By Maureen Bennie
Autism Calgary Community
Twitter handle is @Informed_Autism
Last month was an exciting one as the Federal election saw the end of the Conservatives and the ushering in of the Liberals led by the young Justin Trudeau. For families living with autism, it is good to know the each party’s stand on the autism issue. Even though the election is over, do read how each federal political party supports families with autism and other disabilities.
A new study published in Nature Neuroscience found that repetitive training, which is widely used in intervention and education for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), hinders the learning process by promoting inflexibility.
Individuals with ASD develop ‘hyperspecificity’ of learning ― their learning becomes fixed and inflexible – when learning tasks are repeated over and over. “In follow-up experiments, this hyperspecificity in learning with repetition in individuals with ASD was eliminated when repetition in learning was reduced.”
“Our conclusion is that breaks in repetition allow the visual system some time to rest and allow autistic individuals to learn efficiently and to then generalize,” study investigator David Heeger, PhD, of the Center for Neural Science, New York University, in New York City, said in a statement. “Repeated stimulation leads to sensory adaptation, which interferes with learning and makes learning specific to the adapted conditions. Without adaptation, learning is more efficient and can be generalized,” he noted.
This research mostly pertains to are those with lower cognitive ability with whom repetitive trials of picture stimuli are a common learning intervention. This is important information for educators and therapists to have in order to adjust their teaching methods.
New findings show that people with autism exhibit abnormal brain responses when a painfully hot object is placed against their skin. The brain’s response to pain has three phases – early, intermediate and late. In an experiment with 17 people with autism and 16 people without, a small piece of metal was taped to the skin and heated to the point of causing discomfort/pain but not injury. The people without autism were still responding to the pain ten seconds after it stopped, but the people with autism had no brain response after the ten seconds.
“These patterns suggest that the brain’s initial processing of pain may be normal in autism. But later steps in pain processing, having to do with cognitive and emotional evaluation of pain, may not be.”
These findings are important to the medical profession as individuals with autism may not be able to verbally talk about their pain. I can relate to this experience through my 18 year old son who has advanced arthritis but can’t describe his pain levels. I have to insist on further investigation (MRI’s and X-rays) to provide a clearer picture of what is going on in his body because he can’t tell me verbally.
Scientists are still stumped as to what environmental factors might cause autism. “Research in this area often yields inconsistent results, with risk factors continually being proposed but rarely being definitively confirmed or shot down; only a handful of factors (including maternal infection and parental age) are broadly accepted. Yet identifying environmental risk factors has great potential to make a difference in autism. We already know how to change some elements of a person’s environment, whereas altering a person’s genes is still largely the realm of science fiction.”
Since the1970’s, twin studies have indicated autism is heritable; however, no one has been able to pinpoint a genetic cause. Environmental factors are difficult to determine because there are so many hidden variables to them. This type of research is also still in its infancy, being only a decade old.
Have a look at this excellent article on this topic which outlines some of the obstacles scientists face in trying to determine an environmental cause for autism.
Sesame Street has introduced a new character with autism – Julia. This character was developed with input from parents, people who serve the autism community, and people with autism.
“As part of the effort to combat stereotypes, bullying and a lack of understanding about autism spectrum disorders, the show now offers a free downloadable app, which includes daily routine cards, digital story books, written tips and videos for families and caregivers.”
Children with autism tend to gravitate towards digital content which is why Julia is a digital character. The See Amazing in All Children program is geared towards children ages 2 – 5. My own 16 year old daughter with autism, Julia, has been very excited about this development and said she would make a good aide for this character as she can explain why Julia has difficulty with eye contact and socializing. It’s great to see younger children introduced to autism to increase their knowledge and comfort level around people with autism.
Ido Kedar has an excellent blog called Ido in Autismland. Ido says, “I am an autistic guy with a message. I spent the first half of my life completely trapped in silence. The second – on becoming a free soul. I had to fight to get an education. Now I am a regular education student. I communicate by typing on an iPad or a letter board. I hope to help other autistic people find a way out of their silence too.”
Ido’s recent blog post on Motor Difficulties in Severe Autism is brilliant. He challenges our assumptions on how we perceive nonverbal people with autism. “Most theories about severe autism that are used today by educators and other professionals are based on the premise that severe nonverbal autism is a learning problem with receptive and expressive language delay, low cognitive capacity, concrete thinking, lack of humor, lack of empathy, lack of theory of mind, and often even an absence in basic awareness of the surrounding world. The expressionless faces, inability to make eye contact, the sometimes bizarre looking self-stimulatory behavior, and the inability to speak can make intelligent people appear not to be. As a person with autism, this is deeply frustrating.”
We increase our knowledge and understanding of autism through reading the writings of people of the spectrum. They give us the best insight into the autism experience and challenge our previous held assumptions.
Routines help families stay organized, get things done, and spend time together. They are very important for children with special needs to help them feel safe and secure. Routines can help develop new skills such as self-care, doing laundry, or caring for a pet.
