Category Archives: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Video-based therapy may help treat infants at risk for autism

video based therapy for autism

In the year 2000, one child out of 150 children born was diagnosed with autism.  Today, one out of 68 children will now be affected by it.  As the number of children born with autism increases each year, doctors are attempting to treat the condition by testing children as early as three or four years old.

Early signs of autism in babies, such as not responding to their names by one year of age or not showing any interest in objects by 14 months, can be an indicator that therapy may be needed to prevent further advancement of the condition.  Some families have a relatively low risk of having a child born with autism, while other families are more likely to have a child who has the condition if they have a family history of autism.

Dr. Jonathan Green and his team at the University of Manchester in the UK are now studying the effects of an adapted Video Interaction for Promoting Positive Parenting Program (i-BASIS-VIPP), a new treatment for early onset autism in infants.  The treatment uses video feedback that allows parents to learn how to communicate with their child’s unique communication style.  Over time, this could help the child develop stronger communication and social skills.

With the help of a therapist, video recordings of parent-infant interactions are done privately in the parents’ home.  When reviewing the recordings, parents can view how they can improve their interactions with their infant.  The study used 54 families who had an infant between seven to 10 months old.  During a five month period, some families used i-BASIS-VIPP treatment, while the other families received no treatment.

At the end of the experiment, the Autism Observation Scale for Infants (AOSI) was used to determine autism scores of the infants in the study.  The infants of the families who used the new treatment showed improved attention and social behavior and had lower AOSI scores than the children who received no treatment at all.

Although the study has not yet proven to eliminate autism in babies, it is a stepping stone for more research that will reveal more about the effects of i-BASIS-VIPP and its possibilities of reducing early autism symptoms.

Mara Papleo, Cleveland State University

Autistic Teen’s Eagle Scout Video Project Inspires Audience

autistic teen film

A black screen lights up with a message written in script as A Great Big World’s “Say Something” plays softly in the background. The message is this:

“Your child seems in his own world and acts differently than other children at times. The doctor told you that your child is healthy but something just isn’t quite right. Then a specialist informs you that your child is Autistic.”

The video documentary then takes direction through Michael Whary of Elyria, Ohio as he tells the inspiring story of his journey through his life with autism. The 16-year-old with autism set out to compile this video as an Eagle Scout project, which requires a Boy Scout seeking the highest ranking to undertake an extensive service project. When faced with this requirement, Whary immediately knew that he wanted to do something incorporating Autism Awareness and educating the public on this pervading disorder. To date, it has been viewed on Youtube 22,000 times and has been featured on local television news.

As a young child, Whary and his family were told by doctors that he would never be able to ride a bike, let alone drive a vehicle. Today, the teenager is proud to possess a driver’s license and he owns a Hummer ATV.

Whary specifically targets parents in his 13-minute video, emphasizing that they are not alone in their troubles and that they should never blame themselves or lose hope. The high school honor student images of himself holding honors and awards, participating in his school’s marching band, and throwing shotput for the track team with facts about autism and personal anecdotes. He discusses his social limitations but enumerates the many wonderful facets that early intervention and treatment have given him.

Clips of his parents speaking about their journey discovering and accepting their son’s diagnosis specifically address parents coping with the process currently. They discuss what to expect, but also what to rejoice over, for their child is “Not the exception [but] exceptional!”

“Happy Birthday!” means “Hallelujah!” for Parents of Autistic Girl

5 year old autistic girls speaks after years of silence

Picture a sweet babbling toddler. Now picture a three-year-old screaming and slamming her head every time you try to exit the house. Cue the early years of Ave Arreola.

Despite a rough birth in which her twin sister died, Ave began life similarly to any other baby. She followed typical developmental patterns, babbling and engaging with her surroundings, until the age of 2, when she abruptly fell silent and stopped interacting with her parents and peers. A diagnosis of “autism” shortly followed as her temper tantrums escalated. Her parents desperately sought a solution to calm their daughter’s seemingly unstable reality.

The Arreola family started bringing Ave to therapy at the Center for Children with Autism at Metrocare Services in Dallas, TX. Metrocare Services opened a few years ago after administration noticed the growing population of autistics in the Dallas area. The center just opened a second location recently, so they are now able to serve an additional 270 children with ASD who come from low-income backgrounds.

