Thanks for reading Prism: the newsletter from the National Autism Resource and Information Center. The National Autism Information and Resource Center

May 2014 Prism


By Karen Wolf-Branigin
Director, Autism NOW Center

The May 2014 Autism NOW Center Prism newsletter is about health.
Health: What does the research tell us?
According to the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 75% of children between the ages of 12-15 do not engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011) report that 69% of adults over age 20 are overweight and 48% do not meet suggested federal guidelines for aerobic or muscle-strengthening activities.
People on the autism spectrum fare much worse. A 2010 National Health Interview Survey reported that 13% of kids and teens without disabilities, 20% with intellectual disability and 32% with autism are severely overweight.
These numbers are telling – so what are children and adults, family members and care givers, ASD Specialists and the community at large doing to address these issues?
It’s impossible to miss information, stories and statistics about health, wellness and exercise. If we don’t read about it in a newspaper, magazine or online, we surely know someone who is talking about his or her own personal triumph or challenge with weight, exercise and diet. The Autism NOW Center is interested in learning about what YOU are doing to live a healthier life. Share your stories and advice with us at ( and we’d be please to pass it along to our readers.
Health: Autism NOW Resources
The Autism NOW website has a large number of articles, blogs, resources and events dedicated to health information. Here is just a sampling of what we have to offer on topics such as early intervention, nutrition, environmental health, dual diagnosis, sexuality, and aging:

In case you missed the Autism NOW Webinar: Service Implications of the DSM-5 for People with Autism - Service Implications of the DSM-5 for People with Autism, it’s still available on-demand through our website.

Originally published in January 2012, Health and Wellness Tips for People with Developmental Disabilities in the New Year, still includes timely tips and resources for those of us looking to begin or renew a healthy lifestyle.   

Health: What are we learning from others?
Interested in purchasing a gym membership, participating in a spinning class, joining a walking club or engaging in other healthy activities? Are you concerned that you may not be welcome because of your disability? The federal government has requirements that recreation facilities and fitness centers must comply with under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Public pools, gyms, and health clubs are public accommodations and subject to title III of the ADA.  is an excellent resource.  Specific information that pertains to pools can be found at under Technical Assistance Materials, guidelines for new and existing pools. A general Department of Justice Q&A about ADA includes info about Public Accommodations at: or

The Arc’s HealthMeet® project is also involved in bringing wellness and exercise programs to people across the country. Working with our partners at The University of Illinois – Chicago who developed the HealthMatters program, hundreds of people are becoming certified trainers and teaching people with disabilities how to participate in a safe, easy and FUN program. Take a look at the program and materials.

Self-Advocacy Online is an internet-based program designed specifically for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Two online modules relating to health, wellness and exercise use accessible text, audio, pictures and video clips to help illustrate key concepts. Developed by The Arc’s partners at The University of Minnesota, these online modules are informative and enjoyable. The website is free – take a few minutes and take a tour.  

Tara Delgado-Bridges’ manuscript, Yoga for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: A curriculum with a sensory approach that incorporates coping strategies for stress and promotes physical fitness reports that little scientific research is available to better understand the potential benefits for people on the spectrum that practice yoga. But Ms. Delgado-Bridges personal and professional interest motivated her to create Yogi Breaks: A yoga curriculum for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. The curriculum includes simple, detailed instructions and infographics for learning yoga.  
Employers care about the health of their employees for a number of reasons. Does your employer offer a wellness benefit and are you taking advantage of it? Take a look at this short video, Wellness programs grow more popular with employers to learn more about a popular solution sweeping the country.

Martial Arts as a Way to Stay Healthy

By Amy Goodman
Co-Director, Autism NOW Center

When people think of health and exercise, they may think of the typical ways to get fit such as walking, jogging, and playing sports. However, other methods should not be overlooked. Martial arts not only helps you stay healthy and active, it also teaches self-defense skills that may help keep you safe.

Self-defense is the right to protect yourself against violence or threatened violence with whatever force or means that are reasonably necessary. For individuals on the autism spectrum, some benefits associated with martial arts include:
  • Teaching the individual to better defend his/herself in threatening situations
  • Making it easier for the individual to pay attention for longer periods of time, which helps with concentration and focus
  • Reducing the individual’s dependence on stimming behaviors like hand flapping by engaging the individual in the repetitive movements
  • Improving core body strength and motor control challenges
  • Improving social skills and promoting self-confidence through structured social interactions
  • Reducing behavioral problems by allowing the individual to have a constructive outlet for physical energy
There are many forms of martial arts including judo, karate, jujitsu, tae kwon do, ai ki do, all of which must be studied regularly over a long period of time to attain proficiency. You may want to observe a few sessions before fully committing yourself or your child to the class. It’s also a good idea to talk with the instructor first and explain any special needs you or your child may have so that he/she is aware and can better work with you to modify the curriculum to fit your needs or the needs of your child.

