Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

A deeper understanding and more accepting view.


Published:

Thomas Jefferson. Albert Einstein. Isaac Newton. According to Charlotte-based psychologist Frank Gaskill, these creative, brainy leaders probably had Asperger’s Syndrome.

Gaskill produces the “Dr. G Aspie Show,” an online video series that covers a range of autism-related issues, and he has also written a graphic novel about a superhero with Asperger’s. Gaskill’s goal: Help individuals with Asperger’s feel comfortable with their identity. “Part of that,” he says, “is getting the message out to non-Aspies.”

Asperger’s, along with autism and certain developmental disabilities that can cause social, communication and behavioral challenges, are defined collectively as autism spectrum disorder. The spectrum is broad.

Thanks to therapists and doctors like Gaskill, as well as parents, teachers, advocates and adults with ASD, public awareness and understanding of this disorder has improved dramatically over the last few years. This means ASD is more likely to be recognized and diagnosed at an early age. It also means specialized treatment has become more accessible, and more time and money has been directed toward research into the causes, diagnosis and treatment of ASD.


Acceptance and Early Identification

Since 2000, the number of children diagnosed with ASD has risen from 1 in 150 to 1 in 68. In North Carolina, it’s 1 in 58. Over the course of his 30-year career, Dr. Kurt Klinepeter, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, has seen firsthand the increase in diagnoses of children with ASD and the changing public perception.

“A diagnosis of autism used to be a surprise,” Klinepeter says. “Now families come in and bring it up on their own.” This increase may be the result of improved efforts at diagnosis, a broader definition of ASD and/or more children with ASD.

Before 2013, doctors made separate diagnoses for autism, Asperger’s, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified and childhood disintegrative disorder. Today, in accordance with the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual (DSM-5), these disorders are all diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder in one of three levels of severity. Mild cases (level 1) are defined as “requiring support,” mid-spectrum cases (level 2) require “substantial support,” and the most severe cases (level 3) require “very substantial support.”

“Professionally speaking, it makes sense that these disorders are grouped together — the breadth of the DSM-5 definition helps doctors diagnose children at earlier ages, but the single definition is hard for lay people to understand,” Klinepeter says.

The DSM-4 terms were in place for 20 years, and many doctors and families still find the terms, such as Asperger’s, useful descriptors.


A Diagnosis of Difference

Klinepeter calls ASD “a diagnosis of difference.” Every child with ASD has unique symptoms and needs. Some children appear to have ASD, when what they actually have is attention deficit disorder or a learning disability. Some children grow out of their symptoms, other children grow into them. Autism experts suggest that parents not take the “wait-and-see” approach. Early intervention is valuable — the earlier the better.

“There’s nothing exclusive about behavioral therapy that couldn’t be helpful for any language/learning problem,” Klinepeter says.

In an effort to catch ASD early, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that every child be screened for developmental delays starting at his or her 9-month wellness visit. Even before that, parents should watch to make sure their child is meeting developmental milestones.

Symptoms can be spotted as early as 6 months and include concentrated interest in objects rather than people, less babbling than a typical infant, failure to respond when his or her name is called and decreased social smiling. At 12 months, a parent may see delayed gestures, delayed language and a failure to copy actions or sounds.

Older children and adults with ASD may have trouble with social, emotional and communication skills, and may display unusual behavioral tics, such as rocking and twirling, or self-abusive behavior such as biting or head-banging. Children with ASD tend to start speaking later than other children, though a high-functioning/high-IQ child (like the “Aspies” Gaskill referred to) might have good language skills by age 5, but use odd speech patterns, unusual accents and give monologues about a single topic without regard for the person listening.


Mentors and Support

A keystone of North Carolina’s autism community is the Autism Society of North Carolina, which provides a broad range of support services. What started as a small group of parents in the late ’60s is now a statewide organization with headquarters in Raleigh and offices in Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville and Fayetteville.

“We provide lifelong partnerships for families and individuals with autism,” says David Laxton, director of communications.

