Tag Archives: early intervention

Autism & Epilepsy

 

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that is marked by recurring seizures or convulsions. It includes impaired social interaction and language development, which often leads to repetitive behaviors. The connection between these two neurological disorders came after another study that explored the mechanisms in the brain that are responsible for each and how they contribute to each disorder. For example, both disorders show patterns of impaired socialization.

A new study now examines the connection between the long-term outcome of epilepsy in autism and the epilepsy characteristics of adults with autism. The results estimate that nearly one third of people on the autism spectrum also have epilepsy.  Before these studies, many issues with behavior management and socialization for people with epilepsy remained largely under diagnosed, meaning these people did not have proper access to treatment they may have really needed.

This new research could mean that adults with epilepsy would be able to benefit from a wide range of autism treatment services and improving their overall quality of life. The highest epilepsy incidences actually happen within a child’s first year after being born. Each year, approximately 150,000 children and young adults in the U.S have a single seizure and 30,000 end up being diagnosed after they experience more seizures.

Some epileptic symptoms that are commonly overlooked by parents include:

-      Prolonged staring

-      Uncontrolled jerking of the arms and legs

-      Lack of response from verbal stimulation

-      Shaking or loss of balance

-      Smacking of the lips

The ICare4Autism International Autism Conference 2014 will have an entire day dedicated to scientific advances in autism research as well as new drug developments. For more information on this resource, CLICK HERE!

For original article, Click here!



Autism Screening App in the Making!

Researchers at Duke University are currently working on developing a software that tracks and records your infant’s activity during videotaped autism screening tests. They had very successful results in their trials, showing that the program has been just as good at spotting certain behavioral markers of autism as professionals who would be giving the test themselves and was actually more accurate than non-expert medical clinicians and students in training.

The study focuses on three specific behavioral tests that are used to identify young children who may be on the autism spectrum. The first test get’s the attention of the baby by shaking a toy on their left side and then counting how long it takes for them to shift their attention when the toy is moved to their right side. The second test examines the child’s ability to track motion as a toy passes across their field of view and looks for any delays. The last test involves rolling a ball to a child and seeing if they make any eye contact afterward, which would show some engagement with their play partner.

The new program allows for the person administering the tests to concentrate on the child while the program measures reactions times down to tenths of a second, giving much more accuratereadings. Amy Esler, assistant professor of pediatrics and autism at the University Minnesota, participated in some of these trials and says, “The great benefit of the video and software is for general practitioners who do not have the trained eye to look for subtle early warning signs of autismThese signs would signal to doctors that they need to refer a family to a specialist for a more detailed evaluation.”

Jordan Hashemi, a graduate student in computer and electrical engineering at Duke, further states that they are not trying to replace the experts by proposing this app, but rather are trying to provide a resource and tool for classrooms and homes across the country. They recognize the importance of early intervention and are hoping that this app can be a real tool in catalyzing how early we are able to help those on the autism spectrum.

For more information on how technology is paving the road to opportunity for children on the spectrum, look into day 3 of our upcoming International Autism Conference! Click here for more info! 

For more info on the Information Initiative at Duke and original article, click here.



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/

 



Temple Grandin Is At It Again

At a conference Wednesday in Montreal, Temple Grandin, known for her knowledge on autism and animal welfare and behavior, stood in front of the audience with a monumental presentation.

According to Grandin, who is now 66, she feels blessed to have been diagnosed with autism when she was 2 ½ years old. Furthermore, she alluded to figures such as Albert Einstein and Apple’s Steve Jobs, who perhaps would also be diagnosed with autism. “You wouldn’t have all these electronics and technology if it weren’t for all these geeks with mild autism,” Grandin suggested.[i]

Temple Grandin has been known for her advocacy of early intervention programs for young children diagnosed with autism. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the sooner he or she can begin therapy. Grandin believes in bringing out the exceptional skills children with autism possess, and to help them succeed. Instead of concentrating on what autistic kids struggle with, parents and therapists should encourage their strengths.

When a young girl presented Grandin with honey and a painting, she accepted it graciously and said, “Let me tell you, you’re professional grade. I’m serious. You’re very talented and you could turn this into a career. I’m all about careers.”

Let’s take Temple Grandin’s advice: realize the importance of early intervention for children diagnosed with autism, and try to bring out everything they could possibly offer to succeed.


[i] “The Gazette” Let autistic kids take a turn, author advises. 07 Nov 2013. Web. < http://www.montrealgazette.com/touch/story.html?id=9134398>



Study Sheds Light on Early Intervention, but Suggests All Treatment Types Are Equal

Autism professionals, especially early intervention specialists, prepare yourself for what you are about to read: a new study suggests that young children with autism will benefit from your services, but it may not matter which kind of method you are using. Now I know this may offend some readers, as specialists in the field feel strongly about their particular type of therapy service, but everyone is still in agreement that early intervention is crucial for the development of a child with autism.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill designed this study to compare the outcomes of the LEAP (Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and their Parents) and TEACCH (known by its acronym and developed at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and the effects of these approaches with special education programs that have no set model. 74 teachers and 198 3-5 year olds in public schools were involved in the study. Regardless of the model (or lack of model), children made progress over the school year as co-author Kara Hume explained,

“Each group of children showed significant positive change in autism severity, communication and fine-motor skills. No statistically significant differences were found among models, which challenged our initial expectations—and likely the field’s.” [i]

The cost of these therapies is sky rocketing, leaving the parents of these children in distress. Perhaps the results of this study will lead to a re-examination of therapies, reducing the costs for the parents.

Don’t worry, everyone is still in agreement as statistics prove that early intervention is crucial and beneficial for young children diagnosed with autism, but as co-author and principal investigator of the study, Samuel L. Odom, suggests, “Perhaps it’s not the unique features of the models that most contribute to child gains but the common features of the models that most influence child growth.”



[i] “Futurity” In preschool, autism treatment types are equal. 18 Jul 2013. Web. < http://www.futurity.org/health-medicine/in-preschool-autism-treatment-types-are-equal/>



Minnesota District Creates School for Children with Autism and Other Special Needs

Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916 is dedicated to improving the lives of children with special needs, by sharing resources and costs for specialized programs. Karner Blue, a $15 million school set to open in the fall of 2014 in Blaine,Minnesota, will provide a friendly and calming atmosphere for children with autism and other emotional and behavioral disabilities.

The school will serve between 120 and 140 K-8 students, with more than 100 staff members. Professionals are aiding the architects in the design of the building, to ensure every aspect is being catered for the population, including quieter alarms and digital message boards in lieu of loud fire alarms and flashing strobe lights. The school will have an indoor playground, calming rooms, and intimate classroom settings to improve the education quality. Parents cannot ask to send their child to Karner Blue; rather, the child needs to be referred to the school by a professional if their original district cannot meet their educational needs. As of late, most special education classrooms have had typical classroom settings, which is not beneficial or effective for children with autism and other special needs.

The school will consist of four learning pods – forest, prairie, lake and river – to provide a calming nature theme for the students. There will be natural lighting with skylights and strategically placed windows 5 ½ feet from the ground, and no long hallways, to ensure that a behavioral tantrum does not become a “schoolwide spectacle.”

Val Rae Boe will be the principal of the school, and is helping the architects in the designing process,

“We’ve tried to design and develop a facility that would support their unique learning styles and support their behavioral needs, mental health needs including speech language and all the different related services the students need.” [i]

Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices can attest to the benefits of having a school designed for children with special needs. The Snoezelen Room, a multisensory room for the students, is proof that specialized rooms can produce positive outcomes for children with autism. Hopefully more schools across the country will follow this example of creating specialized schools for children with special needs, to provide the best possible education.



[i] “Star Tribune” New school under construction for kids with autism, behavioral disorders. 25 Jun 2013. Web. < http://www.startribune.com/local/north/212985221.html>



New Online Course For Parents of Children With Autism Designed by Medical & Educational Experts

 

 

 

 

 

The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center has launched an online course designed to help parents of children with autism better understand behavioral intervention, advocate for their child’s needs in school programs, and navigate the legal rights of disabled persons. The course is divided into ten-modules, allowing parents to set the pace, and is intended for use as early as diagnosis. The lessons follow six families of children with autism spectrum disorder through common scenarios to guide parents in the implementation of Behavioral Intervention strategies. The program manager, Maura Buckley, a mother of two young teenagers with autism, used her experience navigating the various systems of care and education to form this parental guide. Buckley notes having felt uninvolved and uninformed about her children’s daily lives while in school and therapy. She asserts the benefits of the new program saying, “Being able to interact with the professionals who are helping my child, and being able to advocate for what they need is so important.”[i] Seminars can be difficult to coordinate attending, especially for a parent of a child with autism, so an online program allows accessibility to up-to-date information on intervention strategies and educational approaches, bridging the gap between specialists and parents. Additionally, equipping parents with the knowledge of behavioral intervention will allow parents to reinforce their children’s progress from school and therapy programs, providing the most comprehensive care for individuals on the autism spectrum. Parents who take the course will know what and how to inform specialists of behavior at home as well as how to best respond in particular circumstances. The course is available for monthly, quarterly, and annual subscription atudiscovering.org. The experts responsible for the course are in the process of creating an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) course for paraprofessionals, to be released this summer.



