Best selling toys for autistic children and their benefits

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It is a well-known fact that toys play a great role in child’s development. Recently, we observe high demand for toys for autistic children. Toys can bring not only a lot of fun but also help children with special needs … Continue reading

How Wrestling Empowered a Student with Autism to Interact with the World

Wresting with AutismParents of a child on the autism spectrum understand the importance and difficulty of keeping their child engaged with the world around them. Kurt Janicki, the father of an autistic child, was struggling with his son’s tendency to disconnect and drift away from the present moment. Mr. Janicki was looking for ways to get his son to interact with his surroundings and he couldn’t have imagined an answer to his dreams would come in the sport of wrestling. The unexpected life-changing event took place when his son, Erik Janicki, was watching the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament. It was right in that moment that he realized he wanted to participate in his high school’s wrestling program. Ever since, Erik has been connected to the world thanks to his passionate interest in the sport. 

“If you let him, his world would close in on him. If you don’t keep him connected to the world around him, he would close in on himself in a heartbeat, and he would continue to do that.”, said Mr. Janicki. The ease in which Erik retreats back into his shell is what has made his discovery of wrestling that much more significant. He’s now known to be “Coach Erik” within his teammates and his involvement in the sport has given him an opportunity to better himself. As one of the coaches, Erik’s responsibilities include helping the head coach run practices and delivering motivational speeches to the team before their scheduled meets. 

Erik’s father participated in the same high school’s wrestling program back in the 1980’s and he was able to reach the Middlesex County Wrestling Tournament. “The thing about wrestling – you know how personal and emotional it can be – and Erik watches the journey that each one of these young men takes. He connects with them, and he’s emotionally invested in it”, explained Kurt Janicki. He was pleased, even shocked, by the offer of South River head coach Bobby Young to integrate Erik into the team by making him a coach. He thought his son was going to be on the sidelines and was gratifyingly surprised to see he truly was going to form an integral part of the experience. 

Erik’s parents look forward to a future where he can continue to thrive and grow as a person. His involvement and excitement as one of the wrestling coaches have installed a positive outlook into his transition to adulthood. They hope to continue to bring down the barrier that sometimes blocks their son from interacting independently with the world but remain optimistic. Mr. Janicki has some inspiring words of advice to other parents with children on the autism spectrum. He says, “They are wonderful gifts in your life. Don’t hide them from the world. Take time to let them teach you about yourself and about them.”

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By Edgar Catasus

The Importance of a Father Figure for a Child with Autism

It’s crucial for any child to have a strong mother and father figure in their life. It helps them develop and acquire healthy self-esteem as well as a positive outlook on their identity. However, in many families the father isn’t as present as the mother when it comes to caregiving which in turn disrupts the child’s well-being and sense of stability. According to a recent study, it’s even more imperative for a child with autism to be able to depend on a supportive father figure who is engaged and invested in his role.

Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that when dads participate in activities with kids on autism spectrum, the child sees a noticeable improvement in their overall development and the mother is less apt to suffer from depression. Activities might include the father reading a story, playing with toys, calming the child down when they are upset, or taking them to the doctor when they feel sick. Since mothers demonstrate higher levels of stress when they take care of a child with autism, the father’s involvement becomes of special importance to the well-being of both parents. 

“One of the key criteria of autism is difficulty with communication, which may explain why these children’s mothers are especially susceptible to stress and depression,” explains one of the main conductors of the study Daniel J. Laxman. Since children with autism struggle with communication, it’s essential for the father to spend time every day reading or singing songs to his child in order for the child to improve his or her vocabulary and grasp on verbal communication. 

The study analyzed the development of the child at nine months, two years old, and four years old in order to get a clear picture of the benefits of a firm paternal role. The data has been quite groundbreaking since many previous researchers focused on the importance of the mother role and reduced the significance of the father. This might be due to society’s expectations of dads not playing as much of a central part in the upbringing of a child. The study dismisses such preconceived cultural norms and indicates that both parents are integral to the structure of a family. 

“It’s very important that men fully understand the reasons why their support and active engagement in parenting is so critical for the family’s functioning and for the child,” states Brent A. McBride, director of the Child Development Laboratory at Illinois. However, it’s also necessary for the parents to come to an agreement over the parenting methods they will inflict on the child to not create an even more stressful environment. A mother and a father will have different perspectives and points of view when it comes to discipline but the child needs to feel a sense of harmony within the family. 

For additional information, please visit: PsychCentral.14125302252_77be5c7efe_z

By Edgar Catasus

Creativity and it’s Connection with Autism

Edgar's Blog Image Feb 3A recent research study conducted by psychologists from the University of East Anglia in England have discovered a surprising link between creativity and autism. Their study has uncovered that individuals on the autism spectrum produce original and unusual ideas to a particular problem more frequently. At the same time, they’re also more likely to respond fewer times to the same problem. This unique way of processing information is called divergent thinking.

The study examined individuals who demonstrate certain behavior patterns and thoughts that are related to autism without being diagnosed with the condition. The purpose was to show how some traits associated with autism can be beneficial and not harmful to the development of a person. “People with high autistic traits could be said to have less quantity, but greater quality of creative ideas”, says Dr. Martin Doherty from UEA’s School of Psychology. 

The study consisted of a series of tests in order to determine the participant’s level of creativity when solving a certain task. Out of the study’s 312 participants, 75 of them were on the autism spectrum disorder. They were instructed to come up with alternative uses for a brick or a paper clip. Four or more uses meant that the individual was likely to display more autistic traits. The test also consisted on showing the participants four abstract drawings in which they had to give as many as ideas possible in just under one minute of time. Again, the more number of ideas produced were related to a higher level of autistic traits. 

