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.

Brain Scans and Artificial Intelligence Could Predict Which Infants Will Develop Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) tends to manifest at different times and in different ways in each child, but in most cases, symptoms will begin to appear around the age of two.

Now, researchers may be getting closer to pinning down a way to detect autism much earlier. In a new study, which appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine, a team of scientists was able to predict, with 96 percent accuracy, which 6-month old infants would go on to be diagnosed with autism as toddlers. They were able to do so with brain scans and artificial intelligence.

The team used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines to capture brain scans of the neural activity of 59 infants in 230 different areas across the brain. Each of the infants had at least one older sibling on the autism spectrum.

Instead of focusing on differences in brain anatomy, the researchers analyzed how the different brain areas connected with one another. The synchronization of these different regions is known to play a critical role in language, repetitive behaviors, and social skills – areas which often pose challenges to those with autism.

Through this analysis, the researchers identified 974 pairs of connections that were linked with autism. These classifiers were then entered into an artificially intelligent computer program which could almost always accurately predict which six-month-olds would go on to be diagnosed with autism at the age of two.

“When the classifier determined a child had autism, it was always right,” researcher Robert Emerson from the University of Carolina said in a press statement. “But it missed two children. They developed autism but the computer program did not predict it correctly, according to the data we obtained at six months of age.”

However, it’s not likely that single brain scans will be used as a basis to diagnose autism in the future. Presumably, a combination of pre-tested evaluations would be used to confirm results and better predict autism.

“I think the most exciting work is yet to come, when instead of using one piece of information to make these predictions, we use all the information together,” Emerson said. “I think that will be the future of using biological diagnostics for autism during infancy.”

Being able to better predict the onset of autism could help families provide therapy for their children at earlier ages. Plenty of research shows that the earlier a child receives ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, the better chance there is to improve in critical developmental areas like language, social skills, motor skills, and day-to-day living skills.

“The more we understand about the brain before symptoms appear, the better prepared we will be to help children and their families,” researcher Joseph Piven concluded.


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.”

Skills® For Autism: How We Track Your Child’s Progress

Between the hundreds of autism parent blogs and parent testimonials on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) websites, the autism community certainly isn’t short on anecdotal evidence that ABA therapy works.

At Action Behavior Centers, we want to provide parents and physicians with a more concrete source of evidence that their child is benefiting from our provided therapy program. To do so, we collect data in an online program called Skills® For Autism.

Skills, a program which has won multiple awards, provides an innovative platform to create comprehensive, evidence-based treatment plans tailored to accommodate the needs of each individual child on the autism spectrum. Board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) are able to evaluate the effectiveness of their treatment plans with detailed progress tracking reports.

The Skills curricula covers eight important areas of human functioning: social, language, play, motor, cognition, executive functions (such as memory, planning, problem-solving), cognition, adaptive skills (daily living activities like dressing and bathroom etiquette), and academic.

The software includes a LogBook feature that enables the BCBAs to collect data efficiently and accurately in real-time during therapy sessions. Skills provides reports, charts, and graphs for progress tracking so that parents and physicians can see an easily-digestible representation of their child’s improvements in each target area.

Action Behavior Centers selectively hires only the best Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) in the Austin area — they’re all nationally certified and college educated. With the expertise of our BCBAs and RBTs, your child will receive the best possible care. Skills provides us with a data-driven way to keep you in the loop as your child advances to his/her highest potential.

Questions about the Skills program or ABA therapy? Our team is happy to take your call at (512) 572-0157.