Highly cognitive children with ASD might require less intensive, though no less critical support. Gaskill has found that his patients — ages 4-18 — respond well to social skills groups. “They come to these groups and you can see them breathe a sigh of relief — I’m home,” he says.

Gaskill’s goal is for these kids to be comfortable with their identity, which often includes addressing the bullying or misunderstanding they receive at school.


Treatment Options

Some treatments require hours of behavioral therapy every week and involve some form of applied behavioral analysis. In the simplest terms, ABA-based models work to change behavior by encouraging positive behaviors and discouraging negative behaviors. Popular ABA treatments include the Early Start Denver Model for children younger than 18 months, a relationship-based approach known as “Floortime,” and the University of North Carolina TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication-related Handicapped Children) program, which focuses on visual cues. Other treatments include occupational therapy, sensory therapy and speech therapy.

While there are no medications that cure ASD, some help with related symptoms. For example, some medications might help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, depression or seizures. Dietary treatments have also been developed, though they do not have the scientific support needed for widespread recommendation. An unproven treatment might help one child, but not another.


Educational Approach

There are also educational options. ABC of NC Child Development Center in Winston Salem, was originally conceived by a group of parents eager for services for their children with autism. The cohesive activism of that group is a hallmark of North Carolina’s autism community.

“These parents are wonderful,” says Selene Johnson, executive director of ABC of NC and a board certified behavior analyst who often goes to Raleigh with parents to lobby for various ASD issues, most recently for an autism insurance bill.

Cary mother of three Denise Sasseman chose to send her 6-year-old child, Oliver to The Mariposa School for Children With Autism in Cary. This nonprofit organization enrolls children ages 16 months through 16 years and attracts families from throughout North Carolina and beyond.

“We’re one of only a few schools offering one-on-one applied behavioral analysis,” says Jacinta Johnson, the school’s director. “We set goals for each student: for one it might be to enter preschool, for another it might be potty training. We define success specific to each child.”

For Sasseman and her son Oliver, success meant leaving The Mariposa School for Children With Autism to enroll full-time in public school. “We wouldn’t have considered it possible a couple years ago,” says Sasseman. “Oliver had no functional communication, and now he’s thriving in public school. He gained so many skills at Mariposa. It’s an amazing place.”

Oliver is now receiving special services at his public school, Oak Grove Elementary in Cary, and Sasseman has been pleasantly surprised.

“It is often considered best practice to include kids with ASD in regular classrooms,” says Leica Anzaldo, one of two lead therapists/trainers with the Autism Society. Anzaldo provides outreach and education to public schools throughout the state.

“We need to educate teachers and classmates about what it means to have ASD, and how they can help students with ASD learn and thrive.”

In addition to providing training for public schools, the Autism Society, Mariposa School for Children With Autism and similar organizations provide in-home training to individuals and families.

“ASD is a family condition,” Johnson says. “The entire family needs to understand their child’s treatment so they can provide a consistent learning environment at home.”


Cutting Edge ASD Research in North Carolina

North Carolina has several cutting-edge research centers exploring the causes and treatments of ASD, including the TEACCH center at the University of North Carolina, which specializes in community-based interventions; and the North Carolina Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology, one of five national research centers funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most recent addition is the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development. The interdisciplinary clinical and research facility is led by Geraldine Dawson, former chief science officer for Autism Speaks, who developed and validated the Early Start Denver Model — the first comprehensive early intervention program for very young children with autism. She is also the author of several books on autism, including “An Early Start for your Child with Autism.”

“We are still learning so much about autism, from early brain development to the other end of the continuum, adults with autism,” Dawson says, noting that several hot topics being researched include genetic causes, environmental causes, drug treatments and gender differences (ASD is five times more common in boys than in girls, and experts are studying if this is because girls are underdiagnosed and/or if there are neurological differences).

