This Saturday, the Diagnosis Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was revised and released, changing the diagnostic criteria of autism. The DSM-5 is a document of the American Psychiatric Association and the primary, psychiatric diagnostic tool used by organizations, individuals, and government services nationally. The DSM-4 has defined autism through 4 varying diagnoses: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. These categories have officially been replaced by the all-encompassing title Autism Spectrum Disorder. Within the definition, socially related elements of autism are now described more specifically as social communication impairment and repetitive/restrictive behavior. The new definition includes sensory processing symptoms as well. These changes could affect how organizations continue to disperse services to individuals diagnosed by the criteria of the DSM-4, though the individuals responsible for the revisions incorporated into the DSM-5 have encouraged against this. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM) has vouched to not hold the DSM-5 criteria as exclusive standards and claims to be shying away from symptom-based categories in general.
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Diagnosis, Resources, Treatment
Tagged American Psychiatric Association, asd, asperger's syndrome, autism, autism diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, DSM-4, DSM-5, National Institute of Mental Health, PErvasive Developmental Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, SPD
An autistic teenager has been “tipped” for a Nobel Prize. Jacob Barnett is earning his masters in Quantum Physics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), with research that has garnered him consideration for a Nobel Prize. Oh, did I mention that Jacob is only 14? Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the age of two when he exhibited regressive behavior, losing communicative and social skills. Doctors believed Jacob would need special education and accommodations for life and would likely never be able to read. Despite the severe diagnoses, Jacob’s parents paid special attention to Jacob’s behavior, noticing that he was particularly happy when doing something meticulous, like counting, and disinterested with typical toddler activities. His mother, Kristine Barnett explained, in a 60 minutes feature on Jacob, that her and her husband engaged Jacob in the activities he liked after school and saw unbelievable progress. By kindergarten, Jacob was still behind his peers communicatively and socially, but, according to his father, he would return home and ask when he would get “to learn algebra.” By the third grade, Jacob, accompanied by Kristine, was auditing college calculus. The mother-son-duo laugh about the experience explaining how other students were surprised when Jacob would participate, believing that Kristine was enrolled and unable to find a babysitter. At the end of the course, Jacob requested to take the exam, and upon earning an ‘A’ was offered a full scholarship to IUPUI. In preparation for starting college before the age of 10, Jacob taught himself all of high school math in two weeks. Today, at 14-years-old, Jacob is earning his masters and conducting research that has put him in the running for one of the world’s most coveted prizes. He is thought to have an IQ equal to or greater than that of Albert Einstein.
Throughout all of this success and the attention, Jacob attributes his academic trajectory to the autistic experience, discrediting the ideas of “genius” and “savant.” In his presentation for TEDxTeen, Jacob encourages divergent thinking, telling the audience to “stop learning and start thinking.” He believes his interest and aptitude in math and science was born out of boredom as he was forced to “stop learning” when placed into a public special education program. While he was treated as disabled, he focused on “shapes and shadows” and considered large-scale theories of physics, soon proving himself differently-abled. His parents observed this difference and fostered his specific strengths. Today, Jacob’s autism diagnosis is barely visible, though, he asserts, he still has difficulty tying his shoes.
In order to succeed you have to look at everything with your own unique perspective. Okay, what does that mean? That means that when you think you must think in your own creative way, not accepting everything out there.
Jacob Barnett, TEDxTeen
At Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, our care is specialized. We are dedicated to identifying and fostering the strengths of our children. We facilitate and encourage open communication between all caregivers (parents, teachers, therapists, and physicians) so that individuals’ strengths do not slip through the cracks. Jacob Barnett’s advice is valuable for society’s larger understanding of learning and ability, as well as the subsequent implementation of inclusion.
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Community, Early Intervention, Education, Parents, Psychology, Research, Special Education, Success, Treatment
Tagged asd, autism, autism diagnosis, Autism News, autism research, autism spectrum disorder, Autism Success Stories, Autistic Memory, Autistic Savant, early intervention, Education, special education
New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience this April demonstrates how children with autism spectrum disorder perceive motion at twice the rate of typically developing children, suggesting that perception of motion may be responsible for autism symptoms such as painful sensitivity to noise and bright lights, as well as social, behavioral deficits.
