VIDEO: College funds raised for Rouses employee who helped teen with autism: report

VIDEO: College funds raised for Rouses employee who helped teen with autism: report

A Rouses employee in Baton Rouge was surprised with a free car Monday morning (Aug. 6), days after the employee let a teen with autism help him stock shelves in the store, Fox 44 Baton Rouge reports.

Jordan Taylor was stocking shelves of orange juice one day when Jack Ryan Edwards and his father came across Taylor. A video that has gone viral shows Taylor patiently teaching Edwards how to stock those shelves for roughly 30 minutes, Fox 44 reported.

With Taylor’s kindness in mind, Neighbors FCU President and CEO Steve Webb acknowledged Taylor during the Central Community School System Convocation Monday. Fox 44 reported that Neighbors worked with “community partners” to provide Taylor with his own new vehicle.

Taylor’s actions also spurred the Edwards family to create a GoFundMe account to raise $100,000 for Taylor’s college tuition. In five days, more than 3,300 people have donated $115,485 as of Monday afternoon.

Read and watch the full story at the Fox 44 website.

. . . . . . .

Wilborn P. Nobles III is an education reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @WilNobles.

New workshop: Sensory Storytime Programs

New workshop: Sensory Storytime Programs


CHICAGO—ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions announces an exciting new workshop, Sensory Storytime Programs with Jennifer Roy. This workshop will last 90 minutes and take place at 2:30pm Eastern/1:30 Central/12:30 Mountain/11:30am Pacific on Wed., July 25, 2018.

For children with autism or sensory processing issues, a visit to their library’s storytime can be overwhelming and challenging for both parents and children. With as many as 1 in 59 children with autism according to the CDC, libraries across the country have begun to recognize and meet this need for an alternative storytime offering.

Whether you are thinking about starting sensory storytime or are looking to enhance your existing program, this workshop provides you with practical ideas for creating an interactive and responsive program that works for your community.

Jennifer Roy, an experienced children’s librarian, introduces you to sensory processing disorders and offers practical strategies so you can better connect with this target audience. Using step-by-step instructions, Roy teaches you how to structure a sensory storytime program and provides suggestions for selecting books, music, and materials for a range of budget and staffing considerations. You’ll walk away with the knowledge to set goals and objectives for the program that will help define and evaluate success.

About the Instructor

For 20 years, Jennifer Roy has been working with children in public libraries across the country and briefly in the United Kingdom. She has launched new services, reimagined spaces, and established productive partnerships. She earned her MLIS from San Jose State University in California and her BS in Early Childhood Education from Framingham State University in Massachusetts. With a special interest in early literacy, she has worked with non-profit groups, such as Reach Out and Read, Reading is Fundamental, and Imagination Library. She has created and led training programs for library staff at the branch, system, county, and state levels, including the creation of training manuals and evaluation tools. She currently works as an independent library consultant with a focus on training youth services professionals.

Registration for this ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions Workshop is available on the ALA Store. You can purchase registration at both individual and group rates.

ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions Workshops offer a convenient, hands-on learning experience that will help you and your colleagues make the best decisions for your library. This workshop is licensed for use by staff or users of the purchasing institution or library organization.

ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions (ELS) produces high-quality professional development events and materials for the library profession. ELS events cover modern issues on a wide variety of topics in formats that include live workshops, asynchronous eCourses, and print publications. We help ensure that today’s library employees have access to the professional development opportunities they need, whether they are brushing up on the basics or expanding their horizons with cutting-edge tools. Contact us at

ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.

Local School Board Member with Autism Inspires High Road Academy Students in Wallingford, CT to be Bold

Local School Board Member with Autism Inspires High Road Academy Students in Wallingford, CT to be Bold

by Lynne Mehley Eddis, Catapult Learning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 59 children in the United States have autism. Autism is not a predictable or uniform disability – it presents differently in every child – so there’s no “one size fits all” approach to autism education. To show special education students at the High Road Academy of Wallingford that autism shouldn’t keep them from pursuing their dreams, administrators recently invited in an “openly and proudly autistic” politician and professor to speak at the school.

