Tag Archives: autism treatment

New Treatment Reduces Autism-Like Symptoms in Adolescent Mice

DNA

According to a new unpublished study, a compound used to treat genetic deficits may be effective against symptoms linked to autism.

Scientists announced at the 2014 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting that experimental treatments using an immunosuppressant called rapamycin have been met with success when used on adolescent mice. At 6 weeks old, the rodents are at a similar development phase to that of a human teenager.

This treatment has previously been used to treat a genetic mutation associated with the TSC1 gene. Abnormalities in this gene can cause a condition called tuberous sclerosis, which is characterized by the growth of benign tumors. About half of the population that suffers from tuberous sclerosis also has austim spectrum disorder.

It was observed that mice who lacked TSC1 in their Purkinje cells, neurons located in the cerebellum, exhibited autism-like symptoms, such as social difficulties, narrow interests, and repetitive behaviors, when they reach 2 months of age. It was noticed that when these cells died, symptoms associated with autism became apparent.

A previously released study demonstrated that rapamycin could prevent the symptoms when used on mice that were 7 days old. It was however not determined how effective the treatment was in older mice. In the most recent study, researchers found treated at 6 weeks of age did not develop these behaviors.

The results suggest that this therapy may be used to reduce- or even reverse- behaviors associated with autsim in children of a wide age range. Though the therapy is still in the developmental stages, these findings could be indicate promising discoveries in the field of behavioral treatment for children with autism, even at the later stages.

The average age of an autism diagnosis in children is 4 years. Older children who were diagnosed years ago are often still searching for treatment options into their teenage years, since they may not have had access to intervention in the formative years. Since them symptoms are not always understood at the onset, others are not diagnosed until adolescence, and some not until adulthood. Along with traditional speech therapy, occupational therapy, and psychiatric treatment, biological methods of treatment could signal a huge leap in our understanding of autism spectrum disorder.



Environmental Enrichment – At Home Sensory Stimulation Supplements Autism Therapies

Environmental enrichment is a simple, low-cost program that parents can implement at home to support sensory input therapies their children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). A recent clinical study led by Dr. Michael Leon, PhD of the University of California Irvine indicates a significant improvement of autism symptoms in children whose therapy was supplemented with environmental enrichment over those who stuck solely with their regular therapies.

The process is simple. Start by introducing a changing set of sensory exercises every morning and evening that engage at least two of the senses in any combination, like pairing a new fragrance with a gentle rub on the back or listening to classical music at bedtime while petting a soft blanket. Change the exercise every two weeks, making them increasingly more challenging, building to games like squeezing objects of different shapes, colors, and textures or pulling a specific toy out of a bag containing other items.

Sensory input therapies have been proven effective for children with ASD and have been increasingly incorporated into special education programs. Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices School and Center for Children with Autism in Brooklyn, NY features a Snoezelen Sensory room where children with autism can improve their auditory, visual, and motor skills by stimulating their senses while relaxing in a safe environment.

The clinical study indicated that 42% of the children receiving environmental enrichment in addition to their regular therapies saw a significant improvement after six months – more than 10 points on the Leitner International Performance Scale. However, like all ASD therepies, symptoms, and theories, results vary by individual. The good news is, environmental enrichment offers parents an opportunity to participate in their children’s growth, at little to no cost. There are no possible negative side effects, and it can be fun for both parent and child.



The Struggle for ABA Coverage

When 2-year-old Tony Burke was diagnosed with autism, his parents like many in their shoes, wanted to get him the best services they could that would serve their child’s needs. After doing some research they decided to start him with applied behavioral analysis therapy or ABA therapy, which is considered to be one of the most effective treatment methods for those on the spectrum. After some time, Tony’s grunting noises turned into words and then smaller sentences—the therapy was working. But then something happened that slowed down all his hard work—his family’s insurance started to deny claims.

In Pennsylvania, health insurance laws require ABA therapy to be covered, though in Tony’s case, his therapy was not covered in school, where he needed the most help. His family all of a sudden could not afford o pay therapy costs—adding up to $80,000 a year. These autism coverage acts were passed since 2010 in states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but coverage for ABA therapy still remains hard to obtain.

The prevalence of complaints can be hard to assess since the law also requires Medicaid to cover autismservices leaving providers who don’t get paid by private insurance with the option to just bill Medicaid. Some insurers also avoid covering therapies a child can get at school, including ABA, by dumping cost onto public schools or other agencies.

