Being a parent to autistic child is challenging but their love does miracles. Every child and every case is special and unique. Of course, parents have already surfed the Internet and other resources, including books, phone apps to help them … Continue reading
A recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University confirms the fact that acting is a new form of therapy for children diagnosed with autism. The study consisted in comparing children who participated in a theater program for 10 weeks to those who did not. According to the research, children who actively engaged in the program saw an improvement in their social skills including their ability to interact and behave with others as well as their communication.
The art form of acting is extremely beneficial for children with autism since not only does it involve observing and interpreting ideas, but also expressing them verbally as well as nonverbally through body language. The theater program which the children attended is called the Social Emotional Neuroscience & Endocrinology (SENSE) Theatre. This program in specific focuses on evaluating the social skills of children with autism.
The 30 children selected ranged in ages 8 all the way up to 14 and were about evenly distributed to the experimental group and the control group. Researchers found that those children participating in the acting program saw a vast improvement in their ability to remember faces due to new changes in their brain patterns. In other words, the activity of acting paved new connections and therefore new thought pattens as well.
Another benefit of participating in the program results in the children spending more time outdoors playing in groups with other children. They also were more communicative with their families at home and in their respective communities. The SENSE Theatre also introduced actors from another local university and paired them each with a child.
The peer actors were trained to provide supportive and engaging dynamic skills with their assigned child and allowed them to try out different acting methods such as improvisation or role-playing all on their own. The program finishes with a stage performance carried out by both the actor and the child. The data shows that it is possible for children with autism to improve the way they interact with the exterior world and acting seems to make those interactions smoother for them in the long run.
For additional information, please visit PsychCentral.
By Edgar Catasus
Learning and acquiring new skills can be a difficult thing to master for any child, but for those diagnosed with autism it can be especially challenging. Simple tasks and daily activities become overwhelming for children with special needs and as a result life can turn into a series of obstacles. Researchers around the globe are aware of the challenges those with autism face and have been working diligently to make significant advances in order to enhance their quality of life.
The latest breakthrough comes in the form of aquatic therapy. What is traditionally used as a method for physical rehabilitation and fitness improvement can now aid a child with autism. Water, the most basic element that sustains life on Earth, can positively impact a child with autism’s cognitive growth. Aquatic therapy is one of the recreational treatments that may develop delayed cognitive functioning.
Even though those with autism suffer from pervasive neurobiological deficiencies, the pressure of water can be incredibly soothing and provide a lasting sense of relief for the autistic child. Another aspect of water that can make a difference lies in its temperature. Warm water creates a relaxed learning environment for the child as they have a tendency to overreact to tactile stimuli. It’s helpful for the autistic child to experience the stimuli in order to make progress.
Aquatic therapy is beneficial for the child because it’s not overwhelming and at the same time it facilitates their need for sensory stimulation to develop their processing tolerance to a higher level. In other words, water provides just the right amount of exterior interaction best apt for learning. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a negative reaction to the water doesn’t necessarily mean aquatic therapy will not be fit for that child. On the contrary, the child needs to experience the sensory input in order to be able to process it. In fact, many clinicians reported the child was able to tolerate touch better after receiving treatment.
Another factor that contributes to aquatic therapy being beneficial for the autistic child is its in reduction of stress. Water makes the body feel 90% lighter and in return it reduces stress on the body during therapeutic exercises. Water reduces tension in the muscles and calms those children that deal with anxiety. Many children enjoy the peaceful aquatic environment and take their time to develop their abilities in the water. As an added bonus, it can also improve the child’s eating and sleeping habits by cutting their excess energy. Aquatic therapy is a welcome addition to the already large repertoire of treatments that can improve a child with autism’s lifestyle. Even though researchers are currently investigating more of its perks, the studies accumulated so far indicate a positive trend.