The study compared the motion perception processes of children diagnosed with ASD with those of typically developing children by having each subject watch video clips of moving black and white bars and indicate the direction of motion—left or right. When researchers increased the contrast of the bars, both groups performed better, but the autistic children significantly improved, surpassing the typically developing children in motion recognition. The worst performing subject of the autistic group for the increased contrast portion of the test responded on par with the combined average of the typically developing children. With each correct answer, researchers would shorten the length of the clip making the motion harder to distinguish. With the greater contrast, the autistic group was able to identify motion at twice the rate of the typically developing children.
The researchers suggest that the pain and disturbance that autistics often experience with sensory dense situations—like crowded malls—may be attributed to this heightened perception of motion. Additionally, many of the social and behavioral symptoms of autism—like communicative ability and face recognition—could be understood through the lens of motion perception.
At Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices we pay attention to our children’s response to their sensory environment and accommodate their needs. We are happy to see conclusive research findings that may help to explain and ultimately alleviate the complications of the autistic experience. Until then, we utilize our Snoezelen room to control the sensory stimulus our kids encounter and calm them when they are overwhelmed. Some children need this more than others or at unanticipated times, so we do our best to identify how often and when a child needs sensory relief. We have recently experienced particular success with the Snoezelen room! One of our children, who experiences ADHD as well, had been acting out extremely, jumping from chair to chair, and was generally upset and overwhelmed. We increased his Snoezelen visits from once a day to three times a day, accompanied by an Occupational Therapist. After just a week of more Snoezelen stress-free time, he was noticeably happier, able to pay attention, and less restless.
Share your sensory-overload stories or relief strategies here!
Foss-Feig, Jennifer H., Duge Tadin, Kimberly B. Schauder, and Carissa J. Cascio. “A Substantial and Unexpected Enhancement of Motion Perception in Autism.”Journal of Neuroscience 33.19 (2013): 8243-249. Http://www.jneurosci.org/. 8 May 2013. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/19/8243.abstract?sid=24797967-4ff0-4f50-8b03-9b295b1c7dca>.
“Why Some Autistic Kids Are Painfully Sensitive to Noise and Bright Lights.” DNA. Www.dnaindia.com, 9 May 2013. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.dnaindia.com/health/1832630/report-why-some-autistic-kids-are-painfully-sensitive-to-noise-and-bright-lights>.
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Research
Tagged ADHD, asd, autism, autism spectrum disorder, autism symptoms, Controlled Multi-sensory Environment, Developmental Disorder, Motion recognition, Neuroscience, sensory friendly, Snoezelen
Aldebaran Robotics has announced their Autism Solution for Kids initiative: ASK NAO. Aldebaran is among world leaders in humanoid robotics design and believes their newest addition to the robot family, NAO, is the “perfect bridge between human and technological worlds” for autistic children, whom often find communication easier with regimented structure that computer-based programs provide. At 2-feet tall, NAO is child-sized, and surprisingly full of personality. “He” can make a good companion, developing social skills and furthering education through games. Aldebaran intends for NAO to be used as a teaching assistant in special needs classrooms. The robot is able to lead and participate in a variety of educational games aimed at developing verbal skills, non-verbal communication, emotional intelligence, and elementary academic skills. ASK NAO has been tested in three schools, one in England and two in the United States. The Moody Preschool in Massachusetts requested to beta test the program and reported that NAO was useful for inclusion classrooms, providing a social mediator that both typically developing children and those on the autism spectrum found engaging and exciting. The staff observed positive changes in attention span among the autistic kids in just a few weeks. One teacher asserted, “Some students who barely react to people had a great reaction to the robot.” Head teacher of the special needs program at Topcliffe Primary in Birmingham, England explained an aspect of NAO’s success with his students, saying “The robots have no emotion, so autistic children find them less threatening than their teachers and easier to engage with. Children who first come into school unable to make eye contact with humans start to communicate through the robots.” Topcliffe Primary has had two robots for over a year—Ben & Max. You can see a video of Topcliffe’s success with ASK NAO in this news feature.
Share your opinion on humanoid robots for autistic children here!
Gee, Sue. “NAO Works With Autistic Children.” NAO Works With Autistic Children. N.p., 5 May 2013. Web. 07 May 2013. <http://www.i-programmer.info/news/169-robotics/5837-nao-works-with-autistic-children.html>.