“There is hope that in the next few years, some of the clinical trials going on now will translate genetic findings into drug targets,” Dawson says. A Duke study seeks to determine whether infusions of umbilical cord blood — either that of the children themselves, or someone else’s — can reduce core ASD symptoms. A second study is looking at the potential benefits of oxytocin, a hormone used anecdotally in smaller clinical trials. Dawson notes that the Duke Center would love to partner with families for their studies. They offer free diagnostic and clinical assessments for those interested in participating. To register to take part in research studies at Duke University, go to autismcenter.duke.edu/research/registry-autism-research.

Klinepeter suggests that parents who suspect their child might have symptoms of ASD get connected to services as early as possible. “There’s a parallel system/universe for children with developmental issues,” he says. “Inform yourself as much as possible. Understand that it’s a condition that responds to treatment. Be steadfast and push for your child.”

Sasseman believes it’s worth the effort.

“We’re so lucky,” says Sasseman, of her son Oliver. “He’s an amazing kid. He’s got a great temperament. He works so hard. And he’s happy — he wakes up every day filled with joy.”


Caitlin Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Durham.


See Also: NC Senate Bill Offers Relief for ASD Patients

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Carolina Theatre
309 W. Morgan St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Website »

More information

The Geminids meteor shower peaks Dec. 13. Enjoy an indoor presentation and (weather permitting) use of the preserve's telescope outdoors. Children must be accompanied by an adult....

Cost: $2

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

This musical comedy is a holiday sugarplum for the whole family with just the right mixture of comedy and romance to add the sparkle of magic to your holiday season. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $26-$30/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

More information

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Children make holiday crafts for their homes using materials from the gardens for inspiration. Parent accompaniment required; parents are admitted free of charge.

Cost: $10.00 per child for members, $15.00 per child for nonmembers

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take a one-hour guided tour of Historic Oak View County Park and see holiday decorations interpreting five different time periods in Oak View’s history (Antebellum Era, Civil War Era,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Oak View County Park
Telephone: 919-250-1013
Contact Name: Ken Peters
Website »

More information

Take the family for s Christmas theme-park style event all under one roof. Experience a winter wonderland with winding hallways of lights and decorations with special events beginning in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E. Millbrook Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
Website »

More information

Kids enjoy games and food while parents enjoy a night out. Ages 5-10. Register online. Choose course #117711.

Cost: $16/child resident, $20/child nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy an evening of holiday fun with your canine friend.

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Armory
212 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Telephone: 919-560-435527295

More information

Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #117241

Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Kids have fun and make pottery at the clay studio while parents enjoy a night out. Each kid will complete and paint a piece of pottery that will be glazed and fired by the instructor and...

Cost: $18/child

Where:
The Clay Studio
1058 West Club Blvd.
Space 836
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2735
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum Whittaker

More information

This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

More information

Barriskill Dance Theatre School present its annual production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Reynolds Theater, Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC  27708
View map »


Website »

More information

City Ballet presents the full-length, richly costumed and staged version featuring guest artists from Carolina Ballet dancing alongside nearly 100 City Ballet student dancers to bring the...

Cost: $15-$30/person

Where:
Stewart Theatre
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27695
View map »


Sponsor: City Ballet
Telephone: 919-844-9799
Website »

More information

Cary Ballet students presents the holiday story of Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
Website »

More information

Take the family to enjoy Ira David Wood III's musical comedy adaptation of the Charles Dickens' classic. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $36 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

The Justice Theater Project presents the rebirth of its annual holiday family favorite, "Black Nativity by Langston Hughes," Dec. 14-18 at two locations: Umstead Park United Church...

Cost: $27 Adults, $23 Seniors/Students/Military, $21 groups of 10+.*Prices do NOT inc

Where:
NCSU Stewart Theater
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC   27607
View map »


Sponsor: The Justice Theater Project
Telephone: 336-655-2119
Contact Name: Melissa Zeph
Website »

More information

Celebrate the season with favorite carols and enjoy a singalong.

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC
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Website »

More information

Enjoy a solo theatrical performance to benefit post-Florence recovery at Shelter Neck. Actor Peter Battis becomes Charles Dickens (and his beloved characters) as Dickens tells his classic tale...