Despite a rocky start, therapists there have been able to begin developing routines and coping mechanisms for Ave to attach to during times of emotional duress. The center teaches social skills to the children and helps parents develop custom programs to help their children.

After years of silence, 5 year old Ave unexpectedly wished her 19 year-old brother a “Happy Birthday!” while the family was celebrating. They are the first words she has spoken since she was two. Since then, she’s begun singing along to TV shows, and her speech therapists have had greater success in reciprocally communicating with her.

“I don’t think we ever give up on the hope that a child will talk,” said Sarah Loera, program manager at the Center for Children, to Dallas News.

Work with the Metrocare clinic has not only given the Arreola’s daughter’s voice back, but has stabilized their entire family structure. Therapists have helped them design behavioral strategies for Ave to follow, and have given them advice on how to make Ave’s immediate world a little less daunting.

Sara Power, Fordham University

Autistic Teens Start with Gumball Machines to Learn Business Management

autism gumball machine business

While you are out and about in your local mall or your local doctors office, you may see a gumball machine.

Simply put in a quarter, turn the knob, and a gumball drops out of the chute. Something you may have not known is that those simple gumball machines sometimes provide benefits to people, even jobs. In this case, four young teenagers by the name of Ronny, Dylan, Jack, and Reshaun have begun lessons in entrepreneurship through these little candy machines.

These young men also happen to have autism spectrum disorder, but they aren’t letting that stop them from learning to become successful like anyone else. Easter Seals, which is a service that reaches out to all people of different disabilities including autism and more, has created a program called “Bubble 2 Work”. Their job is to maintain, re-fill, and collect money from the machines. With that, the seeds are planted and the boys begin to understand how to run a business.

Kelly Anne Ohde of Easter Seals has stated that it’s an opportunity for them to gain real world experience for them.

Gumball machines are located in 17 south suburban establishments in Illinois where people interact with others, including customers and even a state senator, Senator Michael Hastings. Hastings describes that the four teens are “great kids.”

“We traded movie quotes, what’s going on and what it’s like to be a senator,” he says of his relationship to the four young men.

Not only are the teens learning how to run a business which will indefinitely help them in the future, they are also improving their social skills and even learning new things from influential people like Hastings.

And that’s not all. Ronny, Dylan, Jack, and Reshaun’s job training teaches other people about autism.  Tony Gloria of Rocco Vino’s Italian Restaurant, where the four work on the gumball machines, welcomes them to eat there on their lunch breaks, saying that they have a “personal understanding.”

In this day in time, we must remember the importance of instilling knowledge into our young people regardless of the challenges they face. All children and teens deserve an equal chance at a bright and successful future.

Taja Kenney, Eerie Community College

“You Said What?” The Importance of Lip-Reading in Conversation

lip reading

One of the hallmark symptoms of autism spectrum disorder is an inability to read other person’s facial expressions and link them to their emotional state.

Not only does this disabled understanding of the face diminish emotive recognition, but it also contributes to an overall lack of attention to the face during conversation. Such a lack means that persons with ASD are not well practiced in communicating in noisy environments, where lip-reading pays an enormous contribution to conversation. Indeed, researchers have discovered that persons with ASD barely use other people’s faces as a point of context in identifying both emotions and linguistic elements; as a result, large parts of communication are lost on them.

At Southern Connecticut State University, researchers have been working with autistic adolescents on this skill in their program “Listening to Faces” which is aimed at improving conversational skills. Working with these adolescents, they have discovered a disconnect between participants’ understanding of communication and the face. In studying this discrepancy, researchers hope to improve early therapy that could significantly increase the quality of relationships for young children with ASD.

With the use of brain imaging technology, Professor Julia Irwin, who runs the program, hopes that she and her students may be able to better identify the neurocognitive components underlying this behavior. For the time being, however, she is just grateful to be able to offer further insight and therapy into this phenomenon. Parent Diane Vergara shares her gratitude that her son “definitely made an improvement even though it was a short period of time” with this therapy program, and lauds their attempt to identify the right tools in increasing productivity.

If interested in learning more about this research, you can email

Written by Sara Power, Fordham University

Ballet Changes Everything for Autistic Young Man

ballet autism

Imagine not being able to speak or communicate with your loved ones. What if you were only able to express yourself through actions and not words?

