Category Archives: Special Education

Emotional Regulation and Coping Strategies with ASD

autism emotional regulation

Regulating emotions can be a very daunting task for some individuals. Likewise, in an emotional situation or environment, keeping control can be very difficult.

If a situation which requires a higher level of composure is coupled with mental illness or a cognitive disorder such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, emotional control has the potential to become a secondary issue in this situation.

A recent study has recently been completed which demonstrates a neurological disconnect that may contribute to the inability of a person with ASD to handle a high stress/high sensory situation.

The study included 30 participants (15 with ASD and 15 without), and had them complete an emotional regulatory task while in an fMRI. This task had all participants view various pictures of people with neutral faces and no emotional cues. They were instructed to think positive, negative or neutral thoughts while viewing these pictures, and the neural areas that ‘lit up’ were recorded.

The results showed that regardless of instructed emotion, the participant’s pupils all dilated (meaning they were thinking hard about changing their emotion), and the prefrontal cortex and limbic systems of those without ASD ‘lit up’ much more than those with ASD. These two areas of the brain are significant as the limbic system is technically an evolutionarily ‘old’ part of the brain, and in tandem with the prefrontal cortex they control the regulation of emotions, decision-making, and needs.

These two areas were slow to start up and did not activate as strongly in participants who did not have ASD. If the structure that regulates emotion works differently in people with ASD, then emotions are expressed differently as well.

There have been many publications regarding overall strategies to help a child or individual cope with this unique style of emotional regulation. All of these publications include suggestions for the three pillars of ASD: communication, socialization, and behavioral patterns. In general, these strategies are repeated through each publication, which means they are tried and true for most cases.

Depending on who the tip sheet is written for, the child or individual is referred to as someone’s child, a student, or a client (if it is geared towards a behavioral therapist). Suggestions include having access to communication tools at all times and knowing how to paraphrase and simplify sentences without talking down to the child, helping the child/student understand common language like slang and puns, etc.

A key issue that is discussed is to not use sarcasm and to explain body language. Strategies to improve socialization include personal coping skills like not taking rude remarks/behavior personally, as well as using reinforcers to help condition proper social behavior. The child can be taught to recognize their behavior and emotions in addition to the behavior and emotions of those around them while working on simple social skills.

Finally, helping a child create positive habitual behavior patterns can begin to be accomplished by simply giving reinforcement, creating a routine, and being aware of anything that could cause anxiety. By utilizing resources that are aimed to help create a positive environment for an individual with ASD, one ensures their strongest chance for success and reaching their very best potential.

By Sydney Chasty, Carleton University



Shema Kolainu Reaches out to Support Autism Parents

 

chani katz shema kolainu

Family time is crucial for building confidence in a child’s life. For parents of a special needs child, the everyday challenges for managing behavior and raising a self-sufficient child are magnified.

Yesterday’s Shema Kolainu workshop at Hotel Pennsylvania, hosted by IEP Coordinator Chani Katz, MA, BCBA, gave support for parents who have an autistic child. Ms. Katz presented strategies for parents to cope with routine issues, ranging from sibling relationships to toilet training.

Whether public or private, parenting a child with autism can feel stressful and even lonely. Others around will be quick to judge a parent’s methods before they have ever tried to walk in their shoes. Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices strives to not only provide top-notch education for our students, but also to help give parents the tools for success.

“It definitely brings a lot of lessons to the family when everyone is able to become more nurturing and empathetic,” Ms. Katz said when addressing the crowd.

Milestone’s in a young child’s life such as sleeping through the night or using the toilet properly can put them outside of their comfort zone. For an autistic child, creating a training schedule can prove quite helpful since they love structure. Other tips that have proven effective are to use positive reinforcement of good behaviors and to create a calming environment for activities the child may feel overwhelmed by.

When parenting a special needs child, it is important to remember that each sibling deserves just as much love. The other children may feel jealous and lonely when they feel that their sibling gets priority and extra attention. Some things that parents may do to combat this is to involve themselves daily in their children’s hobbies. Even if they only have a few minutes to devote to a child at the end of the day when they are drawing pictures, for instance, it makes them feel special.

It also helps to reach out for support when tasks become too overbearing for parents. Behavioral intervention services from a professional are often quite important for a child’s development. Parents may also choose to seek out support groups of other children like them to share wisdom. Sometimes, the help of a housekeeper can ease stress.

Above all, educating the public about autism seems to be the most effective way to minimize negativity from other. Katz suggests helping more “atypical” siblings through difficult situations by encouraging them to talk about it, and also to be open with others in the community about a child’s special needs.



The CDC Grants Rutger’s University $550,000 for Autism Research

autism research nj

Rutger’s University Medical School was awarded $550,000 to study childhood autism and developmental disorders in New Jersey. This grant is apart of the CDC’s $20Million budget allotted to fund autism monitoring centers across the United States.

