Playing Xbox AT SCHOOL?

6610212 - candid close up portrait of a cute six year old boy watching television

Xbox Kinect is being used an educational device for students with ASD and is having incredible results thus far. Continue reading

The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Children with Autism

120380-320x212-SwimLearning and acquiring new skills can be a difficult thing to master for any child, but for those diagnosed with autism it can be especially challenging. Simple tasks and daily activities become overwhelming for children with special needs and as a result life can turn into a series of obstacles. Researchers around the globe are aware of the challenges those with autism face and have been working diligently to make significant advances in order to enhance their quality of life.

The latest breakthrough comes in the form of aquatic therapy. What is traditionally used as a method for physical rehabilitation and fitness improvement can now aid a child with autism. Water, the most basic element that sustains life on Earth, can positively impact a child with autism’s cognitive growth. Aquatic therapy is one of the recreational treatments that may develop delayed cognitive functioning.

Even though those with autism suffer from pervasive neurobiological deficiencies, the pressure of water can be incredibly soothing and provide a lasting sense of relief for the autistic child. Another aspect of water that can make a difference lies in its temperature. Warm water creates a relaxed learning environment for the child as they have a tendency to overreact to tactile stimuli. It’s helpful for the autistic child to experience the stimuli in order to make progress.

Aquatic therapy is beneficial for the child because it’s not overwhelming and at the same time it facilitates their need for sensory stimulation to develop their processing tolerance to a higher level. In other words, water provides just the right amount of exterior interaction best apt for learning. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a negative reaction to the water doesn’t necessarily mean aquatic therapy will not be fit for that child. On the contrary, the child needs to experience the sensory input in order to be able to process it. In fact, many clinicians reported the child was able to tolerate touch better after receiving treatment.

Another factor that contributes to aquatic therapy being beneficial for the autistic child is its in reduction of stress. Water makes the body feel 90% lighter and in return it reduces stress on the body during therapeutic exercises. Water reduces tension in the muscles and calms those children that deal with anxiety. Many children enjoy the peaceful aquatic environment and take their time to develop their abilities in the water. As an added bonus, it can also improve the child’s eating and sleeping habits by cutting their excess energy. Aquatic therapy is a welcome addition to the already large repertoire of treatments that can improve a child with autism’s lifestyle. Even though researchers are currently investigating more of its perks, the studies accumulated so far indicate a positive trend.

For additional information: http://www.recreationtherapy.com/articles/autismandquatictherapy.htm

Special thanks to our guest blogger, Edgar Catasus

Student With Asperger’s Thrives at Charter School 

autism charter school

The opening of a new charter school in Anderson, South Carolina has helped the growth of a student with Asperger’s syndrome. The opening of a new charter school in Anderson, South Carolina has helped the growth of a student with Asperger’s syndrome. Before that, he often had trouble socializing in school. Continue reading

Early intervention leads to better outcomes

Impaired social behavior and lack of eye contact is a trademark characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

CLEVELAND, Ohio— Though most children are diagnosed by age 4, many researchers feel the earliest signs of autism can be detected in babies as young as six to 18 months old. Early intervention and identifying the signs early leads to better outcomes.

Because it can be difficult, especially for parents to identify the earliest signs of autism, the Kennedy Krieger Institute and other research groups have produced simple online videos comparing the behaviors of children with suspected autism to those of typically developing infants and toddlers.

Autism has shown a dramatic increase in the past decade in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, currently autism affects one in 88 children.

In a current long-term study of babies from birth to age 3 differences shown in eye contact as early as the second month of life when the babies watched videos showing actresses as caregivers. A study conducted by Emory University in Atlanta, researchers identified declines in eye contact beginning as early as between 2 and 6 months of age in children who later developed autism.

Pediatric neurologist and autism specialist Dr. Max Wiznitzer from the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, said earlier work by the same group of Emory researchers also showed that children with autism spend more time focusing elsewhere, often on the mouth and less time focusing on the eyes when someone is speaking.

Impaired social behavior and lack of eye contact is a trademark characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Other symptoms can be difficult to spot, especially at a young age and vary widely.