For the average person, just getting across basic ideas would be a huge challenge. But 20 year old Phillip Martin-Nelson, who was diagnosed with the most severe form of autism at a very young age, now stars in a premier ballet company. For the very first three years of his life he could not speak or tolerate the touch of another person, let alone sharing eye contact.

He now thanks dance and claims that it saved his life, stating that he would have never been able to live on his own or take care of himself without it. Growing up, his parents put him in sports and gymnastics and when he finally was able to speak, Martin-Nelson told them that he wanted to dance. He says that by learning to dance, his parents saw him focus and become excited about what he was doing for the first time.

With that being said, dance affected every aspect of his life to the point where he even spent his lunch time playing music and dancing.

Today he is a principal dancer at Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male dance company. He cannot stress enough the big impact that dancing has had in his life.

“If I didn’t have ballet, if I never stepped into that first ballet class I probably would have never recovered, Martin Nelson said in an interview with MyFoxNY. “I would probably still be in special schools to this day and trying to just get by.”

The young man gives a big thanks to his therapists and other support systems for helping him to get where he is today.

Therapy plays a big role in the lives of children that have autism. Observing and noticing not only your child’s needs, but also their interests and passions can change their lives and take a whole new direction.

Illustrator and Author with ASD Publishes Childrens’ Book

man with autism authors child's book

Your mind has enormous power, and we can all accomplish amazing things with mental focus. The possibilities are absolutely endless. If you have a dream, why not go after it? That is exactly what this brilliant young man did.

In Nevada resides a 20 year old young man by the name of Ben Nelson. Ever since he was a child he has been illustrating and writing stories. He also has autism spectrum disorder. His parents began to recognize the symptoms of it when he was around 2 or 3 years old, due to his difficulties with communication. Then, drawing became a therapeutic outlet for him, which eventually helped draw him out of his shell.

At his high school, one of his teachers showed him how to use Adobe Illustrator. That helped him in a major way as a stepping stone, bringing him closer to publishing his first book. With more and more use, he got better with using the program. Using Illustrator, he created the story Little Red Flying Hood which is now available on Amazon!

To take things to the next level, students at the Southwest Career and Technical Academy turned his book into a film and even helped him create a website! It makes Ben very happy that people made a movie out of his story. If you’re curious, the book tells the story of Red, who is a house fly with a terrible memory. Each character is different and unique but they always fit in. His mother, Laura Nelson, is very happy that her son is fulfilling his dreams.

Ben will continue chasing his dream with plans to advance the publishing industry. He also wants to complete some college credits in graphic design. This remarkable man and story shows us all that the power lies within yourself to conquer all of your goals!

Taja Nicolle Kenney, Eerie Community College

Baseball League Provides Recreational Outlet for the Autistic

include autism baseball

We’ve always heard that it’s not about whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. For the members of the Include Autism baseball team, this proverb takes on a whole new meaning.

Around 20 young men between ages 5 and 22 get together one a month to play ball on the Lunging Lizards and Thunder Pandas teams purely for the joy of the sport.

The classic American pastime is adapted for the needs of those with autism spectrum disorder. The rules are modified to include just two innings, while some players get extra help from an adult while hitting the ball. No one seems too concerned about foul balls, stealing bases, or field positions.

The games are heavily attended by encouraging family and friends who show their support from the bleachers. 18 year old Chase is usually irritated by large crowds, but he feels comfortable on the baseball field located at Twin Trails Park in Rancho Peñasquitos, CA.

Even being comfortable in a large group is a big step for Chase, according to his mother. While running toward a base, Chase gets distracted by a stick. He proceeds to wander over to a tree and play with the twigs there. He may be done with the game for today, but that’s just fine with mom- it was a good day for her son if he enjoyed himself with the team.

The nonprofit Include Autism organizes the baseball games to provide athletic activities for children who do not fit in with traditional little league teams. Even those who are more high-functioning have difficulty following all the rules of a traditional game. Include Autism was founded in 2003 by Tina Waters in order to provide socialization opportunities for children and adults with ASD.

The baseball league is managed by Tina’s husband Mark. Each player is assigned a buddy to help him hit the balls, field them, and run bases. Members of Include Autism pair up with the most severely disabled players, while high school volunteers are assigned to the more high-functioning boys.

Games are capped at two innings because of the player’s tolerance for crowds and social activity. Some of the boys have sensory issues with wearing uniforms and helmets. Everyone is reminded to watch the ball since many are easily distracted.

