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Els for Autism utilizes rare, FDA-approved eye-tracking technology to identify autism in young children

In our mission to become a global leader in the field of autism, Els for Autism® is proud to announce that we are one of the few organizations in the country utilizing the new clinically validated, FDA-authorized EarliPoint™ autism evaluation tool to assist our team of clinicians in diagnosing and accessing children, ages 16 to 30 months old, at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Source: WPTV News Channel 5

* Disclaimer: EarliPoint is only FDA-approved for children 16 to 30 months of age.

EarliPoint captures moment-by-moment-looking behavior undetectable to the human eye. For a child, it is as simple as watching a short video—like scenes of toddlers playing—while the device assesses the individual focal points at a rate of 120 times per second. Each data point is then compared to thousands of discrete measurements within a clinically validated database, so that parents, caregivers, and providers have timely, objective, and accurate information concerning potential developmental vulnerabilities.

Mason was the first child our team of clinicians assessed utilizing EarliPoint after his parents, Aaron and Amber, contacted our team with concerns. “Before he was a year old, I began suspecting autism. At seven months old, he was rocking and hand flapping,” said Amber. “He was late to crawl, walk, and talk.”

At Mason’s 18-month doctor’s appointment, Amber completed the Modified Checklist for Autism-Revised™ in Toddlers (M-CHAT-R). M-CHAT-R is a screener that will ask a series of 20 questions about your child’s behavior and is intended for toddlers between 16 and 30 months of age. Her pediatrician gave her the option to wait or to move forward with pursuing further evaluation.

Amber, knowing the importance of early intervention, decided to move forward, and that is when she was referred to our team. “I built a relationship with Arti [Clinical Care Coordinator at Els for Autism] who would call just to check in as we waited for Mason’s appointment. People were saying to go to a neurologist, but I said, ‘No, I’m waiting to go to Els for Autism.’”

The call from Arti came in December, and Amber and Aaron were given the opportunity to have Mason go through a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, with or without the use of EarliPoint. They chose to have the evaluation include the utilization of EarliPoint.

However, Amber almost canceled the appointment one week before the appointment. “I was second-guessing myself due to other people’s opinions saying I was wrong in thinking Mason could have autism.”

But her motherly intuition kicked in, and she kept the appointment. “Talking with other parents, who went through the process of diagnosing their child with autism, they all said it was a very long and sad process,” she says. “No one wants to see their child be diagnosed with autism; however, I am thankful the process for Mason and me was the complete opposite.”

In fact, Mason laughed as he watched the short video capturing data point entries to make the formal diagnosis of autism. “Without Els for Autism, I would be crying sad tears; instead, I’m crying happy tears knowing this is a resource and they have my back. I no longer feel lost, and I have been sharing with families about the programs and services offered at Els for Autism.”

Aaron and Amber are currently seeking programs and services for Mason and themselves, including our RUBI parent training program and Spring into Action Early: Intensive Behavior Intervention (EIBI) program.

We are thankful to Aaron, Amber, and Mason for allowing us to share their story and for everyone who made it possible for Els for Autism to acquire EarliPoint, which will now allow our team of clinicians to see more families with decreased wait times while still providing a gold-standard autism evaluation.

Four Tips for a Successful Holiday Break

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness, but for families with children on the autism spectrum, it can also pose unique challenges. The break from routine, sensory overload, and social expectations may create stress for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. However, with thoughtful planning and understanding, the holidays can become a time of meaningful connection and joyful engagement.

Our Early Intervention Team has effective strategies to keep your child engaged over the holiday break.

Tip 1: Establishing Predictability with Visual Schedules
First-Then Boards: During the holiday break, use First-Then boards to outline the day’s schedule. For instance, if your child enjoys a quiet, solitary activity before engaging in a group setting, the board can depict these steps visually. This way, your child gains a sense of control and understanding, reducing the potential anxiety associated with abrupt transitions.

Daily Visual Schedules: Create a daily visual schedule for the holiday break, including special activities, outings, and family gatherings. Display the schedule in a prominent and easily accessible location, ensuring your child can refer to it throughout the day. As events unfold, involve your child in checking off or moving items on the schedule to reinforce a sense of accomplishment and understanding.