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Education, Resources, Special Education, Technology
Tagged Aldebaran, asd, ASK NAO, autism, autism education, Autism Initiatives, Autism Interventions, autism spectrum disorder, autism technology, Education Technology, education tools, Humanoids, Robots, special education, Special Education Technology, special needs, technology
If I told you a 16 year old wrote a book that is being assigned in university classrooms, would you believe me? Maybe. What if I told you that 16 year old is a nonverbal autistic? Ido Kedar, a California teen with Autism Spectrum Disorder, has escaped the “solitary confinement”[i] of his body through mastering the motor skills necessary for communication tools like IPad apps. Ido is now able to express his feelings, opinions, and self-interest—insisting on inclusion in a regular education program and challenging experts’ assumptions about his condition. Ido describes the difficulty of his silent half-life saying, “It was terrible having experts talk to each other about me, and to hear them be wrong in their observations and interpretations, but to not be capable of telling them.” i
Ido advocates for integrated education through his blog and book, “Ido In Autismland,” and leads by example as an honor roll student. In his blog post Truth Over Theory, Ido describes his conversation with an open-minded professor as refreshing because, “more often, I think, people get used to their theories and stay there their whole professional careers.”[ii] Ido’s book has been assigned to college classrooms and is available on Amazon. In the personal statement of Ido’s Blog, he states his intent is to “help other autistic people find a way out of their silence too.”
Ido’s story was featured as an NBC News special, in which Ido was interviewed and able to respond via IPad, more articulately, in fact, than many people his age. The insight Ido has provided into the mind and condition of nonverbal autistics is monumental for the future of education and intervention strategies. Ido’s literary voice is unique and engaging—a true joy to read. Through his advocacy efforts and personal successes, Ido is altering the stigmas associated with autism. In an interview with NBC News Ido asserted, “I want people to understand that not speaking is not the same thing as not thinking.”i
At Shema Kolainu, we believe all children have a voice. With understanding and support, we can hear the voices of all of our children too— whether through mediating tools like tablets, their own vocalization, or caring attention to the nuances of their behavior. Share your stories of communication barriers and successes here!
[i] Lin, Daisy, and Bruce Hansel. “Autistic Teen Uses Tech to Break Silence: “I Escaped My Prison”" NBC Southern California. N.p., 35 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 May 2013. <http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Autistic-Teen-Writes-Book-on-an-iPad–204775591.html>.
[ii] Kedar, Ido. “Truth Over Theory.” Ido In Autismland. N.p., 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 May 2013. <http://idoinautismland.blogspot.com/>.
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, blogs, Community, Early Intervention, Education, Parents, SKHOV News, Special Education
Tagged AAC, Apps, asd, autism, autism advocates, Autism Interventions, autism spectrum disorder, autism success, Blogs, communication, Education, Ido in Autismland, ipad, IPad Apps, NBC News, nonverbal, Success
Interesting new research for parents of daughters presented today at the International Meeting for Autism Research. The gender distribution of autism spectrum disorder has raised flags for researchers for years. Males are 4 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than females. The current diagnostic criteria for ASD were designed primarily from symptoms in boys, so if symptoms manifest differently in girls, then some girls may be slipping through the diagnostic cracks. Because more boys are diagnosed with ASD than girls, research populations often have imbalanced gender distributions—leaving us knowing less about autism for girls. Other studies pertaining to neuropsychiatries have proved that symptoms can be different for girls, and different symptoms require different treatment. This week, at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Spain, two new studies are presenting results on the association between autism and gender.
One study,[i] conducted by Yale University researchers, found that the extra X chromosome in girls is protecting from autism, so the diagnosed cases of autism in girls is often associated with higher-risk mutation that “overwhelmed” their “protective mechanism.”[ii] The second study[iii] tested the success of the computer-based intervention Let’s Face It! (LFI!) in improving identity recognition with changes in expression, viewpoint, features, face process strategies, and attention or ability to ascertain information from eyes. The researchers found that while the intervention had overwhelming success for boys, it actually posed adverse affects for girls in the study. The chief of the division of autism and related disorders at Emory University elaborated on the findings, saying “In boys, the more they looked at the eyes, the less socially disabled they are. In girls, the more they looked at the eyes, the more disabled they are… we have to take gender as a mediating factor.”i
Both studies confirm speculation that ASD manifests diversely between genders. This information is a game changer for education, therapy, and other treatment practices for autism. The findings will propel research to design strategies better suited for the needs of girls with autism. At Shema Kolainu, we recognize that all of our children are on a spectrum and are sensitive to the nuances of the disorder. We will take this information to heart when designing the individualized plans for our kids and await eagerly new evidence of successful treatment strategies.
