Tag Archives: autism advocacy

Who Teaches NTs about #Autism? C.H.A.S.E.

Who Teaches NTs about #Autism? C.H.A.S.E.

The news? Autism Speaks? A random website? A friend of a friend?

C.H.A.S.E. can.

Community Help for Autism Spectrum Everywhere (C.H.A.S.E.) is a non-profit, grassroots organization founded by parents of an autistic child. The main initiative of C.H.A.S.E. is to promote autism awareness to neurotypical students and community members through education. This collaborative effort utilizes community partnerships and professional expertise to create unique approaches for autism awareness education.

Currently, autism organizations, medical professionals and the education system focuses on the autistic child and how to help them achieve their maximum potential. They do not take into account the neurotypical person, or student, who must interact daily with their autistic peer. People not on the autism spectrum can experience a wide range of emotions regarding their autistic classmates. From confusion to fear, the neurotypical student may have many questions and concerns.

C.H.A.S.E. assists students, teachers, schools and community organizations by building awareness through education. This type of awareness can help students understand the diversity of autism and reduce negative outcomes such as bullying and seclusion. Through education and building awareness, the autistic child is more easily accepted and the neurotypical student is enriched as well.

C.H.A.S.E. has partnered with an elementary school in Overland Park, Kansas to provide education and supports for classrooms
impacted by the unique needs of students with autism. We envision communities that value the diversity of
individuals with autism. What is our plan? C.H.A.S.E. has asked asked for school families who are willing to be identified as having autism and families willing to receive special advocacy training.

Last year, C.H.A.S.E. helped significantly reduce peer conflicts for one boy, after whom C.H.A.S.E. is named. A school counselor delivered a presentation prepared by C.H.A.S.E. explaining autism to his classmates. Several of these lessons helped develop an understanding of what Chase did and why. But, more importantly, peers learned how to help him.

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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


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How Do We Put the Spotlight on ASD?

How do you teach someone about something that they don’t know about? If you are considering moving on to a different post or different page because of the lack of clarity of that statement, be warned that it is purposefully vague. A few days ago, I asked people to provide me blog topics because I was in a bit of a creative funk. Following my earlier post about my exchange with the Internet guy, a parent asked me to blog about how in the world we explain autism to people who know nothing about it. I’ve been thinking about that topic for quite some time, trying to decide how to think about and how to approach such a topic.

Think about a bookstore. There are hundreds of sections and sub-sections. Photography. Test prep. History. Crosswords. Literature. Children’s literature. Black history. Civil war. Nature. Cooking. Dieting. Self-help. What section do you frequent? I recently began exploring to the photography section, as I have purchased a DSLR and am learning the craft slowly but surely. I noticed the section before, but I never picked up a book, flipped through its pages, or considered learning. Was I interested? Maybe from a pure state of curiosity. Did I need to look in that section? Nope. Didn’t own a camera. What’s more, it’s a complicated endeavor. As a matter of fact, everything is a complicated endeavor with pages and pages of information read on topics both large and small. ASD is no different — a huge topic, with millions of voices, and a lot to learn. So, what tips the scales in the direction of wanting to know more?

Quite frankly I believe it is need. A teacher has a student with AS placed in her classroom. A camp counselor has a camper with autism in his camp group. A parent has a child diagnosed with ASD. Suddenly, this unknown entity becomes pertinent enough to warrant, even necessitate exploration and fact-gathering. Recently, I was asked to serve as an expert witness for a case in which an adult with AS was hit by a train. The lawyer said it best: “I’d heard of it but never thought much about it until now.” So, how do we make ASD not just visible with a puzzle piece but visible with a significant impact that warrants explanation?


Posted by on September 10, 2011 in ASD in the Grand Scheme


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Explaining AS to Parents of Second-Graders in 500 Words or Less: How’d I Do?

I am working on a letter to the parents of one of my client’s classmates. “Joe” is a second-grader at a local parochial school. In one page, I have to accomplish the unthinkable — educate and teach acceptance. How did I do? (Remember: ONE page!)

“Dear Parent,

Today Joe and his parents talked about Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an autism spectrum disorder. We want to provide you some information about AS, which is often called an “invisible disorder” because the individual looks like everyone else. He’s often intelligent and witty, but he thinks, acts, and speaks very differently. Although no two people with AS are alike, we want to point out some specific traits.

Rule-Governed: Kids with AS are literal and thrive on rules. Structure and routine make learning easier. When rules aren’t followed, something seems “wrong”, like a speeding car in a school zone. It just needs to be “fixed,” something kids with AS do without thinking. They transform into a bossy police officer, telling kids (and even adults) what to do and what not to do.

Order and Routine: Hitting, slapping, and yelling are some of the behaviors individuals with AS impulsively use to restore order in a situation. Typically violence is not intended. The individual feels anxious or frustrated and cannot always verbalize his emotions, so he attempts to return the situation to routine as soon as possible.

Sensitive: Smells, noises, and touches can trigger a “fight or flight” response. Accidental contact, like a bump, can “feel” like a hit to Joe because he does not read someone’s intent. At the same time, kids with AS struggle to modulate their own volume and control their bodies. They yell at others who are shouting, and they shove or run away from those who are too close.  If this confuses you, just imagine how confusing this is for Joe.

“Mindblind”: We take for granted how easily we can “step” into another’s shoes when needed. Individuals with AS innately lack the ability to take the perspective of another, inadvertently making them appear rude, selfish, or less intelligent. Kids with AS have to be taught not only how but when to think about others.

“Faceblind”: It is well-known that nonverbal communication is as important, if not more so, than what we say. Individuals with AS do not innately read facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures and body posture. You can just say your son or daughter’s name with a particular tone or you can “give them a look”, and they immediately “know” what you mean. Because Joe’s brain misses this information, he misses more than just what someone is saying to him, he also misses why.

Book Smart: Individuals with AS often lack common sense. This plays out most distinctly with their ability to socialize. They want friends but have no idea how to do so. Without direct instruction and countless opportunities to practice, appropriate behavior and socialization can be very challenging. They are prone to relentless bullying.

Your child has likely come home with observations about Joe that fall into one of these categories. Your initial inclination might be to tell your child to avoid or ignore Joe, after all you don’t want your son or daughter hurt. This is perfectly understandable but, unfortunately, will only exacerbate Joe’s struggles to learn how to interact. Joe is diligently working at school and at home on how to behave more appropriately. To help Joe, we ask that if your child comes home with a complaint, you respond in this manner: “Just like ________ is tough for you, ___________ is tough for Joe.” We ask you to reinforce that idea that everyone has struggles, and, unfortunately, Joe’s struggles are easier for your son or daughter.

If you would like to read more about AS, we recommend the following websites:

Autism Society of America:




Posted by on May 1, 2011 in ASD in the Schools


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