Friendship Community heART Auction 2013

12th Annual Auction

Impacting the World with Art-abilities!

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The heART of Friendship ART Gallery is showcasing capabilities at the ART for heART Benefit Auction on February 22 at Lily’s on Main, 124 E. Main Street, Ephrata. The reception and silent auction will begin 5:30 pm and the live auction starts at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.  Call (717) 656-2466 ext 112 to purchase tickets.

Professional artists’ works are featured along with creative works by Artists from the heART of Friendship ART Gallery to raise funds for this unique program.  This creative arts gallery and studio serve Artists with developmental disabilities.  Pottery, original paintings, sculpture, creative wood pieces, and more will be available for bidding.  Some special pieces include Look to the Iris, an original watercolor by artist Cherie Sikking (below) and a cathedral piece by Freiman Stoltzfus, just to name a couple. Art may be previewed and absentee bidding is now available.

The heART of Friendship ART Gallery is pleased to partner with many local businesses and foundations. Without their financial and in-kind gifts, our event would not be possible. Their generous sponsorships inspire the heART-tistic Individuals who are Impacting the World with Capabilities!


SikkingHess Old Boston's Beacon HillWoodside

The heART of Friendship Art Gallery maintains copyright for all artwork on behalf of the heART Artists.  Original artwork as well as images on this website may not be used or reproduced without our written consent. Some art is produced with the assistance or collaboration of professional art instructors.

The heART of Friendship ART Gallery
39 East Main St Ephrata, PA 17522
(717) 733-0184

Study From University of Connecticut Suggests Some Children Can Outgrow Autism

A fascinating study that will surely be debated and undoubtedly provoke more study suggests that a minority of toddlers diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorder no longer qualify as autistic years after diagnosis.  The investigator, Dr. Deborah Fein estimates that 10%-20% of children can outgrow or otherwise “recover” from autism; the study uses the phrase “achieve(s) optimal outcomes.”

Dr. Fein led a team from the University of Connecticut and reported last week in the Journal of Child Psychology that they had identified 34 people who had all been diagnosed with autism by age 5 but years later were indistinguishable from their peers.

The findings reinforce observations made by parents and clinicians that symptoms of autism can disappear over time in some individuals.  However, it does not appear that doctors know how to identify the group that experiences “recovery”.


The full abstract from the Journal of Child Psychology (courtesy of PubMed) is re-printed here:

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2013 Feb;54(2):195-205. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12037.

Optimal outcome in individuals with a history of autism.

Fein D, Barton M, Eigsti IM, Kelley E, Naigles L, Schultz RT, Stevens M, Helt M, Orinstein A, Rosenthal M, Troyb E, Tyson K.


Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA;              Department of Psychology, Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada; Center for Autism Research, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA, USA; Institute of Living, Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT, USA;  Child Mind Institute, NY, USA;              Department of Pediatrics, University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT, USA.


Background:  Although autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are generally considered lifelong disabilities, literature suggests that a minority of individuals with an ASD will lose the diagnosis. However, the existence of this phenomenon, as well as its frequency and interpretation, is still controversial: were they misdiagnosed initially, is this a rare event, did they lose the full diagnosis, but still suffer significant social and communication impairments or did they lose all symptoms of ASD and function socially within the normal range?

Methods:  The present study documents a group of these optimal outcome individuals (OO group, n = 34) by comparing their functioning on standardized measures to age, sex, and nonverbal IQ matched individuals with high-functioning autism (HFA group, n = 44) or typical development (TD group, n = 34). For this study, ‘optimal outcome’ requires losing all symptoms of ASD in addition to the diagnosis, and functioning within the nonautistic range of social interaction and communication. Domains explored include language, face recognition, socialization, communication, and autism symptoms. Results:  Optimal outcome and TD groups’ mean scores did not differ on socialization, communication, face recognition, or most language subscales, although three OO individuals showed below-average scores on face recognition. Early in their development, the OO group displayed milder symptoms than the HFA group in the social domain, but had equally severe difficulties with communication and repetitive behaviors. Conclusions:  Although possible deficits in more subtle aspects of social interaction or cognition are not ruled out, the results substantiate the possibility of OO from autism spectrum disorders and demonstrate an overall level of functioning within normal limits for this group.

© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry © 2013 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.


Please see these other links that reported on the study:

“Who Can Outgrow Autism” by Shirley S. Wang, Wall Street Journal

“New Study Suggests Autism Can Be ‘Outgrown'” by Mia Szalavitz, Time Magazine







What is a Weighted Blanket?