Parents, please share your feelings regarding these findings with us here or personally. Do you feel like your daughter’s symptoms differ from your idea of the typical autistic? Do you feel like treatment that improves others, upsets your daughter?
[i] Whole-Exome and CNV Data for ASD Sex Bias. S. J. Sanders* and M. W. State, Yale University School of Medicine
[ii] “Girls with Autism May Need Different Treatment | Health24.” Health24. N.p., 2 May 2013. Web. 03 May 2013. <http://www.health24.com/Parenting/Child/News/Girls-with-autism-may-need-different-treatment-20130502>.
[iii] Effects of a Targeted Face-Processing Intervention On Visual Attention to Naturalistic Social Scenes. P. Lewis*1, J. M. Moriuchi1, C. Klaiman1, J. Wolf2, L. Herlihy3, W. Jones1, A. Klin1, J. W. Tanaka4 and R. T. Schultz5, (1)Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta & Emory University School of Medicine, (2)Yale Child Study Center, (3)University of Connecticut, (4)University of Victoria, (5)Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Early Intervention, Education, Parents, Research, SKHOV News, Treatment
Tagged asd, autism, autism education, autism intervention, autism therapy, autism treatment, diagnostic criteria for autism, early intervention, Emory, Gender, Marcus Autism Center. Face-Processing Intervention, parents, special education, special needs, Yale
The blogosphere has opened up a cyber-consciousness of daily reflections, trials, tribulations, and inspiring anecdotes. One man’s personal ramblings are another man’s insightful resource. But blogs can end up like locked diaries if lost in the internet-abyss, so we are passing on a few of our favorites to keep the dialogue going. Though blogs are relatively easy to produce through various blog-hosting sites, sharing personal stories and ideas may not be so easy. Non-bloggers can broaden the community of support by simply sharing a site name or commenting on a post. Yesterday’s flash blog event, #AutismPositivity2013, opened up the autism dialogue for non-bloggers even more, inviting anyone to share their thoughts or stories by submission and ensuring their additions would not sink into the abyss by promoting the blog site and flash blog event in advance.
A member of the #AutismPositivity2013 flash blog team happens to be one of our favorite autism bloggers: Ariane Zurcher of Emma’s Hope Book, an inspirational and informative personal saga written by the parent of an autistic. Zurcher is writing is so honest, poignant, and fluid that we would not be surprised to see these posts laced together in a book sometime down-the-road.
While moms, like Zurcher and Kristina Chew of the heartwarming—and religiously updated—We Go With Him, tend to blog more often than pops, one dad’s blog brightens our day. Austintistic is a dad’s love note to his son, Austin, who has autism and osteogenesis-imperfect, ODD, ADHD, RLS, OCD… you get the idea? Austintistic puts life into perspective with humbling humor and fatherly audoration. The blogger, Scott LeReette, has recently published a book “The Unbreakable Boy,” which you can find at austintistic.com.
With awareness growing and autism topical, doctors are diagnosing high functioning variations of autism among adults more and more. Often these diagnoses are spurred by a child’s diagnosis drawing attention to a parent’s behavior. Writer of another favorite of ours, A Quiet Week In The House, reflects on the life of an autistic mother of an autistic child, accentuating the “ausome” characteristics of autism and providing insight from a variety of perspectives. Blogger Lori’s son was diagnosed with autism in 2009, followed a year later by her father with Asperger’s, and then, herself. Lori creatively expresses and tracks her emotional experience with beautiful scrapbook style graphs and charts.
Art expresses the autistic experience so often better than words. Autism advocate, matt, illustrates the inside scoop on what it is to be autistic in a different medium and style than Lori, with cartoons and comics on his blog Dude, I’m An Aspie. This blog is charming, honest, and just plain funny—definitely an SKHOV favorite.