Another major problem is delayed payments. Kara Matunas from New Jersey had her claims for her 2 year old autistic daughter repeatedly denied. Her daughter Reagan, was receiving early intervention, speech, developmental, and occupational therapy. Two of the denials were reportedly “incorrectly generated due to a manual handling error.”

“They’re just purposely delaying coverage,” Mrs. Matunas explains. Even when the claims are eventually paid, the family is left paying $400-$500 a month which can be especially hard on even middle-class families. Autism laws apply only to fully insured plans where companies have a contract with insurance companies to pay claims. However, as more and more large firms are converting to self-funded plans where they have to pay for care more directly from their own wallets, coverage seems harder to come by.

Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices is a non-profit school and center for children with autism that offer a variety of services at no cost to families all over New York City. They not only offer center-based services, including ABA, speech, art, occupational, therapies to name a few, but also home based services that reach hundreds of families. Organizations like Shema Kolainu have had great success in helping children on the autism spectrum from early intervention to school-age children, and hope to offer services to families like the Burke’s and Matunas who need these services to help their children succeed.



Can Solitary Mammals Help Us Learn About Autism?

There is still so much that we do not know about autism spectrum disorder—from why it has increased in prevalence in the past decade to how to treat those who are affected.  Autism is defined as, “a neural disorder characterized by poor social interaction, problems in verbal and non-verbal communication, and restrictive, repetitive behavior.” Using these common characteristics seen in people on the spectrum, researchers are now looking into studying solitary mammals as a means to better understand the disorder. 

A recently published article in the Journal of Comparative Psychology argues that certain mammals exhibit similar behavior to that typically seen from people with autism. Some of these mammals include polar bears, opossums, skunks, tigers, cougars, and orangutans. Though many of them do have some social behavior they tend to function more independently. According to researcher Jared Edward Reser, both people on the spectrum and solitary mammals have a smaller need for attachment and bonding behaviors, lower stress from separation, and less expressiveness. Biologically the two groups are also similar in that they both produce lower level of oxytocin and vasopressin, which are two hormones that play a large role in social bonding and feelings of attachment. For example, oxytocin is released into the body during positive social interaction, which is responsible for the feelings of closeness we experience with others.

A previous study that used oxytocin injections on adults with autism had results that showed an increase in eye contact, prosocial behavior, and reduced fear/anxiety in social situations. Although much more research is still needed to determine whether oxytocin has a place in treating autism, it does have potentially promising results especially for treatment of more severe cases.

Using this comparative research can be controversial, though researchers acknowledge that only a certain autistic behaviors can be studied and explained by using these comparisons. Autism involves a variety of symptoms and no single animal model could possibly be enough to understand autistic individuals, but it can provide new insight and points for research. Reser points out that it may give us new perspectives on how we look at autistic behavior. “Are the different behaviors we label as being autistic necessarily pathological or are there advantages involved, especially in modern society?” Many scientists as well as autism advocacy groups realize that autistic people can be very successful, especially in fields such as computer programming, mathematics, and physics, therefore continuing to treat them as mentally ill can be counterproductive to our society.

Helping children with autism by providing them with therapy and specific attention to their needs has been a successful and alternative form of “treatment”. So by studying these solitary animals, perhaps we can gain insight into the biology of social interaction, “we can also recognize the need to accept that humans vary widely in terms of how they deal with others.” Dr Eric Hollander,chairman of ICare4Autism Advisory Council, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein and Director of the ASD Program at Montefiore Medical Center does similar research especially with studying social attachment and the biology behind social interaction as it relates to ASD. He is committed to finding best practices that will help advance the lives of children and adults who are on the spectrum. In an interview with Medscape he says, “Studying autism is really a great opportunity because if you understand what goes wrong in autism, you understand a little bit more about what makes people human. It gives you insight into issues around being able to see things from other people’s perspectives and issues around social attachment, which are really what makes us human.”

Dr. Hollander has been listed in NY Magazine and Castle Connolly’s as one of the “Best Doctors in America” and has done several interviews for the New York Times, the Today Show, and Dateline NBC. He will be giving the opening remarks at our upcoming International Autism Conference as well as presenting on Day 2, which focuses on biomedical research and new developments in autism treatments. For the opportunity to hear him speak, get more information and register for the conference HERE! 

For original article, click here



Toys for Children with Autism

Toys can have a very positive impact on the development of children with autism spectrum syndrome. Choosing the right toys that will entertain your child and at the same time encourage development could be challenging. Toys are a big part of the development program at the Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices.