Even though most persons would go for cognitively simple answers at first, those that exhibit autistic traits go straight for the more complex and demanding strategies. According to Dr. Doherty, this means “people with autistic traits may approach creativity problems in a different way”. Noted celebrities such as Temple Grandin and Stephen Wiltshire are prime examples of individuals diagnosed with autism who are yet immensely creative to their dedicated field of profession. This remarkable link between creativity and autism is helping researchers understand the brain better and they are hoping future findings can aid persons that are on and off the autism spectrum. 

By Edgar Catasus

For additional information, please visit: http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/08/16/the-link-between-autism-and-creativity/90899.html

A spectrum?: How we speak about Autism

2732-autism-4The Atlantic’s Rose Eveleth illustrates the complexities in the language used to discuss Autism Spectrum Disorder, and how the way we describe the condition makes it difficult to define.

Most people are familiar with the idea of a spectrum. “Autism Spectrum Disorder” is the way we think about autism and the way we speak about Autism. However, it is nearly impossible to chart where an indivdual falls on the autism spectrum. After speaking with doctors, epidemiologists, self-advocates, and anthropologists, Eveleth learned that the more we try to pin down what the autism spectrum really looks like, the less clear it will seem.

When you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.No two individuals with Autism are alike. With changes in behavior and individual needs, there is no way to plot each individual condition on a line.

Stephen Edelson, the director the Autism Research Institute speaks on this: “With the spectrum, there’s a wide range, we’re still trying to figure out what that wide range means…I don’t have an answer. Scientific understanding of autism certainly continues to evolve.”

“I think there’s no one continuum necessarily,” says Lisa Gilotty, the autism-spectrum-disorders program chief at the National Institute of Mental Health. “It’s hard because…different people will break that up in very different ways, I’m not sure any of those ways are accurate.”

Because the spectrum has no established poles or ways of measuring, there is little data about how autistic people might be distributed along the spectrum. Different studies measure different aspects from intellectual disability, and verbal ability, and self-injurious behavior, but researchers know very little about what the autism population looks like as a whole.

Many research efforts focus on autism: the causes of the disorder, trying to identify genetic markers, and attempting to understand potential environmental contributors. Little of the funding goes towards figuring out what the spectrum looks like, or how to measure autism. Though experts might have said the spectrum went from “high functioning” to low functioning,” but those terms were never clearly defined. “We just don’t have good ways of measuring functioning-levels overall,” Anne Roux, a researcher at Drexel’s Autism Institute told Eveleth in an email. “For example, we know that 60-70% of people with autism have co-occurring health and mental-health diagnoses. Yet, there are really no measures that account for the role of co-occurring disorders in how people function.”

Part of why it is difficult to measure changes in intellectual disability is due to changes in how autism is diagnosed and classified. The 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) eliminated Asperger’s syndrome, a condition often seen as existing just outside of the autism spectrum. People who used to be diagnosed with Asperger’s have similar behaviors as autistic people- such as difficulties with social interaction and repetitive behaviors- but far fewer problems with verbal language. Now that Asperger’s syndrome is no longer a diagnosis, some of those people fell into an autism diagnosis, while some were no longer considered disabled.

Data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is challenging to use as a baseline. The data tracks intellectual impairment, the IQ scores of 8-year olds, from 2010. The CDC cautions that the data shouldn’t be used to talk about all people with autism, as data represents a small portion of the population at a very specific period in time.

There are constant efforts in autism research, and the difficulties presented in surrounding discourse speak to a need to evaluate language and the way we speak about autism. Though “Autism Spectrum Disorder” is how we usually think about this condition, the future may present changes in how we think and speak about autism.

 

Finding the Perfect Fit: Enrichment Programs for Your Child

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Enrolling your child into one or more ‘enrichment’ programs designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can significantly improve not only their cognitive skills, but their social skills as well. The only caveat is figuring out which program would work best for your child. Continue reading

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

5 year old autistic girls speaks after years of silence

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. Continue reading

Therapeutic Aquarium Programs

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Aquariums can be both soothing and educational for children on the autism spectrum. At the Le Chemin ABA VB Learning Center in Paris, France, the therapeutic aquarium is key in behaviorally oriented programs. At the learning center some lesson plans are designed around the aquarium.

Having an aquarium can help in keeping children calm which can help prevent or reduce melt-downs. Children who are prone to emotional outbursts benefit from the soothing nature of the therapeutic aquarium.

At home, you can guide your child to participate in all activities aquarium related from designing and installing an aquarium to selecting compatible fish. Guide your child to participate in cleaning and maintaining their home aquarium. Participating in these activities may increase your child’s sense of responsibility help them learn to follow directions and aide in the development of their own self-help skills.

Sharing these activities with others may increase positive sibling relationships. Taking turns, working as team, reinforcing a joint activity. Creating and maintaining a therapeutic aquarium is hard work but fun and valuable for your child on the autism spectrum for so many reasons.

For more information on autistic therapy please visit http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/therapy-2/

Tom Hanks backstage with His Biggest Fan: A Young Girl with Autism

Tom Hanks, the current star of Broadway’s Lucky Guy and star of the newly released movie Captain Philips took time out of his busy schedule to share a moment with Sarah Morretti, a young girl with autism. In a video posted on YouTube which has gone viral, Tom Hanks takes a look at a scrapbook Sarah made about his life, career and family. Tom Hanks may be Broadway’s Lucky Guy, but his kindness made one young woman with autism feel like a Lucky Girl.

To watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV4HJMe6MYQ