Photos capture heartwarming moment blind boy meets Santa, reindeer

A Texas mother’s post about the “Best Santa ever” has gone viral after she shared moving photos of her 6-year-old son, who is blind and autistic, touching Santa’s face and feeling his suit as they shared a special moment. The Wolf family, of Watauga, had traveled to Cabela’s on Dec. 5 to meet Santa after … Continue reading “Photos capture heartwarming moment blind boy meets Santa, reindeer”

A Texas mother’s post about the “Best Santa ever” has gone viral after she shared moving photos of her 6-year-old son, who is blind and autistic, touching Santa’s face and feeling his suit as they shared a special moment.

The Wolf family, of Watauga, had traveled to Cabela’s on Dec. 5 to meet Santa after Matthew expressed an interest in him.

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“I went over there and whispered real quick I said, ‘He’s blind and he’s autistic but very interested in Santa,’” Wolf told Fox 4 News.

What followed next, according to Wolf’s Facebook page that has received more than 224,000 reactions and nearly 95,000 shares, was a little bit of Christmas magic.

“He said ‘say no more’ and immediately got down on the floor to greet my little man,” Wolf wrote on Facebook. “He talked to Matthew for a long time. Let him feel all over him. Told him to pull his beard, feel his hat and talked about his red suit.”

Wolf told Fox 4 News that her son’s favorite book is “’Twas Night Before Christmas,” but that she had never realized that he didn’t really know what a “twinkle” in the eye meant.

“He asked Matthew if he wanted to feel anything and Matthew said, ‘your eyes that twinkle’ (from the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) so Santa let him touch all over his eyes for as long as Matthew wanted.”

Matthew was then brought over to Santa’s reindeer display so that he could feel what the animal’s fur is like.

“It was great,” Wolf wrote. “My heart was full seeing Matthew so interest.”

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The man who donned Santa’s suit was not identified in Wolf’s post, but Fox 4’s Lauren Przybyl posted on Facebook that he is James Langley, who has an adult child with special needs.

“All children need is love,” Langley told the news outlet.

Matthew had only asked Santa for water during his visit, which Wolf said is typical of her son.

“He’s not like all the other kids that want a bunch of toys,” she told the news outlet. “He’s just not into that. He’d rather have that experience and actually find out what Santa is.”

Kent State basketball recruit becomes first player with autism to join Division 1 school

A men’s college basketball recruit made history earlier this month when he became the first player with autism to sign a letter of intent with a Division 1 school.

Kailin Bennett, a 6-foot-10 center, will leave Little Rock, Arkansas, to join Kent State in the school’s 2019-20 freshmen class.

The Golden Flash announced Bennett had signed the letter of intent Nov. 14. He was ranked as the No. 16 prospect in Arkansas and is coming from the Little Rock Christian Academy.

“We knew we were going to recruit some size and watched Kalin play this summer and got to know him and his story,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said in a news release. “We are really excited to bring him to Kent State. He has autism and to my knowledge, he will be the first Division I player with autism to sign an NLI. We're very excited about the potential he has as a basketball player and he's only scratching the surface. Kalin is a big, strong, physical player that has a soft touch. We look forward to watching his development over the next few years”

Bennett told Cleveland.com on Sunday he hopes to inspire kids who battle with autism to achieve their goals.

“I want to make an impact not just on the court, but with kids that are struggling with the same things I am,” he said. “I want to use this platform to inspire other kids with autism and non-autism. I want to let them know, hey, if I can do this, you can do it, too. A lot of times they feel alone and by themselves, and I felt that same way growing up.”

Bennett said he chose Kent State because of the school’s services that help students who are on the autism spectrum.

“Going there and seeing that [support] opened some doors I haven’t really thought about in a while,” he told Cleveland.com of a recruiting trip in September.

Bennett, who also excels in music and math, will join the Golden Flash next summer.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Autism rate now 1 in 40 US kids, study finds

How many American children have autism? The U.S. government answers that question at least three different ways and says the latest estimate — 1 in 40 kids — doesn't necessarily mean the numbers are rising.

The new number, published Monday in Pediatrics, is from one of three periodic surveys the government uses to assess autism rates. It's higher than a different survey's estimate published earlier this year, but the surveys use different methods and measure different populations of kids so the results aren't really comparable.

Because there's no medical test, "autism spectrum disorder is a particularly challenging condition to track," government researchers wrote in the Pediatrics report.

The true occurrence of autism likely ranges from about 1 in 59 kids to 1 in 40 kids, researchers say, taking into account information from all three surveys.

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"All contribute different information to form a fuller picture," said Michael Kogan, lead author of the new report conducted by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, a federal agency.

Various reports in recent years have suggested autism rates are rising slightly. Experts think that's mostly because of earlier diagnosis, an expanded definition and more awareness, but say they can't rule out a true increase caused by unknown factors.

