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The Sound of Ideas

Helping Adults with Autism

Posted Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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This week, The Plain Dealer shared the story of Trudy Steuernagel and her son Sky Walker. Sky suffers from severe autism, and, in a tragically violent and sudden rage, he killed his mother last January. Extreme though it is, Sky's case raises important questions about caring for adults with autism at home and in residential settings. Wednesday morning at 9, join host Dan Moulthrop for a conversation with families and care providers about the challenges and joys of life when someone else's autism is at the center.


Health, Mental Health, Other, Community/Human Interest, Parenting/Child Care


Joanna Connors Reporter, The Plain Dealer
Shari Lahm mother of 16 year old child with autism
Anne Davalla, Program Coordinator for PEP Harbor
Dr. Max Wiznitzer, Pediatric Neurologist & Director of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Autism Center

Additional Information

Positive Education Program (PEP)
Monarch autism school and center
University Hospitals autism services
Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism

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Mia Buchwald Gelles 9:08 AM 12/9/09

Please share with your audience that there is a comprehensive listing of Autism/Asperger’s services for adults in Northeast Ohio at the Milestones website The resources include social/recreational, employment, residential, education, resource links and articles. This is one of the many resources provided by Milestones Autism Organization 216-464-7600.

Bill Jarvis 9:56 AM 12/9/09

There is a Saturday afternoon support group that meets at Stepping Stones Community Resources, UMC Brook Park.

Felicia Demchuk 10:05 AM 12/9/09

Contrary to statements made by a previous caller, there are many social opportunities provided for children on the autism spectrum. Many of these are provided in partnership with local school districts and rec centers, including the Special Olympics and organized rec center activities (such as bowling and soccer).  Other activities are sponsored by Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of Greater Cleveland.  These programs are often free and very welcoming of children and young adults on every part of the spectrum. As the parent of a child who presents with needs on the autism spectrum I can say that every program is welcoming to my family, and it helps us to feel a part of the larger community.  It helps my daughter learn to interact in a broader social environment, and it brings her joy.

Pam Auble 10:06 AM 12/9/09

Similar to the Bittersweet Farm is the Hiram Farm Living and Learning Center for autistic adults, right here in NE Ohio. Their website is and phone number is 33-569-3441.  Thanks for today’s program.

Jeannie W. Reid 10:12 AM 12/9/09

I want to let people know about an excellent and relatively low-cost program I have followed for my son, who is now near-recovery and 8.5 yrs old, but formerly severe with frequent extreme meltdowns.  It is called THE SON-RISE PROGRAM from THE AUTISM TREATMENT CENTER OF AMERICA, and they have an excellent track record helping people who have aggressive children as well.  It was founded by a family who helped their own child fully recover from severe autism, and he has been their CEO for a number of years and lectures worldwide regularly...Raun K. Kaufman.  Their website is and they are on Facebook and Twitter too.  Thank You!

Frank Gwirtz 10:17 AM 12/9/09

A listener, Joan from Westlake, raised the issue of working with animals as a positive experience for adults with autism. There are a number of facilities and programs in northeast Ohio that provide people with autism of all ages with the opportunity to interact with and help care for animals and do other farm related work.

Here is a partial list:

Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center (Geauga County)
Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Center (Rocky River)
Camp Cheerful (Strongsville)
Hiram Farm (Hiram)

Etta Ruth 8:11 AM 12/10/09

The facility is very much alive. Recently Congresswoman Kaptur attended the ground breaking for an extension of this facility, the funds for which she had a hand in securing. Please put on the air that you were mistaken when you implied it no longer existed!

Frank 8:18 AM 12/10/09

Thank you for your program this morning discussing the needs of adults in the autism community. One of your listeners, Joan from Westlake, called to point out that working with animals has been recognized as being beneficial to many people on the autism spectrum and asked if there were programs in the area that provided this experience.