For additional information: http://www.recreationtherapy.com/articles/autismandquatictherapy.htm
Special thanks to our guest blogger, Edgar Catasus
We, at Shema Kolainu are very excited about the autism-friendly Disney live show that will take place during Autism Awareness month in New York . The Theater Fund has helped organize autism friendly performances for young children and adults in the past, including famous Broadway shows like “Lion King,” “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and “Wicked”. This time Fund created an autism-friendly show by calibrating with Feld Entertainment, Inc. with main focus on younger audience.
Most children with autism cannot attend regular theaters as well as movie theaters, due to the anxiety they get during the performance or movie. This show is constructed without strobe lights and loud sounds, specifically to make autistic children comfortable. Also, venue will have quiet areas with coloring books, beanbag chairs and autism experts. This calibration will provide a new place where New York families will be able to engage with their kids. “Disney Junior Live On Tour! Pirate & Princess Adventure” will open doors on April 19, 2014 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“This image released by The Theatre Development Fund shows the cast of ‘Disney Junior Live On Tour! Pirate & Princess Adventure.’ ”
Original story http://www.tdf.org/TDF_SupportPage.aspx?id=137
To learn more about autism please click here http://www.shemakolainu.org/newsite/What is 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.
A 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/
Aquariums can be both soothing and educational for children on the autism spectrum. At the Le Chemin ABA VB Learning Center in Paris, France, the therapeutic aquarium is key in behaviorally oriented programs. At the learning center some lesson plans are designed around the aquarium.
Having an aquarium can help in keeping children calm which can help prevent or reduce melt-downs. Children who are prone to emotional outbursts benefit from the soothing nature of the therapeutic aquarium.
At home, you can guide your child to participate in all activities aquarium related from designing and installing an aquarium to selecting compatible fish. Guide your child to participate in cleaning and maintaining their home aquarium. Participating in these activities may increase your child’s sense of responsibility help them learn to follow directions and aide in the development of their own self-help skills.
Sharing these activities with others may increase positive sibling relationships. Taking turns, working as team, reinforcing a joint activity. Creating and maintaining a therapeutic aquarium is hard work but fun and valuable for your child on the autism spectrum for so many reasons.
For more information on autistic therapy please visit http://blog.hear-our-
Tomorrow, Shema Kolainu Hear Our Voices will be holding a workshop on ‘Music for Children on the Autism Spectrum.’ Presenting the workshop will be expert Stephen Shore Ed. D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at Adelphi University. Shore is an inspiring individual who is on the Autism Spectrum himself. Having been nonverbal until the age of four and having completed a doctoral dissertation on the needs of those on the autism spectrum at Boston University, Shore is a testament to education and therapeutic strategies. He will be making a case for inclusion of autistic children in typically music courses as well as individualized music training and therapy as a means of communication development. Shore asserts that the “structural regularity” of music aids autistic children with communication in varying ways, contingent on their place among the spectrum. For non-verbal children, music may serve as the form of communication itself. Shore’s musical methods go further than skill development, drawing ideology from the proven physiological benefits of music as well. On Shore’s website testimonial for music therapy, he references a study performed by a neurologist/musician at Beth Israel Hospital, which showed an area of nerve fibers that transmits signals between the two brain hemispheres to be 12% thicker among keyboard players who began training before 7 years of age. To register for Stephen Shore’s workshop ‘Music for Children on the Autism Spectrum’ at Shema Kolainu Hear Our Voices click here! The workshop is April 16th, 2013 at 10 AM. Learn more about Stephen Shore’s work at his personal website or his Adelphi University page.
