Can Chemicals Cause Autism?

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Recent studies show that certain chemicals can increase the risk of autism. Researchers from the Drexel University have published evidence that some pesticides, banned in 1970, may still cause a significant risk of autism during pregnancy. The study showed that children … Continue reading

Playing Xbox AT SCHOOL?

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

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Proposes Expansion of Tracking Program to Include Individuals with Autism

As the search for Avonte Oquendo reached one month yesterday, Avonte’s older brother Danny posted the following message on the Find Avonte Facebook page “Let us all please work hard on searching for and spreading the awareness about my little brother. Nothing would make me more thankful than to see him at our dinner table for Thanksgiving.”

Danny was not the only one speaking out about Avonte yesterday. As the New York Daily News reported, New York senator Chuck Schumer proposed expanding a program currently in place for individuals with Alzheimers to include individuals with autism. The program, which places tracking devices on the clothing of high-risk individuals, is currently in place in Massachusetts and would be run by the police department.

CBS News Local reported Schumer explaining “A parent interested in such a device could simply go to their local police precinct and apply for one,” Schumer said. “No parent who doesn’t want to participate has to.”

Similar programs do exist in areas such as Clarkstown Heights, New York. However, they are extremely costly. Devices funded by local governments would make keeping track of high-risk individuals with autism more affordable. CBS News Local reported the Senator explaining, “While we may think that a GPS can only be used to track down cars and iPhones, it can also be used for other important ends,” Schumer said. “Especially in the hustle and bustle of a city like New York the devices are crucial.”

Articles cited:

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/11/04/schumer-proposes-voluntary-tracking-devices-for-autistic-children/

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/schumer-proposes-placing-tracking-devices-autistic-kids-article-1.1506081

By: Stephanie Millman

A “Hole in One” Program

Occupational therapist Alexander Lopez created a “Hole in One” program: golfing for children with autism! The town of Islip is in partnership with Lopez, teaching children with high functioning autism from the ages 6 to 11 how to golf. The kids have the opportunity to enjoy the sport, while simultaneously learning coordination, fine and gross motor skills, and social skills.

The 10-week program is held in the town’s golfing facilities (at no cost to the town’s taxpayers” and at Give It Your All Sports, located in Ronkonkoma. Other therapists from the area participate as volunteers, as well as students from Stony Brook University and Touro College. This wonderful opportunity costs $30 per 90-minute session, which helps Lopez pay for the facilities and a yoga instructor.

The parents of children partaking in this opportunity are thrilled with the idea, including Stephanie and Bill MacIntosh, whose son struggles “socially, playing with other kids. He’s doing great now. He has healthy outlets.”[i]

Lopez began this program for troubled teenagers, but was more than happy to expand it to children with high functioning autism. As he puts it,

“Sports after a certain grade level gets very complicated, very cliquish. These kids, they just need attention. They’re not getting the resources anymore and they become sedentary. This is designed to help them strengthen their bodies.”

The second session is now in place, and members of the community are hopeful it will continue.


[i] “Newsday” Islip offers golf to kids with autism. 03 Nov 2013. Web. < http://www.newsday.com/long-island/towns/islip-offers-golf-to-kids-with-autism-1.6369893?print=true>

Awareness is the key – part 9

Awareness is the key!

I can say one thing— the weather this week was great.  Not too hot, not too cold, no rain… oh wait that is not what I am writing about!

Evan’s food program is exceeding all expectations.  This week he scarfed strawberries, at an English muffin, at a whole hot dog at Pumpkinfest—bun and all and even followed it up today with a cheeseburger not from McDonalds this time.  Todays may have been a bigger struggle as I don’t think he was really hungry.  Once he was hungry he at the entire cheeseburger with no problem.

This was an extremely busy fall festival weekend since we are going to Disney this week, more about that later.  We went to Evan’s best friend’s birthday party at a gymnastics place Friday night.  Afterwards he ate a small bag of pretzels.  Another first!  Saturday all we did was go to Pumpkinfest, swimming at the YMCA, niece’s wedding, and finally parents night out for Evan while we went to the reception.  No wonder he slept so well that night.  Sunday we only did Stoneycreek Farms pumpkin festival and the Headless Horseman at Connor Prairie.  Evan did great— his favorite activity was, in addition to the hayrides (3) and lawn mower powered “trains” (2) he was absolutely fascinated by the flying monkeys tonight.  Really all it was a catapult throwing toy monkeys into the air about 30 feet.  Not all that exciting but he loved it and was quite vocal about it!

Like I said we are going to Disney.  It really is a fact-finding trip to see how the new guest assistance program works.  The GAC (guest assistance card) is being replaced by the DAS (Disable Assistance System) and since I set-up travel to Disney I need to see how it works.  The fact it is a vacation is just a plus.  Evan loves Disney (this will be his 10th trip) so I will have lots to report next week.  As always please give me comments or contact me.

Awareness is the key!

By: Jim Monroe

Sleep Education for Parents of Kids with Autism is Helpful

A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders shows that sleep tips provided to parents whose children have autism helped improve the sleeping habits of those children.