Sarah Selvaggi-Hernandez and her story of overcoming the challenges of living with autism caught the attention of school officials after her election to the Enfield, Connecticut Board of Education in late 2017. High Road Academy Educational Director Sue Gilleaudeau invited Hernandez, who is also an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Mass., to tour the school and meet with students.

During her time at High Road Academy, Hernandez toured the campus and gave a presentation to students, bringing her positive outlook and inspiring attitude to the classroom. She encouraged the students to be the most influential voice in their life and to know their rights. Hernandez also discussed her strategies for coping with stressful situations and asked students about theirs….

Read the full article here.

Tulane recognizes father’s efforts in his autistic graduate’s success

Tulane recognizes father’s efforts in his autistic graduate’s success

Graduation season comes with inspiring stories about remarkable students, and Tulane University recently shared one about one of its own graduates.

Ben Alexander, a nonverbal student with autism, graduated from Tulane May 19, with the support of his father who accompanied him to every class since 2014.

Dr. Sam Alexander told Tulane he always wanted his son Ben Alexander to have the same opportunities that Ben’s two siblings had, according to a Tulane news release. Sam Alexander, an obstetrician-gynecologist, lauded Tulane’s students and professors for always expressing acceptance toward his son, who communicates via computer.

“Obviously I wish he could have gone by himself, without his father hanging all over him. But what a wonderful experience it was,” Sam Alexander said in a statement.

Sam Alexander’s efforts were also praised by Patrick Randolph, director of Tulane’s Goldman Center for Student Accessibility. Randolph said Ben Alexander would likely not even be at Tulane if not “for the constant and unwavering support of his father.”

Read full article here

Autism – A Family’s Journey and the Lights Along the Way

Autism – A Family’s Journey and the Lights Along the Way


There was a time when I couldn’t even say the word out loud. It was too painful, too devastating to utter. I wanted to believe that if I didn’t say the word, it didn’t exist. But it does exist; it’s real, and it’s beautiful, and it’s challenging all at the same time. And whether I say the word or not, my son Chris has autism.

I’ve been on this autism journey for 30 years now, more than half my life. Back in 1990, when Chris was first diagnosed, there was no autism awareness month, because there wasn’t autism awareness. Family, friends, and neighbors looked at me quizzically when I shared his diagnosis. What does that mean? How did he get it? How do you cure it? But I did not have the answers. Even the multitude of doctors we saw could not provide the answers. Since that time, there has been an exponential increase in the number of children diagnosed, and almost everyone has been touched by autism in some way. So today, when a family shares the diagnosis, others are usually aware of what it means.

As I reflect on the past 30 years I recall so many memories. I remember, as if it was yesterday, sitting in the doctor’s office; the diagnosis confirmed my fears following months of research into what might be causing the unusual behaviors of our little boy.

I remember…calling anyone and everyone I thought might help my family; the feelings of isolation at the playground, Sunday school, birthday parties, and all the other places where we just never seemed to fit in; the stress before every outing, wondering if there would be a meltdown or some other embarrassing event; wondering if my marriage would survive the stress; and the feelings of inadequacy for not parenting my children the way I thought I should have.

I remember the fear, guilt, and sheer terror of not knowing where my child was that day when he wandered off. But I also remember the intense relief and gratitude I felt when he was found.

I remember the vast uncertainty I felt when Chris was diagnosed, wondering what his life would be like as he grew to adulthood. And now that we have reached that point, I want to share some of the bright lights we encountered along the way, especially for those of you who may be new to the journey.

When he was four, I remember watching Chris climb aboard the school bus to begin the 45-minute ride to his “special” school. My gut told me that he needed to be with his community friends, and I spent years trying to persuade my school district to serve him in our local school. I learned about Chris’ right to be included with his neighborhood peers when I attended a workshop hosted by the New Jersey Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), our state’s federally funded Parent Training and Information Center. SPAN became one of the bright lights on our path. The information our family received from SPAN allowed us to develop an IEP (individualized education program) that brought Chris back to our home district for high school. I remember watching anxiously as he disappeared into the building on his first day of high school, also his first day of school in a general education setting. Despite my concerns, I remember how kind and supportive Chris’ peers were to him; serving as beacons lighting our journey. I remember Chris learning math, reading, and how to play an instrument—things I was told he wouldn’t be able to do—and working with teachers who never gave up on him. And I will never forget, four years later, watching him climb into a limo with friends to attend the senior prom. My heart was so full of happiness and pride I thought it would burst.