[i] Meindersma, Sandy. “Medical School Launches Online Course for Parents of Children with Autism.” Worcester Telegram & Gazette. N.p., 26 May 2013. Web. 28 May 2013. <http://www.telegram.com/article/20130526/NEWS/305269985/1237>.



Autistic Teen Garners Nobel Prize Consideration for Work In Quantum Physics

An autistic teenager has been “tipped” for a Nobel Prize. Jacob Barnett is earning his masters in Quantum Physics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), with research that has garnered him consideration for a Nobel Prize. Oh, did I mention that Jacob is only 14? Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the age of two when he exhibited regressive behavior, losing communicative and social skills. Doctors believed Jacob would need special education and accommodations for life and would likely never be able to read. Despite the severe diagnoses, Jacob’s parents paid special attention to Jacob’s behavior, noticing that he was particularly happy when doing something meticulous, like counting, and disinterested with typical toddler activities. His mother, Kristine Barnett explained, in a 60 minutes feature on Jacob, that her and her husband engaged Jacob in the activities he liked after school and saw unbelievable progress. By kindergarten, Jacob was still behind his peers communicatively and socially, but, according to his father, he would return home and ask when he would get “to learn algebra.” By the third grade, Jacob, accompanied by Kristine, was auditing college calculus. The mother-son-duo laugh about the experience explaining how other students were surprised when Jacob would participate, believing that Kristine was enrolled and unable to find a babysitter. At the end of the course, Jacob requested to take the exam, and upon earning an ‘A’ was offered a full scholarship to IUPUI. In preparation for starting college before the age of 10, Jacob taught himself all of high school math in two weeks. Today, at 14-years-old, Jacob is earning his masters and conducting research that has put him in the running for one of the world’s most coveted prizes. He is thought to have an IQ equal to or greater than that of Albert Einstein.

Throughout all of this success and the attention, Jacob attributes his academic trajectory to the autistic experience, discrediting the ideas of “genius” and “savant.” In his presentation for TEDxTeen, Jacob encourages divergent thinking, telling the audience to “stop learning and start thinking.” He believes his interest and aptitude in math and science was born out of boredom as he was forced to “stop learning” when placed into a public special education program. While he was treated as disabled, he focused on “shapes and shadows” and considered large-scale theories of physics, soon proving himself differently-abled. His parents observed this difference and fostered his specific strengths. Today, Jacob’s autism diagnosis is barely visible, though, he asserts, he still has difficulty tying his shoes.

In order to succeed you have to look at everything with your own unique perspective. Okay, what does that mean? That means that when you think you must think in your own creative way, not accepting everything out there.

Jacob Barnett, TEDxTeen

At Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, our care is specialized. We are dedicated to identifying and fostering the strengths of our children. We facilitate and encourage open communication between all caregivers (parents, teachers, therapists, and physicians) so that individuals’ strengths do not slip through the cracks. Jacob Barnett’s advice is valuable for society’s larger understanding of learning and ability, as well as the subsequent implementation of inclusion.



New Research Suggests Girls With ASD Need Different Treatment Approach Than Boys

Interesting new research for parents of daughters presented today at the International Meeting for Autism Research. The gender distribution of autism spectrum disorder has raised flags for researchers for years. Males are 4 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than females. The current diagnostic criteria for ASD were designed primarily from symptoms in boys, so if symptoms manifest differently in girls, then some girls may be slipping through the diagnostic cracks. Because more boys are diagnosed with ASD than girls, research populations often have imbalanced gender distributions—leaving us knowing less about autism for girls. Other studies pertaining to neuropsychiatries have proved that symptoms can be different for girls, and different symptoms require different treatment. This week, at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Spain, two new studies are presenting results on the association between autism and gender.