Tip 2: Setting Expectations with Social Narratives
Develop a social narrative tailored to the holiday-related changes your child will encounter. This could include details about travel plans, the schedule of holiday events, and any modifications to their routine. Present the narrative well in advance, allowing your child time to process and become familiar with the upcoming changes.

Tip 3: Schedule Routine Breaks
Plan breaks strategically, considering the timing of potentially overwhelming events. If attending a lively holiday party, schedule breaks before and after the event to allow for sensory regulation. Communicate the break schedule in advance, enabling the individual to anticipate and plan accordingly.

Tip 4: Keeping AAC Devices Charged
Invest in portable chargers or power banks compatible with the AAC device. This enables charging during car rides, family gatherings, or other events outside the home. Be sure to carry charging accessories whenever you’re away from home to address unexpected power needs.

By prioritizing the charging of AAC devices during the holiday season, you empower individuals on the autism spectrum to participate fully in festive activities, express themselves, and engage meaningfully with others. This simple yet crucial step contributes to a more inclusive and communicative holiday experience for everyone involved.

Staying Active Over Winter Break

With the holidays comes the long holiday break, during which your child might get bored. Our recreation services team has some ideas to keep your child active during the break.

Holiday Light Walks:
This is a great way for the family to be outside and explore all the beautiful holiday decorations in your neighborhood. Bring some holiday music along to really get into the festivities.

Scavenger Hunt:
Find a template online or create your own! Help your child navigate a scavenger hunt around the home to encourage movement and fun. Using both pictures and words for their scavenger hunt checklist will be effective and promote independence.

Make it a Family Activity:
Involving the entire family in active and healthy lifestyle activities will encourage participation and an interest in exercise and movement. Involving others and watching friends and family do something together is highly motivating and can create a safe and encouraging environment to try new things.

Explore a New Park:
Take your bike or a comfortable pair of shoes and go exploring! Creating or reading a social story before visiting a new place can help your child know what to expect, reducing anxiety or aversion and promoting confidence and curiosity.

Build a SandMan:
We might not have snow, but you can still build a jolly SandMan at the beach! Sand can be a wonderful sensory element, which we have in abundance. Whether in small buckets in your backyard or at the beach, bringing holiday themes to sensory toys and materials can be a great way to keep moving and stay engaged during the holiday season.

Involve Your Child in the Little Things:
The holidays can be filled with baking, decorating, wrapping presents, and more. Offer opportunities for your child to get involved to boost their confidence, learn life skills, and stay active during the holidays. For a more enjoyable experience for everyone, checklists and step-by-step instructions can help map out a new activity and help your child know what comes next.

Pay it Forward:
Over the holidays, there are many ways to give back to the community. Volunteering with your child or taking steps to make someone’s day is great for everyone!

Make Your Own Ice Skating Experience:
Using paper plates on the bottom of your shoes is a great way to simulate skating in the home and is not as cold!

Set a Goal with a Prize:
Whether it’s completing a certain number of workouts or taking a certain number of walks, set a goal with a fun prize to reward your child once the goal is met. A daily, weekly, or monthly challenge is a great way to integrate exercise into your day and stay active throughout winter break!

Big Easy™ Cafe by Ernie Els Holiday Cookie Platter

The Big Easy™ Cafe by Ernie Els is here to make your holidays extra sweet by offering a special Holiday Cookie Platter.

All our gourmet cookies are organic and homemade. Purchase now by visiting our Toast account and then click “December Specials.”

Orders must be placed by Wednesday, December 13. When placing your order, you will select a pickup window (either on Friday, December 15, Wednesday, December 20, Thursday, December 21 or Friday December 22).

Platters cost $36.95 each and will all be packed with love by the adults in our Adult Day Training Program.

Here is the list of the cookies with ingredients.

