Posts Tagged ‘Autism’

Ernie Els – a good read about a good man!

Monday, June 20th, 2011


GOLF: Ernie Els won the 1997 US Open and expected many more majors to follow, but developments in his personal life have perhaps played a role in that not happening, BARRY SVRUGLA reports

THEY WERE, comparatively, kids then and not yet married when Ernie Els wrapped his girlfriend, Liezl, in an embrace 14 years ago after he won the US Open at Congressional Country Club. The group hug included Els’s father, Neels, who thwacked Ernie on the back on Father’s Day, though he missed his mark in the bedlam and ended up slapping Ernie’s mother, Hettie.

No matter. Els was 27, a two-time major champion. His nickname, the Big Easy, fits his style of play, his demeanour, his life. What problems could the future hold? Major championships would come in bundles. Life would bring no bumps.

“If you asked me after my second US Open win at 27, I would have said I would have won probably eight (majors) – at least,” Els said this spring. “And now, with a grand total of three, I would say, yeah, I am a little disappointed I haven’t put another one on my resume. Other players, they would give anything just to win one. I think I probably could’ve won more.”

Els arrived this week at Congressional a bit early for next week’s US Open, and he’ll bring the same seemingly boundless talent and effortless swing he had 14 years ago. He also comes with the knowledge he has 21 top-five finishes in majors, but has converted just three of them into victories: the first US Open at age 24 at Oakmont in 1994, the dramatic victory at Congressional three years later, and the 2002 British Open.

Those accomplishments – or lack of them, in his view – define Els as a golfer. Among active players, only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have won more majors. Even at 41, Els’ circumstances on the course seem no different: same relaxed demeanour, same languid swing, same abundant gifts. So it’s not just Els who wonders: could more have been expected from someone who owns 39 worldwide victories?

“Ernie, sadly, never understood the whole picture,” said Robert Baker, Els’ swing coach when he won at Congressional. “I mean this with the greatest respect, because I love the guy, and I love Ernie Els’ game. But Ernie should have won a lot more majors. As a golfer, he’s had a great career. But did he capture his potential? Not even close.”

Potential, though, can be a damning burden, its fulfilment often complicated. In evaluating a career, how do you factor in the unexpected, off-course development? How do you take one fact – that Ernie and Liezl Els’ second child, Ben, was born with autism – and determine its relationship with how someone hits a golf ball?

“People always ask in the negative way: did it affect you?” Els said. “I’ve said for so long, no. But I would say, deep down, it probably does. I’m sure, in your subconscious, you are a little bit sad, because your boy, he’s not quite normal.”

It took only a day. Samantha, Liezl and Ernie’s daughter, was an easy baby, “a perfect little girl”, Ernie said, “blond hair, blue eyes, just beautiful”.

So eight years ago, when Liezl gave birth to Samantha’s younger brother, Ben, the Elses had a reference point. And within 24 hours, Liezl knew: Ben’s behaviour, his development, did not match Samantha’s.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, autism is a “complex developmental disability that causes problems with social interaction and communication”. It is called a “spectrum disorder” because symptoms and their severity can vary so widely from person to person.

Autism Speaks, the primary international foundation supporting research of the disorders, estimates that one in every 110 children has autism diagnosed, “making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric Aids combined”.

The Elses’ course, then, was two-fold. First, they had to learn how to raise Ben while simultaneously pay attention to Samantha’s needs.

“When you have kids, you always want to have that bond,” Ernie Els said. “With an autistic child, I would say it’s 1,000 per cent more important to really have that connection. To me, it was very worrying I wasn’t spending enough time at home, because I wanted to make sure – with both my kids, but especially with Ben, because of his condition – I really had that bond with him so when the tough times come, when we have teenagers, we can talk about their problems, and they can come to me.”

There was, too, the matter of how to handle their travails publicly. Their friends on the PGA and European tours knew of Ben’s condition, and they were quietly supportive. Ernie, to that point a private man, was dealing with his boy’s problems, with his own life, but as a public figure, he was in position to bring a focus to autism. It all rattled him.

“Men want to know, ‘Did I do something wrong?’ ” Liezl said. “ ‘How did this happen? How can I prevent it? I’m the boss of this family. How did I let this happen?’ ”

So it was that Els arrived at the 2008 Honda Classic with the logo for Autism Speaks stitched on his golf bag. That week, after months of discussions with Liezl about how to handle it – he began talking about Ben’s condition in the media. And that was the Ernie Els who, eventually, started his own foundation, Els for Autism.

