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The Autism Network for Deaf/Hard of Hearing
and Blind/Visually Impaired

Autism Research Institute
4182 Adams Avenue
San Diego, California 92116 USA



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Welcome to the winter edition of our e-newsletter. We hope you will find this issue helpful from both an intellectual and practical viewpoint. 

Please let us know if you have any suggestions regarding future issues of this e-newsletter. Email: email us

Best Regards, Steve Edelson, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Autism Research Institute 

An article in Seminars in Speech and Language provides several strategies for preparing children with autism for an audiologic behavioral examination. The exam determines whether any signs of unresponsiveness by the child are due to the autism, or whether they may be due to the child's hearing problem. The report also points out that hearing loss is significantly greater among children with ASD as compared to their typically-developing peers. Because the rate of ASD is nearly 7% among eight-year-old children who are diagnosed as deaf or hard-of-hearing, it is important for these children to be evaluated as early as possible in order to facilitate early intervention.

Because many of these hearing tests will be unfamiliar and may lead to anxiety, strategies are described to help these children participate in listening and speech imitation tasks. Some of the suggestions include showing pictures and/or videos of the assessments, such as a photo of the practitioner who will be examining the child. In addition, children should practice wearing headphones to familiarize them with the sensory experience.

Other practical information involves helping ASD children with cochlear implants identify the "Ling" sounds (i.e., six sounds ranging from low-to-high frequencies) as well as providing intervention strategies to help the child with autism imitate and acquire sign language. 
67-year-old Blind Man with Autism Flies Plane 
Due to his multiple disabilities of blindness and autism spectrum disorder, Patrick O'Neil led a sheltered life. Until recently, that is.

For the last three years, Patrick has been living with an inspirational couple as part of a home-sharing program for people with developmental disabilities. Selina and Kevin Olsen have encouraged him to establish goals for experiencing things he would like to do but has never done before. So far, Patrick has accomplished every goal he has set, including saving up $1,000 to buy his first (tandem) bicycle, flying in a helicopter, and most recently, piloting a Cessna 172.

Patrick has received assistance from the Centre for Seniors Information in Kamloops, British Columbia, which helped arrange the piloting experience. The director of the seniors' center marvels at how setting goals and having these new experiences have transformed Patrick from a quiet and withdrawn individual to an outgoing and more confident person. Some of Patrick's future plans include riding in a limousine, flying in a float plane, and traveling to Cuba.   

Raising Autism Awareness and Training 
Emergency Responders to Sign
Louise Masin Sattler has worked with deaf and autistic individuals for more than 25 years. Ms. Sattler, school psychologist and founder of the niche company Signing Families ™, recognized that children with special needs were most at risk during emergency or disaster situations and that some responders may not be equipped to fully understand the challenges they would face with these children -- particularly those who use sign language for communication or have unique challenges, such as autism.  

First Responders are called into action with very little time and expectation as to what they will encounter, especially if the situation is fluid and involves children. So through her educational company that focuses on instructional sign language and consultation, Louise developed the Sign Language for Emergency Situations DVD (open-captioned in English and Spanish).She also added to her offerings training programs in order to address the needs of First Responders who may need some insight on how to best engage, interact with, and communicate with those with special challenges. During the training Louise often gives these recommendations:
  • Know 10-15 basic signs or phrases, such as "NEED HELP," "ALLERGIES?," "YOUR NAME?," and "PLEASE WRITE."
  • Learn the alphabet and numbers 0-10 in sign language. This will help them obtain names, addresses, and emails.
  • Have on hand items that can be used as distractions for children who find transitions difficult, such as toy cars and stuffed animals.
  • Prepare shelters with items to help those who are uncomfortable with loud and chaotic noise that is often associated with evacuations. Such items could include noise-blocking headphones and hooded sweatshirts.
In addition, Ms. Sattler provides workshops for schools and parent groups on how they can best prepare their facilities and families in the event of the unexpected.

Questions?    [email protected]

 Blind Drummer with Autism Has Enough Talent 
to Overshadow Disabilities
Trae Anderson is a talented drummer who anchors the percussion section of his high school band. Even though Trae has never had a music lesson in his life, his band director says that Trae has a gift. He has a flawless sense of rhythm and perfect pitch. He also has an amazingly upbeat attitude, which allows him to succeed despite his having autism and blindness. 

Trae was born prematurely at 24 weeks, weighing less than two pounds. Due to his extremely low weight, he had to remain in the hospital for five months after he was born. He was subsequently diagnosed with autism, and over the years has had to endure nine eye surgeries.  His mother also revealed that when Trae was younger, she received numerous calls from the hospital telling her that he was not going to make it.

However, according to his band mates, who are like family to him, you would never know about his hardships from his unrelenting positive spirit. His band director describes his spirit as "infectious" and credits Trae with inspiring the entire band.

Note: Link below contains the story, and a 90-second video of Trae drumming with the band. 

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Autism Research Institute | 4182 Adams Ave | San Diego | CA | 92116