The “Koaster Kid” is Inspiring Kids with Autism to Conquer Their Fears

11-year old Logan Joiner is traveling around the United States conquering his fear of roller coasters to inspire other kids with special needs to overcome their own fears. His efforts have earned himself the nickname of the “Koaster Kid.”

Joiner is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and was nonverbal until the age of four. Children with autism are often hypersensitive to lights, sounds, textures, tastes, and smells. Growing up, Joiner struggled with sudden movements and loud noises. As such, he was never a fan of riding roller coasters.

In the beginning of June, the Koaster Kid bravely took on all 13 of the roller coasters at Six Flags New England in support of other children with developmental disabilities.

“We are riding all thirteen roller coasters here to raise money for Autism Speaks, and donating 113 theme park tickets so all the kids can experience the awesomeness of this park,” he told WWLP News.

Joiner has an impressive following on social media with over 10,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 2 million video views. He uses the outlet to document and share his roller coaster trips.

Above all, he hopes that his show of bravery will help other children with autism build up the courage to face their fears.

9-Year-Old Boy with Autism Heads to Gymnastics Nationals for the Third Time

For Micah Miner, a 9-year-old boy from Illinois, an autism diagnosis hasn’t held him back from accomplishing great things, particularly in the gymnastics world.

When he was five years old, he took up gymnastics at the Edwardsville YMCA in Illinois. Micah’s father, Maurice, says he struggled with “information overload” during his transition into the gymnastics program, but he soon learned gymnastics was a natural fit for him.

“It’s allowed him to blossom as a social individual,” Maurice told Belleville News-Democrat.

After overcoming his issues with focusing and taking orders from his coach, Micah tested into the advanced class at the YMCA and soon entered a competitive team.

According to Micah’s parents, his autism can both help and hinder his gymnastic abilities. Many children with autism engage in repetitive behaviors, and mastering gymnastics requires a high level of repetition. His parents say Micah will watch videos of himself or other gymnasts for hours, becoming fixated on the ways in which he can improve his own performance.

However, this intense level of concentration can also cause Micah to become upset if he notices any sort of stumbling or extra steps in his performances, which “can hinder him in performance later on,” Maurice says. “Autism is a black-and-white world for him. He’s his own worst critic. With autism, that’s heightened.”

Nonetheless, Micah has excelled in the sport over the last four years, racking up an impressive number of awards. In 2015, Micah won first place in trampoline and rod floor at the Southern Illinois state meet. The following year, he placed first in double mini, trampoline and rod floor in the advanced category at the same Southern Illinois state meet. In 2017, he took first place in the advanced boys 9-10 division in the double mini, trampoline, and rod floor competitions, which officially qualified him as an elite athlete.

Now, from June 20-24, Micah is set to compete at the 2017 U.S. Tumbling and Trampoline Association National Championship in Madison, Wisconsin. Impressively, this will be Micah’s third time competing in nationals.

The Madison County Police Department has honored Micah with Sherriff John Lakin paying him a visit to recognize Micah for his achievements. Lakin says “although Micah is only in fourth grade, his accomplishments speak volumes about his dedication and passion to the sport,” the BN-D reports.

Micah is a bright example of how children with special needs can persevere through their developmental challenges to achieve remarkable things.

“How do I feel doing gymnastics?” Micah says. “Happy.”

The gymnastics star plans to take a break from training after nationals in order to spend more time with his family.

12-Year-Old Publishes Book to Help Others Understand What it’s Like to Have Autism

Jordan Keller was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a baby, and 12 years later, he’s written and published a book to help others understand what it’s like to grow up with autism.

Jordan’s book, titled Jumbled Pieces: Autism, details the challenges he faced in his day-to-day life as well as the success he has experienced due to early intervention. Plenty of research has shown that the earlier a child receives intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy,  the better the chance of being mainstreamed into classrooms with neurotypical kids.

Unlike many children with autism, Jordan is verbal. He wrote Jumbled Pieces “to help people understand Autism who don’t have it and to help those who have it,” his mother, Rebekah, said in an interview with KSDK TV-5. Jordan tells his mom that he feels very lucky that he can talk, and that people “need to know what scares us.” He hopes his book will give people a better understanding of what nonverbal children with ASD may be feeling. Jordan covers the important stuff – is autism contagious? Does it hurt?

Further, Jordan wrote the book to honor his doctor, Dr. Anderson, who he calls a “hero and personal champion.” Dr. Anderson is an orthopedist. Although his medical specialty isn’t specific to Autism, Jordan says he feels comfortable asking Dr. Anderson anything and knowing he will tell him the truth. According to Jordan’s book, one of the most challenging parts of his experience with autism is building close relationships with others. He says that his interactions with Dr. Anderson, as well as the encouragement and support of his family, have helped him improve in this specific area.

Acting as a voice for all of those who can’t be heard in the autism community, Jordan epitomizes the strength and giftedness that is at times overlooked in those with ASD.

Some other book recommendations from the staff at Action Behavior Centers are Let Me Hear Your Voice by Catherine Maurice, The Way I See It by Dr. Temple Grandin, and How to Think Like a Behavior Analyst by Jon Bailey and Mary Burch.

An Airline Employee Helps Young Man Struggling with an Autism Meltdown

Russell Lehmann, a young man with Autism Spectrum Disorder, had an experience he’ll never forget at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.  Lehmann was having what he called “the worst meltdown of my life,” but thanks to an American Airlines employee named David, Lehmann’s nightmare travel experience was transformed into a positive one.

Lehmann had missed his flight connection for the second time in two days, and after hearing his flight would be delayed, he began crying and hyperventilating. David saw just how upset Lehmann was and approached him to find out what was wrong.

As described in a Facebook post, Lehmann said, “I was barely able to get any words out. I believe I mumbled the words ‘I don’t know. I can’t think, I have autism.”

David immediately showed Lehmann compassion, letting him know that he could reroute his flight to make sure he got to Cincinnati that night and even offered to buy him a slice of pizza. About 10 minutes later, David came back over to Lehmann with the pilot of the new flight he could take.

“David had notified the pilot, along with the entire crew, of my situation, and he took it upon himself to clear out a whole row of seats so that I would be able to have a space to myself during the flight,” Lehmann said.

David walked Lehmann onto the plane before any other passengers boarded and introduced him to the flight crew. At this point, Lehmann was crying, but these were “tears of thankfulness,” he describes. “If it hadn’t been for David, I would not have gotten on that plane.”

Lehmann’s Facebook post reached over 95,000 people, and he says the main message behind the post isn’t about autism – “It’s about doing the right thing. About being a good person. About accepting others and reaching out your hand to someone in need, even if they are a total stranger.”

Lehmann is a speaker, author, and autism advocate. He was on his way to Cincinnati to give a speech, and because of David’s kindness, he was able to make it.

He concluded his emotional post by urging others “Show what you’re made of. Give a damn. Stand above all the fighting and arguing. Be brave and open your heart. Fulfill your moral duties as a human being. Be like David.”