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Respected autism summer camp lives on thanks to new owners

by Dawn Grosvenor

Talisman Summer CampsFor 16 years, Talisman Summer Camps has offered unique programs for young people with autism and other developmental disabilities. This year, the adventure camp will continue operations under the new ownership and management by familiar faces!

Between owners Douglas Smathers and Linda Tatsapaugh, and admission director Robiyn Mims, the new operations team brings 15 years of Talisman experience and over 50 years of serving special needs children.

Talisman Summer Camps offers engaging and fulfilling programs for children, pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults with learning differences. Campers are offered a safe, nurturing environment where they can create new friendships, experience new adventures, and connect with counselors year after year.

So, what does summer 2014 hold for Talisman?

“For summer 2014, campers can expect to see many familiar faces among returning staff.  Programming will continue to develop from its well-grounded base, with some exciting additions to even better-address campers’ needs and interests.” – Talisman Summer Camps

If you have or know of a child, teenager, or young adult that would like to attend Talisman Summer Camps, head over to their official website for more information about the programs offered and to register! You can also follow Talisman on Facebook for news and updates.

Please note that Future Horizons does not endorse this company, nor do we receive royalties or commission for posting this news item. We are most interested in spreading awareness about resources that could benefit the autism community.

Photo courtesy of Talisman Summer Camps.

Autism resources from Future Horizons:

Different...Not Less

Different...Not Less
By Dr. Temple Grandin
Building Bridges

Building Bridges
By Ellen Yack, et al.
How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger's

How to Teach Life Skills
By Jennifer McIlwee Myers

Find more resources in the Future Horizons book store!

Winners of the 2014 Temple Grandin Awards

by Dawn Grosvenor

Future Horizons proudly announces the Temple Grandin Award winners for 2014! Congratulations to these wonderful individuals and thank you to all who participated. Learn more about each winner and his or her unique achievements below!


Temple Grandin Award Winners 2014


Benjamin Tarasewicz is a 19-year-old high school student who has gone from being completely non-verbal with obsessions to a verbal and exceptionally social person. He gives educational presentations titled “Living with Autism” accompanied by a 28-slide power-point show.


Triin Kuddo is a 27-year-old who has just earned her Master’s Degree in Process and Environmental Systems Engineering. She has idolized Temple Grandin since she was 12 years old. When Triin discovered Thinking in Pictures, she found someone who shared her ways and she no longer felt alone.


Alis Rowe is a 25 year old in the UK with Asperger's Syndrome. She has created the social enterprise, the curly hair project, in order to improve communication between women with ASD and their neurotypical loved ones. She is the author of several books and an award winning social entrepreneur. Alis has a degree and masters in chemistry. Her books can be purchased on


Jonathan Murphy is a 28-year-old man with Asperger’s syndrome who grew up with all of the struggles of isolation, bullying and social anxieties and he now has the confidence to earn a living as a performer. He is proud to be a writer of Geek Club Books as well as the creator of a storybook app based on his experiences with Asperger's and bullying.


Kade Vilbig is a young man with Asperger’s syndrome who is in the process of earning a Bachelor of Nursing at Idaho State University. He heads ISU’s Inclusion Club for students with disabilities. He is proud of accomplishing all of this after being told at 9 years old that he would never be able to function on a normal level.


Kevin Larson is a young man with Autism and senior in high school. He has earned a scholarship to participate in the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the US Space and Rocket Center in Alabama as well as a National Merit Semifinalist. He will attend Texas A&M next year.


Angi Shumate is a teacher who has left the public school system to start her own school specifically for kids on the autism spectrum. She has implemented a new style in reaching her students and has had wonderful results. Her impact on the community is immense.


Marie Moore is a young woman who, after being misdiagnosed as being mentally disabled, having a speech impediment, being bipolar and having ADHD, was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s two years ago. She really connected with the HBO film Temple Grandin and has made great strides in her life and within her community.


Hayden Holman is a very young man who has had many accomplishments, just in this last year.  He can dress himself, count money, order meals in restaurants, and do chores without being told.  He has also learned some French, Spanish, and German numbers, as well as colors and animals.


Elizabeth Pritchard is a 20-year-old college student with Asperger’s and she is working hard to educate others about how it has affected her life. In high school, she wrote and illustrated comic books about life with Asperger’s. She was just inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.


Cameron Bakeris a young man who has made great strides in this past year.  He volunteers at the library. He hosted a summer reading program and helped a young girl to learn to read. He is working very hard at forming friendships with his peer group and getting better each day at socializing.


