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Welcome to our weekly recap for everything autism related!  We want to keep you up to date on all that is happening in the autism community. Now let’s begin, shall we?

1. Mall Santa Goes Above and Beyond For Boy with Autism

For your weekly (or daily) dose of adorable feels, here is a good ol’ Christmas story of Santa going the extra mile.  In Charlotte, North Carolina, a Caring Santa program was organized by Autism Speaks that took place after mall hours, and gave children on the autism spectrum the chance to experience the joy of asking Santa for their wishes.

The sensory overload that takes place in malls, most especially during Christmas time, can be too much for those on the spectrum.  As a result, many children with ASD are unable to take part in these quintessential holiday experiences.

This Santa clearly understood the apprehensiveness of the little boy and took it upon himself to connect with him on his level.  Read here for more.

 Santa on floor with autistic boy 

2. Study: More Children Getting Autism Screening at Younger Ages

With the latest study coming out announcing that 1 in 45 people are now diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, compared with the previous 1 in 68, times are changing. Awareness is spreading (#AutismAwareness).  According to a new study from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the median age in 2002 for ASD screening was at 32 months, and then in 2006 it was 27 months. 

What does this mean?

Earlier diagnosis means more time and access for early intervention during crucial stages that can help with learning language and communication skills.  Read here for more:

Infographic of children getting diagnosed with autism at earlier ages 

3. Robots4Autism Teaching Children with Autism Good Social and Emotional Behaviors

New autism related therapies and assistive technology has been popping up more than ever over the past few years.  This week, a humanoid robot named Milo created by Robots4Autism, has been shown to help elementary and middle school children better understand emotions. 

What makes Milo unique is that he is the only robot, so far, programmed to have facial expressions based on emotions.  For this reason, Milo is able to instruct kids on the spectrum on how to go about various social situations involving things like eye contact and managing meltdowns. Read here for more:

 4. Six of the World’s Greatest Minds May Have Been Autistic, a Professor Says

While it may forever be impossible to prove, there will always be clues, hints and of course, speculation.  This time it comes from one of the most respected autism researchers in the world, the director of the Cambridge Autism Research Center, Simon Baron Cohen.

The 6 geniuses? You may have heard of one or two before:

Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Michelangelo and Andy Warhol.

Cohen goes on to list some of the autistic characteristics that were said to have described many of these prodigies, such as being non-verbal at an early age, having fixed tendencies and avoiding social interactions.  Read here for more:

 Albert Einstein may have been had Autism Spectrum Disorder

 5. Music Speaks to Autistic Brains, Researchers Find

The sound of music has always had a way of communicating to people on a deeper level.  It transcends spoken language.  While many people on the spectrum have difficulties verbalizing themselves, music offers another possible mode of communication.

Claudia Vassallo, the mother of a 5 year old son with autism, said that after 6 months of the study, a noticeable difference was made in his ability to communicate.  Initially described as non-verbal, Vassallo found that after music therapy, he had more intonations in his voice, in conjunction with more humming and singing.  Read here for more:

 Man plays piano to boy with autism

That's our update for this week. Enjoy your weekend, and check back for our update next Friday.

Written by Ryan Leung — December 11, 2015

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