By accepting the grant, Rutger’s is joining the Autism and Developmental Monitoring Network and will work with them to estimate the number of children with Autism in the United States. With Rutger’s now joining the network, it makes it easier for the organization to get a more accurate number of children living with autism.
John Hopkins University, University of Minnesota, University of Vanderbilt, and several other research universities are also in the network.
According to the CDC, one in 45 children are placed on the “autism spectrum” in New Jersey. The national rate is one in 65 Children.
Rutgers will be researching school-age children receiving autism support and assessing their progress, and why there has been such a rise in autism diagnoses. Now that Rutger’s has joined the network, it puts more educated brains, eyes, and ears in action to help monitor and enlighten on the epidemic.


Georgia Joins the Ranks of States Requiring Insurance Coverage for Autism Treatment

autism insurance laws

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 was a happy day for 10-year-old Ava Bullard and her mother, Anna Bullard. After years of hard work, Senate Bill 1, also know an Ava’s Law, was approved in an unanimous decision requiring insurance companies to provide evidence driven treatment that’s been shown to help children with autism spectrum disorder.

At the age of 2 Ava couldn’t speak a word, respond to her name or seem to recognize her mother.  “She was staying the same, like she was 6 months old” says Bullard.

After months of research, Bullard found that there are children with autism whose worlds were rediscovered through intense therapy.  Once a formal diagnosis was made, Bullard could not believe nor afford the price tag of treatment. She soon learned that her insurance company wouldn’t cover any of the expenses.

Research has shown that intensive behavioral therapy can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in young children with autism spectrum disorder. During an interview conducted by the Autism Heath Insurance Project, Dr. Karen Fesset, DrPh, founder and executive director of the Autism Health Insurance Project said  “Without these therapies, children will likely cost their states considerably more money in the long run, by requiring special education programs, and possible needing a lifetime of public assistance,”

Georgia joins New York, Nebraska, Oregon, plus 33 other states including Washington DC which have autism insurance mandates. 

For a list of states that provide coverage for Autism Treatment please see the attached link: http://www.autismhealthinsurance.org/health-plan/affordable-care-act



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



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.



Seven Ways to Use Play-Based Therapy with Your Child

kid play

A number of different therapies can be beneficial to improving the social and motor skills of an autistic child. Some examples include Applied Behavioral Analysis and Pivotal Response Training. Methods that include your child’s favorite playtime activities can be effective for improving their symptoms if used in a way they respond well to.

Play-based therapy can help with your child’s skills in the areas of communication, fine and gross motor development, joint attention, peer socializing, patience, following directions, and much more. Play therapy may be structured in certain ways that children with autism respond well to.

Though behaviors and symptoms vary widely amongst the spectrum, children with asd tend to exhibit “stimming” tendencies. Stimming refers to repetitive behaviors that may serve to comfort the child. Children with autism also commonly prefer rigid structure in their daily activities and often have difficulty when patterns change and things do not play out as expected. Implementing play-based methods can help them cope with unexpected situations, and can improve their sense of security in general.

Here are some tips for using play therapy effectively with a child on the autistic spectrum:

1. Start out on the same playing field.

The child will respond better if they are coaxed out of their comfort zone slowly, not forced into it. Take it one step at a time for the best outcome; do not expect anything to happen overnight.

2. Participate in activities you know they already enjoy.

You can do this by watching the child and mirroring their behavior. Imitate what they are doing. He or she will feel like they are part of something when you actively participate.

3. Make small changes to their activities to expand their thinking.

Again, start with small steps. For example, if the child likes playing with toy cars, take one of the cars and make it do something new.

4. Work up to making them more comfortable with sharing.

If your child does not respond well when others touch their belongings, slowly increase the amount of interaction you have with them that involves taking things away.

5. Communicate even if they do not respond.

For a child who struggles with verbalization, getting the words out can be a challenge. Comment on your child’s activities even if they do not converse back.

6. Show them their needs are important to you.

Try to offer them things they might want often. If they are comfortable and enjoying themselves, they will learn to associate you with positivity.

7. Be fun, enthusiastic, and engaging.

Show genuine interest in the child and what they are doing.

Check out the original article here



Regular Exercise Releases Stress and Builds Confidence for Youth on the Autism Spectrum

basketball

Exercise can have stress-relieving benefits that release calming endorphins throughout the body.

For a person with autism spectrum disorder, exercise can be beneficial in other ways. In addition to easing tension, regular exercise can help a child build confidence and improve general morale.

Confidence does not always come easy for Anthony Angelico, a 17 year old high school student from Chicago who lives with asd. With the help of his coach, Dave Geslak, Anthony has made large strides in both his stamina and strength. Both his coach and his mother have noticed an improvement.

Geslak points out that since individuals with autism are sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, and other intense stimuli, being able to release anxiety can lift a burden. After an hour’s workout, Anthony is able to channel his energy positive way, making him able to balance his homework and his job at a grocery store.

Physical activity can also minimize compulsive or negative behaviors in autistic children. A regular exercise regimen has the added benefit of providing structure, which can be applied to other areas of life. Learning this type of discipline can help a young person improve their work ethic, whether in school, work, or hobbies.

Coach Geslak, who specializes in creating regimens for youth with autism spectrum disorder, builds custom workouts to ensure the success and happiness of Anthony and others whom he instructs. Shema-Kolainu provides an Adaptive Physical Education program to its students. In a therapeutic environment, children are instructed through techniques tailored to their own needs and abilities.