Erin Johnson is a 13-year-old young girl with Asperger’s who is working on mastering personal relationships. She has been playing the violin since kindergarten and is an accomplished violinist playing in her school orchestra, The Schaumburg Youth Orchestra as well as The Schaumburg Chamber Music Orchestra.


Laurie A. Couture is a 39-year old author, consultant, speaker, mental health counselor, artist and mom. She has appeared on national TV and has had several articles published around the world. She adopted her 20-year-old son, who is also on the spectrum, when he was 11. Laurie is a passionate child advocate who, despite struggling with sensory issues and social skills, has achieved respect and admiration from families and professionals internationally. To learn more, please visit

Extraordinary Ventures creates job opportunities for individuals with autism

by Dawn Grosvenor

Extraordinary VenturesFor many parents with children on the autism spectrum, the thought of whether or not their child will find employment once they reach adulthood is daunting and filled with uncertainty. One North Carolina group has made it their mission to employ individuals with autism, making having a job not an impossible idea, but instead, a point in life that affected families can look forward to.

Extraordinary Ventures is a nonprofit organization with an important goal in mind: create small businesses purposefully to employ individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, EV creates job opportunities that are suitable for people with autism by involving tasks that center around skills that they already possess. Some of the main job “ventures” currently in place through Extraordinary Ventures are laundry services, candle-making, cooking, and bus cleaning!

Extraordinary VenturesEV employs over 40 individuals with autism. All employees earn at least minimum wage and they have the option to work as many as 30-40 hours per week.

“I work at EV for two hours four days a week. I make twelve candles,” says employee Ewan Toscano in EV’s introductory video. “I love my job. I see my friends.”

To learn more about this organization, visit the Extraordinary Ventures website and follow th em on Facebook and Twitter.

If you are located in the Chapel Hill, NC area and you or someone you know is affected by autism or other developmental disabilities, we encourage you to join Future Horizons at our next Behavior Strategies conference in Raleigh on April 11! For more information and to register, visit our Raleigh conference page or call us at (800) 489-0727.

Please note that Future Horizons does not endorse this company, nor do we receive royalties or commission for posting this news item. We are most interested in spreading awareness about resources that could benefit the autism community.

Photos courtesy of WUNC and Extraordinary Ventures.

Facebook response gives boy with autism his best birthday yet

by Dawn Grosvenor

Logan's special 12th birthdayWhen Catherine Pearson posted a message on Facebook in hopes of making her son’s 12th birthday a special one, she had no idea that she would receive such an incredible response from people around the world!

Logan Pearson has severe autism, and year after year, his parents have felt an absence of acknowledgement and celebration on his birthday from those outside his family. For Logan’s 12th birthday on Feb. 24, his mom hoped for more for him. So, she turned to Facebook.

In a Facebook post, Catherine wrote:

“I want to CELEBRATE him and ENJOY his day on 2/24/14! So will you go right now and grab a piece of paper and write Happy Birthday Logan- from your FRIEND— in Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii… Etc? I want to make a birthday card book for him. Help us celebrate Logan’s birthday! Feel free to share this.”

Days later, and for the weeks following, Catherine and her husband were shocked to find an outpouring of birthday messages and gifts for Logan in the family’s mailbox in Massachusetts from strangers all over the globe. According to, Logan received thousands of cards, plus gifts and happy sentiments from the police department, a family in Australia, and even Elmo!
Logan's special 12th birthday

After hearing about Catherine’s post, the Cambridge Police Department even organized a birthday party for Logan, complete with cake and balloons, family, police officers, and new friends. Everyone sang the “Happy Birthday” song to Logan before he blew out the number twelve candles on his birthday cake.

“The world is giving this kid a hug, saying ‘You count, and we’re here for your birthday,’” Catherine told CBS News.

We bet Logan’s family will hold this occasion close to their hearts forever. Happy belated birthday to him!

Photos courtesy of CBS Boston.

Royal Caribbean becomes first certified autism-friendly cruise line

by Dawn Grosvenor

Royal Caribbean offers autism-friendly cruisesFor individuals and families affected by autism and similar disabilities, vacationing – or even only the idea of it – hopefully just got a bit easier. USA Today announced last week that Royal Caribbean is the first cruise line to be certified as autism-friendly by Autism on the Seas, something that the company has worked toward for quite some time.