One study,[i] conducted by Yale University researchers, found that the extra X chromosome in girls is protecting from autism, so the diagnosed cases of autism in girls is often associated with higher-risk mutation that “overwhelmed” their “protective mechanism.”[ii] The second study[iii] tested the success of the computer-based intervention Let’s Face It! (LFI!)  in improving identity recognition with changes in expression, viewpoint, features, face process strategies, and attention or ability to ascertain information from eyes. The researchers found that while the intervention had overwhelming success for boys, it actually posed adverse affects for girls in the study. The chief of the division of autism and related disorders at Emory University elaborated on the findings, saying “In boys, the more they looked at the eyes, the less socially disabled they are. In girls, the more they looked at the eyes, the more disabled they are… we have to take gender as a mediating factor.”i

Both studies confirm speculation that ASD manifests diversely between genders. This information is a game changer for education, therapy, and other treatment practices for autism. The findings will propel research to design strategies better suited for the needs of girls with autism. At Shema Kolainu, we recognize that all of our children are on a spectrum and are sensitive to the nuances of the disorder. We will take this information to heart when designing the individualized plans for our kids and await eagerly new evidence of successful treatment strategies.

Parents, please share your feelings regarding these findings with us here or personally. Do you feel like your daughter’s symptoms differ from your idea of the typical autistic? Do you feel like treatment that improves others, upsets your daughter?


[i] Whole-Exome and CNV Data for ASD Sex Bias. S. J. Sanders* and M. W. State, Yale University School of Medicine

[ii] “Girls with Autism May Need Different Treatment | Health24.” Health24. N.p., 2 May 2013. Web. 03 May 2013. <http://www.health24.com/Parenting/Child/News/Girls-with-autism-may-need-different-treatment-20130502>.

[iii] Effects of a Targeted Face-Processing Intervention On Visual Attention to Naturalistic Social Scenes. P. Lewis*1, J. M. Moriuchi1, C. Klaiman1, J. Wolf2, L. Herlihy3, W. Jones1, A. Klin1, J. W. Tanaka4 and R. T. Schultz5, (1)Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta & Emory University School of Medicine, (2)Yale Child Study Center, (3)University of Connecticut, (4)University of Victoria, (5)Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

 

 

 



Air Pollution Affects Autism: Solutions & Success Stories

A new research study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives this March found a direct correlation between Autism Spectrum Disorders and exposure to air pollution, particularly from traffic. Researchers from the Department of Epidemiology of University of California, Los Angeles, and the Department of Preventive Medicine of University of Southern California, estimated exposure to toxins for a controlled population of children diagnosed with ASD between 3-5 years of age, born in Los Angeles. The study utilized data from air monitoring stations and a land use regression (LUR) model to identify each specific child’s exposure rate. The findings suggest a 12-15% increase in risk for autism when exposed to ozone and 3-9% increase when exposed nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide.[i] A mother and, now, clean air activist, shares the story of her son’s autism diagnosis and recovery. Bridget James was concerned about the poor air quality surrounding her home in Utah before becoming pregnant, but was relieved when her son, Park, demonstrated a pretty strong immune system in his first couple years. It was not until Park was diagnosed autistic at 2-years-of-age that Bridget’s suspicions were confirmed. However, the diagnosis did not last. Bridget, having worked with autistic youth prior to becoming a mother, new the signs and symptoms of autism and took a proactive approach. She researched toxic exposure and took every possible precaution to relieve and prevent pollutants for Park. She altered his diet, administered heavy metal detoxes, and tried her best to protect him from the harsh Utah air. Soon, Park was making eye contact with Bridget again. He began to socialize and had a greater attention span. Bridget describes her son’s changes as “coming back”[ii] to her. While researchers believe there are a variety of causes for Autism Spectrum Disorders, the study ‘Ambient Air Pollution and Autism in Los Angeles County, California’ provides further evidence of environmental contributions to the onset of ASD. Bridget and Park’s story is hopeful, perhaps for prevention, but certainly for the easing of symptoms associated with ASD.  To read me about Bridget’s detoxing strategies and success, click here. For the full report of research findings, click here.

 

 



[i] Becerra, Tracy A., Michelle Wilhelm, Jørn Olsen, Myles Cockburn, and Beate Ritz. “Ambient Air Pollution and Autism in Los Angeles County, California.”Environmental Health Perspective 121.3 (2013): 380-86. Mar. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/pdf-files/2013/Mar/ehp.1205827_508.pdf>.

 

[ii] James, Bridget. “Autism, Air Pollution, And My Son.” Care2. N.p., 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <http://www.care2.com/greenliving/autism-air-pollution-and-my-son.html>.