Naan Khataay

Almonds, Semolina, Salt, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Flour, Sugar, Ghee, Cardamom

Cranberry Orange Shortbread

Dried Cranberries, Orange Zest, Orange Juice, Butter, Flour, Sugar, Almond Extract

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Flour, Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda, Butter, Sugar, Salt, Eggs, Rum Extract, Cinnamon, Nutmeg

Pecan Xmas Stars

Butter, Sugar, Flour, Pecans, Vanilla Extract

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Butter, Brown Sugar, Sugar, Eggs, Vanilla Extract, Red Food Coloring, Flour, Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder, Salt, Sugar, Powdered Sugar

Eggnog Cheesecakes

Graham Cracker Crumbs, Butter, Sugar, Nutmeg, Cream Cheese, Sugar, Flour, Eggnog, Eggs, Heavy Cream, Vanilla Extract

Peanut Butter Truffles

Creamy Peanut Butter, Butter, Powdered Sugar, Graham Cracker Crumbs, Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Research conducted at The Els Center of Excellence® Reveals ASPECTSS®-Based Design’s Impact on Autism School Environments

Els for Autism® is thrilled to announce the publication of a groundbreaking research study conducted at The Els Center of Excellence®. The study, titled “The Impact of ASPECTSS®-Based Design Intervention in Autism School Design: A Case Study,” has been published in the prestigious Q1 International Journal of Architectural Research.

This work is one of the first studies globally to measure the impact of ASPECTSS®-informed intervention on autism school design.

Dr. Marlene Sotelo, Executive Director of Els for Autism, emphasizes the significance of specially designed spaces for individuals with autism to support their areas of need and maximize their areas of strength. She states, “Specialized environmental design and arrangement is essential for the success of individuals with autism in the classroom and greater school environment to promote learning and independence.”

This work was a collaboration between a team of esteemed researchers and professionals at The Els Center of Excellence and world-renowned architect Dr. Magda Mostafa. It explored the impact of ASPECTSS®-based design interventions on autism school design. ASPECTSS®, authored by and a registered trademark of Dr. Mostafa, was published in 2014. It is the world’s first research-based framework for architecture for autism and is an acronym for Acoustics, Spatial Sequencing, Escape Space, Compartmentalization, Transition, Sensory Zoning, and Safety. Together, these represent the key elements considered in designing spaces that cater to the unique needs of individuals with autism.

By implementing ASPECTSS®-based design interventions in autism school design, the research study demonstrated improvements in the overall learning experience of students with autism. The findings highlight the importance of incorporating thoughtful environmental considerations in educational facilities to support the academic, social, and emotional development of individuals on the autism spectrum.

The publication of this research study in the International Journal of Architectural Research signifies a significant step forward in advancing the field of autism education and the design of the built environment within which it is situated. Els for Autism and Magda Mostafa remain committed to sharing knowledge, promoting best practices, and advocating for inclusive educational environments that empower individuals with autism to reach their full potential.

Funding for the publication was made available through the generous support of the American University in Cairo.

New Golf Pro Shop Vocational Lab Powered by ClubsHelp Debuts at The Els Center of Excellence®

In August 2023, the Els for Autism Foundation® opened the Stoops Family Adult Services Building at The Els Center of Excellence® campus, a 21,000-square-foot purpose-built building for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other related disabilities. The building expands programs and services for adults with ASD, including paid employment exploration and training. Some of these opportunities are within the golf industry, including both on- and off-course positions.

With the generous support of the ClubsHelp Foundation, the Els for Autism® introduces a new Golf Pro Shop vocational lab, creating opportunities for individuals with ASD to explore careers in the golf industry. ClubsHelp Foundation is a nationwide network harnessing the power of clubs and their resources.

“Through this collaboration, ClubsHelp will support and amplify the skills and talents of these individuals, using our network of clubs across the country to create employment opportunities,” said Rob Goulet, President of the ClubsHelp Foundation. “The Els for Autism staff has the experience and knowledge to train clubs on recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and retaining employees with autism. And we’ll work through human resources professionals at clubs to communicate the advantages of employing people with autism.”

The Els for Autism Work Experience program allows adults aged 18 and over who have exited the school system to engage in hands-on learning and develop skills related to employment.  Participants of the program in the new Golf Pro Shop vocational lab will learn to sort and tag merchandise, organize displays, operate point-of-sale terminals, and other retail-centric skills.

Many individuals with autism exhibit specific strength traits that allow for these positions to be a good fit for golf industry jobs. The main strengths identified from data revealed cognitive advantages, including attention to detail, creativity, focus, and memory. Additionally, individuals with ASD often thrive in repetitive tasks and inhibit personal qualities such as honesty and dedication. Jobs that require following a set of procedures and protocols are many times a good fit for someone with autism who is detail-oriented and prefers routine.