Of the various cruise lines that have partnered with Autism on the Seas, they’ve seen a clear distinction in Royal Caribbean, which is why they chose to award them this certification.

“This shows a cruise line is actually committed to and will provide services and an expectation will be there,” said Autism of the Seas founder, Mike Sobbell. “Our working relationship with Royal Caribbean has been top of the line, bar none.”

According to USA Today, “the certification standards examine several areas, including staff training, youth programs, pre-vacation planning and services, dining and dietary, disability accommodations, guest satisfaction and feedback, and willingness to work with Autism at Sea staff.”

Royal Caribbean, in its efforts to establish autism-friendly services, will provide guests with sensory-friendly toys, youth activities that are catered to kids with autism, and modified dietary options, including gluten-free and dairy-free meals.
Autism on the Seas

Children with autism that attend a cruise will receive a personalized story book that provides details about the trip. Plus, cruises will screen autism-friendly movies with lighting and volume accommodations, where viewers will be able to move around if they wish.

To learn more about autism-friendly cruises or the companies that take part in this program, visit Autism on the Seas’ official website.

Please note that Future Horizons does not endorse these companies, nor do we receive royalties or commission for posting this news item. We are most interested in spreading awareness about resources that could benefit the autism community.

Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean and Autism on the Seas.

Philadelphia program teaches digital skills to students with autism

by Dawn Grosvenor

Autism Expressed“Digital literacy is an essential part of job-readiness, socialization and independence. Without these skills, this generation faces a critical barrier to independence.” – Autism Expressed

It’s clear that many of us live in a digital world, where social communication extends further than simply face-to-face conversation. But what does this mean for young people on the autism spectrum?

One Philadelphia high school teacher has an idea – and some ingenious solutions. Michele McKeone has created a program, Autism Expressed, which teaches technological skills to students with autism. The program’s purpose is to prepare students with the digital education that they’ll need in order to communicate effectively in social and professional situations.
Autism Expressed
One mom, Leslie Barretta,
spoke with about her son’s experience with the program. She’s a friend of McKeone’s and even though her son, Ben is only 10, she expressed how much it has already helped him.

“This makes the kids feel like they got information that's important,” Barretta said, “and it gives them a bridge to other kids – and that's something that's not so easy.”

From Internet basics to resume building, computer navigation, and even web design, Autism Expressed has a unique curriculum that caters to diversified learners. Currently, the program is based in Philadelphia, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see it expand soon, given the positive response that it’s received since it launched last year.

You can find out more about Autism Expressed at the official website and get updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos courtesy of Autism Expressed. 

Autism in photos and one mom's definition of success

by Dawn Grosvenor

One piece from Michalynn's photo story“It’s tough. There’s not a day where we don’t get frustrated, but there’s also not a day where she doesn’t do something that just amazes us.” – Erica Sanchez, on her daughter Michaelynn, who has autism.

Erica Sanchez is the mother of 4-year-old Michaelynn, or “Munchie” as her family calls her. Michaelynn was diagnosed with autism as an infant, and she was recently featured in a poignant photo story by photographer Clay Lomneth that captured aspects of her everyday life.

Not only were the results of the photo story beautiful and striking, they also created a space for Michaelynn’s mother to speak to her family’s experiences with autism.

After Munchie’s photo story was published, Erica Sanchez was interviewed by the Huffington Post. In an emotional moment, she expressed how important small successes are in her family’s household, and especially for Michaelynn.

“I have crayons all over my wall, and that's success in my household,” Sanchez said. “She picked up a crayon and she drew circles and lines on my walls, and they will stay there because I'm proud of that.”

She also shared her pride in the many obstacles that Michaelynn has overcome in the last four years. Sanchez explained that almost since birth, Michaelynn would not make eye contact with others and did not want to be close to people. Now, she says that Michaelynn shows affection and gives her siblings hugs and kisses.

Michaelynn’s successes, Sanchez says, not only make her proud, but give her more self-confidence to go forward. She says that her daughter has taught her that she has more patience and strength than she could have ever imagined.

For more on this story, watch Erica Sanchez’s interview and view Michaelynn’s photo story. Michaelynn’s family also runs an autism awareness page on Facebook, which you can follow at Raising Autism, Raising Awareness.

If you are the parent of a child with autism, consider turning to our helpful resources below. These titles and many more are available now in the Future Horizons’ book store!