This journey has taught me a great deal; autism has been my teacher for some of life’s most important lessons:


Autism helps you to be grateful for the small things, the things you might have overlooked had they not been such a struggle to achieve: hugs, first words, friends, independence, general happiness and physical health. I’ve learned to take nothing for granted.


I continue to be in awe of, and inspired by, all the people we’ve met on this journey, most of whom have gone out of their way to help us any way they could: doctors, teachers, therapists, neighbors, friends, strangers, other families on the same path, and my colleagues at SPAN. Today, Chris has a circle of support that makes it possible for him to live a full, rich life. My husband and I appreciate the love and support of family; siblings have been caretakers and cheerleaders, and extended family members step up and help, no questions asked. Autism has taught me that I can’t do it all alone, no matter how hard I try. We need the support of others and must learn to accept it graciously.


Fear is an everyday struggle on this journey. I fear what will happen today and in the near future, and dread what might happen to my child when I’m not able to care for him. I feel trepidation in trying something new, and doubt with every life decision. But sometimes I must take a leap of faith. In this, I have always been rewarded, either with success or increased knowledge, both very valuable. I have learned to trust in myself and follow my gut.


Of yourself and others. Don’t hold onto past mistakes and don’t carry the burden of anger and resentment toward others. Learn to let go, learn from your experiences, and move on.


Laugh at yourself and your circumstances. Laughing releases endorphins and helps you feel good. We can learn a lot by seeing the world through a different lens and by not taking things—or ourselves—too seriously.

In closing, what I want to share with you more than anything is how immensely proud I am of Chris and all he has accomplished. He is a 30-year-old man living with autism, working and volunteering in the community, and often struggling to find his voice and get by in a world that can be overwhelming for him. Yet he manages to do it with dignity and grace, with unwavering support from the circle of love and light that surrounds him—his parents, siblings, and extended family; his peers, support staff, and therapists; our neighbors and friends. I shall always be thankful for Chris and the guiding lights that autism brought into our lives.

Carolyn Hayer is the Director of Parent and Professional Development at the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) in New Jersey, an OSERS-funded Parent Training and Information Center. 

Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.

COMMENTARY: ‘I have all the weapons I need’ – taking action to heal your autistic child

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logo


In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, Sheletta shares her experience as the mother of three children on the autism spectrum.

My son Brandon, after he was diagnosed as autistic, had an appointment with a speech pathologist named Becky at a local children’s hospital. They say it was random and that the computer picked her, but I know now it was divine intervention.

I insisted that my momma tag along for the evaluation since she didn’t believe there was anything wrong with my child and I was just making it all up to get attention for myself. “You won’t trust your daughter,” I chided her, “so I’m gon’ take you with me and let these White folks with some letters behind their names tell you that Brandon has autism. Maybe you’ll listen to them.”

She rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. I ain’t care. She was gon’ go with me to every appointment and every evaluation until she was on board with Brandon’s recovery plan.

When Becky came out to the lobby of the speech center to receive us, she had the biggest smile and the warmest spirit. I knew at that moment that she would be a blessing to my family.

While she evaluated Brandon, she insisted my mother and I stay in the room with her. Unlike other evaluators before her, she wanted to include us in what she was doing.

My ol’ nay-saying momma sat there with her arms folded and her legs crossed looking like the angry Black church usher that she is. Becky didn’t let Momma’s stank attitude intimidate her. She kept on testing. Asking questions. Running trials.

When Becky was done with everything, I could see my momma’s disposition had changed. Suddenly Momma saw what I saw – that my baby, her favorite grandson, had autism and would need intense help to get better.

Becky, being led by the Spirit, addressed my momma right away: “Mrs. Handy,” she assured her, “with the right therapy your grandson can be a normal kid, but it’s going to take a lot of work. But the hardest part is done. You’re no longer in denial.”