Dr. Rebecca Landa of the Kennedy Krieger Institute helps explain in the institute’s 9-minute tutorial video some of the ASD behavioral signs in one-year-olds in six video clips comparing toddlers who show no signs of the disorder to those who show early signs of autism.

Though Wiznitzer indicates that parents should be cautious and not drawing any conclusions about their children from video alone, he states the video is particularly helpful because it lays out the behaviors to watch out for before each video clip. In typically developing children, these include sharing enjoyment by smiling at others while playing, sharing a toy with a parent or other adult, and imitating the motions of others while playing. Behaviors that are related to autism include an unusually strong interest in a toy or object, no engagement with other people during play, and no response to hearing his or her name.

“[The videos] can show you some of the early features of autism, but some of these behaviors can be seen in other developmental disorders, so if you have any concerns it’s important to have an expert evaluate your child,” he said.

For more information on early intervention and the signs and symptoms of autism, please visit: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/early-intervention/

 

Exploring the benefits of yoga for kids with autism

Yoga Therapy for Autism

We are always looking for new therapies and ways to manage symptoms and issues associated with autism, which is a developmental disorder that typically appears within the first 3 years of life. Autism can be mild or severe and interferes with a child’s ability to understand social cues and communicate. An autistic child has difficulty managing emotions and can display aggressive and obsessive behaviors.

The benefits we associate with yoga are improved strength and flexibility, concentration, and stress reduction, but did you know that children with autism and related spectrum issue can find great benefit in yoga as well?

Research has shown children with autism who practice yoga have reductions in anxiety, obsessive and aggressive behaviors. They also have more control regulating their emotions and become more calm and comfortable in their bodies. It becomes easier for them to be in control of their behavior, emotions, and experience less anxiety.

recent study as reported by NPR.com showed that elementary school-age children with autism who participated in a daily yoga program had shown a reduction in hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, and social withdrawal.

Step one to focus on with yoga therapy is breathing. Taking deep breaths and inhaling/exhaling in and out through the nose not only builds core strength, but also at the same time calms the nervous system.  This is very beneficial for an autistic child to learn to incorporate into their daily routines.

The ABCs of Yoga for Kids, which is published by Stafford House Books, Inc, encourages kids to utilize deep breathing with The Inhale Pose. “One of the most important parts/Of any yoga pose,/Is remembering to breathe deeply/By inhaling through the nose.”

Children with autism will gain new motor, communication and social skills through yoga resulting in an overall improvement in their quality of life. Yoga as therapy for autism will help manage the disorder by decreasing anxiety, improving concentration, and regulating self-control.

For more information about alternative therapies for autism, please visit: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/therapy-2/

 

Animal Assisted Therapy offers many benefits including Deep Pressure Therapy.

There are many common tasks these four-legged companions utilize in their day-to-day services.

In earlier blog posts we touched upon animal assisted therapy for autism and have even reported a time or two about service dogs and the individuals they assist.

As an ongoing look at the benefits of animal assisted therapies, we would like to touch upon in a little more detail the some of the techniques and tasks Autism Service Dogs can be taught in order to assist a child with Autism.

There are many common tasks these four-legged companions utilize in their day-to-day services they provide ranging from being trained to track a child’s scent, should the child become lost to tethering & anchoring to prevent a child from suddenly bolting off into traffic or wandering off in a crowd to having the ability to detect gluten, a filled diaper, or even stop repetitive behaviors.

But did you know they are also taught to utilize Deep Pressure Therapy? Studies have shown that deep pressure therapy and massages is a successful way to manage issues that might trigger stress by soothing the individual calming their meltdowns, and other behavioral outburst enabling them to re-focus and transition.

The dog is trained to use their body weight to lean into or provide compression to the child’s or individual’s joints.

It is pretty amazing because over time as the dog and child develop a bond, the dog can start to sense an impending meltdown long before it escalates and becomes a crisis. In most cases, the anxiety and/or meltdown is lessened or completely diminished before it even has a chance to accelerate because the dog senses child’s stress level and offers the relief of deep pressure.

Most parents report once their child begins dog therapy with an autism service dog trained in deep pressure techniques, they see a significant decrease in behavioral issues. Some even find tantrums and outbursts stop all together.

