Sensory-friendly: a safe play place for children with autism

The Northtown Mall in Blaine, Minnesota, bustles with activities for children: a video game arcade, furry motor scooters shaped like animals, a bungee-cord trampoline you’d expect to see at a carnival. Among the flashing lights and commotion is Tony’s Place, which opened doors in October with a mission to cultivate an inclusive play space for people who live with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their family members and friends. Inside Tony’s Place you’ll find twinkling fairy lights wrap around various sensory swings that can hold multiple people, including children, adults and people with wheelchairs. A pallet of bubble wrap stands in an alcove, available for anyone to satisfy that tactile need. There’s a netted trampoline and physical activity center to help release physical energy. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | A war on women: In Minnesota, the first victims of sulfide mining would be their children

This past summer Texas bluebonnets were still blooming when Senator Wendy Davis stood and spoke for nearly eleven hours to stop a bill predominantly supported by male senators. Men telling women they had no right to health care. No right to make reproductive decisions for themselves. Men would decide for them. “A war on women,” it has been called.I could not help but wonder how many legislators nationwide, on both sides of the political aisle, hypocritically promote a male-dominated industry that deprives women worldwide of rights. Continue Reading

Minneapolis autism teachers “blown away” by new classroom technology

Four coins appeared in a box on a computer screen. Hans Glocker, a Sanford middle school student with autism, calculated the coins’ total, then chose the right value out of three listed. A cascade of bubbles appeared on the screen, making plinking sounds as they popped. The special education teachers in the room ooooohed. “That is a great motivator,” said Hans’ teacher Janet Macdonald. Continue Reading

Autism answers elude Somali parents, researchers

For the most part, Idil Abdull sees her son Abdullahi as any mother would. But some days, Abdullahi isn’t able to play, talk or even ask for a potty break. At a time when children are supposed to develop friendships, Abdullahi struggles with simple commands. On those days, Abdul sees the differences autism has wrought in her son. Like many Somali mothers, Abdull faces a challenge that many in the Somali community do not fully understand. Continue Reading

MN VOICES | Idil Abdull: Somali mother and autism activist

Idil Abdull has been making headlines in the past few months for her role in bringing awareness to the issue of autism in the Somali community. One of the founders of the Somali American Autism Foundation, Abdull has been sounding the alarm about the large numbers of Somali American children struggling with autism. Last week, the MN Department of Health issued a report confirming the high numbers, though they say the link between ethnicity and the disease is inconclusive. Abdull is searching for answers, and building awareness in her community. But Abdull is not unused to struggle. Continue Reading

Opportunities for all students

A technical debate about autism may lead to savings and better special education of the learning disabled in rural Minnesota schools. Officials are debating how best to handle the growing number of autistic children in the school system. Minnesota saw a near ninefold increase in children diagnosed with autism over the past decade. Still, the state has no special education license dedicated to autism. This means special education teachers trained in other areas work with autistic children, sometimes unaware of techniques that are effective with them. Continue Reading