Keep in mind that ability of the child is more important than age recommendation when you are choosing toys for kids with autism.  Simple toys like puzzles and mazes will help your child to focus on completing tasks and will bring a sense of achievement.  Any type of painting or drawing will be great because working with tools will help improve your child’s motor skills.  Board games could be amazing entertainment for the whole family and it will improve the social skills of a child.

Besides regular toys, you can choose from a variety of electronic resources, apps and DVDs that are designed for children with special needs. Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices School use iPad apps such as Buddy Bear app and PlayHome.

Model Me Kids, www.modelmekids.com, specializes in creating toys that focus on the development of social skills, by teaching children how to express emotions and the proper usage of body language. Another company, TeaChildMath, www.teachildmath.comwill help with improving basic knowledge of math and will enhance motor and writing skills of the child.

Generally any toys would be extremely helpful with connection, improvement of social skills and overall development.

For original story, please click here.



The Basketball League for Children with Autism.

 

minnesota.cbslocal.com

 

Sport therapy is important for kids with autism and at the same time it could be a great challenge for them. Some of the issues are motor functioning problems, difficulty in planning and low motivation. Exercise and team sports, such as soccer, baseball and flag football, can be a great benefit to improve these problems and also enhance the quality of everyday life for children with autism. We have talked about yoga and martial arts, having a positive impact on the behavior of children with autism, but how about a real team sport such as basketball?

The Minnesota Autism center organized a Basketball league for children with autism about three years ago. This Autism center in South Central Minnesota is a non-profit organization that support families affected by autism. The basketball league is a great success for the center and the Minnesota community.   Team sports help these kids learn how to communicate with each other and how to express themselves in a small group and listening to a coach give directions.   With every ball in the basket, kid’s faces light up with pride. The ability to accomplish goal, compete and to work with a group significantly boosts their confidence, which increases children overall happiness.

 

Original story http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2014/03/18/league-introduces-team-sports-to-kids-with-autism/

 



Riding Horses Used as Animal Therapy

A therapeutic horseback-riding program in Cody,Wyoming is working to help children with disabilities like autism and down-syndrome.

The program, called One Step at a Time, is intended to improve communication skills and anxiety. According to one of the program’s founder’s Lori Rhodes, it all has to do with the horse’s movement (their gait) and how they relate to humans through that. This type of therapy is called equine therapy.

“It’s all about the horse’s gait,” Rhodes says. “Generally, kids with challenges have something different about their gait. Because a horse’s gait is the closest to a human’s, it helps by overlaying the stride pattern and helps the brain work better, especially the part dealing with speech.”

This is not the only horseback-riding therapy program in the country. In Wisconsin, two sisters opened up their own equine therapy center called Flying Horse. Like One Step at a Time, this center is meant to help anyone overcoming a struggle- youth at risk, veterans suffering from PTSD and children with autism.

“It’s amazing how horses can sense what people are feeling,” co-founder Jewel Johns Root said. “The horse really is the therapist.”

Root is a certified riding instructor with a degree in K-3 education. Besides her and her sister, the program has five trained therapists to work with patients and help them cope with their struggles. There are also 10, trained therapy horses.

“They’re so patient and very thoughtful in the way that they let their clients go at their own pace,” said Christin Skolnik, administrator of the La Crosse County Comprehensive Community Services program. “I think they’re really creative in the way that they are able to help people bring about change.”

For more information on equine therapy in New York, read here: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/2013/11/14/an-autistic-boy-forms-a-special-bond-with-a-horse/

Sources: http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/therapy-patients-find-comfort-in-the-pasture/article_6807926b-9638-5927-9ffb-ce4b6e37c572.html

http://www.codyenterprise.com/news/local/article_3c2a2340-7252-11e3-9f12-001a4bcf887a.html



Extreme Sports Camp for Individuals with Autism

Aspen, Colorado is home to many popular skiing, hiking and snow-boarding resorts and programs. Now it is also home to Extreme Sports Camp- a sleep-away camp for children and teens with autism.

The program was founded in 2004 by Sallie Bernard who wanted her son Bill, who is diagnosed with autism, to enjoy the same opportunities as his brothers.

“Sometimes we get so focused on academics, behavior, or speech that we forget our children are people who have an inner life and need diverse experiences just like anyone else,” Sallie says. “If anything, children with autism need even more opportunities than typical children to access enough essential bridges to adulthood.”