My momma couldn’t even breathe she was crying so hard…

Becky told her plainly, “You should be proud of your daughter for bringing little Brandon in as soon as she noticed something was wrong. That doesn’t typically happen with Black parents. Now, my White parents, I’ve had them bring their kids to be evaluated as young as six months old. That means they get treatment and services for their special needs child right away. Then, by the time the little kiddo heads to pre-school, they’ve had three years of therapy, and by then they’ve caught up to their friends.”

“But why don’t Black parents come in sooner?” my momma had the audacity to ask.

“Cause they’re in denial, just like you,” I fussed. “Instead of seeing that something is wrong with our kids and trying to fix it right away, we turn a blind eye.”

“And by the time my Black families start looking for help,” Becky added, “the child is five or six years old and they haven’t had any therapy, they can’t talk, and they’re acting out.”

I put another two-cents in: “Because they can’t talk, they’re in school frustrated and fighting. Now we run to a therapist looking for a miracle when we done missed out on three or four years of good therapy.”

“And early intervention is the key,” Becky reminded us. “The sooner your child gets help, the better the outcome.”

“So what’s next?” I asked Becky. “How do I get my baby to a point where autism is in his past and college and a career are in his future?”

I had been so frustrated prior to meeting Becky. Nobody helped me. Nobody told me what I needed to do. Not one doctor, therapist or specialist threw me a life-line.

Becky was different. She walked over to her desk, got a pencil, some paper and a clipboard that she handed to me and directed, “Write down what I’m about to tell you. This is what you need to do for Brandon.”

With that she laid out the road map for my son’s successful transition from special education to accelerated learner:

  • Get him into a quality private pre-school a few days per week. Keep him out of special education classes in the public school if you can. Make sure the pre-school teachers are educated and have degrees.
  • When he does go to elementary school, make sure you have a plan to mainstream him into a regular classroom as quickly as he’s ready for it.
  • Have him see a good private speech therapist. The public schools will provide some special services like speech and occupational therapy, but if you want the best care, you’re going to have to pay for it.
  • Find an occupational and physical therapist Brandon can visit once weekly so he can work on his fine and gross motor skills.
  • Get under the care of a developmental pediatrician and a developmental psychologist for yearly evaluations and medications that may be helpful to curb some of the typical autistic behaviors.
  • And finally, and most importantly, get him signed up for applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy either at a center or in the home. This method of therapy has been proven the most effective at helping children with autism.

I could have kissed that White lady on the mouth. She had just laid out a solid foundation to help heal my child. But after looking over my notes, I asked, “How, Ms. Becky, can I afford this? Private school. Three or four different kinds of therapy. Medication from specialists who may or may not take my insurance—”

She cut me off: “There are scholarships and grants available that will give you the money to pay for everything you need for your child. All you have to do is go online to find them, then apply.”

I left her office with a mission, determined to find help for my baby.

The speech therapist she recommended cost a whopping $800 a month (they so good, honey, they don’t even take insurance; it’s a straight cash payment like the weed man). It didn’t come out of my pocket, though, because I applied for a United Health Care Foundation Grant that gave me $5,000 to cover the cost.

The tab for that applied behavior therapy for Brandon was $900 per month, and that was after our medical coverage kicked in. It didn’t matter because I found the C.A.D.E. scholarship [Children with Autism Deserve Education, a Minnesota nonprofit] and it paid for an entire year.

I continued to find more and more resources. Before it was all over, I raised nearly $50,000 to pay for all the good therapy Brandon needed. I got so good at finding money to pay for stuff, I started holding free workshops for parents who have special needs kids to teach them how to find grant money and scholarships for their children.

And guess what? All the White churches let me in, and they were always full of folks who were looking for financial assistance. Our Black churches would not let me in. Well, that’s not fair to say all of them rejected me; I’m still waiting on the deacon board from a few of them to get back with me.

And remember, I’m doing this for free!

Now, after three years of quality therapy like them White folks be getting, my child is in a regular kindergarten classroom. He’s reading, doing math, giving me eye contact, talking and talking back.

