Winnipeg: From Obstacles to Opportunities: An Inside View on Opening Doors Empowering Students with ASD’s to Succeed!

A Special 1-Day Workshop Presented by Stephen Shore Ed.D.
Winnipeg, Manitoba – Friday, May 11th 2012
University of Manitoba – Manitoba Room (Rm 210-214)

Early Bird Registration Ends April 11th 2012!
Register today to ensure your seat.

Click here to register as a parent – 99 $79

Click here to register as a professional – 129 $99

Full event details at


1. Develop greater understanding of what it is like to be an individual with autism
2. Recognize and successfully address common sensory issues that for students with autism
3. Learn effective educational strategies for social inclusion while addressing academics.
4. Create easy to implement, practical solutions for challenges teachers face
5. Educate students with autism in successful advocacy skills as part of an effective transition plan towards leading a fulfilling and productive life.

Going against conventional wisdom, this presentation examines how deficits and challenges so pervasively attributed to autism can be reframed as strengths. Employing an autobiographical structure combined with experiences of others with autism, participants will come away with practical solutions for considering characteristics of autism as potential springboards to success in education from preschool to post graduate, employment, effective self-advocacy, meaningful engagement in the community as building blocks for leading a fulfilling and productive life.

Full event details at

Stories From the Heart: Mommy, Am I a Real Boy Now?

The following is a collection of quotes from Alyxander, our Autistic 9 year old has said to me throughout our many years of therapy and doctor’s visits. Many times, it was these thoughts which sustained us through the difficult road his disability has taken us on.

“Do you remember when I was inside you?  I do. It was warm and dark, but I wasn’t scared. I used to talk and whisper with my brothers when we were all together. I let them go out first, but I was shy. I hid in the back.”

“I love my Family.  I want them to always be with me.”

“Other kids hurt me. They won’t play with me.  Why not?”

“I don’t want to talk to others. Make them all go away.”

“Too much noise and heat. Leave me alone.”

“I really like Star Wars. I want to be a Jedi, and go to other worlds.”

“I can’t read, but really I can.”

“When my family is with me, I can do anything.”

“Francine is my therapist. She lets me stay in the cocoon. It is safe and warm and dark. I can remember things in the cocoon.”

“Mommy, what is Autistic? Is it like being an Indian?”

“Mommy, am I a real boy now?”

“I am a real boy now.”


Yes, Alyxander you are real boy now.

By Anonymous


* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Stories From the Heart: A Lesson Learned

On March 19, 1985, a beautiful, bouncing baby boy named Matthew was born.  On January 26, 1987, he was diagnosed with Autism and our family’s life was changed forever.

Matthew looked like the three B’s of babies with autism … big, blonde and blue-eyed!  At least that’s what many looked like in 1987.  Back then autism showed up in 1 out of 10,000 births with 3 out of 4 being males.  We were a bit of an oddity back then, but things have certainly changed since.

It was a good three days before the diagnosis set in and the grief began.  It was deep and nauseating but eventually floated away like fog rolling out after a good rain.  After all, he was still my Matthew.  Could life really change that much?  We found out quick just how much.

After observing Matt for 15 minutes, our school system was determined to label him with mental retardation and provide him with an inadequate program.  Matthew had many strengths that were not even being considered.  It was then I knew it would be up to my husband and I to advocate for what’s best for Matt … nobody would be doing this for us.

We ended up in a pre-hearing conference with our school system and won the right to have him educated at the Groden Center, a day school program for children with Autism within an integrated pre-school.  Back then, very few programs provided integration with typically developing children, but the few studies out there and our gut told us this would be extremely important for Matt’s success.  Placing him there when he was three years old was the first and best decision we ever made, and sending him back to his home school three years later was the second.

When he finally said “Mom”, he was five years old and shortly after became toilet-trained, which were miracles in themselves.  He left the Groden program toilet trained, using some basic words and was able to read close to 200 sight words.  I still keep the flash cards in my bed stand to remind me of the road traveled.  He entered Kindergarten with a trained one-on-one teaching assistant at Washington Oak School in Coventry, Rhode Island.  Little did I know that the wonderful peers he came to know as friends on that first day would become the grown up young adults he would graduate from Coventry High School in June of 2004.

I would love to say that between the wonderful school supports, great peers and a supportive family he had over the years was enough to make everything perfect in his life.  But that would not be true.  His autism, combined with an additional diagnosis of bipolar disorder at age 9 made his life and ours quite challenging.  The irony was that we now had a child with mood swings who could not tell us how he felt.  The crying, the anger, the anxiety were all part of the everyday experiences throughout his school years.  The challenge to our school system as well as our family, especially his brother and sister were on-going.

Just when we thought we were in the right direction, things would change again.  There were days when his OCD was so bad that it would take him two hours just to get from his bedroom to the morning school bus.  Many of those days, we just pulled down the shades and stayed home.