Dr. Beth Malow, a professor of neurology and pediatrics and the author of the study said in a news release that “one hour of one-on-one sleep education or four hours of group sleep education delivered to parents, combined with two brief follow-up phone calls, improved sleep as well as anxiety, attention, repetitive behavior and quality of life in children with [autism spectrum disorders] who had difficulty falling asleep.”

This study, compared with an earlier study that only gave parents pamphlets on the topic, showed a much higher rate of success. For the study, researchers trained parents of 80 children, ages 2-10, diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Parents were provided with information on habits that promote sleep, including limiting the use of caffeine, video games and computers in the evening, and increasing exercise. For the children, parents helped create visual schedules to aid in establishing a daily bedtime routine. Parents were also given tips on how to get their children to go back to sleep if their sleep was interrupted.

This study comes at a great time, especially since another study published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood shows that children diagnosed with autism sleep less than their counterparts who don’t have autism.  Equipping parents with such skills, and spreading awareness on how to deal with certain habits of those diagnosed with autism, can only bring about a higher quality of life for the children and their families.

Read more here: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/09/27/teaching-sleep-tips-to-parents-seems-to-help-kids-with-autism

And here: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/10/01/kids-with-autism-often-have-trouble-sleeping-study-shows

Mom with Asperger’s Struggles to Regain Custody of Autistic Daughters

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Souza is a San Diego mother fighting to regain custody of her two daughters, both affected by autism spectrum disorder, who she claims were unjustly removed from her guardianship.  Linda was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and argues that she is a victim of discrimination, pointing to widespread injustice in the legal system that robs developmentally delayed adults of their basic rights. Linda’s oldest daughter Amber, 28, describes her mother as a dedicated and caring parent who carefully tended to her daughters special needs. Amber claims that her 13-year old sister’s specific dietary and medical requirements are being overlooked in state-run care, and petitions to have her sisters returned to her mother’s custody.

This case is particularly saddening, and points to larger need for a conversation among advocates and policy-makers regarding the rights of developmentally delayed adults. Linda uses her blog to publicize her mission, and also as a creative showcase for her photography and video work.  You can visit Linda’s site here: http://aspiemomto3girls.blogspot.com/

Could robots hold the key to helping children with autism?

Researchers at Vanderbilt University claim that a two foot tall robot named “Nao” could hold the key for helping treat thousands with autism spectrum disorder. A team of mechanical engineers and autism experts at Vanderbilt created an extensive system of cameras, sensors, and computers, of which Nao serves as a “front-man.”

Such systems are intended to help children to focus their attention on both other people and objects in their environment. This fundamental social skill is called “joint attention” — the inability to master it is a hallmark of autism, and this can escalate to a variety of learning difficulties as children age.

Researchers decided that a robotic system held great potential in working with young children, and proceeded to build an “intelligent environment” around Nao, a commercial humanoid robot made in France. In this environment, the robot stands at a table facing the room. Flat panel displays are attached to the side walls; the child sits facing the front of the room, and is at eye-level with the robot. The room holds a number of web cameras aimed at the chair, which tracks the child’s head movements. To facilitate tracking, children in the study wore a baseball cap equipped with LED lights allowing the computer to see where they are looking.

Nao is programmed with a series of prompts, such as “look over here” accompanied by gestures, such as looking and pointing at one of the displays which imitate prompts and gestures used by human therapists in joint attention training. If the initial verbal prompt is ignored, then the therapist provides increased support by combining a verbal prompt with a physical gesture, then responding with praise if the child looks at the target.

The children’s engagement with the robot was highly promising, as evidenced by a number of test groups consisting of 2-to 5-year old children. It is stressed that the robotic system is not intended to replace human therapists, but to supplement their efforts. A robot could be highly useful in supplying the repeated practice efforts that are so critical to learning.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2296996/Aiden-autistic-year-old-robotic-best-friend.html

 

New Study Estimates 1 in 50 School-Age Children Have Autism

One in 50 school-age children have been diagnosed with autism, according to a new study published this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure is a marked increase from last year’s report released by the CDC, which cited a figure of 1 in 88. However, researchers attribute improvements in earlier detection of the disorder for the dramatic rise—not necessarily more cases. Often symptoms of mildly affected children go unnoticed until the child enters school, when challenges with social interaction, communication, and behavior among peers become evident.

While these new findings show strides in making earlier diagnoses of the disorder, for many families, intervention needs to happen much sooner, instead of observing signs and symptoms when a child enters an educational facility. Symptoms can be seen in children as early as 18 months, and doctors are now encouraged to screen children for developmental delays by age 2.

Results were assembled from a telephone survey conducted among 100,000 parents, revealing that an estimated 2 percent of children ages 6 to 17 have autism (1 in 50), up from 1.16 percent in 2007, when the study was first conducted. Researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say that this figure translates to 1 million school age children ages 6 to 17 that were reported by their parents to have autism spectrum disorder. Similar to prior studies, boys were much more likely to have the disorder, comprising nearly all of the overall increase in diagnoses.

The finding emphasizes the importance of early screening for developmental delays, in order to undertake early intervention and treatment.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/21/us-usa-autism-idUSBRE92K00C20130321

Read the full report from The National Center for Health Statistics:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf