Thursday, December 27, 2012

Annual ASRC Holiday Party

Noah and Reagan visit with Santa 
On December 8, many of our families joined together for a wonderful holiday celebration, complete with food, fun and friends.

The children had a great afternoon making crafts, jumping on the bounce house, playing with games and toys such as outdoor chalk and Nerf guns, and finally meeting Santa Claus.  Santa was naturally gentle and kind, and he even brought his guitar to sing Christmas carols with the children.  Every child had the opportunity to sit on Santa's lap and chat with him, and tell him their most secret wishes.  Every child, young and old, received a gift and a wish for a wonderful holiday season.

The children weren't the only ones having fun.  The parents and family members were able to bond and meet new friends.  "It is nice to be able to bring our kids to a Christmas party and not be worried about their behavior," said Doreen Lund of ASRC.  "Everyone here understands and works together to make it a great day for the kids."

Approximately 80 people attended the year-end celebration.  The day started with holiday tattoos and crafts, a pot luck dinner, fun in the bounce house and other outdoor games, and time with Santa.  It ended at dark with an outdoor Christmas movie complete with hot cocoa and popcorn.  The families left with a new toy, some new friends, and a bright outlook for the upcoming year.  ASRC looks forward to our new year ahead with these kids and their families as well.

Monday, December 3, 2012

ASRC Kids: Community Service Project

On a beautiful day at the end of November, the kids of ASRC joined together to experience the wonders of the Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, as well as assist the Center with some plantings.  It was a great sensory activity, as the children touched the dirt, felt the sun on their faces, smelled the roses, and pulled and re-planted the seedlings into larger pots.

After planting, the group explored the live butterfly gardens, and tried desperately to get butterflies to land on their fingers.   Then they were treated to a "backstage tour" where they were allowed to feed and touch a turtle, pet a snake and even touch a giant lizard!  NuStar Energy sponsored the trip, and enabled all of the families to attend at no cost.  NuStar reserved the pavilion, offering families the opportunity to have lunch while examining the amazing butterfly exhibits.
Lastly, several groups participated in a scavenger hunt prepared by the DeCastro family.  The hunt took them ALL OVER the Gardens, and it was amazing to see the children's tenacity in finding the answers to the clues - no matter how far they had to walk.  Overall, it was a wonderful experience and the families had a great time.  Thank you to Dr. Womack and the Botanical Gardens, the DeCastro family, and NuStar Energy for providing an opportunity for the ASRC kids to contribute to the community.

ASRC Speaker Series

Licensed school psychologist, Amy Ehle,
speaks about the Autistic Brain
Q: Where might you find a large group of parents with children on the autism spectrum?  

A: At Legacy Healthcare, the second Tuesday of the month, attending a monthly speaker and dinner arranged just for them.

ASRC has been working with Legacy Healthcare and the Pediatric Therapy department to bring in speakers to educate and answer questions from parents with special needs children.  Legacy provides pediatric physical, speech and occupational therapies for children at their location on the corner of Staples and Holly.

Some of the past speakers have included:
  • an ABA Therapist speaking about "Understanding Your Child's Behavior"  
  • a financial group explaining "How to Plan Financially for Your Special Needs Child's Future" 
  • a dietitian speaking about "Strategies for an Autism Diet" 
  • a psychologist and her college-age autistic son explaining "How to Talk to Your Autistic Teenager About Growing Up" 
  • a special education lawyer from San Antonio speaking and answering questions about "Legal Strategies and Information about ARD Meetings" 
  • and a school psychologist speaking about the newest research "How the Autistic Brain Differs from the Neuro-typical Brain"
ASRC thanks Legacy Healthcare for sponsoring these dinners.    The series continues in January with representatives from the Special Populations departments of Del Mar College and TAMUCC.  They will inform parents of admissions requirements and resources available to college-aged special needs students.  Join us.

Art Night

November 9th, the kids of ASRC tried something new - an Art Night.  ASRC provided paint, paper, stickers, clay and crafts and the kids let their creative juices flow.  Each child made something unique and it was great to see the different artistic styles.  (One girl even glued a piece of pizza to her paper and decorated it - definitely original!)

The kids also made new friends, as several new families attended this month's pizza party and activity night.    As usual, the group also celebrated the birthdays of the children born in that month with a cake, singing the traditional "Happy Birthday," and a card signed by all the kids.  The monthly birthday parties are a wonderful opportunity for the children to have a small party, as oftentimes their social difficulties make birthdays somewhat lonely.  ASRC loves to see them smile, feel comfortable - and create!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

ASD Modeling Workshop and Fashion Show

Participants at the end of the fashion show
It was a special day for ten girls, their families and friends, and local organizations who made it all happen.  ASRC, with the help of the Crush Girls Modeling Agency, held a one-day workshop for teens and pre-teens on the autism spectrum and their siblings, at the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS.  The idea was to help build social skills and increase self confidence.

The morning started with a talk with Mrs. Nueces County, Lisa McGrew.  Teaching about nutrition, body image, manners, and how to combat bullying, the pageant winner was an inspiration to the young girls.  She showed them magazine advertisements - and revealed the "before" and "after" touched-up photographs that were used.  She reminded the girls that no one is perfect, and almost all magazine photos have been altered in some way.

Makeup and hair makeover
The Crush Girls were next with lessons in runway walking and posing for the camera.  Tony Martinez of the Crush Girls took photos of the girls throughout the workshop.  

The afternoon continued with a healthy lunch provided by Jason's Deli, and then a makeover.  The girls each received a makeup lesson, and had their hair done by the teachers.  Glowing, they were ready to don the dresses for the fashion show.  The dresses, donated by military spouses, ranged from casual to evening wear.  Each girl modeled two dresses and even got to take home a dress.  The girls also received a rose, and a gift bag with makeup and fun girly items.

Overall, the day was a huge success.  ASRC had a cake and punch reception at the end, thanked the community and several volunteers- and the biggest winners being the girls!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

ASRC Library Book Fair

Kevin and Andrew at the library

Kicking off Autism Awareness Month events this year was the ASRC Book Fair at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on March 9.
  The day long event was organized by Dorothy Cunningham, Project Coordinator at ASRC and parent of a child with ASD.  Many families with individuals on the spectrum volunteered alongside ASRC staff members.  The results surpassed last year's book fair.  The theme that day was Cookie Mouse, the character of the "If you give a Mouse a Cookie" books. Events that day included story time and crafts.  New additions to the ASRC library include the new Dr. Temple Grandin book, "The Autistic Brain" and "The Sneaky Chef."

Although many books are non fiction, there are several fictional stories featuring a character with autism.  There are books for children, adults, and educators.  Located at Spectrum Counseling, 3440 S. Alameda, the books can be read while sitting in the waiting room, or checked out for a period of time.  Books are available to the public, but must be checked out before removing them from the library. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer Academic Program a Success

It may be summer, but several ASD kids were still learning during ASRC's Summer Academic Program (ASAP).  Organized by Dorothy Cunningham of ASRC, the purpose was to keep the children learning in an atmosphere conducive to their needs, and to maintain the structure of going to school.  In general, many children lose academic skills over the summer and have a hard time transitioning back to school.  Children on the spectrum often have a harder time than most.  Unfortunately, summer schools are usually not an option.  Cunningham decided to address this gap with two classes a month, including a graduation at the completion. Approximately 15 children benefited from the instruction. 

Classes were taught by certified public school teachers who are familiar with children on the autism spectrum.  Kay Pluta, also a published author, taught writing in creative and fun ways.  Using magnetic words to make sentences and letters on post-it notes to play "Scrabble" on a wall, she kept the kids interested in a skill that is often a challenge.  Mark Christoph, previously a science teacher, taught Earth sciences complete with videos and hands-on rock collections.  Lisa McGrew, a public school teacher and actress, taught social skills using the basics of drama and acting.  Overall, the kids learned some fun lessons, met a few new friends, and will hopefully be better prepared to go back to an academic atmosphere in a few weeks.  A graduation, complete with cake and certificates completed the program.  Congratulations to all the students, and a huge thank you to all of the teacher volunteers and coordinator for making the program so special.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Teen Night - Gamers Unite!

ASRC hosted a Teen Night at the Casual Gamer, a local shop where customers can get together and play video games.  They offer game systems and screens to rent, including this giant projector screen which the kids loved.  We noticed several kids (and parents!) trying out "Dance-Dance Revolution" and some of the other arcade-style games and pinball machines available.  "This kind of event is great since the kids can get together without the constant pressure of face to face conversation.  They tend to bond over these games," said Doreen Lund of ASRC.  The night was a success with approximately 20 teens and pre-teens gathered for video games, pizza and cake.  One parent commented: "We had a great time at this event, and hope that ASRC will host this event again."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Annual Talent Show

Kaelyn Koffer, 13,  plays the guitar in the Show after only eight lessons.
It is one of the best events of the year - the annual Talent Show.  This year ASRC had fourteen acts, displaying the talents of those on the autism spectrum and some family members.  Acts included dancing and singing, playing piano, keyboard, or guitar, showing off artwork, a puppet show, a balancing act, Tae Kwon Do, and reciting the 50 States in alphabetical order.

In addition to performing on stage, the kids had the opportunity to bring in items that showed off their accomplishments.  Some brought in trophies from dance recitals, ribbons from swim meets, or Lego creations.  One very telling item was a single submission of an AB Honor Roll Medal.  It was the first time the child made the honor roll and everyone was very proud.

"It is so great to see these kids get up on stage in front of their friends and show us something they are proud of," said Doreen Lund of ASRC.  "Many of them won't participate in their school's talent show, but they feel comfortable here."

As great as the kids were as performers, they were also a wonderful audience.  They had to wait their turn, cheer for the other performers, and not laugh if someone made a mistake.  These skills are difficult for all children, but especially hard for those on the autism spectrum.  All of the performers received a flower at the completion of their act.

Parent volunteer, Marcia Mickelson, reserved and set up the show.  The audience consisted of families of the performers and several others from the public.  After the show, the families were treated to snacks and a slideshow of past ASRC events.  The idea for the Talent Show came from Mickelson's young son, and has become a very treasured event.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Fundraiser for a New Autism Library

Jack Lund, 12, a child with Asperger's Syndrome, reads storytime at Barnes and Noble
Where could you find several ASRC families and volunteers on Saturday, June 2nd?  They were at Barnes and Nobles in Corpus Christi, promoting ASRC, educating customers about autism, and helping raise money for ASRC's planned Autism Library.

The fundraiser, organized by ASRC staff member Dorothy Cunningham, was also a great social gathering for ASRC families and the community.  Centered around a dog theme, Spot the Dog came to visit, including a reading of some Spot stories.  Kids were entranced by storytime throughout the day; volunteer readers included some Windsor Park 5th graders, as well as some children with autism.  This was a great opportunity for all of the readers to gain experience speaking in front of others and offering community service.  ASRC parents volunteered to help kids with crafts, pick out books, and sit at the information table.

ASRC enjoyed a long but fun day of spreading awareness and meeting the community.  Barnes and Noble will generously contribute a percentage of some of the book sales for the day.  Plans for the proceeds include opening a library for families with books geared towards autism and special needs.  The library will be housed at ASRC/Spectrum Counseling, and open to the public.  Thank you to all of our volunteers!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Autism Awareness Day

April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day.

ASRCs day started out at 6am as Bill Butler (ASRC President) and Lisa McGrew (ASRC volunteer and Mrs. Nueces County) spoke with John Thomas at KiiiTV about the significance of the day, the new autism rates and our new organization. (see interview link to the right)

Later that day, ASRC had a table at Robstown's 1st "Light It Up Blue" festival at the Boys and Girls Club. Many people came out for the food and fun, and most importantly the information provided by organizations such as ECI, Headstart, and Almouie Pediatrics. The Trevino family did an amazing job organizing this event.

And lastly, that night we saw the "Light It Up Blue" campaign in action. Autism Speaks initiated the "Light It Up Blue" concept in which buildings and monuments around the world are encouraged to shine blue light in support of Autism Awareness. After numerous phone calls and emails from local parents requesting the city light up the Harbor Bridge, we reveled in the results. It was fate - as the Hooks were already lighting it blue - but to us it had a lot more meaning.

Now we are looking forward to the Autism Awareness Walk on Saturday, April 7th at 11am at Heritage Park. We hope to see you there.

Startling New Autism Rate

1 in 88

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its rate of autism prevalence in the United States to 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls). By comparison, this is more children than are affected by diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome – combined. (according to Autism Speaks)

Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, states:
"Autism can now officially be declared an epidemic in the United States.We are dealing with a national emergency that is in need of a national strategy. At 1 in 88, we now have over 1 million children directly affected by autism. According to a newly released study the annual cost of autism in the United States is a staggering $126 billion annually, more than tripling the cost analysis from six years ago. Behind all these statistics are real families, real individuals struggling each and every day...

Ultimately the question we need to ask ourselves is why over the last two decades has there been such a tremendous increase in autism? Dr. Peter Bearman of Columbia University was funded by the NIH to answer this very question. His findings have revealed that the increase in prevalence is only partly explained by a broadening of the diagnosis, improved detection, and more awareness. A large portion of the increase some 50% remains unexplained. That is why we must aggressively fund research, including the critical study of potential environmental factors. We need to find the answers. "

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Autism Rocks!

Upcoming Fundraiser:
Autism Rocks! at the House of Rock,
downtown Corpus Christi
Thursday, March 29th from 8pm-12am
(Yeah, we know its a work night - but you're still young!)

$10 pre-purchased ticket, $12 at the door.
Buy tickets right here, on our website, using Paypal or credit card.

Come hear four local bands play as you hang out with friends and eat, drink and be merry. Take your time and browse our Silent Auction. Pull on an Autism Rocks! Tshirt, displaying the cool design to the left. And, don't leave too early, as you may miss your name called for a great Door Prize.

All proceeds will benefit ASRC and enable us to continue serving those on the spectrum and their families. Come out and show your support. Rock on!

ASRC Receives Official Non-Profit Status

The letter from the IRS finally came, and the Autism Spectrum Resource Center is now an official 501(c) 3 non-profit, tax free agency. We are very proud of this achievement, and look forward to continuing to serve those on the autism spectrum and their families. A big thank you to Bill Butler for filing all of the paperwork, and working diligently with all the officials to ensure this goal. Congratulations ASRC, -Board Members, Staff and our amazing Volunteers!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ASRC Welcomes New Board Member

ASRC would like to welcome Robin Blue to the Board of Directors. Robin's experience with the local autism population as well as running her own business will greatly benefit ASRC and our mission.

Robin is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC). She also holds a Texas Educator Certificate in Special Education (EC-12). In addition to her extensive training and continuing education concentration in autism spectrum disorders and Applied Behavior Analysis, she has advanced training in Biomedical Music Therapy Applications from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and advanced training in standardized therapeutic applications of Neurologic Music Therapy from the Robert F. Unkefer Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy, Colorado State University.

With over 12 years experience working with children on the autism spectrum as well as children through adults with developmental disabilities, Robin opened Therapy Connections of South Texas in August of 2008. Therapy Connections continues to grow, providing services all over the Coastal Bend area through ECI and local school systems as well as clinic based direct services provided at the Therapy Connections clinic.

We look forward to working with Robin, and we hope you will join us in making her feel welcome.