Cost: $10/person

Where:
The Community Church of Chapel Hill UU
106 Purefoy Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: The Community Church of Chapel Hill UU
Website »

More information

This musical comedy is a holiday sugarplum for the whole family with just the right mixture of comedy and romance to add the sparkle of magic to your holiday season. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $26-$30/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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Enjoy a continental breakfast (juice, muffins, fruit, juice, etc.), a story read by Mrs. Claus, and photo opportunities. Be sure to bring your letter for Santa that Mrs. Claus can take back to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Garden Supply Company
1421 Old Apex Road
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a one-hour guided tour of Historic Oak View County Park and see holiday decorations interpreting five different time periods in Oak View’s history (Antebellum Era, Civil War Era,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Drive
4028 Carya drive
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Oak View County Park
Telephone: 919-250-1013
Contact Name: Ken Peters
Website »

More information

Take a walk in the woods and discover the animals and plants that call the park home. Help collect data for the Natural Resource Inventory Database and other citizen science projects....

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Join Princesses Belle & Cinderella for a Christmas Tea! Decorate a personalized gingerbread cookie, have your photograph taken professionally with a Princess, and make an ornament!  Moms!!...

Cost: $35 per child $5 per adult

Where:
6176 Old Jenks Rd
Apec, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: CocoFARM
Telephone: 919-985-1865
Contact Name: Corrie "Coco" Burton

More information

Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing polkhouse2@bellsouth.net. 

Cost: $22/attendee. $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

Enjoy making a rustic wreath for winter starting with twine, pine cones, and some unexpected objects. Join artist Leatha Koefler in creating unique wintry garlands and wreaths for this...

Cost: $10/member, $15/nonmember

Where:
Artspace
201 E. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919-821-2787
Website »

More information

Cary Ballet students presents a condensed version of the holiday story featuring Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends. 

Cost: $12/person

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
Website »

More information

City Ballet presents the full-length, richly costumed and staged version featuring guest artists from Carolina Ballet dancing alongside nearly 100 City Ballet student dancers to bring the...

Cost: $15-$30/person

Where:
NCSU Stewart Theatre
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27695
View map »


Sponsor: City Ballet
Telephone: 919-844-9799
Website »

More information

Barriskill Dance Theatre School present its annual production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Reynolds Theater, Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC  27708
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a fun and playful aerial yoga and movement class for ages 8 and older. No prior aerial yoga experience required. Register online. $40 one parent+one child (age 8-12) $20...

Cost: $40 child+adult or $20/child $25/adult

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 888-587-9530
Website »

More information

Take the family to make gingerbread houses. Workshop takes place at 2 p.m. An allergy-free workshop takes place at 11 a.m. Registration required online for all workshops.

Cost: $40/per family

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Ginger B. House
Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Celebrate the holiday season with goats, farm animals, a new hay ride and tractor ride, holiday treats and a Christmas Market. Santa will be at the farm on all weekends giving you the perfect...

Cost: $13.50/person

Where:
Spring Haven Farm
5306 Homer Ruffin Rd.
Chapel Hill , NC  27516
View map »


Sponsor: Spring Haven Farm
Telephone: 919.407.1806
Contact Name: Andrew Crihfield
Website »

More information

Enjoy a 75-minute workshop learning the fundamental components of aerial yoga in a relaxed and fun learning environment. The student will experience yoga asanas (poses) on...

Cost: $40/person

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

More information

Free Kidz Connection Event for kids in grades 1-5 featuring games, snacks and fun. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Grace Bible Fellowship
9043 Chapel Hill Road
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Sponsor: Grace Bible Fellowship
Telephone: 919-468-4590
Contact Name: Yvette
Website »

More information

Saturday, December 15; 1:00–3:00 p.m. Stop by our FREE discovery table to learn about soil! Registration is not required. The display table is located at the Upper Playground.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

This musical comedy is a holiday sugarplum for the whole family with just the right mixture of comedy and romance to add the sparkle of magic to your holiday season. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $26-$30/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Families make gingerbread houses together. Register online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a one-hour guided tour of Historic Oak View County Park and see holiday decorations interpreting five different time periods in Oak View’s history (Antebellum Era, Civil War Era,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Oak View County Park
Telephone: 919-250-1013
Contact Name: Ken Peters
Website »

More information

Learn to identify a few common winter “feeder birds” and make some yummy bird treats to take home. Ages 5 and older with adult. Register online. 