If you do not have the time to commit to martial arts classes but are still interested in learning self-defense skills, you may want to consider taking a self-defense class.  These classes apply a scientific method of training. Instructors will often times dress up and act like an attacker in order to model what an attack might actually look like if it should happen to you.

For more information, please check out the links below. Also, visit our blog section to read about how Charlie Threatt, a young man with autism, developed his love for martial arts and how it has changed his life:


Grief and Bereavement

by Brian A. Wong

Bereavement, or the death of a loved one, as it relates to individuals with ASD and other developmental and intellectual challenges is a topic that currently receives little attention. In his article, Bereavement and Autism: A Universal Experience with Unique Challenges, Brian Wong provides an excellent overview of the topic and draws on his own personal experiences to explain the importance behind supporting an individual with ASD before, during, and after a major loss. In this interview, he provides some additional information about bereavement and offers advice to family members and individuals with ASD:
  1. What are some common misunderstandings about individuals with ASD when it comes to grief and bereavement?

    One misunderstanding is that individuals with ASD, typically for those who are considered nonverbal, do not experience grief or understand. From working with adults with these challenges, I have learned that the question is not if they are communicating or feeling emotions – it is what are they trying to communicate and what they are feeling. If an individual has an intellectual challenge and may not be able to understand the concept of death, they may eventually notice their loved one is gone after a while. Some clients I work with live in group homes and their family visits them on the weekend; now if the individual’s family stops visiting, they may eventually notice (even without house staff telling them) and often behavior challenges might arise as a result.
  2. In your article, you encourage family members, friends, and others to let the griever find her or his own way in coping with the death. At what point, is it appropriate and/or necessary to intervene?

    It is important to help an individual find her or his way to mourn a loss; how one mourns will be influenced by the culture/faith along with the Mediators of Mourning. My only rule for how not to cope with loss is to ignore reality. The first step to grief recovery is to establish a strong grief support network; the network does not always have to include a clinical professional.

    A common loss a child experiences is often parents throwing out broken toys that a child loved to play with. How did the parent help that child cope with the discarded toy? Not many realize that common grief reactions can be seen even when a death was not involved.

    If your individual is in school or in a day program (or work), notify the teachers and supervisors and ask them to monitor how well they are functioning. As I wrote in my article, grief counseling right away can be detrimental. I personally know of one instance: A friend of mine (not on the spectrum), her mom died of a terminal illness and she received grief counseling right away and that actually created problems. If grief becomes overwhelming that it is affecting daily functioning, then grief counseling may be a necessary intervention. This would be a good time to see your therapist or contact a local hospice for support. If your loved one already receives support services from an agency, it would not hurt to appropriately increase the amount of support.
Read the full article on our blog.

Time is Running Out!

Please support the work of Autism NOW by making a much needed donation to save The Arc’s important program today!

Amy's Book Review

Healthy Bodies: A Parent’s Guide on Puberty for Girls with Disabilities and A Parent’s Guide on Puberty for Boys with Disabilities are two resources produced by Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

I would recommend these guides regardless of what type of disability your child has because they are gender-specific and give wonderful ideas on how to incorporate different learning styles when trying to teach your child these concepts. All individuals go through the same stages of life regardless of disability, and these guides provide tools that parents can use to teach and discuss sensitive topics such as sexuality and puberty.

These guides and tools can be found at

Attend The Arc's National Convention

You’re invited to enjoy the classic Southern city of New Orleans with The Arc as we network, learn and lead the movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the future! The Arc’s annual National Convention is set for September 30 – October 2 in New Orleans, LA with more than 600 people who share your passion for disability issues. Absorb the energy of committed volunteer leaders, chapter professionals, family members and advocates. And keep your skills fresh by learning from the best in the field and sharing experiences with colleagues from across the country. Add your voice to those who are shaping the future of The Arc. Then take that energy and enthusiasm back to your community and lead the way to change. Visit our newly redesigned Convention website to register and take advantage of early discounts. New this year – Family Passes are available. Buy two registrations and get the third free!

Upcoming Autism NOW Webinars

Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Overview in Spanish
Saturday, June 21 at 1:00pm- 2:00 pm EST
Register now

Upcoming HealthMeet Webinars

Environmental Factors for Individuals with Disabilities
Wednesday, May 28 at 2:00pm – 3:00pm EST
Register now

Building Inclusive Healthy Communities through the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD)
Wednesday, June 11 at 2:00pm – 3:00pm EST
Register now

For a complete schedule of all upcoming events, please visit the HealthMeet® Events page.

Current News

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The Autism NOW Center is a national initiative of The Arc.
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