Yes, honey, he is a typical five-year-old boy. Today, right now, you can’t tell he had been diagnosed with autism.

God is good. I’m glad He chose me to be this bright little boy’s mommy. Brandon has hope and a bright future, and I’m thankful to Ms. Becky for giving me the roadmap to get there.

I was home free with Brandon’s recovery – or so I thought. I must have done too good a job, because the Lord decided to choose me two more times. My daughter Cameron and my son Daniel have also been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting ready to do battle. This time I have all the weapons I need. My family motto: We want our kids healed, not helped!

Sheletta has provided a list of centers in the Twin Cities that provide excellent care to children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. In addition, she’s provided links to all the scholarships and grants that are available to pay for therapy and medication. See below for details.

1. Partners in Excellence
2. Fraser Center
3. Family Achievement Center
4. Lovaas Institute
5. Minnesota Autism Center
6. Behavior Therapy Solutions
Scholarships/Grants available to pay for therapy
1. Children with Autism Deserve Education
2. United Healthcare Children’s Foundation
3. Small Steps In Speech
4. RiteCare of Minneapolis-St. Paul
5. Autism Recovery Foundation
6. First Hand Foundation
7. ACT Today
8. MyGOAL Enrichment Grant
9. Blooming with Autism
10. Helping Hand Foundation

Sheletta Brundidge is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at

BOOK CORNER: Author offers insight to the world of autism

BOOK CORNER: Author offers insight to the world of autism

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the world and in “Help Me Understand My Child: A Mother’s Truth About Autism,” author Florence Bracy introduces readers to the world of special needs.

Inside her new memoir, Bracy chronicles her inspirational journey of how she advocated for 12 years for her son who has autism. She shares the secrets of how she overcame many challenges and obstacles and what it took to support her son successfully.

One of the challenges she mentions was the act of gaining access to the proper services in school districts and regional centers that help assist children with special needs.

“Most parents are overwhelmed upon learning how to secure services and live with a child with autism,” Bracy said. “There are a lot of feelings and acceptance issues that come up. This book provides strategies on how to cope through this process.”

Florence Bracy

Florence Bracy

The book is a story of hope that will definitely interest families who have children with autism or adults with autism, and others who have an interest in the population. Bracy hopes that family members who have someone with autism are filled with a sense of empowerment after reading her book.

In addition to being an author, Bracy is a paralegal in a domestic violence clinic. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

To learn more about the author and to join her support group, visit her website, Meetings are held in the Los Angeles area.

Bracy will have a book signing at South Central Los Angeles Regional Center from 6 to 8:30 p.m. May 4. To attend, rsvp at 

“Help Me Understand My Child: A Mother’s Truth About Autism” is available for $18.95 or $9.99 (e-book) on Amazon.

The post BOOK CORNER: Author offers insight to the world of autism appeared first on Wave Newspapers.

COMMENTARY: Autism: moving from acceptance to action 

COMMENTARY: Autism: moving from acceptance to action 

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logo


In honor of April being National Autism Awareness Month, Sheletta Brundidge shares the first of a two-part story chronicling her discovery that three of her four children were on the autism spectrum.

My son Brandon was two years old when our autism journey began. He was playing with a couple of toys in the restroom while I was nearby bathing his then-one-year old sister Cameron (I was pregnant with their soon-to-be-born baby brother Daniel at the time). She was splashing around in the tub having fun and I guess he decided he’d look for a neighboring body of water to splash around in, too.

Brandon made a bee-line for the toilet and took a nose dive. Being a germaphobe I yelled out, “Noooooooooooo!” before sprinting over to pull his head out of the bowl. His face was wet, his hair was damp and he was as happy as he could be.

I immediately took Cameron out of the tub and put Brandon in, scrubbing him as hard as I could trying to get those toilet germs off his face. I remember looking at him in the eye and pleading “Son, don’t play in the toilet, okay?”

He looked beyond me with a blank stare, as if I wasn’t standing there. I knew instantly something was wrong. The light that had been in my son’s eyes was dimmed ever so slightly.