Weighted blankets are often used to provide an additional sensory input for a special needs child and tends to be used as a soothing tool for sleep.  They are also useful for teens and adults prone to stress.  The theory behind the product is that the blanket provokes the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin or dopamine much the way a hug would.  They have shown benefits to people experiencing sensory integration disorder, anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome and other similar conditions.  The concept is broad enough that even those people who have no special needs can benefit from improved sleep quality or a decrease in stress.

Weights tend to scale with a person’s weight and height; there are products for infants at 20lbs (a 3lb blanket) to a 40 lb Queen weighted blanket for an individual of 200lbs or more.  Manufacturers recommend that a blanket be measured by 10% of the person’s body weight plus 1lb – 5lbs.

Naturally, weighted blankets tend to run higher in price than standard quilts or bed covers because of the fill.  Look for blankets made with polypropylene filler (small plastic beads or pellets) that are non-hypo-allergenic with evenly distributed weight.  Many Occupational Therapists are familiar with such products and it would do well to consult with one before purchasing.

There are a surprising number of manufacturers that sell weighted blankets and other similar sensory products including the following:

small weighted blanket
Photo provided by SensaCalm



DreamCatcher Originals:

Sensory Goods:

Mosaic Weighted Blankets: 

5 Tax Credits & Deductions For Special Needs Families

Parents of children with special needs often have unique financial concerns, and one way to ease those concerns is to reduce their tax burden.

There are many tax credits and deductions available that parents may not be aware of. Parents of children with special needs should familiarize themselves with the deductions and credits and take care to document all expenses related to their children’s medical expenses, development and therapy.

Here are 5 useful tax deductions and credits for parents of children with special needs.

1. Medical & Therapy Expenses

The first type of deduction to consider is for medical and therapy expenses. For income tax purposes, learning disabilities are a type of medical condition. This may include autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, and other learning disabilities.

While these expenses are limited by 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income, the limitation may be exceeded by certain types of out-of-pocket expenses.

Such expenses can include the following:

  • Special schooling such as: tutoring that is specifically intended to address the special needs of the child.
  • Regular education when it is intended to treat the child’s special needs.
  • Aides that a child may require to benefit from education.
  • Exercise programs, if they are recommended by a medical professional.
  • Transportation to and from special schools or therapy sessions.
  • Equipment, devices and supplies necessary to treat or alleviate a medical condition, including technology items such as communication devices.

2. Specialized Foods

A gluten-free, casein-free diet can be used as a deduction provided it is medically recommended. Generally, only the additional cost of the specialized foods over and above what would be paid for similar items is deductible.

3. Legal Expenses

In some cases, legal expenses related to your child’s special needs may be deductible, for instance if you hire an attorney to help you prove that your child’s medical expenses are legitimate.

Tax Credits

Even more helpful than a tax deduction is a tax credit, which applies directly to the amount of tax you owe. The tax credits most helpful to parents of special needs children are the Child and Dependent Care Credit and the Earned Income Credit. In both cases, a credit that is normally only available for children may also be used for an older child with special needs.

4. Child and Dependent Care Credit

The Child and Dependent Care Credit may be applied when you pay someone to care for your dependent, and it provides a tax credit of up to $3,000 per dependent, to a maximum of $6,000 for all dependants.  Child-care, after-school programs and day camp qualify for the credit.

The credit is available for children under the age of 13, but the age limit does not apply to older children with special needs.

5. Earned Income Credit

The Earned Income Credit can also be useful for parents of children with special needs. The credit generally may be applied by families with a low to moderate income and children under the age of 19, or up to age 23 for full-time students. However, for adult children living with their parents, the age limit does not apply.

In Conclusion

Parents of children with special needs know that there are unique challenges involved, including financial hurdles. However, with careful planning you can make sure you do what is necessary to reduce your tax burden and protect your child’s interests.


Great iPad Apps for Special Needs Kids

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There are so many iPad apps currently on the market designed with special needs children and adults in mind, deciding on the best app for your child’s needs is no easy task. With the added stress of the cost of many of the most popular apps, it’s important to do your research before paying for a download, and we will help get you started by explaining some of the more popular apps available.

Experts suggest that you begin your search for apps by considering the apps currently used in your child’s classroom. If your child does not have access to an iPad at school, or you home school, we suggest taking a look at the list below to take advantage of free trials that many of these companies offer. Continue reading "Great iPad Apps for Special Needs Kids"