The Sensory World of Autistic Children

sensory

Children on the autism spectrum are characterized by their inability to begin picking up and social cues and engaging in regular social interaction.  Psychology experts say that people who are not as in tune with social interaction may be that … Continue reading

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/

 

Children’s Book “Mikey” Reveals Autism Through the Eyes of a Child

Children’s Book “Mikey” Reveals Autism Through the Eyes of a Child

A mother and daughter, along with illustrator Mark Fairbanks have teamed up to take a unique look at autism with “Mikey”, a book that details how a young boy with autism sees, hears, and feels the world around him in his school environment.

Authors Judy Cohen and Mindee Pinto, both teachers, seeing the difficulties children with autism and spectrum disorders were encountering in the classroom, decided to write the book to help children understand and become aware of how a classmate with autism experiences the classroom. The book also aims to promote success in the classroom because many children with autism now attend standard classrooms for some of their school day. It is common for these children to struggle socially and be at risk of being isolated or bullied.

“They’re sensory processing is very hyper-vigilant and they have this inability to separate that. So it impacts how they see the world and they act in the classroom,” said Cohen.

Mikey’s story gives an accurate depiction of what we see with many autistic children. He looks like many of his non-autistic peers, has the same needs and feelings, but unlike his peers, he processes information, learns, and reacts differently to the world around him.

“Right now, many adults and children in our schools understand very little how even the littlest noise, as a furnace humming or a school bell, can quickly disrupt this child’s day,” says Cohen.

“With Mikey there is a part in the book where he uses visuals, where it shows him it’s okay to have a picture of what will happen next in his day that’s another tool that teachers need to implement in their classrooms,” said Pinto.

With more and more children being diagnosed with Autism, “Mikey’s” story is being used in classrooms worldwide to help educate and provide an understanding about the disorder whilst promoting autism awareness and acceptance.

“Statistics have said one in 84 children will be diagnosed, possibly one in 50 boys. So we have increase of almost 40% of children,” “This book needs to be in every classroom in every city, state and country. We must continue to teach children and adults about acceptance and tolerance for children with autism,” says Cohen.

Cohen and Pinto are working to turn “Mikey” into a children’s book series.  “Mikey” is available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel online.

For more information about the autism, please visit http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/autism/

Autistic Girl Makes friends with Businessman on Flight, Parent Advocate Learns Valuable Lesson

Kate Mouland and Mother, Shanelle

After spending a week at Disney World,  Shanelle Mouland, was on a flight from Orlando toPhiladelphia to catch a connection to her hometown of New Brunswick,Canada. Her 5-year-old daughter, Grace, and her husband sat in one row and she and their youngest, a 3-year old named Kate, sat in the row behind them.  The Mouland’s knew it was important that Kate’s seatmate was empathetic, patient and understanding. Kate, who’s behavior can range from loving to frantic, is dependent on her mood because she has autism. 

Mouland, recently wrote on her blog “Go Team Kate”, an open letter titled, “Dear Daddy in Seat 16C,” Mouland writes, “I watched the entireTemplebasketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that … I watched many Grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by. For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: ‘Hi, Daddy, that’s my mom.’ Then she had you.”

Mouland explained to Yahoo Shine “Any time we go out in public, we have to plan for anything because Kate has sensory issues and when she’s overwhelmed, her behavior becomes unpredictable.” “Most people warm up to Kate, but interacting with her can be off-putting for those that don’t understand autism.”

Fortunately, Eric Kunkel,  a businessman from Villas, New Jersey and father of one, was Kate’s seatmate. For the duration of the flight, he entertained Kate by playing a video game with her and letting her play with his iPad. Kate, who will be getting dog service soon talked with Kunkel about dogs and told of her adventures at Disney World, going to the theme park, meeting the Disney princesses and Winnie the Pooh. At the end of the flight she began screaming to remove her seatbelt.  Kunkel to help diffuse the situation, even tried to distract Kate with her toys, but then allowed the Mouland family to exit the plane ahead of him.

“Thank you for letting us go ahead of you.” “She was feeling overwhelmed and escaping the plane and a big, long hug was all she needed. So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl.” wrote Mouland

Kunkel told Yahoo Shine “I travel a lot for work and Kate was, by far, the most well behaved kid I’ve sat next to”. “Shanelle is also an incredible parent – she didn’t apologize for Kate and she shouldn’t have – but she was very attentive to her.”

Kunkel’s son and girlfriend spotted Mouland’s blog post a few days after the flight, while perusing a site for autism and forwarded it to Kunkel.  He couldn’t believe the coincidence. Through Facebook, he then contacted Mouland and thanked her.

Grateful for the experience, Mouland says she created her blog to teach others about autism. Little did she know was the one who learned a lesson. She said “I assumed that a man in a business suit wouldn’t be patient with Kate, and I’m so fortunate to have been proved wrong.”

For more information about parent advocates, please visit http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/parents/

Photo courtesy of Shanelle Mouland