Archive for April, 2011

Interview with autism advocate Sheila Medlam about son Mason and wandering

April 23, 2011

On July 27, 2010, 5-year old Mason Medlam, a non-verbal boy with autism, wandered from his home in Colwich, Kansas and drowned in a pond despite numerous safety precautions.  Click here to read an interview with Mason’s mother Sheila.

Mason was one of at least nine children with autism in the U.S. who died after wandering in 2010, all from drowning.  So far in 2011, three children with autism in the U.S. have drowned after wandering. On March 30, a child with autism in Victoria, Australia died after being struck by a train.  On April 3, a child with autism in Quebec, Canada went missing after wandering and has not been found.

In the eight months since her son Mason’s death, Sheila Medlam has been raising awareness of autism wandering.  She has established the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation for Autism Safety and collected more than 100,000 signatures to propose a “Mason Alert” program. The Mason Alert would consist of an alert that would be triggered when a child with autism goes missing, and a registry of children with autism and other disabilities at risk for wandering.

Please click here to read the interview with Sheila Medlam on


Preventing autism wandering: tracking devices, medical diagnostic code, Amber Alert proposed

April 22, 2011

Children with autism are often prone to wandering, fascinated by water, and unaware of danger.  Many of these children are also impulsive and nonverbal. This combination of characteristics can be fatal.

In 2010, at least nine children with autism died in the U.S. after wandering, all of them by drowning.  Already in 2011, at least three children with autism have drowned in the U.S. after wandering.  On March 30, a child with autism in Victoria, Australia died after being struck by a train.  He wandered from home.  On April 3, a child with autism in Quebec, Canada went missing after wandering and has not been found. The search has focused on a river.

“It’s just terrible to watch it happen over and over again. We relive the loss of Mason each time,” said Sheila Medlam, whose 5-year old son Mason drowned in a pond after wandering away from his house in Colwich, Kansas July 27, 2010.

In an interview with, Medlam talked about the life of her son Mason, the joy he brought her and her family, his tragic death, and efforts to raise awareness to prevent future wandering fatalities.

For more on wandering and autism, read the rest of my article on here.

Washington D.C. sportsradio station ESPN 980 broadcasts Orioles games. Should they?

April 16, 2011

Why is a Washington, D.C. sports radio station airing Orioles games? This view of Camden Yards is from I-95, headed to D.C. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

Should a Washington, D.C. sportsradio station broadcast Baltimore Orioles games? WTEM ESPN 980 does – they have the contract for two seasons.  I find it strange because the Orioles tried to prevent Washington from getting a team for so many years. ESPN 980 doesn’t talk much about the Nats except when they have their beat reporter on.  They talk even less about the O’s, which is appropriate, but then it seems strange to air the games and never talk about the O’s.  I guess my problem is with all the Washingtonians who are O’s fans.  Why not be loyal to your hometown team?  I interviewed the station’s Program Director, Chuck Sapienza about ESPN 980’s decision to air O’s games.  Here’s the interview on

‘Wretches and Jabberers’ documentary playing in 40 cities in April for Autism Awareness Month

April 3, 2011

Wretches and Jabberers: And Stories from the Road is a powerful, moving documentary that follows two men with autism as they travel the world, visiting friends with autism and changing attitudes about disabilities along the way.

The potentially groundbreaking film opens in 40 cities in April to commemorate National Autism Awareness Month.

Many people with autism have extremely limited verbal skills or no speech whatsoever.  It has long been assumed by the general public, and even by many parents, educators, and caretakers that scant speech equals low intelligence.

In Wretches and Jabberers, the movie’s protagonists dispel this myth.  The two men and the four friends they visit show the world that they are in fact exceedingly intelligent, eloquent in their writings, and charmingly funny.  Like Helen Keller before them, the “wretches” in the movie are pioneers, blazing trails for others to follow.  The message of the movie is to show the world that there are others like them who are vastly underestimated and whose potential is untapped.  It is a message of hope.

The film follows Tracy Thresher, 42, and Larry Bissonnette, 52, both from Vermont, as they travel to Sri Lanka, Japan, and Finland to visit friends during their globetrotting tour who, like them, type independently to communicate.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Gerardine Wurzburg directed the feature documentary.

Thresher, Bissonnette, and the friends they visit can all type independently.  But they first learned to communicate using supported typing (click here for an article about that technique).

The soundtrack was written by J. Ralph, with songs performed by a star-studded group of artists including Judy Collins, Ben Harper, Scarlett Johansson, Nic Jones, Norah Jones, Carly Simon, Stephen Stills, and Bob Weir.

Click here to read the rest of my Wretches and Jabberers article on