Autism: State/Telluride region overview/protocols

Autism: State/Telluride region overview/protocols

[click play to listen to Susan’s interview with Brooke Young]   

Brooke and Bill Vail
Brooke Young and friend,
Bill Carson

The Telluride region’s Autism and Behavioral Consultation Team, headed by Occupational Therapist and yoga instructor Annie Clark, is working hard to raise awareness about the new protocols for affected families during the month of April, National Autism Month. Clark’s mentor at the State level is Brooke D. Young, Autism Specialist/Senior Consultant, Colorado Department of Education in Denver.

A funny thing happened with the dawning of the new millennium. The neuro-biological spectral disorders that fall under the banner of autism, a brown-bagged diagnosis until then, suddenly infiltrated pop culture. The trigger was the publication of a book in 2003 with an improbable title: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” by Mark Haddon.

In “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” Haddon creates a character, Christopher, with such clarity and of such deep empathy, the many readers of this best seller could begin to feel, likely for the first time, what it might be like to live a life in which there are no filters to eliminate or organize the millions of bits of information that come through to us through our five senses every second of every day. For people afflicted with autism, most stimuli register with equal impact. Because these never-ending bits of information cannot all be processed effectively, life becomes a very confusing tangle of competing signals. The goal for Christopher was to frame a scheme in which all these strange and apparently disjointed episodes could be made to fit neatly together.

In short order, a dramatic comedy surfaced on the silver screen, the 2005 film “Mozart and The Whale,” a story inspired by the lives of two people with Asperger’s Syndrome, a variation on the theme of autism. The emotional dysfunction of these two savants threatened to sabotage their budding romance. (“Rain Man,” the 1988 Oscar-winning film drama was also based on a real-life savant.)

This year, 2010, autism hit the TV screen with the HBO biopic “Temple Grandin,” which honors the heroine’s priorities, stressing deeds over tear-stained setbacks and jubilant breakthroughs. “Temple Grandin,” a practical, pragmatic look at autism, also reframed the challenge: “Different Not Less,” the banner Temple’s mother, Eustacia, waved to threads.

Brooke Young’s resume is peppered top to bottom with autism. She heads up autism initiatives at the state level, directing the Colorado Department of Education’s Colorado Model Autism and Significant Support Needs Program (CO-MASP). Young holds a masters degree from the University of Kansas in Special Education Disorders, and is working on her Ph.D. in the field. Her alma mater the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas consistently ranks as one of the top graduate-level special education programs in the country. In the 2009 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” Kansas was selected as the top program-among more than 1,200 public and private special education preparation programs.

Young is now a nationally recognized authority on autism and an in-demand speaker, presenter and consultant.

To find out about autism from a global, national, state and local level, including theories as to why the disorder has penetrated the zeitgeist, click the “play” and listen to Young’s podcast.

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