Category Archives: Early Intervention

Quick Behavioral Observations Frequently Overlook Signs of Autism

Lynn Burton reads to her daughter Adelaide. Many toddlers her age are not receiving potentially life-saving autism screenings. | Medical XPress

Lynn Burton reads to her daughter Adelaide. Many toddlers her age are not receiving potentially life-saving autism screenings. | Medical XPress

Parents should not rely solely on a medical professional to detect a child’s autism, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Research shows that bringing a child to a 10-20 minute pediatric behavior monitoring session is not sufficient to determine if a child has autism. Parents who trust that their child’s doctor will be thorough in their examination without paying attention to their child’s developmental signs day to day could be missing some key information.

These short sessions simply do not give the clinician enough time with your child to make an accurate diagnosis. The medical professional cannot gather enough information at a simple checkup. Thus, many children with autism will show normal behavior during this window, and will not get referred to a professional who can provide the treatment needed.

If autism symptoms are missed early on in a child’s life, they may miss a crucial point in their development in which early intervention is most effective. Autistic children who receive early intervention and treatment before age three have been shown to vastly conquer or eliminate their symptoms before entering school. Just like learning a new language, changing the child’s brain in this way becomes more difficult after they leave the toddler years behind.

In the study, ten minute videos of children ages 15-33 months were viewed by experts in the field. Children with autism, speech delays, and normal development were all included. It was found that the quick observation was not sufficient to gather accurate conclusions, and the experts missed 39 percent of the children with autism since they displayed typical behavior during this time.

The CDC reports that autism diagnoses have increased 30 percent during the past two years, when the statistic jumped from 1 in 88 to 1 in 68 children. This is why a correct diagnosis early on is especially important.

What this means for young children with autism is that they would benefit from more detailed observation. Exploring in-depth autism screenings and extra attention from parents are key steps in understanding a child’s development.

A parent usually knows their children more intimately than anyone else, and if educated properly, can recognize the symptoms of autism on their own, and alert the child’s care provider to determine the next step.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a formal autism screening for children at the 18 and 24 month mark. A few simple screening tools that help parents know the signs to look for are available to use free of charge. One of these is the M-CHAT-R Checklist. Another resource to use is the CDCs Learn The Signs, Act Early campaign.



Early Intervention: How Effective Is It?

early intervention success

Children are the most precious gifts that any mother could have.

Before the child even takes its first breath of air in this world, a mother carries him or her for a full for nine months. In those nine months, a woman is advised to take care of herself, her body, and her soon-to-be child by  exercising as much caution as possible with her daily routine. A mother creates a relationship with her child in those nine months through the simple things such as the way he or she may kick or move. As we all know, having a child comes great responsibility, no matter what kind of problems it may come with on both the physical and mental spectrum.

Normally, autistic children do not show noticeable signs of their disorder until they are around the age of three. Even though the signs may be hard to find when they are very young, there are ways to determine if your child may have autism. To begin, it is common for children that have autism to lag in their speech development. They cannot make certain sounds or many noises to “talk” or communicate with their loved ones, or whoever it may be. They also tend to be focused on one object or concept for a very long period of time, which makes it hard to direct his or her attention towards something else.

Kristin Hinson, who is a mother of four, participated in a study conducted by Sally Rogers, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral studies at UC Davis MIND Institute. Hinson began to see signs indicating that her son Noah may have autism when he was just nine months old. Rogers was curious what a difference it would make if parents intervened before their children were officially diagnosed with autism.

The study involved behavioral therapy for twelve weeks, in which Hinson was taught behavioral mechanisms and techniques, including sensory. Six other parents that saw signs of autism with their toddlers participated as well.  After therapy was over, 18 month-old Noah caught up developmentally with other children his age, if not even better. He became more engaged. Along with Noah, the six other children showed much more improvement.

The sample size for this study was small, so it is difficult to draw a conclusion stating that early intervention before age three can prevent autism symptoms from becoming severe later on. But in general, scientists do agree that early intervention can change the outcome for toddlers at risk for the disorder.

Taja Nicolle Kenney, Eerie Community College



Nonverbal Children Show Marked Improvement Using Video Series

 

Gemiini

An innovative yet relatively simple video series therapy may prove effective in treating speech disorders.

