A Resource for Improved Understanding

By Samantha Kolkey

I follow The Mighty on Facebook and their videos pop up on my feed often.  Recently, I saw a video that highlighted one of my student’s diagnoses, which is one that I am not familiar working with in a clinical setting.  It presented statements from individuals who also have the same diagnosis as this student. It opened my eyes to what this student is struggling with on a daily basis, and it clarified the challenges he has been enduring.  This led to me applying new approaches to help this individual.

The Options staff and I feel that The Mighty is a powerful resource for students, parents, clinicians, educators, and other family members to access when trying to understand an individual’s diagnosis and disability.   Frustration can be common among service providers and parents to those who have a mental health diagnosis or other disability. It is important to always get the individual’s perspective and The Mighty helps to provide this.  An improved understanding of an individual can only reap benefits.

Thank you @TheMightySite!


Bullying, from the Perspective of People with Autism

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By Marcella Mackowiak

There is something about bullying that makes my skin crawl. I have an overweight nephew who was picked on daily by his bully. We watched his self-esteem slowly descend into the ground as it was being buried. One day, he got the courage to stand up to his bully. While it was physical, he was never bullied again.

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Not all people can be physical. Those living with ASD might not even quite understand what is happening to them. I had the pleasure of working with a young man who didn’t even realize that he was being bullied. The stories that he told were horrendous and brought tears to my eyes. At that point, I was very elated that he was no longer in that school setting.

Image result for pictures of people being bullied Autism Speaks put out an INCREDIBLE article about bullying from the person who is being bullied’s perspective. Those with ASD get a chance to tell the bullies “what they want them to know.” They also did one on ways to take a stand against a bully. I have included links to both as they are both important to those we care about, ASD or not!



Mental Health Phone Apps

Written by: Ashley Allis, LCPC

It is #WorldMentalHealthDay! In honor of this, the Options staff have asked Ashley Allis, therapist at Ashley Allis Therapy to write a brief blog post.

Did you know there are many mental health apps for your phone? Apps can be a good tool to use outside of therapy and many report they are easy to use. You can put your phone to good use!  Some of the apps are geared towards depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, meditation and relaxation techniques. These apps have been reviewed by the Anxiety Depression Association of America members. Take a look: https://adaa.org/finding-help/mobile-apps

Exploring a Venture Capital Model with Autism Research

By Samantha Kolkey

Today I was shown an opinion piece published in Friday’s Wall Street Journal titled “Autism Research Should Be Financed Like Venture Capital.”  I was so intrigued.  The author of the piece, John Rodakis, is the founder and president of the non-profit N of One: Autism Research Foundation.  This non-profit uses the funds they have available to fund autism research.

Mr. Rodakis’ piece focuses on the issue of how three organizations make up 99% of autism research funding, and these organizations provide funding to autism research that fits into what he calls the “genetics-first paradigm,” limiting the scientists who need funds to conduct their research based on more “radical ideas.” He cites two studies, one of recent note and the other from 15 years ago, which both lend evidence to theories that are not within the genetic paradigm.   The more recent conducted by Dr. Robert Naviaux, professor at the University of California, San Diego who theorizes that a treatable metabolic condition may underlie autism.  In a small clinical trial involving 10 boys with autism, he found a significant improvement in language and social behavior when given the drug suramin.  The other was a clinical trial with 8 to 10 boys with severe autism who were taking the antibiotic vancomycin and were seen to have a significant improvement.

He proposes ideas on how the organizations providing funding to autism research can utilize a venture-capital model to diversify the types of research studies being funded.  The greater the risk, the greater the reward, right? He proposes placing a hard cap on the number of grants awarded to studies that are genetics related to open up more grants to studies that move away from a genetic focus. Another proposal Mr. Rodakis made was for the National Institute of Health to create an office made up of analysts whose job is to “identify and challenge conventional points of view.” This group of analysts could then fund studies that counter the dominant model.

Since there are still so many questions surrounding autism, why not look to other theories? Why focus on one model, when there are many researchers out there looking to test out their potentially groundbreaking theory?


By Marcella Mackowiak

When I first started at Options, I had the very challenging task of placing students in jobs. I did not have any prior exposure to persons living with ASD, let alone understanding what ASD is. But as I worked with these students, I started to realize how limited they were in the jobs they could do. Not so much because of their capabilities, but because of the environment and bosses who were not empathetic to their differences. I had a student who did not talk so much, but was brilliant on computers. Because he would not talk on the phone, it was hard to place him. However, with lots of assistance from various other organizations, he was accepted as a teammate to serve lunch and dinner to army personnel through a Goodwill project. While it was not computers, the environment was perfect for him. Calm, no expectations in terms of conversation and repetitive tasks.

Michael John Carley, founder of GRASP (Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership) published an incredible article about a gentleman who has Asperger’s and his struggles with work until he was able to find someone to accommodate and understand his needs. This article gave me hope- hope that in the future it will be easier to place my students in jobs that they can do with employers who understand. Enjoy…


Financial Planning: The Who, What, Why, When, and Where of a 529 plan

By the Team at Options for College Success

Saving and paying for college, post-secondary programming, and training is incredibly difficult to say the least. If your student has learning challenges and disabilities, there are places to turn to for help with educational funding on a state and federal level. However, this isn’t always enough, and sometimes your student may not qualify.

One option for all students is in the Internal Revenue code, Section 529, an investment tool designed to help families save and pay for post-secondary education programs and training.

John Hewitt, founder and CEO of Liberty Tax Service, provided a breakdown on the 529 plan in the Business section of the Chicago Tribune on Monday. It’s a quick and informative read that is useful for all.

@libertytax @JohnTHewitt



Mainstream School and Autism

By Guest Blogger and Options Team Member, Barbara Bradford

I have a 19 year old granddaughter who is on the autism spectrum.  She was diagnosed with Aspergers when she was in eighth grade, the last year she was able to manage traditional school. Her mother, my oldest daughter, posted this article on Facebook, writing ” Please take a few moments to read this today and reflect on how our schools, and our society at large, can do better in supporting and accepting autistic people.  The don’t need to be fixed or cured.  They just need to be loved and supported for who they are, not punished, blamed or shamed for non-typical behaviors that arise from their disability, with no understanding of why they are behaving differently. I hope reading and maybe sharing this essay will be a small step toward better understanding.”