9, and for those who wish to experience the complete program, we will make this available in DVD for purchase.

Soon, we will have the capacity in place to make all of our programming available by live webcast, so you can enjoy and benefit from it without the expense of travel, and in the company of family, students or colleagues.  Keep an eye on our newsletters for announcements about these enhancements to our program offerings.

Thank you again for your friendship and support.

Warm regards,

Free Live ABA Webcast with Doreen Granpeesheh, Founder of CARD

You’re invited to join us for a Special Live Webcast on March 14th, 2011 presented by renowned Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): A Flexible and Affordable Intervention for Autism! This web-cast is being brought to you from Autism Today and is Absolutely FREE! With the 3rd Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress just around the corner we’re extremely excited to give you this no-cost gift featuring one of our amazing event speakers.

The Live FREE Webcast Details are Listed Below:

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): A Flexible and Affordable Intervention for Autism
Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Executive Director and Founder of the Centers for Autism and Related Disorder (CARD)

March 14th, 6pm PST / 7pm MTN / 8pm CST / 9pm EST

The webcast can be viewed at the following URL:

As you know, Doreen is one of the world’s leading ABA practitioners and will be a featured speaker at the Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress, this coming April 7-9 2011!

What you will learn on the Live Webcast…

Internationally-renowned pioneer of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, provides a practical, informative introduction to this powerful treatment methodology. Widely practiced in North America, intensive ABA has been scientifically proven effective as a means of improving social and intellectual function in pre-schoolers.  Dr. Granpeesheh will also explain how  online tools and services now enable parents and educators to apply ABA more affordably and conveniently.

See you there!

Karen’s Blog: Sharing a Teen Idol with my Kids

Last night my dream came true  Although I love many different types of music from rock to jazz to blues to orchestra I got to see live in person my favorite musician in the whole wide world, Roger Hodgson of Supertramp!  As a young pup, I would drive through the mountains of Seattle with the top down on my convertible and music blasting into the open air singing at the top of my lungs.  I listened from one year to the next, like ALL THE TIME, maybe even stimmed, which means engaging in an extreme interest over and over and over again also known as perseverating, out a great deal on Rogers magnificent talent.

I didn’t stop playing their music, not even while my kids were growing up so they got to jam out with me in the car to Supertramp all their lives.  My fifth son, Stephen was the one who alerted me to the fact that they were coming to Edmonton. The funny thing was, I didn’t even know the key musicians name until Stephen invited me. You see,  I always knew him as Supertramp and never even thought about what his  actual name was, didn’t really care, just I knew I loved loved loved Dreamer and Superstar!  Who knows, maybe in the back of my mind part of our Autism Today Star logo came from that song.

My dream that came through was that my kids went with me and we got to enjoy the music together screaming, dancing and dreaming all in a state of exuberance.  I almost missed out because I didn’t connect the dots of Roger to Supertramp so when Stephen asked if I was going I almost didn’t go.  Sounds a little like autism eh?  I guess as a parent I’m probably a little spectral in nature too, you know, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Another special thing that happened (this is unheard of!)  my teenage son Stephen came to the back of the venue where I was seated because I registered at the last minute and asked his friend to trade places with me because I was more fun!  Wow!!! I wouldn’t have been caught dead with my parents at that age.

Heres a picture of Jonny, Kim and I having a blast at the concert.  You can see by Jonny’s expression, I keep forgetting to call him Jon now that he’s older, he’s full of character!  We ended up talking about the label of autism and how ridiculous he thought it was that people didn’t like the word autistic.  He said its an incredible over use of words to have to say “person with autism” each and every time they talked about autism because some people thought it was bad to say autistic.  He said its not derogatory in his mind.  Hummmm interesting!  Straight from the horses mouth, not that he’s a horse of course.

My daughter Kim also in the picture shared a story of when she went into a printers office, the kid came over and was stimming on an apple computer.  He clearly had autism.  The woman kept making apologies for his behavior and Kim’s attitude was “get over it woman” its okay, lighten up!  You don’t need to be embarrassed about autism.  It is what it is and so what.  Look at the kid’s strengths and how intelligent he is and enjoy him for who he is.  Wow, this was my true dream come true.  Yes I want to change the world so that everyone has this message and “gets over it” that is, the embarrassment, the hiding in the closet, the covering up etc.  I was thrilled to hear my own children “get it” because as a parent, you must know, its sometimes easier to get the whole world to see your point before your kids even do and finally they are getting it too!!!