Laura Kasbar’s twins were diagnosed with autism as young children. They did not respond to the speech therapies offered to them, so Kasbar realized that she had to search for an effective solution to their speaking difficulty.

Now Kasbar’s twins are grown and they excel college. Their mother claims that a large part of their success can be credited to her invention, The Gemiini System. This series of speech therapy videos may soon be reaching children all over the country, or possibly the world.

Videos from the Gemiini System lay things out in a way that children understand. For each word, a child appears onscreen accompanied by a picture demonstrating the word’s meaning. The word is spoken slowly and clearly several times. This includes a close up of the child’s mouth when speaking the word.

The Gemiini system uses a method called “discreet video modeling.” This method is effective for many because it presents words with their associations so the children grasp their meaning. This direct approach allows autistic children to concentrate on learning.

Dr. Amanda Adams, Clinical Director of The California Autism Center and Learning Group in Fresno, California, is interested in using the Gemiini system, stating it can work well when combined with other therapies.

“Along with good behavior intervention, a good school program and all of the other pieces still in play, this tool I see as a supplement.” says Adams.

Dr. Heather O’Shea with autism therapy provider ACES in Fresno, is looking forward to using this therapy within her own company.

“We’re very excited about it. We are starting to implement it, the research is giving me great hope,” says Dr. O’Shea.

Since Laura Kasbar’s twins have progressed so well, she is optimistic about the success of other children using The Gemiini System. She emphasizes the importance of starting such therapies young, in order to increase the chances of lessening or eliminating speech difficulties the children face.

These videos are available online for parents, teachers, and therapists. This is good news for families that struggle with insurance coverage for the therapies they need.

The website asserts that The Gemiini System may also be used for children who struggle with reading. Additionally, Kasbar says the system is effective for adults who need speech therapy. These include stroke survivors, those affected by dementia, and patients with traumatic brain injury.



New & Improved Google Glasses Offer Help for Autistic Children

(Image taken from Brain Power Program and WBZ-TV)

(Image taken from Brain Power Program and WBZ-TV)

As we continue to develop new ways to help children and people on the spectrum learn life skills, there has been a general consensus that technology has the potential to overcome many of the challenges they face. Ned Sahin, neuroscientist, neurotechnology entrepreneur, and founder of Brain Power is making waves with his new idea of using Google Glasses to navigate the world. The glasses are being engineered to help children on the spectrum with social skills such as engaging in conversation, reading social cues, and encouraging eye contact.

The glasses allow the child to see the person they are interacting with and places an emoticon or icon that illustrates what that person is feeling next to their face. For example, if someone is smiling at them, they will see a smiley face that they will come to associate with happiness, and thus be able to react appropriately. Another aspect of the glasses allow the child to choose what they person is feeling from two icons that appear on the glass, earning them points that encourage them to engage in this game of face and emotion associations.

Dr. Sahin says, “I wanted to do something that would impact people in their daily lives. There was a huge unmet need here. it was staggering when I realized how little progress we’ve made in autism…Parents tell me, ‘I just wish my child could look me in the eye. I wish my child could understand what I’m thinking…what I’m feeling.’ And we’re giving them that.”

While IPads are also useful for providing similar programs, the google glasses are unique because they allow the child to actually look up or towards the person they are interacting with. The glasses also track how many times the child looks at the person who is trying to get their attention by using a motion sensor. Even Dr. Martha Herbert, pediatric neurologist and brain development researcher, says, “That’s the beauty of this device…It tracks multiple things over time so you can get real data about how things are improving.”

To read more about using google glasses to help children on the spectrum, click HERE 



Future Funding A Serious Issue for Autistics

Road to Adulthood

We always talk about how to best get people on the autism spectrum the resources they need to thrive. Typically, that conversation centers around early intervention, therapies inside and outside of school, routines and advice for parents in the home, and advocating for a safe and healthy environment for these kids. But what happens when they become an adult? We put all this effort into having them reach their highest potential, but not everyone on the spectrum at 21 is developmentally at that age. So does all that effort go down the drain?

