Autism on PBS

Subject: PBS Press Release: Autism Today

Importance: High
Robert MacNeil returns to PBS NEWSHOUR to report on Autism Today
6-part series airs during Autism Awareness Month
April 18 – 26, 2011
ARLINGTON, VA (March 29, 2011) – Autism – it’s a developmental disorder that has become increasingly prevalent, affecting 1 out of 110 American children. Despite years of study, little is known about its cause and access to treatment varies. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of American families hungry for answers struggle to care for the unique needs of children with the disorder. Among them, Robert MacNeil, co-founder of the PBS NewsHour and grandfather of Nick, a 6-year old boy with autism.
“I’ve been a reporter on and off for 50 years, but I’ve never brought my family into a story … until Nick,” MacNeil said, “because he moves me deeply.”
MacNeil and producer Caren Zucker tell the story of Autism Today in a 6-part broadcast series beginning Monday, April 18, 2011 and a robust online component where viewers can join the conversation. Ms. Zucker has produced many stories on autism and is the mother of a 16-year old son with autism.
Monday, April 18 An introduction to Nick and autism as a whole body experience: MacNeil brings viewers along on a visit with his daughter and grandson Nick in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to see how autism affects the whole family, including his 10-year-old sister, Neely. Nick experiences autism not just as a disorder in brain development but also as physical ailments affecting the whole body.
Tuesday, April 19 Autism Prevalence: Why are the numbers of children with autism increasing? At the UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, California, MacNeil sees the wide range of different behaviors that comprise the autism spectrum. Anthropologist Richard Grinker argues that the rising numbers of children with autism is explained because conditions previously given other names, like mental retardation, are now included in the autism spectrum. Scientist Irva Hertz-Picciotto says the wider definition only partly explains the increased prevalence, pointing instead to a variety of environmental factors.
Wednesday, April 20 Autism Causes: The rise in autism numbers has caused a surge in research to find the causes. For the latest thinking, Robert MacNeil speaks with four leading researchers: Dr. Gerald Fischbach of the Simons Foundation, Dr. David Amaral of the MIND Institute, Dr. Martha Herbert of Harvard University and Dr. Craig Newschaffer of Drexel University.
Thursday, April 21 Autism Treatment: Although children with autism see doctors periodically, they go to school everyday. It is the school system that bears most of the burden of treating children with autism because treatment means education. MacNeil visits two schools in New York – a public school in the Bronx teaching 700 children with autism and a charter school created in Manhattan as a model of possibilities in educating children with autism. With only 30 students, it can use one-on-one teacher/student ratios employing intensive Applied Behavioral Analysis – the gold standard treatment for autism.
Monday, April 25 Adults with Autism: Although federal law mandates educational services for children with autism, there are virtually no services when they become adults. MacNeil profiles Zachary Hamrick in Mahwah, New Jersey, about to turn 21. As his family contemplates the uncertain future now facing hundreds of thousands of young people like him, his parents ask themselves, “What will happen when we die?”
Tuesday, April 26 Autism Policy: The NewsHour series ends with a discussion of the public policy issues raised in the series, including the enormous discrepancy in the quality and availability of services for children and future adults in what the federal committee that determines research priorities for autism now calls a “national health emergency” with a panel of experts including: Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Catherine Lord, Professor of Psychology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, Ilene Lainer, Executive Director of the New York Center for Autism – a private advocacy group, and John Shestack, a Hollywood producer and the co-founder of “Cure Autism Now” a former advocacy group.
PBS NEWSHOUR will host an online content hub that will offer easy access to video of all the pieces in the series, as well as web-only features that are part of Autism Today, including:
First Look Online: In a brand new online-on-air cross promotion, check the NewsHour’s website after each night’s broadcast during the week April 18: We’ll post the next chapter in the Autism Today series online by 7pm ET.
·         Autism 101 – A primer on autism, how it’s diagnosed, the spectrum of disorders, and available resources. We’ll also look at the costs of austim, through the lens of the families profiled in the series and others.
·         The Story of Donald – A new look at Caren Zucker and John Donvan’s profile of the first child diagnosed with autism as reported in The Atlantic.
·         Live Chat with Experts – Viewers can ask their questions directly to the experts and doctors profiled in the broadcast segments via live text chat moderated by PBS NEWSHOUR digital correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.
·         Ask Robin MacNeil – Hari Sreenivasan will preview the series with Robin MacNeil in a special interview on the Rundown news blog. MacNeil will also answer viewer questions after the series concludes.
·         Join us on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook: We want to hear how you or those you know are coping with autism. Use the Twitter hashtag #autismtoday to ask questions or join the conversation on the series.
PBS NEWSHOUR is seen five nights a week on more than 315 PBS stations across the country and is also available online, via public radio in select markets and via podcast. The program is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, in association with WETA Washington, DC, and THIRTEEN in New York. Major corporate funding for The NewsHour is provided by Chevron, Bank of America and Intel, with additional support from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.

