Autism: What we Know (and What We Don’t)

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March, 2017
DVD Author: 
Ted Talks

In this Ted Talk, geneticist Dr. Wendy Chung discusses what is currently known about the causes of autism spectrum disorder. She delves into possible causes of ASD such as genetics and environment by relying on factual evidence. Her presentation includes information gathered by analyzing research and reviewing current “treatments.” A must watch for anyone wanting to know the truth behind his developmental disability.

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Best Kept Secret

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February, 2017
DVD Author: 
Samantha Buck

This documentary follows special education teacher Janet Mino and her group of students in Newark, New Jersey over the course of a school year. These students attend JFK High School, a public school which serves individuals with varying disabilities. Janet’s class is comprised of young men with autism who have been with her for four years and are all graduating. Over the course of the film, viewers follow Janet on her journey locating jobs or sports recreational centres so her students have placements upon graduation.

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A Double Shot of Happiness

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January, 2017
DVD Author: 
Tim and Judy Sharp

This Ted Talk showcases a mother and son, Judy and Tim Sharp, and their journey from Tim’s childhood to his present-day success as the creator of the superhero character Laser Beak Man. From being told when Tim was three he would never speak, learn or accomplish anything, Tim’s mother showcases how perseverance and belief in her son allowed him to become the successful man he is today. Through this Tim created Laser Beak Man and developed this character into cards, posters, cartoons and live plays.

To see merchandise and download his book please visit http://www.laserbeakman.com/

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A Double Shot of Happiness:

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December, 2016
DVD Author: 
Tim & Judy Sharp

This Ted Talk showcases a mother and son, Judy and Tim Sharp and their journey from Tim’s childhood to his present-day success as the creator of the superhero character Laser Beak Man. From being told when Tim was three he would never speak, learn or accomplish anything, Tim’s mother showcases how perseverance and belief in her son allowed him to become the successful man he is today. Through this Tim created Laser Beak Man and developed this character into cards, posters, cartoons and live plays.
Here is a link to the video: https://tedxsydney.com/talk/a-double-shot-of-happiness-tim-judy-sharp/

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Sounding the Alarm: Battling the Autism Epidemic

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November, 2016
DVD Author: 
John Block

This documentary created by Autism Speaks discusses the rise of autism spectrum disorder. They capture the effects of autism on the individual, families and overall support networks. Focus is also given to 12 families, all of whom have a son or daughter with autism. They discuss the economic toll that occurs while families try to find appropriate supports for this children. Additionally, time is spent on reviewing some current research and the general socio-economic struggles associated with the rise of this developmental disability. The Canadian viewer should keep in mind that this documentary was created in the states, so the family experience in Canada may differ.

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Autism in Love

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October, 2016
DVD Author: 
Matt Fuller, Director

Autism in Love is a documentary showcasing four individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their romantic relationships.

Creators wanted to focus on adults with ASD as there is less documentation on this age group. The documentary demonstrates the challenges and intricacies of romantic relationships for individuals with autism due to deficits in social communication. Overall, the focus on romantic relationships for individuals with ASD showcases the impact this social area has on mental health and quality of life.

If you like updates on the individuals followed in the documentary, you can check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AutismInLove/.

You may download the video from http://www.autisminlove.com/services3

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The A Word

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September, 2016
DVD Author: 
BBC One

The BBC has recently released a 6-episode drama series (currently in the first season) that focuses on the progression of family dynamics as one son is diagnosed with autism. It was recently announced the show is renewed for a second season (2017).

The drama follows a five-year old boy, Joe, and his family living in England. Joe demonstrates significant difficulties with communication, sensory stimulation, social skills and social interactions. The series not only focuses on the diagnosis process for the parents and the associated emotions/feelings, it also integrates family life and the demands of raising a child with autism. Joe has a sister who inevitably feels unnoticed, his parents struggle with their own relationship difficulties, and his grandfather appears to struggle with his social abilities.

Although some situations portrayed within the show may be perceived as cliché, the series illustrates a family dealing with an ASD diagnosis as they attempt to manage everyday life situations and relationships. When families receive a diagnosis of autism, they may find themselves overwhelmed and sometimes feel isolated from friends and family members.