Christopher Merchant, now 19 years old, was diagnosed with autism and is developmentally on par with an elementary school student. He can read and do simple math problems and dedicates three hours daily at a car dealership where he has an aide to keep him on track. His mother, Lisa Merchant, has seen her son reach these milestones that she didn’t think were possible after his diagnosis, “it’s like learning a sport or playing an instrument: The more therapy he gets, the better he gets at it,” she explains.

When Christopher turns 21, he will no longer be eligible for therapies that address his speech and feeding challenges. His mom, expresses her concern, “Our biggest fear is he won’t end up with funding and he’ll end up sitting on the couch. My school district does a really food job–I’m just afraid all their good work will be for naught.”

In Pennsylvania, where the Merchants live, the number of people with autism has more than doubled, with adults being the majority of the growing population. In 2013 there were 8,395 adults on the spectrum in the state, and that number is projected to be over 30,000 by the year 2020. These numbers are reflected across the country with autism diagnoses being made for 1 in every 68 children. A report from their Bureau of Autism Services (BAS), created in 2007, found that even though they have started creating programs for adults on the spectrum, “as people transition to adulthood, the needs for supports and services often increase, although services become more difficult to access.”

This transitioning process and lack of funding/resources for people in the autism community is a serious issue; it is an issue for the parents who sometimes lose their job since their adult child still needs them, it’s an issue for the person on the spectrum, who after making so much progress up to this point now faces a brick wall, and it is an issue for the state, who has to find a way to incorporate people on the spectrum as productive members of society worth investing in. However, states like Pennsylvania are really taking these issues by the reigns. Other states should also being to recognize the need to address these challenges sooner rather than later.

 

Read the original article HERE

Read about ICare4Autism’s Workforce Initiatives HERE



Autism and Race, are they connected?

autism and race

Since the rate of autism diagnosis has more than doubled between the year 2000 and now, many studies have pointed to the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. The idea is that, the earlier the symptoms can be detected, the better equipped family and professionals will be to provide the right treatments and therapies. Not only this, but also by helping their child sooner rather than later, they are giving their child the best chance at reaching their full potential. However, for many families, it can be challenging to receive all of the appropriate resources they need to help their child.

According to the Center for Disease Control, African American and Hispanic children do not get an autism diagnosis as promptly as their Caucasian peers. While many children tend to get diagnosed on the spectrum at the age of 4, research shows that African American children are diagnosed one year to two years later. Those two years may not seem like a huge issue, however those are years of critical brain development, where children learn many of their language skills and social skills. Research also shows that when minority children do get a referral, they are often misdiagnosed as having ADHD or other behavioral conduct problems.

This lends the question of whether autism may look different or manifest itself differently in African American or Hispanic children. So far, research has shown that regressive autism is twice as common in African American children as it is in Caucasian children. Regressive autism is when children lose social and language skills after they have developed them. Other studies hint that African American children are likely to exhibit challenging and aggressive behaviors, or that they have more severe problems with language and communication. The causes for these differences are not known, but it could still be traces back to the lack of resources and diagnosis of this specific population.

Recently Dr. Daniel Geschwind, autism scientist and researcher at UCLA, has joined with the Special Needs Network (SNN) to work on a large research project that will help identify genetic causes of autism in African American children. You can read about this project and how to get your child involved with his study here. In a topic full of uncertainty, one thing is certain, and that is the lack of scientific research to help us understand any differences in autism due to ethnicity or race. As more research is underway for underrepresented populations, we hope to be able to provide the right resources and service these children will need to thrive.

At Shema Kolainu, we serve children of all religions and backgrounds in the New York metro area and have a strong belief in giving every child their best chance.