When asked ‘why Autism Today‘ Jonny replies “”Parents and Professionals need to know what their child has so they can understand what they’re going through and how they can help to improve the quality of their life and all those that support them”

Sincerely,  Kims, Matts, Christinas, Jonathans, Stephens and Alex’s crazy mom, Karen!

Kelly LeBrock invites you to Autism Vancouver 2011 to Paint the Town Red!

Meet Kelly LeBrock, star of the romantic comedies Woman in Red and Weird Science, and celebrity host of Autism Vancouver. We’ve been bragging about Kelly and our Woman in Red theme for months. At last, here’s a chance to hear Kelly speak for herself. Click on the image for a short introduction to Kelly Lebrock, and learn why we chose the Woman in Red theme Autism Vancouver, and the powerful story behind Kelly’s passionate dedication to autism and wellness advocacy.

Celebrating Partnerships: Debra Ruh & TecAccess

At Autism Today, we are constantly on the hunt for opportunities to work with our colleagues in the autism community.   To promote Autism Vancouver, I was delighted recently to team up with my good friend, Debra Ruh,  founder and CEO of TecAccess.

Established in 2001, TecAccess specializes in making Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) accessible to people with disabilities– the largest and fastest growing demographic in the world.  But it also helps people with disabilities to access job opportunity – in this case, to help Autism Today inform the autism community about Autism Vancouver.

To deliver on its marketing contract with Autism Today, TecAccess partnered with the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services and non-profit American Epiphany for a pilot internship program to teach special needs young people to become social media specialists.  In the process, we all hope, these youngsters will learn how to land jobs in the corporate world—jobs with hopes of developing into long-term successful careers.   There are currently 60 million Americans with disabilities and of that 74% are unemployed and most depend on government assistance.

Says Ruh, “Our goal is to expose them to a work environment and teach them how to use skills they already have in an appropriate way that can pay huge dividends for the businesses that hire them.”  For more information about TecAccess, see their website at:  www.tecaccess.net.

Celebrating Partnerships: Keri Bowers & The Art of Autism Tour

Normal Films and Autism Today are pleased to announce their collaboration in creating a multi-city tour called The ART of AUTISM. The tour features the exciting release of the new book Artism: The Art of Autism by Debbie Hosseini, and will celebrate the live performances by and for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, celebrates the talents, contributions, and identities of talented individuals with ASD through film, dance, music, drama, painting, comedy, and the oratory skills of those on the autism spectrum.

Artism: The Art of Autism by Debbie Hosseini

Keri Bowers

Karen Simmons

After years of collaboration, pioneer autism moms, Keri Bowers, owner of Normal Films, and Karen Simmons, founder of Autism Today, have officially joined forces to bring awareness to the importance of the arts as important intervention “tools” to the emergence of autism. Kicking off Artism: the Art of Autism and The ART of AUTISM tour includes a Friday evening gala event at Autism Today’s 3rd Vancouver Biennial Congress.  In addition to Vancouver, The ART of AUTISM target cities include Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Houston, starting in L.A. on Thursday, May 19, 2011, 6:00pm – 9:30pm, at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood, California.

In LA, the evening’s line-up includes performances by “Arrest My Sister”, whose lead vocalist Scott Seigel has an impressive four octave range, and happens to have Asperger’s syndrome. Dance and music will be performed by The Miracle Fly kids, with Wyatt Isaacs (Autism the Musical).

Autism Monologues will be performed by Elaine Hall, Keri Bowers and Dianne Isaccs, who will rock the house with their riveting stories!

Other performances include monologues by Taylor Cross (Normal People Scare Me), Dani Bowman and friends. Singer/guitarist, Nick Guzman will inspire the audience with his soulful voice and rendition of 70’s classics. Joanne Lara’s Autism Movement Therapy (tiny) dancers, and Ballet for all Kids will delight and thrill, but we suggest you bring tissue, because you will get teary-eyed! Other surprise guests will be included in the L.A. event.