Although a fictional drama, some of the issues families may face during that time are represented within the show. There have been some critical reviews in regard to how the parents come to terms with their son’s autism. Although there are parents who do not struggle in a similar way, it is important to consider that some may have difficulty with the initial diagnosis period.

While the show may not encompass all realistic aspects of life with a child on the spectrum, it does represent some of the struggles families encounter when a diagnosis appears in an already overwhelmed family.

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Loving Lampposts

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August, 2016
DVD Author: 
Todd Drezner

Loving Lampposts exposes multiple viewpoints regarding autism. The filmmaker opens up the world to look at the emotional journey his family encounters when their son is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Rather than promote fear around the current myths of autism origins, he focuses on the unconditional love for his son and acceptance of who he is.

Given the abundance of non-researched movements used to “cure” a child of autism, Dezner poses the important question, can people love a child with autism without wanting to cure them? Through interviews with parents, adults on the spectrum, and other people he embarks on an emotional journey to answer this question. Movements such as the vaccination myth, dietary changes, supplement therapy, and oxygen therapies are critiqued within the film.

Dezner also examines the adult population, which can be sometimes overlooked as children are in the spotlight for many documentaries. He interviews various adults on the spectrum who disclose difficulties with employment, independent lifestyle, and the daily prejudice they encounter. The general population often wonder about the increase in diagnosed cases throughout the world and Dezner offers suggestions around the reasons behind those numbers.

As a population, we sometimes think that individuals must change to fit into a pre-determined mold set by societal pressures.Loving Lampposts looks at the idea of neuro-diversity where we accept individuals as they are rather than mainstreaming. The documentary emphasises parents who accept their children and how they develop joy in their relationships without altering their kids.

Available through iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.

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Mind Reading: The Interactive Guide to Emotions

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July, 2016
DVD Author: 
Simon Baren-cohen

Through the Mind Reading DVD, individuals discover over 400 human emotions. Users can see and hear each emotion portrayed by six people to demonstrate differences within emotional expression.

Although the DVD supports all individuals who require extra instruction in emotional identification, it was designed to provide assistance to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Some individuals with ASD have difficulty interpreting facial cues and voice tone. Through use of the DVD’s and accompanying computer software, students become familiar with emotions and comprehend facial expressions and tone of voice.

An emotions library is provided where students can study 412 different emotions. Each emotion is complemented with six video clips that use various people to demonstrate individual variability within emotional expression. Additionally, audio clips are provided to display various tones of voice. The emotions library can be purchased separately.

The creators of the DVD included a Learning Centre intended for students with ASD. Within the learning centre, lessons and quizzes are available to teach emotions in a systematic way and to test recognition. Level of difficulty can be altered to accommodate age and ability. To help motivate students, a set of rewards are available. Finally, a game centre that focuses on informal learning around emotions is available for students to choose from.

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Watch Me Learn: Video Modelling

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June, 2016

Research has indicated that children with autism spectrum disorder learn various skills through video modeling. Video modeling is an evidence- based intervention used to teach children with autism effective social skills. The videos include children engaging in socially appropriate interactions and demonstrating effective social skills.

Watch Me Learn is a collection of video models that teachers can use in their classroom to help support students on the spectrum. Since each video teaches a variety of different skills, each one can be used for multiple social skill development. There are three levels of teaching; teaching expressive and receptive vocabulary, direct modeling of the targeted skill, and the application of learned skills in a generalized activity.

According to the Watch Me Learn website, it is important to incorporate teaching lessons during the session. The teacher or adult is encouraged to ask who, when, what, how, why, where questions during one-on-one or small group sessions. This allows children to conceptualize the learned skills and generalization to other areas.

The product list contains a number of different DVDs, including:

  • A New Beginning teaches beginner developmental skills within the context of play (greet and wave, blowing bubbles, building blocks, peek-a-boo, etc.)
  • Let’s Play teaches beginner and advanced beginner developmental skills (puzzles, drawing faces, abc’s, tea party, hide and seek, etc.)
  • School Days teaches children how to proceed through a school day (bus rides, art, listening time, recess, speech, academics, etc.); and Friends that teaches children the skills required to interact and socialize with peers (turn taking, sharing, offering help, conversations, etc.).

There are many other videos and DVDs found on the website. A streaming service is also offered to obtain access to all the videos found on the site.

The site is easy to navigate and there are many helpful tips to implement video models in the classroom or through a one-on-one setting.

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