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

The Johnston County Chorus presents "A Christmas Spectacular," its annual holiday show featuring favorite seasonal songs and skits. Special guests this year include dancers from...

Cost: See the website for fees

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second St.
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to enjoy Ira David Wood III's musical comedy adaptation of the Charles Dickens' classic. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $36 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing polkhouse2@bellsouth.net. 

Cost: $22/attendee. $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Cary Ballet students presents the holiday story of Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
Website »

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Harris Lake will welcome a special holiday visitor this December!  Santa will take time out of his busy schedule to join us for a cup of hot cocoa and a ride on our wagon along the back roads of...

Cost: $2 per person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Experience The Raleigh Ringers live in concert as they dazzle concert audiences with unique interpretations of sacred, secular, and popular music, including famous rock ‘n’ roll tunes...

Cost: $20/adult, $11/student

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

City Ballet presents the full-length, richly costumed and staged version featuring guest artists from Carolina Ballet dancing alongside nearly 100 City Ballet student dancers to bring the...

Cost: $15-$30/person

Where:
NCSU Stewart Theatre
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: City Ballet
Telephone: 919-844-9799
Contact Name: City Ballet
Website »

More information

Discover what's happening as the sun sets and listen to stories around a campfire. All ages with adult. Register online. Choose course #117095.

Cost: $18/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

This musical comedy is a holiday sugarplum for the whole family with just the right mixture of comedy and romance to add the sparkle of magic to your holiday season. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $26-$30/person

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Barriskill Dance Theatre School present its annual production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Reynolds Theater, Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC  27708
View map »


Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Drop your children off to enjoy games, a pizza dinner, activities and crafts while you finish your holiday shopping or just enjoy a night off.  Ages 6-14. Registration required...

Cost: $25 for first child; $20 each sibling

Where:
East Coast Gaming
218 Nottingham Dr.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to enjoy Ira David Wood III's musical comedy adaptation of the Charles Dickens' classic. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $36 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a one-act performance of Clara’s journey to the Kingdom of the Sweets to life, with dazzling costumes, animated narration, and a talented ensemble of young dancers.

Cost: $12-$15

Where:
Heritage High School
1150 Forestville Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

The Johnston County Chorus presents "A Christmas Spectacular," its annual holiday show featuring favorite seasonal songs and skits. Special guests this year include dancers from...

Cost: See the website for fees

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second St.
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Website »

More information

Cary Ballet students presents the holiday story of Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
Website »

More information

The Justice Theater Project presents the rebirth of its annual holiday family favorite, "Black Nativity by Langston Hughes," Dec. 14-18 at two locations: Umstead Park United Church...

Cost: $27 Adults, $23 Seniors/Students/Military, $21 groups of 10+.*Prices do NOT inc

Where:
NCSU Stewart Theater
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC   27607
View map »


Sponsor: The Justice Theater Project
Telephone: 336-655-2119
Contact Name: Melissa Zeph
Website »

More information

Experience The Raleigh Ringers live in concert as they dazzle concert audiences with unique interpretations of sacred, secular, and popular music, including famous rock ‘n’ roll tunes...

Cost: $20/adult, $11/student

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Experience The Raleigh Ringers live in concert as they dazzle concert audiences with unique interpretations of sacred, secular, and popular music, including famous rock ‘n’ roll tunes...

Cost: $20/adult, $11/student

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

The ArtsCenter’s annual Songs from the Circle shows are a celebration of the best in classic American folk and bluegrass. The Circle cast has added a second program to celebrate the...

Cost: $15

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown     
Website »

More information

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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.