Autism Siblings Need Support Too

Parents who have an autistic child often struggle to find a way to balance their time and attention, especially with other children they may have who are not on the spectrum. This can create tension and stress between siblings that isn’t healthy for anybody in the family. The autism society proposed the following steps to help siblings cope with having an autistic brother/sister:

  • Siblings need age-appropriate information about their autistic brother/sister so they can begin to understand why their sibling is behaving in a way they may find weird. Keeping this information from your child will cause confusion and potential resentment later on.
  • The same way you praise your child on the spectrum for their progress and effort is the same way you should praise their sibling as well. This recognition is important for keeping up your child’s self-esteem and make sure they feel accomplished when they overcome their own obstacles as well.
  • Take a small chunk of time where you spend direct one-on-one time with your typically developing child. Siblings may feel ignored sometimes and so doing this may lessen any building stress or worries they may have that you don’t care for them as much as their brother/sister.
  • Teach your child how to play and interact successfully with their autistic sibling. Use toys and activities that interest them both, and provide positive reinforcement for them working together, such as praising.
  • Work together with your typically developing child to be more patient and understanding of each other. Help them develop positive ways to cope with and manage their emotions.
  • Explain strategies for dealing with questions and comments from their peers or other people in their community. Prepare them for situations that may arise where people do not understand what autism is and how to react.
  • Make sure to give each child the space they need from their sibling. Despite the typically developing child may have more responsibilities, make sure that they aren’t overwhelmed or resentful of things they may have to do for their sibling that will not necessarily be reciprocated.


Group Training for Parents Proves Highly Beneficial

Antonio Hardan and his colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucie Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford conducted a study where they found that training parents in groups about basic autism therapy was a beneficial method in helping children improve their language skills. Dr. Harden, the study’s lead author and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences says, “We’re teaching parents to become more than parents.”

The 12-week study included fifty-three children with autism, ages 2 through 6, who all had language delays, and their parents. Focusing specifically on language building, parents were trained how to use systemic rewards for the child making an effort to talk about it. For example, if a child shows that they want a ball, the parent responds with, “Do you want the ball? Say ‘ball.'” Even if the child only manages to make out a “ba” the parent then rewards the child with the ball in order to encourage their functional language use. Though this sort of therapy is similar to applied behavioral analysis or other behavioral therapies, it is a lot more flexible and parents are able to focus in on their child’s interests.

The therapy used in the study, called pivotal response training, was introduced to half of the parents in the study, while the other half were exposed to basic information about autism. Researchers measured the children’s verbal skills at the beginning of the study, 6 weeks in, and again at 12 weeks at the end of the study. They found that 84% of parents who received the pivotal response training were able to use it correctly and their children did show an increase in the number of things they said as well as their functional use of words when compared to the children in the control group.

Dr. Grace Gengoux, co-author of the study and a psychologist specializing in autism treatment explains, “There are two benefits: the child can make progress, and the parents leave the treatment program better equipped to facilitate the child’s development over the course of their daily routines.” With the rise in autism diagnoses, many parents are finding it difficult to receive the services they need and to the extent that they need it. This group training allows for parents to continue therapy based practices in the home. Dr. Harden explains that, “parents can create opportunities for this treatment to work at the dinner table, in the park, in the car, while they’re out for a walk.”

Researchers also found that when training parents in a group, they feel more empowered to help their children since they are surrounded by people with similar experiences and can connect on many levels. The bottom line is, when parents work together to provide the resources that their child needs, they can really make a difference in their lives.

To read the original article, click HERE



ABCs of the IEP

Individualized Educations Program (IEP) meetings are an important part of giving your child the best education to help them succeed. IEPs are personalized for each child and their families so that the school and staff can work at the child’s level to create a school program that addresses their needs. It can sometimes be difficult to allocate large amounts of time for these meetings, since teachers and other staff may need to find coverage for the duration of  the meeting, and parents have to take time from work or daily activities to participate–but it is an opportunity for parents and professionals to collaborate to improve the quality of education their child will receive.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities expand this idea to, “These individuals pool knowledge, experience, and commitment to design an educational program that will help the student be involved in, and progress in, the general curriculum. The IEP guides the delivery of special education supports and services for the student.” This makes it important to do some planning for the meeting ahead of time in order to make the most of it. Below are some tips for before, during, and after your child’s IEP.