But the reality is that Matthew’s autism has brought us joys greater than any sorrow.   For every day of sadness there has been a day of celebration!  The kindness shared from doctors, teachers, friends and neighbors who shared our laughter and well as our tears have created lifelong relationships. These individuals choose to be on this journey with us. They are simply the best of the best!  Our paths would likely never have crossed if we had not taken the road less traveled.

There have been “moments of greatness” I don’t believe we would’ve ever experienced.  The duet Matt and I sang in a school cabaret with a standing ovation of 400 people, the wilderness field trip where he had to climb over a ten foot wall with six friends under him helping him over the top, the many years where he sang the Star Spangled Banner for an auditorium full of people, or when he read “Green Eggs and Ham” to Kindergarten children when he was in 5th grade are just a handful of examples.

Most importantly, walking across the stage and receiving his high school diploma with 450 of his classmates was a moment that will be etched in our hearts forever.

At 20 years old, we are getting ready for his adult life to begin and it’s possible there will be more obstacles ahead.  But I’ve learned that life has challenges for each of us and these experiences define our purpose.  What I know for sure is that Matthew’s Autism has brought our lives a sense of compassion, sensitivity and empathy we may have never known. And moments we will never forget!  The world could use a few more compassionate people. Maybe that’s what Autism is really meant to teach us!

Deb Belanger
Mother of Joe, Matthew and Aimee


* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Social Skills Success – Teacher, Professional & Parent Training Workshop in Vancouver, BC

A Social Skills Training Workshop for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Presented by Jed Baker, Ph.D. – All Kids Can Succeed: Handling Challenging Behaviours and Reaching Social Skills – Vancouver, BC – Thursday, April 19th, 2012 – Norman Rothstein Theatre – 950 West 41st Ave (at Oak Street)

Early Bird Registration Ends March 19th 2012! Register today to ensure your seat.

Click here to register as a parent – 99 $79Click here to register as a professional – 129 $99

Here are Just a Few of The Benefits of Attending:

  • Learn how to prevent and manage meltdowns or tantrums
  • Learn strategies to teach verbal and non-verbal students
  • Find out how to develop an effective behavior plan
  • Become a facilitator to help create peer acceptance
  • Gain skills in teaching peers to be more tolerant and supportive
  • Inclusion Techniques for creating lasting friendships
  • Discover how to put together a social skills training programs
  • Case studies that show the strategies in action
  • Discover the reasons for social skill deficits and disruptive behavior

This workshop is about understanding challenging behaviors in social communication disorders with an overview of behavior management techniques.

Specific, user-friendly strategies and techniques for providing relevant social skills instruction to children and teens with ASD will be shared at this workshop.

Enjoyable socialization methods are emphasized so individuals may experience success and desire to build skills. Social deficits affect life at home, school and eventually in the workplace. Conference participants will learn both highly beneficial strategies that can be used across a variety of settings and routines; and practical and effective solutions to assist “typical” peers, family members and professionals.


Stories From the Heart: Eye Contact

I’d give anything for a glance in my direction.  I ache for it.  All my other children will look into my eyes when I speak to them, but he won’t.  It’s not by choice; he just can’t do it.  Although he isn’t blind, a neurological condition does make it difficult, if not impossible.

How easily we take for granted that simple, little gesture.  Yet, how significant its impact when it is lacking.  I was always told that as a good listener you must give eye contact and other appropriate body language to let the speaker know you are paying attention.  So, does that mean he’s not listening to me?  Probably.  Maybe.  And if the eyes are truly the “windows to our soul,” will my son never be able recognize or acknowledge the true essence of another person?

Some adults inflicted with the same, mild form of autism as my son have been able to articulate their position on this (allegedly) essential, non-verbal communication skill.  Their general consensus is that they can’t concentrate on what you are saying if they have to look you in the eye.  It’s almost painful for them.  But more than that, I imagine that they don’t really see the need for it at all.  Just because we don’t think they are listening doesn’t mean they aren’t.

Neurotypicals, as the rest of us are called, must come across as being a really self-conscious bunch, always needing affirmation and validation, both verbal and non-verbal.  It reminds me of a story of a mother who asked her teenage son with high functioning autism why he never tells her he loves her.  “I already told you when I was seven; my feelings for you haven’t changed,” was his response.

So, why do I need eye contact from my son to feel that we have a bond or connection?  It’s not his hang-up.  At school they are teaching him to look people in the eye when they speak to him, and God love him, he is trying.  Yet, sometimes it feels more like he’s looking through you, rather than at you.

So much pressure to put on such a small child who did not choose his Autism.  If I didn’t have my other three children who are capable of providing eye contact, would it be harder for me to accept my son’s limitation?  Would I be more desperate than ever for it?  Or would I be able to come to terms with it sooner, being that it would be all I’d ever known?

