Good Morning MARCH! Hallelujah!
During the week, at about 3:30AM, while I eat my breakfast and brew my coffee at the gym, I listen to sports talk. Why? I really don’t know. Those “guys”, with faces made for radio, rarely spew anything other than the obvious or the ridiculous, depending on whether or not they want their “audience” to agree or to fight with them.
But, it’s during this “time of day” (yea, right, more like time of night) that I sometimes get an idea for an article. And so, along with my second nephew (Griffin Lorenzo Belott), this week’s installment was born during a pre drive-time commercial break.
Autism Speaks, founded in February 2005, is the world’s largest autism advocacy organization that sponsors autism research and conducts awareness and outreach activities aimed at families, governments, and the public.
Numerous celebrities, many of whom do not have autism in their family, “speak” on behalf of this organization and the important work they do. This past Monday, Golfer Ernie Els’ own story was the topic of the commercial. Els has a ten year-old autistic son which he “hid” from the media until 2008. Initially, he and his wife dealt with the situation privately. He then realized his public stature could help not only Mason, who was five at the time, but also those “less fortunate” families who were living through the same pain. Believe it or not, according to a March 2012 report done by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 88 children born in the US will be diagnosed with some level of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). While the disease does not discriminate, it is more prevalent in boys. Unfortunately for Els, Mason is “low functioning”.
So, what can be done? Well, through this blog, I am able to report that, according to an associate professor of adapted physical education at Montana State University-Northern, Dr. John O’Connor believes that exercises involving rhythmic movements that are similar to the stereotypical behaviors of those with autism (flailing their hands or bounding on their toes) gives the individual the “same benefits” without the “negative connotations”. Therefore, activities like running and swimming are extremely beneficial to kids and parents as a tool to “engage in behaviors that distract them”.
Now, I am not aware that any of you have an autistic individual in your family. However, if you do or if you know of someone who is in need of help, exercise may be the most effective way to help with a child’s overall functioning and self-esteem. And with that, I’d like to introduce you to http://www.ACEingautism.com/. It is a non-profit organization my clients Richard Spurling (a tennis professional) and his wife Dr. Shafali Jeste (a behavioral child neurologist) developed that combined their knowledge and skill in order to help bring tennis lessons to enrich the lives of autistic children on and off the court.
“As a clinician who diagnoses and treats kids with autism, I know how much parents struggle to find affordable and accessible activities, especially on the weekends. ACEing Autism was established to provide such a need,” says Jeste.
Spurling believes the organization’s tagline, “Connecting kids through tennis,” strikes a chord because, “the game teaches social as well as functional motor skills which are normally difficult for those with autism to develop. Our tennis program encourages turn-taking, eye contact and focus to hundreds of children with ASD who normally would not have the opportunity.”
And finally, on this day, March 3 1985, this one is for you Mom…The TV show “Moonlighting” premiered!