Nike introduces Flyease

Nike gets 5 stars for this one.

Today marks the release of the Nike Flyease - a new kind of shoe, and the first time I can remember being impressed by a shoe company doing something good. Really good. Something which will impact people's lives in a meaningful way.

Check out the full story on Huffington Post - the fact that a high school student with cerebral palsy helped to initiate the project, and then become part of it, is simply awesome.

I've always loved Nike's slogans and marketing pieces, but I've been critical of Nike (the company) for years.

I don't like that they changed (created) the running shoe industry into what it is today, brainwashing people into believing they need expensive hi-tech running shoes in order to run properly, when the company doesn't have a single study showing this to be true.

I don't like that they changed the common expectation that sports shoes should cost well over $100 per pair. Once Air Jordans gained momentum in the 1980s, the price tags moved up permanently.

And I don't like that over the last few years, as there's been push-back from the running community towards more minimalist shoes, Nike has responded by offering a running shoe which they marketed along the lines of "as close to being barefoot as possible", for $140. Last time I checked, my bare feet didn't cost that much.

Today, with the release of the Flyease, I'm standing in Nike's corner.

Teenagers and young adults with special needs (and their parents) face challenges every day from things you wouldn't even think about. A person may be smart, motivated, friendly, and have a lot to offer the world, but if that person's fingers don't work as well as yours and mine, he'll have to make choices:
  • Do I wear the elastic waist pants that I can pull up and down by myself, because independence is a big deal? Or do I wear the "normal" pants (and need help with the button and zipper), because looking different from everybody else sucks?
  • Do I wear slip-on shoes so I can be independent? Or should I wear "regular" sneakers like all the other kids, except I can't tie them myself?
  • And on and on. People want to fit in with their friends and peers, regardless of the challenges they face.

Nike is working to give people shoes that can be both - cool shoes like everyone else is wearing that are also easy to open and close. Kudos to Nike.

Hopefully I'll be able to pick up a pair online this morning for my son before they sell out. Wish me luck..

- Chris Butterworth


gluten-free is now gluten-free per new FDA standards

My oldest son has been on a gluten-free diet for almost a decade now, and we've seen the food landscape change greatly during that time. When we started out, my wife would go to specialty stores (or order online) to get ingredients, and then would have to bake any type of bread-like food from scratch (breads, pancakes, etc.) Today we can walk into the local grocery store and choose from several different brands, and several different varieties, of gluten-free foods.

Kind Bars are one of my son's favorites.

However, we're still pretty careful about reading labels, and we've come across a few products labeled as gluten-free but which contained oats. And there have been other times where the ingredients listed looked ok, but the food still bothered my son. We've just assumed there was some cross-contamination going on, or maybe some trace elements in there somehow. But now it makes sense...

Per the Associated Press, via Fox News:

Starting this week, "gluten-free" labels on packaged foods have real meaning. Until now, the term "gluten-free" had not been regulated, and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it means.
Under a rule announced a year ago, food manufacturers had until Tuesday to ensure that anything labeled gluten-free contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten - ensuring that those products are technically free of wheat, rye and barley. That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so that most people who have celiac disease won't get sick if they eat it.
Currently, wheat must be labeled on food packages but barley and rye are often hidden ingredients.
The standard will ensure that companies can't label products "gluten-free" if they are cross-contaminated from other products made in the same manufacturing facility. The rules don't apply to restaurants, but the Food and Drug Administration is encouraging them to comply.
Gluten-free foods have become big business in the last several years. Millions of people are buying the foods because they say they make them feel better, even if they don't have celiac disease.
Steve Hughes, CEO of Boulder Brands, which owns leading gluten-free food companies Glutino and Udi's, says his company's products all have 10 parts per million of gluten, less than the new standard. He praises the FDA regulations for being a "stake in the ground" that can increase the integrity of the gluten-free market.

So gluten-free now means gluten-free - Thanks, FDA! (and what took you so long?!)

On a side note: the article (and the FDA) puts a big focus on celiac disease, but there is also a large percentage of the autism population whose bodies don't do well with gluten, and I've met many people without any diagnoses at all who have gone gluten-free and say they feel better because of it.

Anyway, today is a win for those counting on the manufacturers' labels being accurate - and for truth in advertising in general..!

-Chris Butterworth


how to be a friend to somebody with autism

April is Autism Awareness Month, so let's talk a little autism.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now estimates that as many as 1 in 50 children being born in the United States today will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. 1 out of every 50. That means you probably know somebody with autism. It means your kids most likely have a classmate with autism. It means autism is becoming more routine.

Unfortunately, it doesn't mean those with autism are being treated well. Or even that it's easy to make friends with them. But we, as a whole, need to do better; we need to try harder. And part of that comes from knowledge, understanding, and awareness.

Angela Haupt wrote an article for US News & World Report titled "How to be a Friend to Someone with Autism". It's a good article - definitely worth reading. Her take-aways are highlighted below (with my comments after each bulletpoint):

  • Don't assume he or she doesn't value friendship. He probably does, but making new friends can be a daunting task for someone with autism.
  • Be patient. It might take awhile to develop a relationship - that's ok.
  • Communicate clearly. Slang, nuances, and body language can be hard to understand.
  • Make plans (together). Everybody likes being included and feeling part of a group, autistic or not.
  • Respect sensory differences. Bright lights, loud noises, itchy long sleeve shirts - if they bother them, they bother them. Don't try to downplay it or figure out why - it won't make sense to you, but it's real to them.
  • Don't treat people with autism like a project. Don't pity them, and don't try to change them; just get to know them.
  • Stand up for your autistic friend. Bullying is common for those with autism; having a friend can make a huge difference.

That's a pretty good list. Maybe not all-encompassing, but it's a good place to start.

On a Personal Note

My oldest son has autism, and while he doesn't have a lot of friends, he very much enjoys the friends he has. Here are some pictures from this spring:

Ran into a long-time friend (also with autism) at a play presented for children with special needs.

At the Renaissance Fair with cousins

Sometimes it's just a boy and his dog.

This series is one of my favorites - doing a workout routine with his brother at the park over spring break. "Anything you can do I can do, too."


Thanks for reading.

- Chris Butterworth