Parenting a child with special needs forces you to adjust your expectations.  This doesn’t always have to be negative, though.  I’ve learned that what is important for me as a mother is to let my children love me anyway they know how.  My oldest daughter has many ways of showing me love.  She is very affectionate and tells me constantly that she loves me.  We even butt heads frequently on many issues.  This, too, is another way she shows her love for me, as a measure of trust.  Even my two, young babies express their love for me.  They cry when they see me leave the house, and then show such excitement upon my return.

My son shows his love for me, too, in his own special way.  When I see him concentrating on his drawings or hear him laughing at his favorite cartoons, I know he is happy and, we are meeting his needs.  Although his speech is improving, he still can’t quite communicate with me in the typical way.  However, when he tells me the same knock-knock joke for the twentieth time in a row, I know he is sharing something important with me.  He wants to hear me laugh with him.  I know that he could have chosen to sit in his room, cocooning himself in his flannel Tigger sheet, with only his stuffed animals for companionship.  No, he has chosen to be near me, rather than disappear into his own world.   For this I am grateful.  Eye contact, or no eye contact, I love him too.

By Jen Warwick

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Successful Outcomes for Students with Autism & Related Disorders

Announcing a Special 1-Day Workshop with Diane Twachtman-Cullen on Successful Outcomes for Students with Autism & Related Disorders which is coming to Calgary, Alberta on April 13th 2011!

Register Today for SUPER Early Bird Rates – End January 31st 2012

Full details:

Achieving Successful Outcomes for Students with Autism and Related Disorders: A Strategic Roadmap for Parents, Teachers and Special Needs Professionals presented by Diane Twachtman-Cullen, Ph.D., CCC-SLP – Editor-in-Chief, Autism Spectrum Quarterly

Register Today for Super Early Bird Rates – End January 31st 2012
Autism Calgary – April 13th 2012 – Parent Super Early Bird – Special $49 – Regular $99
Autism Calgary – April 13th 2012 – Professional Super Early Bird – Special $79 – Regular $129

Calgary, Alberta – Friday, April 13th, 2012

Here are Just a Few of The Benefits of Attending:

  • Essential Elements of Individualized Programming
  • Past Perspectives and Present Practices
  • How to Write Meaningful Goals and Objectives
  • Measuring Student Performance
  • Tools for Assessment and Decision Making
  • Comprehension: The Power that Fuels Expression
  • Critical Thinking: An Essential Life Skill
  • All Things Social
  • Tips for Teaching Skill Development
  • Moving from Theory to Practice

This practical workshop offers a comprehensive “A to Z” plan for addressing the needs of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), nonverbal learning disorder (NLD), and ADD/ADHD. The learning-style differences and needs of these students will be defined, and a detailed step-by-step plan for achieving successful outcomes—The Strategic Roadmap for Teaching—will be presented for addressing challenges related to language, behavior, nonverbal communication, social thinking, and organization and planning. This strategic roadmap will include specific information on ways to decrease prompt dependency and facilitate generalization across multiple settings and people, as well as measurable teaching goals and objectives to ensure ease of application of evidence-based strategies in real-world settings.

Stories From the Heart: I’m Still Your Michael

My son was born with dark brown hair and deep blue eyes with eyes lashes that women spend hundreds of dollars trying to duplicate. He was the perfect baby. He was gorgeous and rarely cried.

However, as he grew older, I began to realize that something wasn’t quite right. He didn’t reach developmental milestones when he should and by two he wasn’t talking. I started taking him to specialists but it wasn’t until Michael was 6 that he was diagnosed with Autism.

I was devastated. The doctor’s told me that my little boy would never lead a normal life. He would never have a regular job, never live independently, never go to college, get married and have the family I dreamed of for him.

One night as I was sitting there pretending I was feeling sorry for my son but truly feeling sorry for myself, I flipped the TV to a special on autism. I sat there crying in my self-pity and Michael walked into the room. He sat down on the floor and began to watch the show. This was very unusual. Michael was never interested in TV unless it was commercials. He sat there for a long time and towards the end of the show, he looked up at me and said, “That’s what I have isn’t it, Mommy? I have autism.” My heart fell into a million pieces as I said quietly, “Yes”.

“Well,” Michael said, “that’s OK because I’m still your Michael,” and he got up and trotted out of the room.

It was at that moment that I realized he was right. It didn’t matter what label the doctors gave him or what challenges we faced. He was my little boy, my Michael, and together we would make it through this.

That is exactly what we have done. Together with God`s help, my son has made incredible progress. His diagnosis has been changed to Asperger’s Syndrome. He is fully main-streamed in school and has an active social life. He’s a freshman in high school and plans to go to college and become a pediatrician. He faces challenges every day of trying to understand the social complexities of this world and trying to fit in. Math is incredibly difficult for him but reading and science are his things. He reads constantly and has an amazing innate understanding of biology. He is my hero.

By Anonymous

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

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