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Quarterly Global Newsletter Q3 2016

28 September 2016 09:10 

Music for Autism International

Q3 2016


In light of proliferation of an already sizeable amount of research on autism (as confirmed in the recent XI Annual European Autism Conference programme), we have shifted our focus in this newsletter towards practical matters, with a focus on the arts, including music, dance, art and film. We also include sports due to the importance of physical activity and public awareness related to these stories. We continue noting developments in autistic schools in countries where we operate. 


UK: The film – NAS – The National Autistic Society

Watch this film and experience what sensory overload is like for a boy on the autism spectrum. Could you stand more than a minute in a shopping centre? For an autistic child, it could be terrifying. NAS hoped for 700,000 views; by September, it had over 70 million views.

UK: The Autistic Adult Choir: Initial Public Performance 

The Autistic Adult Choir ( gave its initial public performance after nearly one year of rehearsals at St Martin in the Fields. They have subsequently been invited to additional performances later this year and into 2017.

Hong Kong: Jockey Club Autism Support Network

JC A-Connect: Jockey Club Autism Support Network is the first of its kind in Hong Kong, is to provide holistic support for children with ASD attending mainstream schools, and their parents. Funded by a donation of HK$167 million from the Club’s Charities Trust, the three- year project, run in collaboration with The University of Hong Kong (HKU), the Education Bureau and six NGOs, will provide school-based support for such students, giving support to their parents through satellite centres, as well as organising public education programmes with an aim to raise public awareness and understanding about autism. Over 300 mainstream primary and secondary schools are involved, which cover more than 50% of the estimated population of students with ASD in public mainstream schools in Hong Kong. 

Australia: First Autistic School in South Australia to Open Thanks to Greek-Australians

The first school for autistic children has been established in Southern Australia thanks to efforts of Greek-Australian parents and overseen by a London-based network of schools called Aspect Treehouse. The number of school-aged children living in SA is around 3,400, most of which are forced to attend mainstream schools due to a lack of special education schools in the region.

“It got more and more obvious that 50 percent of autistic children were enrolled in schools that have no disability units or special classes to support these kids and their families,” explains Deputy Chair of Aspect Specific School, Phillip De Pinto.

Aspect helps some 1000 students with autism at their eight special schools and 90 satellite schools in New South Wales. 



Singapore: Pouch designed by Singapore teen with autism sells out after Prime Minister's wife takes it to White House

A 19-year-old who designed a dinosaur-print pouch taken by the wife of Singapore's Prime Minister to the White House had little idea how much of a celebrity he has become since pictures of it went viral.

Sales of thes $11 blue-and-white pouch soared since Ho Ching was photographed carrying it during her husband Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's official visit to the United States. Ms Ho bought the purse in early August at a fundraising event for the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) in Singapore, for which she is an advisor. Photos of Ms Ho holding the pouch on the White House lawn alongside first lady Michelle Obama sparked huge demand, with Pathlight saying its stock of 200 sold out within a day and it was now on backorder with a two-month wait.

The dinosaur motif was designed by See Toh Sheng Jie, who attends the Pathlight school for students with autism run by the ARC. "He is not very communicative but when we once gave him a dinosaur toy during a tantrum, he calmed down. That's when we knew he liked dinosaurs," the elder See Toh told AFP.

See Toh has an encyclopaedic knowledge of dinosaurs and must watch every dinosaur movie he comes across."We'll just let him do what he likes because you can't force him to draw when he doesn't want," Wendy See Toh said.


See Toh's family has been overwhelmed with media attention. But for the teenager, the son of a taxi driver with a love for dinosaurs and beetles, it makes little difference. 

France: Film: The Sense of Wonder (Le goût des merveilles (original title) – Main male Character with Aspergers


While this film was released at the end of 2015 and was reviewed earlier this year, it was not seen by the editor until August, hence the entry this month.

This French romantic comedy features how a male with aspergers develops a long term live in relationship with a widowed mother with two children with the help of his support group. 

US: Teen Runner With Autism Shatters 4:00 Mile Barrier (Runners World)

At the Sir Walter Miler meet on August 5 in Raleigh, North Carolina, 19-year-old Mikey Brannigan finished seventh in the mile in 3:57.58 and broke his previous personal best by more than 5 seconds. In doing so, Brannigan, who is on the autism spectrum, became the first person with a T20 paralympic classification, which refers to intellectual disability, to break the 4:00 barrier.

Brannigan was diagnosed with autism when he was 18 months old and was non verbal until he was about five years old. He began running with Long Island’s Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program when he was in fourth grade after other sports didn’t work out. He immediately learned that he had a gift for the sport and the work ethic to keep improving.

Brannigan was a highly sought after recruit when he graduated from Northport High School in 2015, but while he was able to get into college, he was unable to meet the NCAA’s academic requirements to run at the Division I level. The then was able to compete in the Rio Paralympics, where he won the Gold Medal in 1,500 meters.



US: Florida State Receiver Travis Rudolph Eats Lunch With An Autistic Boy Sitting By Himself

What started as a kind gesture from an American football player to have lunch with a young autistic boy in a Florida middle school has become a global media phenomenon. The original goal was to join an autistic boy who was used to eating school lunches alone – it then suddenly became a global story via various forms of print and television media. When asked how it felt, young Bo Paske responded “like I was sitting on a rainbow”.