“This facility is so important for adults with autism and will help those individuals successfully transition to adulthood by providing employment services, therapeutic services, day training, recreation, and social activities,” said golf legend Ernie Els.

Els, along with his wife, Liezl, and Marvin R. Shanken, publisher and founder of M. Shanken Communications, founded the Els for Autism Foundation in 2009 following the diagnosis of the Els’ son, Ben, with ASD.

ClubsHelp Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, empowers golf clubs to become community catalysts. Originating from the generous spirit of Spring Brook Country Club in Morristown, N.J., during the COVID-19 pandemic, ClubsHelp has rapidly grown into a national initiative, receiving support from legendary golfers Jack Nicklaus and Els, as well as from some of America’s top clubs and corporations.

Uniting golf course owners, club managers, architects, and professionals to amplify clubs’ contributions to local causes and charities with a single mission: Care Locally, Unite Nationally. ClubsHelp provides clubs with tools and resources to enhance their impact within their communities and help during times of crisis. Visit or on social media at @ClubsHelp to join in transforming golf clubs into beacons of community support.

Information about Ernie Els #GameON Autism® Golf program, developed and provided by Els for Autism, can be found here

Fall Recreation Tips for Individuals with Autism

After a sweltering summer, we are all enjoying the cooler temps the fall brings us. Now that the weather is cooler, it is a great time to be outdoors and participate in recreation programs. We believe recreation can be an effective supplemental therapy for individuals with autism.

Whatever brings you to the outdoors, we hope you take advantage of the autumn season by incorporating recreational activities.

Our recreation team has some tips for staying safe while playing.

Stay Hydrated: Ensure you fuel your body with the proper nutrients and adequate amounts of water to stay active and engaged during recreation activities, especially outside activities.

Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body’s signals, such as when you might need rest, water, or are ready to move to something new.

Try it with friends: Recreation is a great way to meet new people and make friends. Participating in sports and fitness with others can help you stay motivated and make getting fit with friends so much more fun!

Make it right for you: Remember, there is always a way to modify or adapt a workout, sport, or activity to fit your needs, skill level, and interests. While this is important, ensuring proper form is crucial when performing any exercise and even more so for individuals with autism. Providing a model, whether in-person and/or via video, supports proper form and safety.

Try something new: Don’t be afraid to try a new sport or activity. You will not know if you like it until you try it. It could become your new favorite thing!

Practice, practice, practice: Remember that learning a new skill might be difficult initially, but it is essential to keep going. You’ve got this! Consistent practice will lead to progress and proficiency before you know it.

Have fun: Always remember that recreation is meant to be an enjoyable way to spend time with friends while living happy, healthy lives.

Learn more about our recreation programs & services

Stanley Black & Decker pledges $5 Million for Autism-Friendly Recreation Complex

Stanley Black & Decker, a leading global provider of tools, equipment, and services for the construction, industrial, and manufacturing industries and brand partner of World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els, has pledged $5 million over five years to support the capital campaign to build the recreation complex at The Els Center of Excellence in Jupiter, Florida.

Research proves that participation in recreational programs has shown extensive benefits for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It can reduce behavioral and emotional disorders, aid in developing social skills and forming relationships, enhance physical and mental health, and support the formation of children’s interests. Every week, Els for Autism® offers multiple recreational programs, including golf, kickball, and tennis, on The Els Center of Excellence campus, serving more than 100 individuals with autism annually.

The recreation complex will allow programming to expand by providing an indoor space during inclement weather and high temperatures. The complex will include the autism-friendly Stanley Black & Decker Gymnasium, an aquatic center, and a splash pad. Drowning is the number one cause of death for children with autism, and an aquatic center for people with autism will allow for specialized water safety and swimming instruction as part of the Ernie Els #GameON Autism® Sports Programs.