Anthony’s workout includes weight lifting, hurdle jumping, and hand-eye coordination. A variety of different methods can be employed, so your child is not limited to gym equipment only. Perhaps incorporating dance, a game of tag, or organized sports are more stimulating to your child. Aquatic therapy, where children complete exercises in water, has been used with positive results and does not put stress on joints.



Shema Kolainu Presents Guest Speaker Advocating for “Success with Autism” at United Nations

Dr. Shore Presents

Dr. Shore speaks to audience at United Nations about success as an autistic individual

Due to demand, the Shema Kolainu Autism workshops, which have continued to draw larger crowds of people, have relocated presentations to the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City.                                         

On Thursday, December 11, Shema Kolainu presented speaker Dr. Stephen Shore, a professor at Adelphi University. Dr. Shore’s lecture entitled “Success with Autism: Using our Strengths for Achieving a Fulfilling and Productive Life (Just Like Everyone Else)” presented some of his findings from his academic research, which focuses on matching people on the spectrum with the ideal occupation.

Dr. Shore spoke in a room at the United Nations following a highly attended presentation at Hotel Pennsylvania. Speaking about his own experience with autism, having been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child, he views having the disorder simply as a different frame of mind rather than seeing it as a handicap. There are different “kinds of minds”- with particular characteristics, interests, and abilities that are actually valuable in the workforce if applied to the right field.

Giving the hypothetical example of a man with asd named Robert, Dr. Shore described how this man’s autistic personality traits were suited to his job at an information desk at Penn Station. His communication skills were factual, detailed, honest, data-driven, and repetitive. Social interaction for Robert is limited and predictable. Because of his restricted interests, he is able to memorize information that his co-workers cannot remember without references. Because of his autism, he is actually more productive than most of the other employees.

After devoting so much of his life to researching asd in addition to his personal knowledge, he can often recognize the signs. Revealing a photo of himself as a baby, he described the “autism stare” which he and others with the disorder seem to exhibit.

“They study everything, like a scientist,” said Dr. Shore.

Something Dr. Shore felt was important to emphasize was that it is important to make autistic children feel like their interests have validity and to nurture that. For instance, if an autistic person enjoys stocking shelves because they love to put items in order, this should be looked at as a meaningful use of their time. When a person with asd is good at something, Shore says, they tend to really excel at it.

So instead of feeling despair when a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, Dr. Shore hopes that parents and teachers will recognize their strengths and teach them to translate these qualities into meaningful, productive work. The ultimate goal is to mentor youth affected by the disorder to become independent, educated, self-aware individuals who are determined to succeed.

A list of upcoming workshops like this one can be found here. Reserve your spot today and receive a certificate of participation.



Simulated Flight Prepares Autistic Children for Plane Travel

Autistic children at airport

Anyone taking a flight for the first time is likely in for a few surprises. For an autistic child, the experience can be a sensory overload.

The process of boarding entering the crowded terminal, going through security, checking luggage, and boarding a plane are not everyday occurrences. A child with autism may by quite sensitive to all the crowds and unfamiliar situations that move along so quickly. Feeling overly stimulated causes them to feel bombarded.

Schools lead children on fire drills and even storm preparedness simulations, so why not take them on a run-through of what to expect when they fly for the first time? That is exactly what 50 families participated in through the Arc of Baltimore’s Wings for Autism at Thurgood Marshall Airport, joining a trend of similar projects set forth by other similar organizations.

This organization leads families through a test run to familiarize the children with what is expected when taking a place. Children were instructed to wait in line for entrance to a designated security gate, then handed boarding passes for a short flight that never actually left the ground.

Once seated on the plane, the children listened to the security procedures over the speaker, before the staff distributed pretzels and drinks to everyone. Since children with autism are often prone to become absorbed in electronic devices, they must also learn to put these devices away when the airline staff requires it.

The simulation is seen as a test for special needs children to determine whether they are ready and able to take an actual flight. Possible scenarios could be reminiscent of a scene from the film Rain Man, in which Dustin Hoffman’s autistic character Ray has a screaming meltdown at the possibility of an unsafe flight.

Jennifer Bishop, a Baltimore mother of a 14 year old autistic boy named Nathaniel, took a plane trip with her son 10 years ago that she describes as “disastrous.” Jennifer had such a difficult time that she vowed she would never fly with him again. Now, with her aging mother turning 92, she wants to revisit flying with Nathaniel.

The teen is wheelchair-bound at times and does not always want to walk. New places intimidate him. When boarding the plane with his mother behind pushing his wheelchair, Nathaniel at first refused to get up and board without his mother beside him. With just a bit of maneuvering, Jennifer was able to stand in front of her son and coax him into the first row of seats with her. Once he sat down, Nathaniel smiled with satisfaction.

Implementing a “drill” procedure for boarding a plane and completing the flight successfully can make the experience less traumatic for both special needs children and their families, once an actual flight is necessary. The patience and understanding of volunteers who assisted the children was quite instructive when it came to preparing them for airline travel.