Can Babies Exhibit Symptoms of Autism?

baby faces

Sally Rogers, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California-Davis MIND Institute, conducted a study that looked at treating subtle but telling signs of autism in babies. The findings, recently published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental … Continue reading

City Hall Rally to Save Autism Funding 2012

Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices CEO & Founder Dr. Joshua Weinstein, with SK-HOV staff and students and Council Members Brad Lander, Mark S. Weprin, David Greenfield and Dan Halloran.

Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices CEO & Founder Dr. Joshua Weinstein, with SK-HOV staff and students and Council Members Brad Lander, Mark S. Weprin, David Greenfield and Dan Halloran.

On Tuesday, April 24, New York City Council Member Mark S. Weprin invited Council Members, service providers, and families of children with autism to a rally on the steps of City Hall, in an effort to urge the New York City Council to continue funding for its citywide autism initiative. Continue reading

How to Help Children with Autism Deal with Bullies

How to Help Children with Autism Deal with BullyingBullying is something that a wide variety of people experience at some point in their lives. However, one group of young people seems to be bearing more of the weight: children with autism.

A study by the University of Manchester has uncovered that children with autism are two to three times more likely to be bullied than other children.

Despite greater awareness, bullying remains problematic and while much has been done to battle the problem, there are additional steps that need to be taken to ensure children with special needs are protected. Continue reading

Hear Our Voices Looking to Include iPads to Classrooms

With the onset of more accessible visual electronics such as iPods and iPads,

Visual electronics have been booming. Their popularity, of course, is due to their vibrant colorful graphics, simple touch interfaces, and endless supply of new applications that help users do everything from order a cup of coffee to produce a symphony.

As the accessibility of these products becomes more open to those younger and younger, even showing up in schools. While some parents and teachers disapprove of their personal use in classrooms, stating children may waste time on site like Facebook and not pay attention, other teachers, especially those of special needs and autistic students, are quickly taking advantage of such a powerful tool. Continue reading

Autism Defined

Autism is the most common situation in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communications, and unusual repetitive or severely limited activities and interests. Other ASDs include Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). It is estimated that 1 in 150 children have autism. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females.

There are three distinguishing behaviors that typify autism. Children with autism have difficulties with social interactions, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or narrow, compulsive interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling.

The characteristic trait of autism is impaired social interaction. Parents are usually the first to notice symptoms of autism in their child. As early as infancy, a baby with autism may be indifferent to people or focus fixedly on one item, to the exclusion of others, for long periods of time. A child with autism may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagements.

Children with autism may fail to respond to their name and often avoid eye contact with other people. They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions; they don’t watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior. They lack understanding attentiveness.

Many children with autism take on rhythmic and repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling, or are involved in self-abusive behavior such as biting and head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later then other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of “I” or “me.” Children with autism don’t know how to play or interact with other children. Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.

Many children with autism have a reduced sensitivity to pain, but are peculiarly sensitive to sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation. These unusual reactions may contribute to behavioral symptoms such as resistance to being cuddled or hugged.

Autism varies broadly in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when it is shrouded by more incapacitating handicaps. Doctors rely on a central group of behaviors to alert them to the possibility of a diagnosis of autism. These behaviors include:

  • impaired ability to make friends with peers
  • impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
  • absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
  • stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
  • restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in intensity or focus
  • preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
  • inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals

Autism is a multifaceted disorder. A comprehensive evaluation requires a multidisciplinary team including a psychologist, neurologists, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who diagnose children with ASDs. The team members conduct a thorough neurological assessment and in-depth cognitive and language testing. Because hearing problems can cause behaviors that are sometimes mistaken for autism, children with delayed speech development should also have their hearing tested. After a thorough evaluation, the team usually meets with parents to explain the results of the evaluation and present the diagnosis.

Children with some symptoms of autism, but not enough to be diagnosed with classical autism are often diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Children with autistic behaviors but well-developed language skills are often diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Children who develop normally and then suddenly deteriorate between the ages of 3 to 10 years and show marked autistic behaviors may be diagnosed with childhood disintegrative disorder. Girls with autistic symptoms may be suffering from Rett syndrome, a sex-linked genetic disorder characterized by social withdrawal, regressed language skills, and hand wringing.

Scientists aren’t certain what causes autism, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Studies of people with autism have found irregularities in several regions of the brain. Other studies suggest that people with autism have abnormal levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. These abnormalities suggest that autism could result from the disruption of normal brain development early in the fetal stage, caused by defects in genes that control brain growth and regulate how neutrons communicate with each other. While these findings are fascinating, they are preliminary and require further study. The theory that parental practices are responsible for autism has now been disproved.

Recent studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predilection to autism. In families with one autistic child, the risk of having a second child with the disorder is approximately 5 percent, or one in 20. This is greater than the risk for the general population. Researchers are looking for clues about which genes contribute to this increased vulnerability. In some cases, parents and other relatives of an autistic child show mild impairments in social and communicative skills or engage in repetitive behaviors. Evidence also suggests that some emotional disorders, such as manic depression, occur more frequently than average in the families of people with autism.

