Autism success: Devastated to Inspired.

Kathy with Starbuck's card from RobKathy’s work as an SLP/BCBA in our local high school provides nightly stories. Sharing vicariously in the triumphs she celebrates with her students each and every day is a treat. The successes range from tiny steps to huge breakthroughs. What they have in common, though, is making a difference.


Hopefully sharing these stories with a wider audience will inspire…


“Rob” is a young man on the ASD spectrum. The roots of this story are familiar to anyone who lives and works with individuals with autism: Melt downs, anxiety, frustration, empathy, difficulty finding friends, etc. Rob’s team has dealt with all of these issues over the years.



This particular story starts a month ago, after many hours of coordinated team work and coaching. Rob stands in line with a five dollar bill clenched tightly in his fist. He has made the giant step of asking two friends to go with him to the high school football game that upcoming Friday. This is no ordinary game, however. It is “The Game.” It pits Rob’s high school against their biggest rival, includes several days of activities, and is circled months in advance on everyone’s calendar. 


You know what’s coming, don’t you? The student directly in front of Rob buys her ticket. As she walks away, the ticket vendor looks up at Rob and says, “Sorry, Buddy, she just bought the last one- we’re sold out.” Rob somehow manages to hold it together, by falling back on hours of role playing. As his aide told Kathy soon afterwards, though, Rob was clearly devastated.


And that’s when Kathy and Rob’s aide decided to turn this into a life lesson. Kathy pulled some strings (no surprise to anyone that knows her) by explaining the situation to the admin team, and was able to purchase a ticket.


The next day Rob was in a group session with several of his peers. Kathy steered the conversation: How do we deal with disappointment? What strategies can we use to get what we want? How could you help a friend with a problem? Towards the end of the session, Rob was thanked for sharing his story from the previous day. Rob’s aide reminded him to check Miss Kathy’s calendar for the date of their next session.


Rob was startled, because there was an envelope with his name taped to the calendar. “What’s this?,” he asked. “Open it up and see,” was the response. Inside, of course, was the ticket. The ticket to not only the game, but to a night of promise. 


The very first thing Rob did, was pull yesterday’s five dollar bill out of his pocket. As he passed it to Kathy, Rob’s aide said his smile was the biggest he’d seen. You know the kind- that surprised smile from something unexpected. And here is where the story gets interesting, because Rob’s two fans weren’t finished yet.


Kathy thanked Rob for paying her back. She told him the reason for the ticket was because of how well he had handled himself yesterday, and how he had shared about his disappointment today. Kathy then added that she had something else. She asked Rob to remember what they’d talked about over the previous hour, especially about helping others.


Kathy handed Rob a five dollar Starbuck’s gift card, and told him that she had an assignment for him. She asked Rob to give the card to someone he knew. But not randomly, she explained. Kathy wanted Rob to give the card to someone in return for doing something nice. And lastly, to make sure that his gift was as unexpected as the ticket that he had received.


Fast forward to five weeks later- yesterday. Kathy has just finished a group session that rocked. Four students were interacting with each other in ways she would not have believed possible when the school year started. As one of those students, Rob, was walking out the door, he turned back into her classroom. “Miss Kathy, I want to tell you something. I want you to know how much you’ve helped me, and how you really help lots of people. I like coming to your classes.” And then, as Rob left, he handed his gift card to Miss Kathy. 

More inspiration from the National Autism Conference

IMG_4552-300x300 As a mother of children with autism she jumped into advocacy. Her passion? Helping families obtain a diagnosis in 1-30 days, versus the usual average of 15 months. A quick diagnosis is critical, since it increases the chance for early intervention, a key component of treatment. 


Hundreds of families have been helped through the Autism Center of Pittsburgh and The 1-800 number people call? It goes directly to Kris’ cell phone. Must be one reason she laughs when she points out that her “part time” job is actually 24/7. 

Autism support from

IMG_4548-300x300 the day of diagnosis. Well, so does Leanna Sizer, but what came after for our neighbor at the 2013 National Autism Conference is today’s story. Leanna decided to do something positive. She founded and has been crafting for autism ever since.


Every penny she makes is donated to help autism right in her own community of DuBois, Pennsylvania. By keeping it local she knows exactly where this hard earned money goes: Learning materials, equipment for a special needs sport’s league, and school assistance are a few of the beneficiaries of Leanna’s heartfelt handiwork. As lucky as her community is to have Leanna, Tyler is even more fortunate to have a loving Mom and a tireless advocate.

A 123TokenMe frown

123TokenMe is not sad very often,
but today was an exception. Meggan has been a substitute aide in Miss Summer’s special ed class for several months, and today was her last day. Summer was bummed, and there was certainly no hiding my frowns. Why? Because Meggan brings these very appreciated gifts into the classroom- an infectious smile, a we can do this attitude, wonderful with kids, and a personal desire to make a difference.


You’ll be missed, but those frowns will turn upside down in your next lucky classroom. Thanks for everything, Meggan, and give yourself a token!



A love story on many levels

A-short-walk-that-crossed-worlds-from-LA-Times.jpg-20130124-266x300Amazing how often insights come from unexpected sources. In this case it was Dianne Goddard writing in today’s Los Angeles Times. This is a love story on many levels, and is one that uses the word autism in the very first sentence.


A wonderful combination of hope, realism, and love that everyone can learn from. Especially those involved with the special needs community. It certainly is a reminder how important it is to keep trying to make a difference.