I am the father of a 34 year old young man with autism and I can attest to the positive impact that working with animals, and doing farm work in general, has had on my son, Vincent. We became aware of the Bittersweet Farms program in Whitehouse, Ohio in 1986 and made several visits there over a period of about five years. The positive effects of the residents’ experience there is dramatically obvious. Because of what we observed at Bittersweet Farms, we’ve spent much of the past twenty years working to provide Vincent with the opportunity to work in agricultural jobs and to participate in activities involving animals, gardening, etc.

I can highly recommend two programs in northeast Ohio that provide experience interacting with animals and doing agricultural work that can be very beneficial to people with autism of any age.

The Hiram Farm Living and Learning Community is based in Hiram and is developing an agricultural work program for adults with autism on a 120-acre organic farm in Hiram. The program is in its first year of operation but is already serving 8 adult workers who this past summer grew a 2-acre vegetable garden and raised sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. The organization was founded by an active and energetic group of families who were inspired by the achievements of Bittersweet Farms and are dedicated to the dream of providing a similar program that will serve up to 50 workers in the coming years. Residential facilities are also part of the plan, which is another desperate need of families of adults with autism.

Information about Hiram Farm can be obtained from Kim Hummel at 330-569-3441 or

Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center, in Bainbridge in Geauga County, is the largest therapeutic riding program in the country. It serves individuals of all ages and with all disabilities. The program includes therapeutic horseback riding, barn activities and a summer camp for school-age children. My son, Vincent, has participated in classes and has been a volunteer barn worker there since the mid-nineties and it has been a tremendous help to him in many ways. He now works in the community as a barn worker at two horse boarding facilities directly as a result of his experience at Fieldstone Farm.

Information about Fieldstone Farm can be obtained from their website

I hope you will pass this information along to your listeners in some way. Thanks.


Nick 12:38 PM 12/10/09

The RoseMary Center for Children in Euclid is a well-kept secret. Traditionally they take anyone no matter the severity of the behaviors, and as long as they do not have the intent to harm in a legal sense. They have been receiving more children with autism these days and they also have several auxilary group homes that accept adults. Northeast Ohio has more services than one initially would think.

Kim Oakley 11:34 AM 1/6/10

How sad for this mother and the boy! I have an autistic son who is self injurious, but has never been aggressive. It’s not in him. That said, dealing with challenging behaviors, self injury to aggression it one of the most excruciating duties people have when dealing with autism. It’s a shame the media doesn’t illuminate this side unless it’s some horror story. They seldom if ever do documentaries on day to day life and how radically it can change and how resilient most families become dealing with something our government agencies still do NOT understand. I post videos under autism and self injury on YOUTUBE to bring awareness to severe autism and behavioral challenges. I hope this helps others who struggle with this almost surreal way of living. The good news is autistic persons can improve at any age. One autistic man said his first words at 31 years of age! Now that is a miracle. It’s sad that the older an autistic person gets, the less people expect them to progress, but this is a horrible mistake, especially for researchers, because there are dozens and dozens of cases that would blow your mind...older autistics doing things people never dreamed they even knew to shows that there are parts of the brain that may be inactive for YEARS and then suddenly activate.....very interesting...our son shows improvement every year, sometimes a little regression, but any regression was due to acute, episodic medical issues that temporarily set him back...cognitively he’s never regressed....and his motor skills have also improved over years. It’s never too late. Now keep in mind, as well, many older severe autistics, you don’t hear about this, because they are usually put in state facilities when the parents die, and subsequently quickly given chemical lobotomies to make caring for them, you never get to see their true human potential....disturbing, but true. Hopefully, this will change with more autism awareness.

autiemomreality 3:30 AM 1/17/10

PTSD is more common than people care to admit. For example, PTSD is very common among parents raising severely autistic children with aggressive or self injurious behaviors...or even with parents who have children with everyday they are posed to face off the protect..too predict what may adapt..or improvise or respond to a potentially life threatening situation...this goes on for years..and it’s different way different than fighting a stranger in a war...what shocks the mind and pysche here is the parents are fighting a battle in their own homes! Psychologists have not fully developed an understanding of this..they don’t have flippin clue...and the bureacracy serving families raising autistic kids with severe and pervasive behavioral challenges is sadly inept and ignorant about the entire ordeal..


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