sensory accommodations such as schedule suggestions, quiet spaces, hands-on opportunities, and a more tailored interaction with the Village staff Continue reading
New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience this April demonstrates how children with autism spectrum disorder perceive motion at twice the rate of typically developing children, suggesting that perception of motion may be responsible for autism symptoms such as painful sensitivity to noise and bright lights, as well as social, behavioral deficits.
The study compared the motion perception processes of children diagnosed with ASD with those of typically developing children by having each subject watch video clips of moving black and white bars and indicate the direction of motion—left or right. When researchers increased the contrast of the bars, both groups performed better, but the autistic children significantly improved, surpassing the typically developing children in motion recognition. The worst performing subject of the autistic group for the increased contrast portion of the test responded on par with the combined average of the typically developing children. With each correct answer, researchers would shorten the length of the clip making the motion harder to distinguish. With the greater contrast, the autistic group was able to identify motion at twice the rate of the typically developing children.
The researchers suggest that the pain and disturbance that autistics often experience with sensory dense situations—like crowded malls—may be attributed to this heightened perception of motion. Additionally, many of the social and behavioral symptoms of autism—like communicative ability and face recognition—could be understood through the lens of motion perception.
At Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices we pay attention to our children’s response to their sensory environment and accommodate their needs. We are happy to see conclusive research findings that may help to explain and ultimately alleviate the complications of the autistic experience. Until then, we utilize our Snoezelen room to control the sensory stimulus our kids encounter and calm them when they are overwhelmed. Some children need this more than others or at unanticipated times, so we do our best to identify how often and when a child needs sensory relief. We have recently experienced particular success with the Snoezelen room! One of our children, who experiences ADHD as well, had been acting out extremely, jumping from chair to chair, and was generally upset and overwhelmed. We increased his Snoezelen visits from once a day to three times a day, accompanied by an Occupational Therapist. After just a week of more Snoezelen stress-free time, he was noticeably happier, able to pay attention, and less restless.
Share your sensory-overload stories or relief strategies here!
Foss-Feig, Jennifer H., Duge Tadin, Kimberly B. Schauder, and Carissa J. Cascio. “A Substantial and Unexpected Enhancement of Motion Perception in Autism.”Journal of Neuroscience 33.19 (2013): 8243-249. Http://www.jneurosci.org/. 8 May 2013. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/19/8243.abstract?sid=24797967-4ff0-4f50-8b03-9b295b1c7dca>.
“Why Some Autistic Kids Are Painfully Sensitive to Noise and Bright Lights.” DNA. Www.dnaindia.com, 9 May 2013. Web. 10 May 2013. <http://www.dnaindia.com/health/1832630/report-why-some-autistic-kids-are-painfully-sensitive-to-noise-and-bright-lights>.
England pilots an autism-family-friendly performance program, The Relaxed Performance Project, to be produced at 10 prominent theaters throughout the country. While autism awareness is growing, it is still all too easy for others to confuse a child’s behavior as bad, and many parents of children with autism are discouraged from attending cultural events. Some parents, even, report having been asked to leave productions because of disturbance. England’s collaborative theater project is not only promoting inclusion, but also integration: inviting families to attend performances without restrictions on smartphone/tablet use, entrance/exit during the show, or noise. The production, an adaption of the best-selling book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, relates the autism experience with a central character that demonstrates an unspecified behavioral condition. Among the theaters partaking in this pilot program is The Royal Shakespeare Company, whose actress Kelly Hunter began the Hunter Heartbeat Method utilizing Shakespeare’s rhythm (iambic pentameter) to aid autistics with communication. Ohio State University has adapted The Royal Shakespeare Company’s model and is piloting a ‘Shakespeare and Autism’ study. The theater community is redefining performance, utilizing the potential for interactive stimulation and structured stories to aid autistics and include them in the world of culture and arts. This April, for World Autism Month, William Paterson University in New Jersey held a sensory-friendly production in their children’s theater and requested that ushers loosen up on rules and regulations for behavior. At Northwestern University in Illinois, students have created a “Theater Stands with Autism” program. The first production will take-stage this May. The show, “Diving In,” will be an interactive performance tailored to sensory sensitivity associated with autism. The set is similar in affect to a snoezlen room, allowing the audience to engage in various sensory stimulants. These performances open up shared cultural experiences for the family, but also provide opportunities to meet and share in experiences with other families of children with autism. To read more about these projects or find out how to attend, visit the links below. Share your experience with theater here!
“Autism-friendly Theatre That Welcomes Curious Incidents.” The Independent. N.p., 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/autismfriendly-theatre-that-welcomes-curious-incidents-in-the-nighttime-8586430.html>.
“Performance Offers Sensory-friendly Theater for Children with Autism.”NorthJersey.com. N.p., 30 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://www.northjersey.com/community/200690141_Performance_offers_sensory-friendly_theater_for_children_with_autism.html>.
“Theatre Stands with Autism Prepares for Cross-spectrum Adventure.” Daily Northwestern. N.p., 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://dailynorthwestern.com/2013/04/24/thecurrent/theatre-stands-with-autism-prepares-for-cross-spectrum-adventure/>.
Live entertainment is undoubtedly a fun, stimulating experience for adults and children alike. However, for those with autism, these events can be a sensory overload and lead to high-stress situations. Therefore, they are often avoided by families affected by autism. Fortunately, due to the increasing awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States, there has also been an increasing frequency of “sensory-friendly” events catering directly to those with autism, but that are fun for the whole family as well. Continue reading