Ernie and Liezl began by raising money with a single golf tournament. They have plans to raise $30 million (€20.5m) – of which Els has already donated $6 million (€4.1m) – for the Els Centre of Excellence, a facility with designs on providing access to education and therapy for autistic children around the world. The foundation has taken off, and this year is staging a massive, 32-site national golf tournament.

For so many who have followed Els, there is no reason to be depressed about golf. Last month, in the middle of his career, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Back in South Africa, he took the place of Gary Player as the icon after whom a generation of kids modelled themselves. He began a golf development programme in his homeland, a programme that produced 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.

Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, another South African, who won the US Masters in April, referred to Els with one word, unsolicited: “Hero”. “You watched every step of what he did,” said Schwartzel, who has stayed at Els’ home during some Florida tournaments. “I just watch what he does, the way he repeats things, and we all know his rhythm.”

There have been so many close calls – the runner-up finishes in the 2000 Masters, US Open and British Open; seconds again at the 2004 Masters and British, the latter in a play-off. Convert a couple of those – or any of the 18 top-fives in majors he didn’t win – and he is indisputably one of the three greatest players of his generation. The most recent close call came in last year’s US Open at Pebble Beach. Els pulled into a tie with leader Graeme McDowell on the front nine before disaster around the turn – a three-hole stretch which he played in four over par – and a slide to third. “That one hurt,” Liezl said.

It hurt, he said, until he got back to his family. In that first moment, in a different kind of group hug, the pain melts away.

“I can’t put it in words how grateful I am to them, especially Ben,” Els said. “He’s taught me so much. He’s so innocent, so straightforward, so pure.

I wish a lot more people could be like that, including me.”

Els’ adventure may not have been the one he envisioned in 1997, when he hugged what was then the extent of his family. But next week, he will be back at Congressional, not just to relive old memories. He arrives trying to simultaneously sort out his game and post one more – as a different man with a vastly different life.

“It’s almost like a full circle,” Els said. “I’m just a different person going back. I’m very grateful, a lot more appreciative of what I have, and maybe a little more grounded.”

© 2011 Washington Post

More Special Needs Cuts!

Sunday, February 27th, 2011


FURY erupted last night over a decision to deprive children with severe disabilities from getting a second full year of pre-schooling, the Irish Independent has learned.

The move, which will save less than €500,000 a year, will hit families of Down Syndrome children, those with autism and other severe disabilities.

Many had assumed their children could avail of a second year, but now their hopes have been dashed.

Instead, they have been given the option of a full year starting in September, with their children attending Monday to Friday, or splitting the provision over two years.

The INTO last night described the move as a “shocking and mean spirited” decision by the Government, which had promised as far back as 2002 to ensure early education services for children and prioritise children with disabilities.

The highly successful free Early Childhood Care and Education pre-school year began in January 2010. An overwhelming 94pc of eligible children are now participating in the scheme.

About 170 children with severe disabilities were allowed to avail of a second full year starting last September. They were approved on a case by case basis.

But Children’s Minister Barry Andrews‘ office has decided this will not be available to children starting in September this year.

A spokesman for the minister said the 170 children were allowed to enrol in the second year because the first free pre-school year was a “short” one”, having started in January 2010 and finishing in June.

“No child at any stage has ever been approved for two full years,” he told the Irish Independent.


But the decision has angered many parents. “As parents, we will not sit on the fence on this. Our children are already facing sweeping reductions in services due to drastic cutbacks,” said Down Syndrome Dublin chairperson Miriam Masterson.

She said the decision could not even be considered a cost-saving measure, when these same people will, in later years, require a lot more help than if they had been given the best start from the outset.

Irish Preschool Play Association chief executive Irene Gunning said the decision was very disappointing as it had not been signalled in advance and parents had an expectation of a second year.

However, Fine Gael last night held out the prospect of reversing the decision. Fine Gael education spokesperson Fergus O’Dowd said the party was committed to spending €20m on a First Step programme to help disadvantaged pre-school children. He said this would include those with severe disabilities.

“A Republic is judged by the manner in which it treats its most vulnerable citizens,” Mr O’Dowd added.