For information visit www.normalfilms.com and www.autismtoday.com

Every Child’s A Star: The 1st Autism Today Viral Video Contest

Send your video submissions to Erin at autismtodayFB@gmail.com

I confess: I am an Internet addict.  Since 1998, I have run an online business, www.autismtoday.com.  Today, with Facebook and other Internet tools, you can topple an entrenched Arab dictator, or a college student can become the youngest billionaire in history.  And there is this new phenomenon, viral video.  What’s a viral video?  It’s a bite-sized explosion of meaning, inspiration or entertainment, contained in 2 minutes or less of images, music, words or some combination thereof, arranged in so irresistible format, people are compelled to share it.  Madison Avenue PR firms are paid tens of millions of dollars to invent them.  But the best are pure, spontaneous, sincere eruptions of pure emotion.

We have been very busy recently promoting our next conference.  But I got an e-mail yesterday that set something in motion like a personal viral video.  Mok Thye Mee, a beautiful lady from Rainbow Wellness Care Centre, wrote me a charming note.

Dear Karen,
Hi good morning.  How are you getting on?  We have choose a name for the school……..Rainbow Wellness Care Centre……which explained that we are using the multiple approaches such as….play therapy; music therapy; sensory integration; water therapy ; art therapy and certainly diet therapy to be incorporate in the child learning as well as treatment.  The word rainbow is given the children a hope with all the good things happen in their life which represent with multiple colours.  Do you like it ?
Thank you and best regards,

Mok’s message utterly charmed me, so much so I dropped everything and forwarded it to my business manager, just so he could enjoy it.  “Do you like it?” I asked.  The poetry of her words I knew would delight him.  These unsolicited love pats from the grassroots are why we love what we do.  And he asked: “Speaking of Rainbows: Have you seen ‘Double Rainbow’?”

The best viral videos are those that cause a gestalt-like out-of-body experience.  There is no viral video I’ve seen, other than videos of my kids, that create immediate happiness quite like “Double Rainbow.”  I had no idea my business manager was a Double Rainbow fan!!  Double Rainbow recreates childlike wonder and gratitude in a few minutes of unspeakable bliss.  The video is no more or less than a double rainbow viewed from a mountainside.  But it’s the audio that knocks you off your feet.  It is at once hilarious and deeply moving.  I challenge you to watch “Double Rainbow” now and not feel uplifted.

He and I immediately talked and realize, Mok from Malaysia, and the Rainbow Wellness Care Centre, not only has a beautiful idea.  She inspired us to go back out to you for a viral video of our own.  Something joyful, marvelous and/or funny, that celebrates autism, and the power of what is unique in us and our children.  So: I hereby challenge all of you, members and friends of Autism Today and Autism Vancouver, to a viral video contest.  Create a short video, 2 minutes or less.  Lift up your hearts.  Give the word a joyful shout out about autism and its gifts.

Your reward?  3rd place is free copies of Autism Tomorrow and Artism: The Art of Autism2nd Place reward is the DVD set from our Autism Calgary conference, www.autismcalgary.org1st Place: Roundtrip airfare to Autism Vancouver from any location in the US or Canada, and full registration at Autism Vancouver. We’ll show all three videos at Autism Vancouver.

Recently, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Every Child is a Star” There is no more important mission for the autism community today to learn how to use a tool uniquely appropriate for persons with autism: the Internet.  There are a plethora of online tools to equip our young people with autism to explore their interests and gifts, learn a vocation, become self-reliant and, who knows, maybe someday live independent lives.  Every one of our autism children is a star.  Let’s celebrate them in a viral video.

Send your video submissions to Erin at autismtodayFB@gmail.com

Artism – Artist with Autism to Appear at the Autism Biennial Congress 2011!

J.A. Tan is one of our featured artists in our newest book Artism: The Art of Autism. He resides in Vancouver, Canada and is a recent graduate of the prestigious Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Last year he had a one-man show at the Ayala Museum in Manila, Philippines. J.A. will be on hand at the Paint the town Red celebration at the Vancouver Convention Center the evening of April 8th  to sign books and to share his paintings and his innovative sculptor called “Inside Out”, which is a representation of how it feels to J.A. to have autism.

Because of widespread incidence, the subject of autism has become a topic of conversation worldwide.  Artism: The Art of Autism offers an incredible glimpse into the imaginative worlds of people living on the autism spectrum. The book, featuring artists of all ages and from all parts of the world, shows that autism has no boundaries. The artwork and voices in this book adds another dimension of understanding to how autism manifests differently in each person diagnosed.

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