“We are thrilled to have the support of Stanley Black & Decker in building this much-needed recreation complex,” said Marlene Sotelo, BCBA-D, MT-BC, Executive Director of Els for Autism. “The gymnasium and aquatic center will provide a safe and inclusive space for individuals with autism to engage in physical activity and learn life-saving water safety skills. We are grateful for Stanley Black & Decker’s commitment to supporting the autism community and helping to transform the lives of people with autism and their families.”

In addition to the generous pledge of support for the recreation complex, Stanley Black & Decker also funded and outfitted a vocational lab in the brand-new Stoops Family Foundation Adult Services Building. The lab will be supplied with tools and equipment donated by Stanley Black & Decker to provide adults with autism training to support paid employment opportunities.

“We are proud to partner with Els for Autism in this important initiative to provide resources and support for individuals with autism and their families,” said Don Allan, President and CEO of Stanley Black & Decker. “We believe that by investing in programs like the recreation complex and vocational lab, we can help create a more inclusive and supportive society for individuals with autism and their families.”

Stanley Black & Decker is also designated as the National Sponsor of the 2023 Golf Challenge through a $125,000 contribution. In addition, President and CEO Donald Allan, who has supported the Golf Challenge since 2020, is an event Co-Chair of the regional Golf Challenge event held August 7 in Hartford, Connecticut, at the Wethersfield Country Club.

“The partnership between Stanley Black & Decker and Els for Autism is remarkable. It is a joy to collaborate with the SBD team and their network of supporters, all of whom demonstrate an understanding of the need to transform the lives of people with autism and those who care for them,” said Paige Thomas, Director of Events at Els for Autism.

The Els Center of Excellence is a world-class facility that provides education, therapy, research, recreation, and adult services for individuals with autism and their families. The capital campaign to build the recreation complex is a more significant effort to expand and enhance the facility’s programs and services.

Thanksgiving Social Narrative

With the fall season come social gatherings and traditions many look forward to every year. However, these events can also present unique challenges for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), from routine disruptions to noisy gatherings. That’s why Els for Autism Foundation® remains committed to providing you with information on best practices and guidance to ensure your holiday season is filled with happiness and memorable moments.

We have created a Thanksgiving Social Narrative to work on with your child before the holiday.

Els for Autism Foundation® Celebrates National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month 

Jupiter, Fla. – October marks National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the talents and contributions of individuals with disabilities in the workforce. Els for Autism® is proud to be at the forefront of this movement by providing essential support and employment opportunities for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disorders through programs & services, initiatives, and partnerships.  

Less than half of young adults with ASD are employed despite having the knowledge and abilities necessary for success in the workplace. (Source: Solomon, C. Autism and Employment: Implications for Employers and Adults with ASD.) 

Employers often find individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities to be exceptionally dedicated, excelling in attendance, punctuality, job tenure, and following workplace policies. Furthermore, companies that actively employ individuals with disabilities report impressive statistics, including an 89% higher retention rate, a 72% increase in employee productivity, and a 29% increase in profitability. 

In August, Els for Autism opened the Stoops Family Adult Services Building on The Els Center of Excellence® 26-acre campus. This 21,000-square-foot purpose-built building features several vocational labs designed to equip individuals with the necessary skills to obtain employment. These vocational labs include the Stanley Black & Decker Lab, the Big Easy™ Cafe by Ernie Els, and the Sea of Possibilities microbusiness. With the opening of our adult services building, we are providing more employment opportunities to adults with ASD. Discover how to support adults seeking employment, including the opportunity to name our grocery store or retail shop. 

While our team equips autistic adults with employment skills on our campus, our Employment Programs help adults secure employment within the community while helping employers fill needed positions. Our Work Experience program offers services that encompass developing self-advocacy and employability skills, assisting with job development, providing job leads, aiding in the interview process, and supporting job retention. Job coaching is offered before, during, and following placement in paid employment. Employers are invited to become a Work Experience Program Partner. 

In addition to our Employment Programs, Els for Autism is thrilled to introduce our newest initiative,
U Can Employ™. This groundbreaking program provides direct training, support, and consultation to both large and small companies interested in recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and retaining employees with ASD. Marlene Sotelo, BCBA-D, MT-BC, Executive Director of Els for Autism, stated, “Through the U Can Employ initiative, we aim to increase employment opportunities for individuals with ASD by providing the necessary training, consultation, and support to companies looking to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.”