He couldn’t figure out what I was saying to him, and worse yet, he didn’t know how to respond. He began babbling and looking around as if imaginary butterflies were capturing his attention. He couldn’t give me direct eye contact.

“Oh no,” I thought, “Something is wrong with my baby!” Then I wondered, “How long has this been going on?” I blamed myself for not noticing sooner. How could I not see that my son was slipping into darkness?

I was working full-time, raising a growing family, being a mom, a wife, a daughter, an employee. I was busy keeping my house clean and too preoccupied with chores to have a handle on my child’s mental development.

I hadn’t taken a moment to notice —until my son dunked his head in a toilet — that he wasn’t behaving like a normal two-year-old.

He was lining his food up and not eating it. He was still drinking from a bottle.

He wouldn’t make eye contact. He was babbling instead of talking. He didn’t respond to his name when I called for him. I missed all the warning signs. I ignored all the clues.

My. Son. Had. Autism.

I cried. I stopped eating. I got down to 96 pounds. I was curled up in the fetal position under the table, unable to do anything except feel sorry for myself. My momma had to come and take care of my kids. I couldn’t even fold laundry or brush my teeth, because, of course, I made it all about me. I’m a narcissist after all.

Somehow I thought I had failed as a parent and caused my son to have autism. So, instead of getting busy finding help for my child, I cowered in fear of what life had to offer a Black boy with special needs.

Since he couldn’t speak, would the police shoot him if he didn’t respond to their commands?

Would he ever be able to get a job and support himself? What about college? Without words, could he find a wife?

All the dreams I had for little Brandon were taking a nose dive out of the freakin’ window.

I had decided, that at age two, my son’s life was over and there was no hope for him.

But God reached down and snatched me out from under the kitchen table and said: “I chose you!” My spirit awakened and I realized this was a blessing: Of all the women in the world, God picked me to be Brandon’s mother. What an honor that He selected me to be the shepherd of this little life.

I had to get it together for my baby, so he could live out his God-given destiny and reach his full potential. It was all on me to get it done.

First I went to the folk closest to me for assistance. But since I didn’t have friends who had kids with special needs, nobody could tell me what to do. I tried to call on my family but that quickly backfired.

My momma brushed off my suspicions about Brandon having autism as just me being dramatic. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that damn boy. You just looking for attention; he gon’ talk when he gets ready. Your cousin Meme didn’t talk until she was 3.”

My grandmother outright blamed me for everything, “If you had just got an epidural during your pregnancy,” she quipped, “the boy would be fine now. But you wanted to do that natural childbirth [expletive]. He probably ain’t get no oxygen to his brain. That’s why he ain’t talking. It’s your fault, Sheletta.”

Since family and friends wouldn’t come to my rescue, I turned to the professionals.

Everything that I read about having an autism diagnosis said early detection and intervention is the key to success. So I made an appointment at a children’s hospital to get Brandon evaluated and tested for autism.

After three hours of checking out my son, the doctor stepped out of the room and declared, “Yep, you were right, your child has autism. Have a good life.”

Now what? What do I do with my special needs child? Does he need a prescription to keep him from flapping his hands? Or some speech sessions a couple times a week to help him learn how to talk? They didn’t give me one damn referral — not even a tip on what kind of therapy he needed or how I could go about getting services for Brandon.

I didn’t know what to do or where to turn, but I kept hearing God say, “I chose you!”

I knew this was gon’ be a “Roll up your sleeves — against all odds — me and my baby against the world” situation. So I went to my husband Shawn and asked if I could quit my job.

Without the worry of working every day, I dedicated my life to learning more about autism spectrum disorders and looking for ways to heal my child.

I didn’t want to get help for him. Forget help! I wanted Brandon healed from this autism diagnosis, so he could grow up to be the man God designed him to be without deficit or deficiency. I prayed for God to send the answer and He did.

But in the meantime, both Cameron and my newborn son Daniel were diagnosed with autism as well.

Next week, Sheletta encounters an angel who guided her through the proper therapy and medication to heal her son Brandon from the effects of his autism diagnosis. She will provide a blueprint for other parents to find services for their special needs children and scholarships that are available to pay for it all.

To learn more about autism, go here