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Autism and Culture Round-Up: Toys, Broomball, and “The Story of Autism”

If you do not live in Canada or some of the more chilly and lake-surrounded areas of the Midwest, you might have never even heard of Broomball. The sport, which is particularly popular in Canada, does not exactly demand enraptured viewing, with the majority of the action involving a “pitcher” tossing a heavy and metallic “puck” with members of the teams using brooms to clear the surface of the ice as well as provide defense.

Now, in that above description, this might strike you as a supremely boring sport, but it is also a sport where repetitive behavior is its very backbone, making it an activity that youth with autism often respond rather favorably to. In order to raise awareness about both this relation with autism as well as increase awareness overall, the Autism Society of Greater Autism is the recipient of future proceeds from a Broomball tournament. We will be eagerly watching this unusual event to see the turn out and the overall effect Broomball might have on autism.

Now to move from the ice to the realm of the imagination, we’ve discussed quite thoroughly the unique power that toys possess to focus one’s attention and help him or her to develop positive behavior. The major toy and video game developer, Activision, has made the out-of-the-ordinary decision to create a toy with the purpose of raising awareness and money for autism.

The Skylanders series of toys and video games have been extremely popular with children of all sorts, but the company behind the toys, Activision, says they have noticed since the beginning that the characters and stories of the Skylanders universe strike a chord with children with autism. “Since the debut of the franchise, we’ve heard from parents that Skylanders plays a special role in the lives of their kids on the autism spectrum,” Skylanders executive, Josh Taub, said in a statement.

The toy will be released April 1 in time for Autism Awareness Month and is called the “Light It Up Blue” Skylanders edition, with proceeds going to Autism Speaks. The new “Power Blue” toys include the characters Splat and Trigger Happy, as well as their vehicles Splatter Splasher and Gold Rusher. The blue and white color scheme of the toys will also be displayed in the video game itself.

Finally, in a recent interview, the authors of the popular and authoritative book, “The Story of Autism” appeared on a local Arizona news show on KPNX and spoke about the need for compassion in autism awareness activism. Co-author, Caren Zucker, is the mother of a 21-year-old son with autism and she’s best known for both her authorship and reporting, which involved tracking down the first man to ever receive an autism diagnosis. Meanwhile, her co-author, John Donovan, has also reported on autism for fifteen years.

The duo’s book traces the history of autism through the stories of those who lived it. In response to the question of what the rest of us can do to show our support for those with autism, Donovan replied, “It really takes community and compassion. And compassion is free.” Certainly words that we can all take inspiration from.