Early Intervention & Autism

Early Intervention & Autism
By James Ball
Temple Grandin 2014 Presentation DVD

Temple Grandin 2014 Presentation DVD
By Temple Grandin
1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s

1,001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger's
By Ellen Notbohm and
Veronica Zysk

Photo courtesy of Clay Lomneth.

Young artist with autism mentors students on the spectrum

by Dawn Grosvenor

Justin Canha"I have autism, but my ability is to draw, and drawing can be my real hope in life." – Justin Canha

Young artist Justin Canha recently visited a Lee, Massachusetts art gallery, where he mentored students from Berkshire College during his cartooning workshop. Not only does Justin have autism, but the students participating in the workshop are also on the spectrum.

Even more, the workshop was filmed as part of Don’t Foil My Plans, an in-progress documentary project about “autism, creativity and coming of age.”

At twenty-four, Justin is a success story in the eyes of many, but especially those in the autism community. In 2011, The New York Times dedicated an in-depth piece exclusively to Justin’s journey with autism, his many struggles and accomplishments along the way, and the challenges he faced as he finished school and longed for independence.

Justin CanhaJustin’s independence and career goals of being an animator-illustrator have been at the forefront of his mind for years. From baking and decorating cakes to exhibiting his art and volunteering, Justin has achieved beyond what others expected of him, and it doesn’t look like he plans to slow down any time soon.

You can follow Justin’s artwork by liking his Facebook page and visiting his website. Justin’s artwork is available for purchase at his Etsy store.

If you, a friend or a family member are in search of resources regarding autism and adulthood, look no further than the Future Horizons’ book store! We’ve highlighted a few titles below that we feel are highly useful.

Preparing For Life

Preparing for Life
By Jed Baker
Developing Talents

Developing Talents
By Temple Grandin
and Katie Duffy
Asperger's on the Job

Asperger's on the Job
By Rudy Simone


Images courtesy of The New York Times and Justin Canha's Facebook.

Temple Grandin's TED Talk featured in 'Overcoming' series

by Dawn Grosvenor

Temple Grandin - TED Radio Hour - Overcoming“The world needs different kinds of minds to work together.” – Temple Grandin

Last week, Temple Grandin’s TED Talk was featured on TED Radio Hour: Overcoming. Of the four featured speakers, Temple was first in line to speak to her experiences with Asperger’s syndrome, as it relates to “overcoming weakness and turning it into strength.”

Temple Grandin is a keynote speaker at many Future Horizons conferences, where she continues to inspire and motivate individuals across the globe. Visit our conferences page to find out more about how you can have the opportunity to meet Temple Grandin and listen to her speak about autism!

Upcoming Autism Conferences:
Monterey, CA – January 24
Denver, CO – February 14

Additionally, the 
Future Horizons’ book store offers numerous resources by Temple Grandin that can be useful to anyone with a connection to autism.

Photo courtesy of NPR/TED.

Susan Boyle diagnosed with Asperger's

by Dawn Grosvenor

Susan Boyle diagnosed with Asperger'sVocal extraordinaire Susan Boyle of Britain’s Got Talent has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

According to CNN, Boyle told The Observer newspaper that she was misdiagnosed with brain damage as a child. It wasn’t until 2012, when she sought out a specialist in Scotland, that Boyle was given an Asperger’s diagnosis.

The Future Horizons’ book store features numerous resources for individuals on the Autism spectrum. Notably, award-winning book ASPERGER’S AND GIRLS gives tremendous insight into the unique challenges faced by women and girls with Asperger’s syndrome.

Read more below about ASPERGER’S AND GIRLS and purchase a copy from the Future Horizons’ book store today! Available formats include paperback, Kindle, Nook, and Adobe PDF.

Photo courtesy of Susan Boyle's Facebook.

Asperger's and Girls - Future HorizonsAsperger's and Girls

Author(s): Tony Attwood, Teresa Bolick, Catherine Faherty, Temple Grandin, Lisa Iland, Jennifer McIlwee Myers, et al.

Winner of the Gold Award in the 2006 ForeWord Book of the Year competition, this groundbreaking book describes the unique challenges of women and girls with Asperger’s Syndrome. In it you’ll read candid stories written by the indomitable women who have lived them. You’ll also hear from experts who discuss whether “Aspie girls” are slipping under the radar, undiagnosed; why many AS women feel like a minority within a minority (outnumbered by men 4:1); practical solutions school systems can implement for girls; social tips for teenage girls, navigating puberty, the transition to work or university, and the importance of careers.

ISBN: 978-1-932565-40-9

Pages: 150