Contact: Anne Bell 703.998.2175, Rob Flynn 703.998.2174.

There are also 890 references/links that come up when you do a search for autism on the PBS television website

The Tutors Have Arrived

So I think I mentioned here before how Riley was granted the Ohio Autism Scholarship. What that means is we now have two different tutors coming to the house a total of 8 hours per week, and they are teaching math, science, and Spanish (using music and art). They are seasoned teachers. They are loving and warm. They “get” Riley, and let me tell you the teachers who get her always fall in love, and that process has started.

While Riley is working on math with her tutor, Seth and I read a bit of Indiana Jones, then we do other important things. Sometimes we do a meditation, sometimes we do an abundance/appreciation exercise, sometimes we have a tickle fight. Sometimes we put our faces very close together and say, “You have one eye,” over and over. Seth and I rarely had time like this when he was tiny.

Your hat’s in my eye.”

Former State Rep. Jon M. Peterson, (a Republican!) is responsible for the creation of the scholarship Riley is receiving. I’ve heard he has a daughter with a form of autism. It is one of the first special ed voucher systems in the country. Parents who decide to pull their kids with autism from school may receive up to 20K per year in tutoring services by approved providers under the scholarship. Services must coincide with IEP goals, and therapies not specifically written into the child’s IEP are not covered. The school district is getting money (a lot more than 20K) from the state for Riley. It is only fair some of it should be spent on her, especially since she was not thriving in school.

It’s been two weeks since the tutors arrived. We are enjoying the support. Riley is fully engaged. We’ve learned as far as education goes, not to look too far ahead, but for now we’re in a good place.

If you’ll excuse me I’m going to go do something I’ve never done before. Write a thank you note to a Republican.

Riley’s always teaching.

Autism & Alleluias


As you can discern from the title, religion is woven throughout Kathleen Deyer Bolduc’s Autism & Alleluias. Despite attending Unity churches for several years, I consider myself one of those now cliched “spiritual but not religious” people so I wasn’t sure what I would think about it.  Since everyone does not have to think exactly like me, and since I like to support other parents of kids with special needs I agreed to be part of her on-line book tour.

It didn’t take long to find a connection. In church on Christmas Eve, her son is getting agitated. Kathleen discovers if she changes her attitude, her son’s energy shifts as well.   

Score! Exactly what I know to be true.

In the next chapter she owns up to being royally pissed off (my words not hers).

I can relate.

She meditates.

Me too.

She has moments of utter despondency in which her child extends heartbreakingly beautiful kindness.

Been there.

She considers the possibilty that even though her church is conservative, her son’s loud, full body way of participating in the service might not be wrong.   

Love this.

I’m glad I read the book. As I went through Autism & Alleluias, I was able to see how despite differences in spiritual beliefs, autism parents are more alike than unalike.  

We all love our kids.

We all struggle.

We all shine brilliantly sometimes.

One Source.

Many paths.

All perfect.

One love.



For info on  Deyer Bolduc’s April 8th Webinar, which will focus on helping churches be more welcoming of people with differences, click here.

Our Easter

So what do you do after you were just bamboozled into your first solo and you want to push it far, far from your mind?  You take the kids to the zoo. How about HT’s new fully shaved head? He finally went all the way. This is us waiting for the trolley at the Cleveland Zoo. I’ve told you before how Todd’s eyes disappear when he laughs. Here’s actual proof. I have not seen his eyes in 14 years because he thinks I’m such a riot. IMG_2617




Seth got his hands on the map, and went all “little expert” on us. It was such a beautiful, relaxed afternoon, we went with it and let him navigate. He loves to navigate.



 My babies.


 My guys. 


My girl.


Monkeys watching the monkeys.



I don’t believe you. You’re that pesky shark!

I’m not a shark ma’am, I’m a dolphin.



For some reason we wound up spending a lot of time in the aquarium. Not rushing is good. No crowds at the zoo on Easter Sunday. It was just us and a few Jewish folks.



We leaned over a stone wall, and stared at the giraffes, mesmerized by their patterns and slow lanky movements. Each of us thinking our own thoughts,  

What’s it like to be tall?

What’s it like to be tall?

What’s it like to be tall?

What’s it like to be tall?


This is Riley feeling victorious after duping her mother earlier in the day.


She claims “the chocolate made her do it.”

Come to think of it, she did eat a small chocolate bunny that morning.