Here's a rundown on the three surveys:

— The latest estimate is based on responses from about 43,000 parents of kids aged 3 to 17. They were asked if their child had ever been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the formal name that encompasses mild to severe cases. The 2016 survey was internet-based; earlier ones were telephone surveys showing slightly higher rates but the researchers say the results aren't comparable,

The nationally representative survey suggests that about 1.5 million U.S. kids have autism — 2.5 percent or 1 in 40.

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent collects nationally representative information from in-person interviews. In 2016, it also asked parents of kids aged 3 to 17 about an ever-diagnosis of autism and came up with a rate slightly higher than in previous years but similar to the 1 in 40 estimate.

— The CDC also uses an 11-state tracking system. It's based on health and school records showing which kids meet criteria for autism, focusing on 8-year-olds because most cases are diagnosed by that age. A report from this network released in April, showed that 1 in 59 kids have autism although much higher rates were found in some places. This estimate is considered the most rigorous, but it's not nationally representative.

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Autism Speaks, an advocacy group, is among organizations that use the CDC's network estimate. It tends be more conservative and potentially more accurate than parents' reports, said neuroscientist Dean Hartley, a senior director for the group,

Autism is a developmental disorder that can involve varying degrees of language and social impairments, often including repetitive behaviors.

Experts say affected kids fare best with early diagnosis and treatment, but some doctors may dismiss early signs and some parents may be unaware of autism symptoms, the CDC's Dr. Stuart Shapira said.

The Pediatrics survey found that about one-third of kids with parent-reported autism received no behavior treatment and showed that many parents had trouble getting services for their children, echoing earlier studies.

Shapira noted the agency has a free Milestone Tracker phone appto help parents recognize developmental delays.

Autism rate now 1 in 40 US kids, study finds

How many American children have autism? The U.S. government answers that question at least three different ways and says the latest estimate — 1 in 40 kids — doesn't necessarily mean the numbers are rising.

The new number, published Monday in Pediatrics, is from one of three periodic surveys the government uses to assess autism rates. It's higher than a different survey's estimate published earlier this year, but the surveys use different methods and measure different populations of kids so the results aren't really comparable.

Because there's no medical test, "autism spectrum disorder is a particularly challenging condition to track," government researchers wrote in the Pediatrics report.

The true occurrence of autism likely ranges from about 1 in 59 kids to 1 in 40 kids, researchers say, taking into account information from all three surveys.

CASES OF MYSTERIOUS POLIO-LIKE ILLNESS HIGHEST IN US SINCE 2016, CAUSING CONCERN

"All contribute different information to form a fuller picture," said Michael Kogan, lead author of the new report conducted by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, a federal agency.

Various reports in recent years have suggested autism rates are rising slightly. Experts think that's mostly because of earlier diagnosis, an expanded definition and more awareness, but say they can't rule out a true increase caused by unknown factors.

Here's a rundown on the three surveys:

— The latest estimate is based on responses from about 43,000 parents of kids aged 3 to 17. They were asked if their child had ever been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the formal name that encompasses mild to severe cases. The 2016 survey was internet-based; earlier ones were telephone surveys showing slightly higher rates but the researchers say the results aren't comparable,

The nationally representative survey suggests that about 1.5 million U.S. kids have autism — 2.5 percent or 1 in 40.

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent collects nationally representative information from in-person interviews. In 2016, it also asked parents of kids aged 3 to 17 about an ever-diagnosis of autism and came up with a rate slightly higher than in previous years but similar to the 1 in 40 estimate.

— The CDC also uses an 11-state tracking system. It's based on health and school records showing which kids meet criteria for autism, focusing on 8-year-olds because most cases are diagnosed by that age. A report from this network released in April, showed that 1 in 59 kids have autism although much higher rates were found in some places. This estimate is considered the most rigorous, but it's not nationally representative.

NICU NURSES DONATE MEGA MILLIONS WINNINGS TO COLLEAGUES IN NEED

Autism Speaks, an advocacy group, is among organizations that use the CDC's network estimate. It tends be more conservative and potentially more accurate than parents' reports, said neuroscientist Dean Hartley, a senior director for the group,

Autism is a developmental disorder that can involve varying degrees of language and social impairments, often including repetitive behaviors.

Experts say affected kids fare best with early diagnosis and treatment, but some doctors may dismiss early signs and some parents may be unaware of autism symptoms, the CDC's Dr. Stuart Shapira said.

The Pediatrics survey found that about one-third of kids with parent-reported autism received no behavior treatment and showed that many parents had trouble getting services for their children, echoing earlier studies.

Shapira noted the agency has a free Milestone Tracker phone appto help parents recognize developmental delays.