Before:

  • Build positive relationships with the people who will be involved in your child’s IEP meeting, whether that is the teacher, school psychologist, etc.
  • Make a list of points that you think should be addressed at the meeting so that you don’t forget to mention them.
  • Do some of your own research on the format and goals of the IEP meeting so that you are prepared.
  • Send the people on the IEP team copies of assessments and materials containing information they will need about your child in order to personalize his/her program.
  • Review any data about your child that you may have i.e. last year’s IEP, evaluations, medicals, etc., so that you are familiar with the material as well.
During:
  • No one knows your child better than you, so make sure to talk about their strengths, interests, and needs
  • Remember that you may not always agree 100% with a particular method they want to use to develop a specific skill; however they are trained to design the best step-by-step ways to help your child based on the information you give.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions or for clarification on anything you don’t understand. You can also write down your questions if they are for a specific team member, to discuss one-on-one.
  • Make yourself at ease so that you can be your child’s best advocate–if that means bringing along a spouse, family member, or friend for support, make sure to let the school know ahead of time who you will have with you.
After:
  •  Take a copy of the IEP home with you to review, especially if you aren’t able to make decisions at the meeting.
  • Review the agreed upon IEP with a team member to make sure everything is clear. Remember that you can always change your mind and withdraw your permission from any part of the IEP that does not seem helpful or appropriate.
  • Communicate with your child, the best you can, about what he will be working on during the school year.
  • Continue to develop a collaborative relationship with the professionals who are constantly interacting with your child so that you can reinforce skills and any progress they make in the home as well.


Going to the Dentist

Taking your child to the dentist can be an ordeal, especially for the first few times, since they are expected to let a strange person put cold metal tools into their mouths and sit still during the whole visit. For a child on the spectrum, this ordeal can be especially challenging for the family as well as the dentist. For Nicole Brown and her daughter Camryn, going to the dentist for a basic cleaning was a miserable experience. Camryn was confused and disoriented by the bright lights in her face, the strange noises the dentist’s tools made, and everything else unfamiliar in the room. She would sometimes panic and run out of the office altogether.

Ms. Brown was finally able to locate a pediatric dentist that was able to help her daughter adjust to her routine visits. Instead of suggesting that her child be sedated with anesthetics or immobilized, Dr. Luedemann-Lazar set up weekly visits to help ease Camryn to the norms of seeing the dentist. She gave her lots of breaks so that she wouldn’t get overwhelmed as well as gave incentives, with the help of mom, such as listening to a snippet of her favorite song when she sat calmly for a bit.

Now, researchers are studying how to help children on the spectrum overcome any challenges and fears they have when visiting the dentist. New programs are also being implemented to help dentists and their staff learn more about treating children with special needs. Josalyn Sewell, a dental hygienist with an autistic son, says, “There are children who are completely nonverbal, and if they have a toothache, it completely shuts them down.” This is why parents are urged to start dental care before there is an actual emergency, such as a toothache or cavity, because putting a distressed child in an unfamiliar situation never goes smoothly.

Here are some tips to help your child adjust to dental hygiene and dentist visits:

  • Start Early: get your child familiar with the brushing sensation on gums before their first teeth even come in, so that when your child is ready for the toothbrush they are used to the process and sensations that come with brushing your teeth.
  • Go Electric: since many children, including those not on the spectrum, have very little patience when it comes to brushing their teeth, an electric toothbrush can help parents make the most of the time they are able to actually brush their child’s teeth.
  • Start Small: if getting the brush in your child’s mouth is a major obstacle, then start with baby steps; maybe brush one tooth first for a few seconds and then two or three days later, try brushing the same tooth again for a few more seconds. It’s always okay to take it slow.
  • Rewards: some parents call it bribery, others call it incentives, whatever the case, introducing a small reward every time your child is able to keep the brush in their mouth or even allows the brush in their mouth can go a long way–just make sure the reward isn’t candy.
  • Set up the routine:  let your child know what is going to happen. This can be done through visual aides such as creating a picture schedule to supplement the words used to describe what will happen.
  • Careful with toothpaste: use kid-friendly toothpaste kids, especially those still learning how to spit, and even so, only use a very small amount. Sometimes a wall-mounted toothpaste dispenser can be helpful for kids learning to handle toothpaste portions on their toothbrush.
  • Set a timer: brushing until the count of ten, or to the end of a song, or setting a timer to let the child know how long they should brush for and when the brushing is okay to stop makes this activity much more manageable for both parent and child.

To read the original articles, click HERE and HERE