“It’s really fun to help the kids like this who don’t get to play regular baseball,” says Tyler Cunningham, a 14 year high schooler who has been volunteering with Include Autism for five years. “Watching them hit the ball is my favorite part.”

Shining a Light on Autism in the Workspace

autism harsh lighting

One of the hallmark traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder is hypersensitivity, which is an abnormally intense sensitivity to a particular substance. This hypersensitivity can be found in relation to smells, textures, tastes, sounds, and lighting.

A major component of Autism Spectrum Disorder is abnormal differences in sensory integration. What would be a soft blanket to typically developing persons could feel like steel wool to an individual with ASD. As a result, persons with ASD have to learn to manipulate their interaction with the world to control these sensitivities and functionally work in common spaces.

Hypersensitivity to fluorescent lighting is a common problem with ASD in the home, school, and workplace. Fluorescent lights double the cycle of common light bulbs at 120Hz. Though this change is nearly imperceptible to most people, for persons with autism, this peripheral change becomes the focus of their direct observation, and so they perceive the light’s rapid changes in color, producing a flickering effect. Combine the terror this feeling invokes with the headache and nausea that fluorescent lighting usually causes in typically developing persons, and you get a very real idea of the toxic reality that this causes for persons with ASD.

In order to combat the nightmarish effects of fluorescent lighting, there are some tricks to alleviate individuals’ hypersensitive reactions without diminishing the quality of electronic resources:

·      Angle computers so they don’t reflect overhead lights

·      Turn off unnecessary lighting whenever possible

·      Replace fluorescent bulbs with normal ones or LED bulbs that limit the flickering effect

Taking the aforementioned steps is a simple solution that can immediate make the individual more comfortable. Creating a safe and comfortable space, whether it be at home or in the office, can make a world of difference for a person with ASD at almost no cost to their peers. It is therefore crucial that the problems of hypersensitivity be taught to laypeople in order to fully integrate highly functioning individuals with ASD who wish to live an independent life.

You can find the original article here.

Sara Power, Fordham University

Disco Classes Act as Therapy for Autistic Twins


We all need an outlet – something that lets us break free and be ourselves away from everyday stress.  It can be cooking, hiking, or just picking up a good book and relaxing on the sofa, and this is especially true for children with autism whom suffer daily with emotional stress and anxiety.  Sheila Hobley, a mother of three autistic children, knows exactly how important it is for her children to escape into another world of their own.

After giving birth to her first son, Alex, who is now 16, Sheila was devastated and confused when he was diagnosed with autism.  As a young, 26-year-old mother, it was challenging to deal with a disease she knew so little about and the behavioral side effects that accompanied it.  When Sheila and Alex’s father separated and she entered into a relationship with her current spouse, Andy, she was terrified to have another child in fear that any other children she may have would also have autism.

As doctors reassured her that her chances of having another autistic child were slim to none (about 1 in 1,000), Shelia and Andy felt confident and were ready to add to their family.  But even though the odds were in their favor, Sheila gave birth prematurely to two autistic twins, George and Jimmy.

At first the doctors denied they boys had any such condition and tried to persuade Sheila she was wrong.  But it didn’t take long for the classic signs of autism to begin showing up in the twins, and even caretakers of the boys noticed as well.  They would roll on the floor, rip each other’s hair out, and bite at just three months of age.

As the twins grew into toddlers, it got worse, causing a huge strain on the family.  Sheila and Andy were living in fear after finding knives and scissors that George had hid under his bed that he said were meant to harm Jimmy.  George would go from being violent one minute to expressing his love for his mother the next.  The constant tantrums, outbursts, and biting fits led Sheila to depend on antidepressants to cope with her emotional pain.  By then, she was desperate to find a way for the twins to channel their energy.

It was when she stumbled across a pamphlet for disco dance classes for kids that she decided to give it a try.  Although George was not impressed with the idea, Jimmy finally found something he loved to do.  Sheila admits that at first he wasn’t all too graceful, but he soon emerged to show his gift for the dance.  He went on to win the national Disco Kid Championships and even had a documentary filmed about him.

Sheila claims Disco didn’t just help socialize Jimmy; it even helped him improve his school skills as well.  She says she was the most worried about him, because his autism was the most severe.  But after moving to the beat of his own drum, Jimmy has shined through his inhibitions.

You can read the original article here

Mara Papaleo, Cleveland State University