UK: London’s first college for adults with autism opens in Tottenham and Isleworth (Evening Standard)

Ambitious College is dedicated to supporting young people between the ages of 19 and 25 with complex autism, helping them to start work and live independently. The institute, run by the charity Ambitious About Autism, opened temporarily last year. It has now found a permanent new home at the Pears Campuses in Tottenham and Isleworth. According to the charity, only one in four young people with complex autism manage to get a place in further education. 

US: Interview: Liam Smith Talks Canelo, Autism & Coming To America (BSO Sports)


BSO: Will use this bout (with Carlos Alvarez in the AT&T Stadium) and the coverage to continue to make fans aware of Autism and how it effects your sister?

“Yeah it’s important to our family. My sister is autistic. We try to publicize that as much as we can and raise awareness for autism. So it’s great for those American fight fans and the American fans and HBO can also relate to that and can see autism is a big thing. And my sister’s severely autistic, so she’s a massive inspiration to me and my brothers, and obviously to fans as well.” 

Inevitably the four brothers all draw inspiration from each other, but Callum concedes that, as a collective, one of their biggest sources of drive is younger sister Holly, who has autism.

“To see her battling through life every day, but to also see her happy, is inspiring,” he says. “You see people moaning about life and you think, ‘It could be worse.’ So she does inspire us. We wear ‘Autism’ on our shorts to raise awareness and show support for other families dealing with autism, because for my mum and dad it is like a 24/7 job looking after her. When she was first diagnosed we didn’t really know what it was. So when someone asks, I explain it. We’re doing our bit.”

Note: this championship fight was viewed by a live audience of over 50,000 and an estimated pay per view television audience of up to 1 million households. 

UK: Autism and Dance, Dancing Times Magazine, September 2016 issue (pp 105-107), by Debbie Malina

In depth article which discusses the introduction and developments in Dance Movement Therapy, recent programmes by the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) for dance classes with ASD youths, a recent programme by Michael Nunn, co-founder of the BalletBoyz. These programmes help underpin the planned collaboration between MFAI and The Elmhurst School of Dance in Q4. The article also discusses the transition from ASD youth to careers in dance of James Holbey, a finalist in 2011 Britain"s Got Talent (and now studying at The English National Ballet School) and Philip Martin-Nielson, who was unable to speak at age 3, but is now in his 20's now dances with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, based in New York.

Netherlands: Stichting Papageno, Papageno Choir

In September, Papageno House, a leading Netherlands ASD autism facility, launched its Papageno Choir. The choir accepts members from ages 18-55. The repertoire is very broad from classical to musicals.This is the 3rd choir ASD adult choir launched in the past 12 months, following London (September 2015) and Boston (January 2016), with similar age ranges and repertoires, although the Papageno Choir also includes non ASD members. 

Prior Quarters

US: Former Boston Conservatory Student on the Autism Spectrum Performed in New York (Boston Conservatory at Berklee)

Gianna Hitsos, a talented singer and former student of the Boston Conservatory's Private Music Lessons program for individuals on the autism spectrum, performed in the Broadway Benefit for Autism Speaks at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City this summer. Hitsos was among a group of performers on the autism spectrum singing "If the World Only Knew," with a choir of Broadway professionals and others. The Benefit for Autism Speaks was hosted by Broadway star Kelli O'Hara, who won a 2015 Best Actress Tony Award for The King and I. “This is a wonderful achievement for Gianna and for our efforts to provide broad access to music and performance,” said Rhoda Bernard, chair of music education and director of The Boston Conservatory's Programs for Students on the Autism Spectrum. 

Hitsos started speaking when she was a toddler, but abruptly stopped. Her parents noticed that she started showing other physical signs of a child on the autism spectrum, and she was formally diagnosed at the age of two. While Hitsos had difficulty expressing herself, her parents noticed that she had both a love and a talent for singing, particularly Disney musicals. They brought her to The Boston Conservatory in 2008, just as Bernard was establishing the school’s Programs for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum and the first class of the Private Music Lessons program. Hitsos joined the Private Music Lessons in 2009 and participated in the program for five years, during which time she flourished both musically and personally. She is now a sophomore at Gordon College studying music and French and has performed at a number of public US venues. 

Overview of MFAI

Music for Autism International (MFAI) represents the non UK and non US operations of UK charity Music for Autism, founded in 2002. We focus on bringing bespoke programmes in music- and soon to be dance and art- to ASD schools committed to sustainability to ASD schools in several countries throughout several continents. In order to deliver sustainability, we are also focused on research, both on our own as well as collaborating with ASD focused research organisations. 

© Music for Autism International 2016. All rights reserved. Reproduction by permission only of the Author of this document, Music for Autism International Copyright and Intellectual Property Right Ownership: This document and all Information therein, contains material owned by either Music for Autism International or its Information Providers which is protected under copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws. Neither this report nor any part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval place or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of Music for Autism International. Music for Autism International and its Information Providers, as applicable, own the copyright to all Information and works of authorship. All trademarks, service marks, and logos used on the document are the trademarks, service marks, or logos of Music for Autism International or its Information Providers, as applicable. 

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