Routines don’t have to be just about chores and household management – they can be used to establish fun family activities such as game nights or reading times. If your child needs help following routines, think about using Social Stories or visual schedules. To learn more, read this great Australian article from the website Raising Children.
There are three factors that determine whether or not a child will be a better communicator when they are older – joint attention, ability to imitate, and engagement in functional and pretend play. If you see deficits in these three areas between the ages of 9 – 18 months (as is often the case with autism), there are a number of ways to intervene. Check out these great tips from Hanen to help build better communicators from an early age.
Many people take it for granted, but one of the most important skills we have is being able to understand signals from our body. How you know if you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, etc. are key abilities to live a healthy life. These are also skills that those with autism spectrum disorder tend to lack.
Kelly Mahler’s newest book, Interoception: The Eighth Sensory System, gives professionals and parents a new way to consider teaching these talents to individuals with ASD. She describes the clear link between interoception and many important skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, problem solving, intuition, and many more.
The new book TIPS: Teaching Important Parenting Strategies: Raising a Child With Limited Verbal Skills is an excellent resource for anyone raising a young child with limited communication skills and/or challenging behaviors.
Based on questions and answers that parents and caregivers have asked the authors throughout the years, TIPS may be read in its entirety, or readers can skip around among individual questions and answers. Regardless, the book can be used as a reference for finding practical, user-friendly solutions to common universal challenges encountered by parents and caregivers, including communication, behavior, technology, community outings, and sensory needs. All answers follow best practice and evidence-based strategies.
These are the highlights of what in the world is going on in autism for November 2015.
For more information please visit www.autismawarenesscentre.com
We would like to offer an opportunity for neurotypical spouses to come together and explore the successes and challenges of their relationships with their partners suspected of or diagnosed with Asperger’s. This is an opportunity to focus on emotional healing, personal growth and to develop peer support. The next support group meeting will be Wednesday, November 18 at the Autism Calgary Office, 174, 3359 27th Street NE, T1Y 5E4. Registration is required. Groups will run with a minimum of 3 participants. Cancellations will be posted with a 24 hours notice.
To register, click here.
For more information email: claire [at] autismcalgary [dot] com Phone 403-250-5033 x225
This group is for parents of children on the autism spectrum ages 0-18.
We aim to help parents connect and share their stories, challenges and successes of living with their special children.
The meeting is at Autism Calgary office 174-3359-27th Street NE, from 7-9 pm.
The next meeting date is Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2015.
For more information, email claire [at] autismcalgary [dot] com
Nov 26 – Bio-Medical Meeting – Addressing Root Causes of Autism: Using a GAPS Diet to Manage Contributing Factors Part 2
Part 2 of the GAPS for Autism talk will walk you through the ins and outs of doing the GAPS diet. You will quickly see that you can use the GAPS diet without as much headache and struggle as you might think.
What you will learn in this session:
The quickest way to bring down inflammation and start seeing results with your child.
The exact steps you need take to begin healing the gut and restoring the microbiome.
How supporting gut health will allow your child to detoxify better.
Some tried and true techniques for getting even the pickiest eaters to do this diet.
The one essential component to success that you cannot afford to overlook.
Deborah is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Counsellor, Life Coach and mama bear to one busy little boy. Her son was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness at age 2 and Deborah was not satisfied with the answers or solutions she was offered. Not one to sit back and do nothing, she immediately began searching for alternatives. Using diet Deborah has helped her son when everyone told her she couldn’t! Now Deborah devotes her business time to empowering parents to become advocates for their children’s health and showing them what is possible. She is the proud creator of the Kids Health Revolution Program and co-host to the Gut Health = Good Health Support Group.,
We will be holding our Autism Calgary Member Holiday Party on December 12th 2015 at the Bridgeland Riverside Community Association. Doors will open at 12 noon and the party is expected to run until 3pm. A free lunch will be provided for attendees. We will also have balloon twisting, face painting and an appearance by Santa Clause himself.
Here are some of the highlights of this year’s Holiday Party:
Lunch from 12pm-2pm (GF/CF options will be available)
Balloon Twisting from 12:30pm – 2:30pm
Face Painting from 12:30pm – 2:30pm
Santa from 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Autism Calgary Choir from 2:30pm – 3:00pm
The Bridgeland Riverside Community Association is located at:
917 Centre Avenue NE, Calgary map
Families must register to attend.
This event is free for Autism Calgary Members.
*If you would like your children to receive a gift from Santa please bring one with you wrapped and he will distribute it to your child during the party.
THANK YOU TO OUR WONDERFUL SPONSORS:
This event has been generously sponsored by Chew Chew Pediatric Dentistry.
Prizes for our raffle have been donated by:
Sheraton Cavalier Calgary Hotel – One free night
Autism Calgary Member Dima at Tupperware – two gift bags
Take home goodie bags have been donated by Chew Chew Pediatric Dentistry.
Drinks and crafts have been donated by Autism Calgary Members – the Morton family. A big thank you to all!