Deep Pressure Therapy is just another truly miraculous way autism services dogs are proving to be man’s best friend and showing the positive benefits of animal assisted therapy for autism and related spectrum issues.

To read more about animal assisted therapy, please visit http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/therapy-2/

Animal Therapy assists in Daily Life for People with Autism

Bryan, who has autism and his therapy dog, Freddie

We know about assistance dogs aiding blind people and therapy dogs assisting people with diabetes, epilepsy and mobility issues

But did you know there are programs across the country that provide assistance dogs to children and young adults with autism and other disabilities?

Freddie, a friendly lovable chocolate lab and Bryan Harker have been together since last year.

Freddie is an assistance dog and partner for Bryan, who has autism.  Along with being a fun and playful pet, Freddie is specifically trained to assist Bryan with managing his autism. “One of my favorite things is all the fun we can have,” Bryan said.

Paula, Bryan’s mom says the relationship is “fantastic.”

Bryan does not sleep through the night so Freddie sleeps with him to watch over him. Freddie sleeps with Bryan and now Bryan is managing to sleep through the night. Bryan rarely got a full nights sleep and would pace and wander. According to trainer, Mary Green, Freddie helps Bryan stay grounded.

“A person with autism might need the dog to provide some grounding techniques,” said Mary Green, K9 Manners and More in Broken Arrow, the folks who do the training. Training can last a year or two.

She witnessed first hand how Freddie positioned himself between Bryan and something that might trigger stress.  It this case it was the came and she.

Freddie will climb on and lie in Bryan’s lap when he becomes agitates or upset

This forces Bryan to re-focus. It’s an amazing thing to see. Another thing that is truly amazing is the non-profit, Aim High, provides the therapy dogs for free.

Families have enough to worry about and Lisa Bycroft of High Aim said “We take care of all expenses,”

Bryan a student at TCC takes Freddie everywhere, even class. Bryans mom said they have a special and incredible relationship.

“Having Freddie has made all the difference,” Paula said.

Bryan hopes to be a video game designer and is currently studying history, philosophy, and physics at TCC this semester.

For more human interest stories about living with autism, please visit http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/community/

Happy Birthday Colin! The world embraces autistic boy for a spectacular birthday surprise

Happy Birthday Colin!

Colin’s 11th birthday is March 9. He loves the playing with his Nintendo Ds, watching the show “Dr. Who”,  recording videos of  humorous observations and aspires to be a comedian someday. But unlike most 5th graders,  he was not excited when his mother asked him if he wanted to have a birthday party. Instead he said he had no friends to invite and there was no point in having a party.

Broken hearted, this Kalamazoo, Michigan mom, Jennifer, was determined to show her son that people cared for him on his birthday and she turned to Facebook to create “Happy Birthday Colin”,  a page with the intention of showing him on his birthday.

“Because of Colin’s disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don’t like him,” Jennifer wrote on the Facebook page. “So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party.”

As reported by Wood TV, Colin was diagnosed with sensory processing disorders to Aspergers Syndrome and another about a year ago. Because of his disorder, Colin has difficulty socializing with others and tends to act out in certain situations. In the  interview, Jennifer stated “Things like lights and sound and changes will cause him to melt down”. “When you put a bunch of 10 year olds and one who acts like that, and they are all going, “What’s wrong with that kid?” You know, it’s hard.”

She was hoping to get about 50 responses from family and friends, but in the first week alone she received not only an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from all over the world for her son, but the Facebook page had garnered over 50,000 likes. The page has gone viral and now “Happy Birthday Colin” have over 1 million likes

Colin has no idea of the page’s existence and his mom is planning to keep the secret for almost another month until his birthday. She plans to post a video recording to the Facebook page to share his reaction with all of his new friends.

“He’s going to have a lot of friends after this,” Jennifer said. “They may not live by him, but he’s going to have a lot of friends.”

Jennifer also posted a mailing address for those who would like to send their birthday wishes to Colin. If you would like to send Colin a birthday wish, you can write to:

PO Box756
Richland, MI 49083-0756

Please visit us at http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/community/ for more stories from around the globe.