For many children, autism symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with autism grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives. Children, whose language skills degenerate early in life, usually before the age of 3, appear to be at risk of developing other complications including epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity.

There is no cure for autism. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can therefore, bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that target the core symptoms of autism: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. Most professionals agree that the earlier that intervention occurs, the better the child’s chances for successful skill development.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the underlying educational approach at Shema Kolainu – “Hear Our Voices” (SK-HOV), which entails the comprehensive use of the principles of human learning theory to enhance the development, abilities and self-direction skills of children and adults. Thanks to the field of ABA, children with autism have been able to make greater strides than anyone might have imagined just a few decades ago!

Each program in SK-HOV has been developed to address skill variations and multiple levels of functioning. In addition to the broad spectrum of services for children, we provide support to families in the techniques of ABA to help their child generalize the learning acquired in school or day programs. Teaching methods we use involve a variety of strategies and formats developed within the field of applied behavior analysis, such as discrete trials, verbal behaviors and incidental learning.

Behavior analysts supervise and observe all staff on a regular basis regarding the manner and implementation of interventions across all services. Shema Kolainu is committed to furthering the understanding and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by keeping abreast of recent research findings and developing evidence-based practices. It offers hope to children and their families where none existed, so that one day many of these children can have the opportunity to overcome autism.

Early Intervention (EI) Program: Giving Toddlers a Strong Start

The Early Intervention Program serves children diagnosed with autism and developmental disabilities, 36 months of age or younger at the time of referral. This program is based on a strong parent-professional partnership. Individualized services focus on learning readiness; language; play; family participation; daily routines relevant to eating, sleeping, and bathing; and other areas jointly identified by SKHOV professionals and parents. Through EI, children with developmental delays and autism receive education, therapeutic, service coordination and evaluation in the five boroughs of New York City. Continue reading

Conference, July 6th, 2011. Autism: A Global Perspective

Finding the Causes and Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

What Does Medical and Educational Research Tell Us?

Register NOW! Early Bird Special Pricing Extended until June 13, 2011

July 6th, 2011
ICare4Autism’s International Autism Conference
NYC at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Einstein)

Conference topics will cover Bio-Medical and Educational Research and Practice.

Welcoming Remarks:
Joshua Weinstein Ph.D., M.B.A., USA, Israel. ICare4Autism Founder & CEO

Eric Hollander, M.D. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Director of OCD and Autism Spectrum Program Montefiore Medical Center and Einstein
Chairman of the Advisory Committee for Icare4Autism
Presenting: Neuropsychopharmacology of Oxytocin and Inflammation in Autism

John Foxe, Ph.D. Research Director of the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) and Professor of Pediatrics and of Neuroscience at Einstein
Presenting: Electrophysiology and Endophenotyping of Autism

Dominick P. Purpura, M.D. Dean Emeritus, Professor of Neuroscience, Einstein
Presenting: The Locus Coeruleus/Noradrenergic Hypothesis of Autism

Shlomo Shinnar, M.D., Ph.D. Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, Hyman Climenko Professor of Neuroscience Research, and Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Management Center at Montefiore Medical Center and Einstein
Presenting: Epilepsy and Autism

Robert W. Marion, M.D. Director of the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) and Professor of Genetics at Einstein
Presenting: Genetics of Autism

Arthur L. Beaudet, M.D. Henry and Emma Meyer Professor and Chair Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Presenting: A Novel and Common Inborn Error of Metabolism Discovered in Autism Patients

Hugh Morgan, MMedSc OBE FRSA CEO Autism Wales & Expert Advisor for ASD to the Welsh Assembly Government, Cardiff, Wales
Presenting: The Welsh Government’s National ASD Strategy (2008): What Can We Learn from the World’s First Government Strategy for Autism?

Mark Lever Chief Executive, The National Autistic Society (NAS), UK
Presenting: Leading a Campaign for a Better World for People with Autism

Rebecca J. Landa, Ph.D., CCC-SLP Founding Director of Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Presenting: Intervention Targeting Development of Socially Synchronous Engagement in Toddlers with ASD: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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ICare4autism to Create World’s First Global Autism Research and Education Center

Mayor of Jerusalem Pledges Support in City Hall Ceremony

NEW YORK and JERUSALEM – December 6, 2010

The International Center for Autism Research and Education (ICare4autism), a New York-based charity, announced plans to create the world’s first Global Autism Center on Mt. Scopus in Israel, dedicated to catalyzing breakthrough innovation in autism research and treatment.  In a ceremony at Jerusalem’s City Hall hosted by Mayor Nir Barkat, ICare4autism’s President Dr. Joshua Weinstein signed an agreement paving the way for ICare4autism to acquire the campus of Bezalel Academy of Art in 2013, and convert it into a center, housing:   Continue reading