Creativity and it’s Connection with Autism

Edgar's Blog Image Feb 3A recent research study conducted by psychologists from the University of East Anglia in England have discovered a surprising link between creativity and autism. Their study has uncovered that individuals on the autism spectrum produce original and unusual ideas to a particular problem more frequently. At the same time, they’re also more likely to respond fewer times to the same problem. This unique way of processing information is called divergent thinking.

The study examined individuals who demonstrate certain behavior patterns and thoughts that are related to autism without being diagnosed with the condition. The purpose was to show how some traits associated with autism can be beneficial and not harmful to the development of a person. “People with high autistic traits could be said to have less quantity, but greater quality of creative ideas”, says Dr. Martin Doherty from UEA’s School of Psychology. 

The study consisted of a series of tests in order to determine the participant’s level of creativity when solving a certain task. Out of the study’s 312 participants, 75 of them were on the autism spectrum disorder. They were instructed to come up with alternative uses for a brick or a paper clip. Four or more uses meant that the individual was likely to display more autistic traits. The test also consisted on showing the participants four abstract drawings in which they had to give as many as ideas possible in just under one minute of time. Again, the more number of ideas produced were related to a higher level of autistic traits. 

Even though most persons would go for cognitively simple answers at first, those that exhibit autistic traits go straight for the more complex and demanding strategies. According to Dr. Doherty, this means “people with autistic traits may approach creativity problems in a different way”. Noted celebrities such as Temple Grandin and Stephen Wiltshire are prime examples of individuals diagnosed with autism who are yet immensely creative to their dedicated field of profession. This remarkable link between creativity and autism is helping researchers understand the brain better and they are hoping future findings can aid persons that are on and off the autism spectrum. 

By Edgar Catasus

For additional information, please visit: http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/08/16/the-link-between-autism-and-creativity/90899.html

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/

 

Exploring the benefits of yoga for kids with autism

Yoga Therapy for Autism

We are always looking for new therapies and ways to manage symptoms and issues associated with autism, which is a developmental disorder that typically appears within the first 3 years of life. Autism can be mild or severe and interferes with a child’s ability to understand social cues and communicate. An autistic child has difficulty managing emotions and can display aggressive and obsessive behaviors.

The benefits we associate with yoga are improved strength and flexibility, concentration, and stress reduction, but did you know that children with autism and related spectrum issue can find great benefit in yoga as well?

Research has shown children with autism who practice yoga have reductions in anxiety, obsessive and aggressive behaviors. They also have more control regulating their emotions and become more calm and comfortable in their bodies. It becomes easier for them to be in control of their behavior, emotions, and experience less anxiety.

recent study as reported by NPR.com showed that elementary school-age children with autism who participated in a daily yoga program had shown a reduction in hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, and social withdrawal.

Step one to focus on with yoga therapy is breathing. Taking deep breaths and inhaling/exhaling in and out through the nose not only builds core strength, but also at the same time calms the nervous system.  This is very beneficial for an autistic child to learn to incorporate into their daily routines.

The ABCs of Yoga for Kids, which is published by Stafford House Books, Inc, encourages kids to utilize deep breathing with The Inhale Pose. “One of the most important parts/Of any yoga pose,/Is remembering to breathe deeply/By inhaling through the nose.”

Children with autism will gain new motor, communication and social skills through yoga resulting in an overall improvement in their quality of life. Yoga as therapy for autism will help manage the disorder by decreasing anxiety, improving concentration, and regulating self-control.

For more information about alternative therapies for autism, please visit: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/therapy-2/

 

Animal Therapy assists in Daily Life for People with Autism

Bryan, who has autism and his therapy dog, Freddie

We know about assistance dogs aiding blind people and therapy dogs assisting people with diabetes, epilepsy and mobility issues

But did you know there are programs across the country that provide assistance dogs to children and young adults with autism and other disabilities?

Freddie, a friendly lovable chocolate lab and Bryan Harker have been together since last year.

Freddie is an assistance dog and partner for Bryan, who has autism.  Along with being a fun and playful pet, Freddie is specifically trained to assist Bryan with managing his autism. “One of my favorite things is all the fun we can have,” Bryan said.

Paula, Bryan’s mom says the relationship is “fantastic.”

Bryan does not sleep through the night so Freddie sleeps with him to watch over him. Freddie sleeps with Bryan and now Bryan is managing to sleep through the night. Bryan rarely got a full nights sleep and would pace and wander. According to trainer, Mary Green, Freddie helps Bryan stay grounded.

“A person with autism might need the dog to provide some grounding techniques,” said Mary Green, K9 Manners and More in Broken Arrow, the folks who do the training. Training can last a year or two.

She witnessed first hand how Freddie positioned himself between Bryan and something that might trigger stress.  It this case it was the came and she.

Freddie will climb on and lie in Bryan’s lap when he becomes agitates or upset

This forces Bryan to re-focus. It’s an amazing thing to see. Another thing that is truly amazing is the non-profit, Aim High, provides the therapy dogs for free.

Families have enough to worry about and Lisa Bycroft of High Aim said “We take care of all expenses,”

Bryan a student at TCC takes Freddie everywhere, even class. Bryans mom said they have a special and incredible relationship.

“Having Freddie has made all the difference,” Paula said.

Bryan hopes to be a video game designer and is currently studying history, philosophy, and physics at TCC this semester.

For more human interest stories about living with autism, please visit http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/community/

Interacting With Animals May Have Big Health Benefits For Children With Autism

 

Animal Assisted Therapy

It is believed that animal assisted therapy has a calming effect for individuals on the autism spectrum.

It is believed that animal assisted therapy has a calming effect for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Reported by the American Pets Products Association, in the U.S. alone 95.6 million people own cats and 83.3 million people in the own dogs. Highly encouraged, research indicates that elderly people who owns animal report being happier. Individuals with autism have shown animals to have favorable effects as well. A wide range of animals, including dogs, horses, alpacas, and dolphins are being used in animal-assisted therapy programs. All of these therapeutic programs are based on interaction enabling children with autism learn to step out of their comfort zone to try something new, de-stress, trust, decrease inappropriate behavior, care for another living creature, and communicate.

There are even additional vocational components with some of the animal-assisted therapy programs available. For example, instructional workshops in fiber arts are being offered by Alpacas for Autism.  Through sell the woven goods made from Alpaca fur, this Missouri based association offers marketing and sales services for the products made on their alpaca ranch which provides an added bonus for adults with autism; a viable source of income and a career.

One grandmother, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained that her granddaughter who has autism cherishes her therapy, “Wiggles goes everywhere with Katy. He accompanies her to school, lies next to her on the floor during her therapies, even goes to the doctor with her. When Katy is stressed out and having a crisis, Wiggles helps to soothe her by putting his head in her lap. Therapy dogs are amazingly sensitive and beautifully trained creatures”

Dolphin Therapy is another animal-assisted therapy, which is shows to be fun for the child and relaxing .  One father who also wishes to remain anonymous, stated that his son with autism loved making contact with the dolphins. His family traveled to Israel from France for the Dolphin Therapy experience. Aware that more scientific research on Dolphin Therapy is needed to explain its effects, he noted that when in the water with the dolphins his son expressed himself more vocally and was calmer for days after the therapy more so than normal.

For more information on Animal Therapy, please visit http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/animals-2/