The heartwarming story of a boy and his dog is an American tale told time and time again, but never quite like this. Seven months ago, Friends of DeKalb Animal Rescue in Georgia found an emaciated, abused puppy, naming her Xena the Warrior puppy after her miraculous recovery. Little did they know, Xena would be a bit of a miracle herself. Xena’s pictures were so astonishing that she quickly became a celebrity, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars for the rescue group. At a fundraiser for the animal rescue, Xena picked a pal—running straight to a little boy named Johnny. Johnny is an autistic boy who is verbal, but has always been very withdrawn and uncomfortable with others. Their grand introduction was puppy-love-at-first-sight. Johnny’s family adopted Xena once she was healthy enough to bring home. According to Johnny’s parents, Xena brought about a change in Johnny almost instantly—encouraging him to talk often and excitedly. Johnny asked his mom to make a video of him and Xena for Autism Awareness month, which he learned is also Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month. In the video, Johnny is wonderfully spoken, sending a message about understanding saying, “Spread the word to be nice to animals and nice to kids like me.”
Animal assisted therapy is a popular approach to coping with autism, but rarely is it associated with communication skills and habits like Johnny’s transformation. Perhaps Johnny and Xena’s instant connection had something to do with Xena’s marginalization. Some animal assisted therapy programs are also animal rescue and rehabilitation centers, like Merlin’s Kids. In these programs, like with Johnny’s story, the support is mutual and the affects are astonishing. To see Johnny’s video, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LEG2CqTxHzw. Do Share your opinion on animal assisted therapy or stories of your children with animals!
Ohio State University adapts a drama-based intervention program created by actress Kelly Hunter of the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. The program, called Hunter Heartbeat Method, utilizes the poetic rhythm of Shakespear (iambic pentameter) to aid autistic children with communication. The London program has been working with autistic youth for 20 years and rendered remarkable progress in verbal skills, eye contact, and facial emotional recognition. The Hunter Heartbeat Method is not just play-acting, it is a series of structured games based on the famous Shakespearean play The Tempest that work various communicative functions within a structure that is active, rewarding, and culturally educational. The youth practice speaking in emotive tones by tapping their hearts like a heartbeat (or in iamic pentameter) while taking turns saying the same word with different emotive connotations. A video of Ohio State University’s pilot program can be seen on their webpage, at http://nisonger.osu.edu/shakespeare-autism. Arts for Autism programs are becoming more and more popular worldwide, providing mediums of expression for the autistic community. This drama-based intervention is easily replicable and cost-efficient. If proven successful, this could be a great step for our school systems still lacking proper special needs resources. Tell us, at Shema Kolainu Hear Our Voices, how you feel about intervention strategies like this and check out our innovative programs!
This World Autism Awareness Day, two elementary school teachers made inclusion more than a motto with the opening of a state-of-the-art sensory room, also known as a snoezelen or controlled multi-sensory environment (MSE). Tuesday morning Elizabeth Newell and Lauren Breeding, special education teachers at Wilson Elementary School in Montgomery, Alabama, unveiled the school’s new sensory room, the first in the Montgomery Public School System. Newell and Breeding have been working to see the sensory room become a reality since 2009. The special classroom is designed to comfort students on the Autism Spectrum with behavioral research supported lighting, sound, and interactive materials. Though sensory rooms may look like playgrounds, Breeding explains educational benefits for autistic children saying, “It gives them an opportunity to participate in the regular education classroom…to learn and explore in their own way.” On the day of the unveiling, each elementary class had a special lesson about Autism Spectrum Disorders.
At Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, our students have greatly benefited from the soothing stimulus of the snoezelen room. Our controlled multi-sensory environment is alterable for various children’s needs, with multiple lighting and sound designs and a musical hopscotch with adjustable levels of difficulty. Our interactive LED spiral sensation panel is both calming and educational, teaching children cause and effect associations. To learn more about our snoezelen room and other therapeutic or educational innovations, visit the services section of our website or contact us!
To read more on Montgomery’s success story visit:
Griffin, Allison. “Delighting the Senses: School’s New Sensory Room Helps Autistic Children to Learn.” Montgomery Advertiser. N.p., 2 Apr. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2013. <http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20130403/LIFESTYLE/304020034/Delighting-senses-School-s-new-sensory-room-helps-autistic-children-learn>.