Extreme Sports Camp offers winter and summer programs teaching attendees sports like skiing, rock-climbing, kayaking and other extreme sports. The counselor to camper ratio is higher than 1:1, and all counselors are certified sports instructors who have extensive training in working with those on the autism spectrum.

Activity-based socializing can be incredibly beneficial to individuals with autism, according to Dr. Stephen Shore, member of ICare4Autism’s Advisory Council;  ICare4Autism is a non-profit partner organization of Shema Kolainu.

“Those of us on the spectrum will be much more successful in gatherings that are activity-based, and it may become a special interest,” Dr. Shore said in a Google Hangout with ICare4Autism.

Sallie expresses a similar notion about the benefits of her camp in Aspen.

“At camp, everyone is new and the playing field is level,” Sallie says. “Everyone has a chance to be good at something and not good at something, to mentor someone else and be mentored, to be a potential friend.”

To watch the highlights of ICare4Autism’s Google Hangout with Dr. Shore, follow the link here: http://www.icare4autism.org/news/2013/12/dr-stephen-shore-speaks-on-autism-workforce/

Sources: http://www.extremesportscamp.org/about/

http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/extreme-sports-camp-for-autism/5928/laurel-joss/



Dog Helps Girl with Autism Surf

Gina Gill, a 9-year-old girl with autism from San Diego, has struggled with socializing and self-confidence for most of her life.

Fortunately, Gina has been able to boost her self esteem by learning how to surf: her teacher being a 5-year-old golden retriever name Ricochet.

Ricochet is part of a program called “Puppy Prodigies,” which provides ocean-based therapy for individuals with disabilities including autism. Since she surfs with people who have disabilities, Ricochet is called a SURFice dog.

“I think she has a lot of trouble with everything in life, socializing and school, things can be really hard for her. She’s kind of a loner and it’s hard to make friends,” Gina’s mother Gail said. “I think this is building her confidence enormously.”

Gina’s canine partner Ricochet has even become a bit of a local celebrity, winning surf contests, posing with the Laker Girls and “throwing” out the first pitch at a Padres game. Ricochet “is the only dog in the world that surfs with children with special needs, people with disabilities and wounded warriors as an assistive aid and SURFice dog.”

Puppy Prodigies hosted a New Year’s Eve event in Del Mar, California, where people with disabilities as well as members of the military suffering for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, could surf tandem with Ricochet. This was Gina’s third time surfing with the golden retriever.

Ricochet also surfed tandem with Randy Dexter, an army veteran with PTSD, for the New Year’s event.

“It’s given me a new lease on life,” says Dexter.  “Now my relationship with my wife and family has gotten so much better.”

For more information on animal therapy in New York, read here: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/2013/11/19/heeling-autism/

To learn more about Ricochet, follow the link here: http://www.surfdogricochet.com

Sources: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/dec/31/surf-dog-ricochet-tandam-surf-therapy/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0lBVdfePgQ



Mother of Missing Teen Gives Back

Alex Irwin, an autistic teenager from Portland, Ore., went missing last Saturday during a wilderness hike. He was found the next morning by guests at a nearby wilderness lodge.

Alex is part of a larger group of individuals with autism that strayed from their homes and schools this year, and were deemed missing.

Alex’s mother Jill is working to combat this with a new program called PIE- Promoting Independent Experience.

“The tension between offering Alex opportunities for him to be independent, and navigating his safety, it’s always the most challenging,” Jill said. “I started to understand that underneath all these autistic behaviors, there was this teenage boy who wanted to start to have some control of his life.”

Jill began contacting local businesses to see if there were volunteer or job opportunities for her son. He now works at a non-profit Chinese garden.

“He leaves with a sense of pride I don’t think I’ve ever seen in him in his life,” Jill Irvin said. 

Jill’s organization is expanding this idea to the rest of the autism community in Portland. She’s looking for local openings that can help individuals with autism, “learn new skills and demonstrate their potential.”

ICare4Autism, a non-profit organization affiliated with Shema Kolainu, is promoting a like-minded workforce initiative in New York. By providing workforce training and pairing with local stores like Walgreens, ICare4Autism is helping place young adults with autism into career and volunteer positions. You can read more about this program here :http://www.icare4autism.org/global-autism-center/comprehensive-autism-workforce-development-initiative/

For more information on PIE: http://piepdx.org/

Sources: http://www.katu.com/news/local/Mother-of-lost-hiker-looks-to-educate-others-238183281.html

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/12/missing_portland_hiker_found_s.html