Share your favorite autism blogs here!
Posted in Arts, Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, blogs, Community, Education, Environment, Parents, Resources, SKHOV News, Technology
Tagged Advocates, asd, aspergers, autism, autism spectrum disorder, Blogs, Community, parents, Self-advocacy
Today, Ariana Zurcher is hosting the Autism Positivity 2013 Flashblog event where anyone can contribute, seasoned blogger or not. This year’s theme is 1000 Ausome Things. The community-building project is a beautiful way to conclude Autism Awareness Month. Ariane Zurcher champions autism rights across the blogosphere with her personal writings, Emma’s Hope Book, and her contributions to widely circulated resources like the Huffington Post. Zurcher began her saga with autism when her daughter, Emma, was diagnosed. She works to expose the mistreatment of autistics, dissemination of misleading resources for caregivers of autistics, and the cultural assumptions of disability as unable, rather than differently able.
In her Huffington Post article, “What I Wish I’d Been Made Aware of When My Daughter Was Diagnosed With Autism” and her journalistic writings shared in Emma’s Hope Book, Zurcher accentuates the “ausome” qualities of autism. She demands that autism not be seen as a disease, but a people, like any other, with there own strengths and strangeness. She encourages skepticism of experts who claim knowledge of causes or treatment. Throughout Zurcher’s writings, she maintains a motto of confidence: confidence in your child’s competency, confidence in non-verbal communication (whether guided or intuitive), and confidence in your ability as caregiver.
The International Center for Autism Research & Education feels blessed to have Ariana Zurcher among our advisory committee, providing her scrupulously honest opinions.
To read the inspiring, reflective contributions of a community of caregivers, advocates, and autistics themselves or to share something ausome—visit Autism Positivity today.
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, blogs, Community, Parents
Tagged Advocacy, Ariana Zurcher, asd, Ausome, autism, Autism Positivity, autism spectrum disorder, Blogs, Caregivers, disability, parents
Jennifer Margulis, author of The Business of Baby, exposes the cultural assumptions and institutional practices dictating pregnancy, childbirth, and infant nurturing as influenced by corporate interests rather than based on the best medical evidence. Margulis is a Senior Fellow at Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, and an award winning parenting writer. In an article yesterday for Newsweek: The Daily Beast, Margulis expresses informed skepticism regarding the health risks of the casual use of ultrasounds during pregnancy. Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), formerly referred to as retardation, is among conditions that physicians utilize ultrasound technology to identify during pregnancy. However, ultrasounds themselves may be associated with the development of IUGR and they may not be any more instrumental in identifying them than palpation of the pregnant woman’s abdomen. Former director of Women’s and Children’s Health at the World Health Organization firmly asserted the later claim saying, “There is no justification for clinicians using routine ultrasound during pregnancy for the management of IUGR.” A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared outcomes for children of pregnant women who received two scans with that of those who received scans only when other medical indicators necessitated further investigation, finding that ultrasound scan has no positive bearing on fetal outcome. Explaining the discrepancy between utility and use may be the over $1 billion additional annual cost of routine ultrasounds in the U.S. To add injury to insult, a study published in Lancet found that women who received five ultrasounds had a significantly higher chance of developing intrauterine growth restriction than women who received one scan at eighteen weeks. One possible explanation for this association was found through a 2006 study conducted by neuroscientist Pasko Rakic M.D. and Yale University School of Medicine, finding that prenatal exposure to ultrasound waves affects the way that neurons arrange in the brains of mice. Though these findings are part of a larger, ongoing study utilizing primate brains, researcher Rakic considered the data too significant to withhold until the outcome of the larger study, warning, “We should be using the same care with ultrasound as with X-rays.” For Margulis’ full article, visit here or go to www.jennifermargulis.net additional writings regarding parenting and health.
Margulis, Jennifer. “Are Ultrasounds Causing Autism in Unborn Babies?” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/04/29/are-ultrasounds-causing-autism-in-unborn-babies.html>.
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Early Intervention, Parents, Research, Technology
Tagged asd, autism, Autism News, autism research, Intrauterine Growth Restriction, IUGR, Jennifer Margulis, medical research, new mothers, pregnancy, prenatal health, prenatal safety, research, technology, The Business of Baby, ultrasounds