– John Walshe Education Editor

Irish Independent 19th February 2011

A real set back for Inclusion- Lucan Educate Together – a disgrace!

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Lucan educate together

A DUBLIN school was entitled to refuse to enrol a boy in a class for children with autism, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe yesterday upheld a challenge by Lucan Educate Together National School to a Department of Education appeals committee decision allowing an appeal by the child’s parents against the school’s refusal in late 2007 to enrol him in its outreach class for children with autism.

While it was accepted the class had capacity for the child, the school refused enrolment on grounds he did not meet the criterion for enrolment in light of a psychologist’s report stating he had “significant” learning disability and significant developmental delay.

The school’s criterion for enrolment included only a “mild” learning disability and the school said the services available to it could not meet the child’s needs.

The parents appealed under Section 29 of the Education Act and the appeals committee allowed that appeal and directed the child be enrolled in January 2008. The committee found the child met the “main criteria” for enrolment but the school then took judicial review proceedings.

Yesterday, Mr Justice O’Keeffe found in favour of the school.

While it was not unreasonable for the committee to describe autism as the main criterion for enrolment, and there was no issue that there was capacity in the outreach class for the child, other aspects of the committee’s decision were unreasonable and invalid, the judge found.




The committee’s conclusion that the child had a mild learning disability was unreasonable, given the facts and evidence in the case, he ruled.

The judge said the report relied on by the committee at the appeal could not be read as establishing the child suffered from a mild learning disability.

The report referred to the child having “adaptive skills” within the “mild range of adaptive functioning” This was a different condition to a learning disability, he said.

Source Evening Herald

We at My Special Needs say Shame on You Lucan Educate Together! The effort you spent ( and the money! ) bringing this case to the high court should have been spent on resources within the school to facilitate the boy’s learning.

Meeting My Special Needs!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

When I began my daycare business 12 years ago, I didn’t think about ever having children with special needs. But now I wonder how empty all of our lives would be without Sydney and Darby. They have filled my special needs by giving me a loving hand, a willing spirit, and a thankful heart.

Sydney came to us four years ago with mild to moderate spastic diplegia. As a newly diagnosed 14-month-old, we had only a few instructions on what she needed to work on to develop her muscles. Since then she’s had botox shots in both legs, and more recently, a rhizotomy. Sydney’s physical therapist, Sharon, comes to the daycare once a week so I can learn what Sydney needs to work on. We have fun making the tasks into games or contests. Now that Sydney is 5, it’s easy to motivate her by simply telling her that an exercise will help her toward her goal: walking independently

Darby is now 4 and has mild autism. She came to us via a referral from Sydney’s mom. She has hypotonia and is developmentally delayed. It’s been a thrill to see her develop her language skills in the three years that she’s been here. Her social skills are a little slower coming, but with the therapy she receives at the preschool, she’s growing into a little socialite! She loves the other kids here and knows each child by name. She’s learned to play more gently with the others and can now color a page without getting frustrated by the task.

Both girls need some special considerations to accommodate their special needs, but among my goals with every child is to prepare them for school, where they will be expected to be fairly self-sufficient, social, and disciplined. Most important, I want them to know that they are loved for who they are, not for what they can or cannot do.

The highlight of any day with my special needs kids is watching the other kids interact with them. Because the older ones have known both girls for so long, they don’t seem to notice that they are what the world might call “different.” They accept Sydney’s walker as a necessary extension of her and bring it to her without being prompted. They know to be patient with Darby and kindly tell her not to “hit, just pat” the other kids. Both of the girls will work extra hard if they know that the other kids are watching and cheering them on. They are accepted for who they are, without prejudice. That lesson will stay with all of them for life.

When daycare providers turn down families with special needs kids, I believe it is out of a lack of experience working with special needs kids. Many people focus too much on the disability and not enough on the child. However, if you are a daycare provider and you can’t see the child first, and love that child, then turn down the family! Children should be with people who want to care for them in a loving environment.

Darby and Sydney have taught me and our daycare family that everyone, and no one, has a disability.We ar all just a little bit different from one another, and I guess that means each of us has a “special need”!

Submitted by Patty Strother

From the website:

Five Novels That Treat People With Special Needs With Respect

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Five Novels That Treat People With Special Needs With Respect

My older daughter has cerebral palsy, and living with her over the past 19 years has given me a sensitive gag reflex for the way people with special needs are portrayed in Hollywood movies. Novelists — not surprisingly — handle these characters with considerably more depth and complexity. Here’s a list of five novels for which I’m particularly grateful.

1. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski (2008).
This enormous debut novel had already been on the bestseller list for months when Oprah chose it last week for her popular book club. And what an excellent choice it is. Loosely based on Hamlet, this tender and suspenseful story is about a mute boy and his special breed of eerily aware dogs in a small Wisconsin town. Some of the most enchanting moments describe the private sign language Edgar has developed to communicate with people and animals.

2. Up High in the Trees, by Kiara Brinkman (2007).
I know people raved about Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, but to me its depiction of autism relied on too many savant parlor tricks. I prefer this heartbreaking story of a little boy with Asperger’s syndrome. His family is struggling to function in the months after his mother’s death. Some sections are almost too emotionally painful to read.

Deafening.jpeg3. Deafening, by Frances Itani (2003).
The heroine of this Canadian novel loses her hearing as a child in the early 20th century, but a sharp-eyed grandmother intervenes and makes sure she gets the education she deserves. Later, her love affair with a soldier sent to fight in WWI is portrayed from both sides: his hell in Europe, her worry at home. It’s bracing, romantic and captivating.

4. The Center of Everything, by Laura Moriarty (2003).
Ten-year-old Evelyn Bucknow tells this sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always insightful story about life with her welfare mother in a small Midwestern town. The title comes from the pastor at Evelyn’s church, and some of the best lines are Evelyn’s reflections on God and religion. When her ner’-do-well mom gives birth to a baby with special needs, their little family finds new reservoirs of patience and affection.

Lamb in Love.jpeg5. Lamb in Love, by Carrie Brown (1999).
My favorite romantic comedy is about an English postmaster, 55-years-old, who falls in love for the first time with an equally inexperienced woman. She’s the full-time nanny for a profoundly disabled man, and the three of them make a thoroughly charming little group in this novel that you cannot help but love.

Of course, these books are very different from one another, with lots to enjoy and appreciate, but one of the things I like about them all is the way they fluidly integrate people with special needs into their stories without sentimentality, pity or romanticism. Someday I hope life will imitate art.

By Ron Charles |  September 25, 2008; 7:00 AM ET

Taken From Washington Post

Free Pictures for Social Stories

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

New Autism Website is Launched.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Autism ntitledA new website : aimed at giving information on autism has been set up. Boyzone and Coronation Street star Keith Duffy, whose daughter suffers from autism, said : “We realised that there was no single place a family member, medic or a teacher could go to get all their questions about autism answered.It meant people were picking up random bits from random sites. This site will fix that problem”

The team at congratulate all concerned on their initiative and wish them every success with this much needed facility.

“Impossible Cure, The Promise of Homeopathy”!

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Hi Tommy


My name is Michael Farrelly and I am the father of a boy, Adam diagnosed with autism. Arising out of Adam’s situation, I decided to study Classical Homeopathy, having seen the great effect that this therapy had on him. My motivation was to try to help people with all kinds of conditions, but especially children with special needs. At this stage in my practice, more than 50% of my patients are children who would be considered to have special needs.


While much has been done in other areas for children with special needs, the area of energy medicine and homeopathy in particular, has in my opinion being neglected to date. It is a major goal of mine to communicate with as many parents and professionals as possible about the wonderful effects of homeopathy in trying to help these children. Below is a recent article I wrote on the subject for the magazine, “Positive Life”, which you might like to read (please feel free to circulate to anybody you feel may be interested) –
As part of my attempts to inform people about homeopathy, I have been giving talks in different parts of the country over the past months, for example at the Solas Diagnostic Centre in Dublin


My introduction to Homeopathy was when I read the book, “Impossible cure, The Promise of Homeopathy”, by Amy Lansky. It was the wonderful story of an autistic boy who had made a full recovery with the use of Homeopathy. The book also gives excellent background information and a good understanding of Homeopathy to the lay reader. Amy Lansky was a scientist with NASA and after witnessing the changes in her son, she left her position to study Homeopathy and to inform other parents in a similar situation of her experience. This was my motivation to study Homeopathy and inform others. Please see the articles below.


Would it be possible to give a talk to parents, or in some way get information to parents on your list who may be interested in hearing about homeopathy?
Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail and attachments.


Kind regards,

Michael Farrelly
Classical Homeopath