Premiere Dance Academy (Royal Oak Location NW) is pleased to announce a new CREATIVE DANCE class for Special Needs Children, taught by Shannon Parker. It is designed to foster stages of development, motor skills, and sensory integration. It will promote connections made between the brain and the body through exploring concepts of space, time, force, body and motion.
The 10 week Creative Dance Program will start on Wednesday January 7, 2015 for children ages 3-10 and 11-17. Please call the Royal Oak Dance Studio at 403-547-2123 for more information about the dance class or to register your child.
Autism Calgary will be holding our annual Christmas Party on December 6th 2014 at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association. Doors will open at 12 noon and the party is expected to run until 3PM in the afternoon. Lunch will be provided for attendees, we will also have a bouncy castle for the little ones and an appearance by Santa Clause himself.
Here are some of the highlights of this year’s Christmas Party:
Bouncy Castle open from 1pm – 3pm
Games in the Gym open from 1:30pm – 3pm
The Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association is located at:
1320 5 Ave NW, Calgary, AB T2N 0S2
If you would like to attend please fill out the google form below. Please make sure to include the name of at least one person attending and either an email address or phone number. If you have any questions or concerns you can contact Tracy Mendoza via email at tracy [at] autismcalgary [dot] com for more information.
Our office is closed today for Remembrance Day, but we will reopen tomorrow at our regular office hours.
What in the World is Going On
Written by Maureen Bennie
November 2014 Edition
Parents are an important part of an intervention strategy, but a new study shows parents tend to support their child better in a group training setting. The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found that parents were able to learn to apply a language-skills therapy method called pivotal response training (PRT) and saw meaningful improvement in their children.
“Parents really do feel more empowered when they’re in a group setting,” said Kari Berquist of the Stanford University School of Medicine, a co-author of the study. “They’re talking, connecting, sharing their experiences. It gives them a sense of community.”
It makes sense that parents would feel more confident being with other parents in the same boat, similar to a support group. To read more about this study, click here.
Communication is a struggle for those on the spectrum because they need extra processing time and often have difficulty reading body language, voice tone, and understanding context. There is emerging evidence that computer-mediated communication, such as text, e-mail, and instant messaging, gives each communicating partner plenty of time to think about the messages and the chance to reply at their own pace. What’s more, computer-mediated communication channels do not have additional signals such as body language that also need to be processed.
Aske Plaat at Leiden University in the Netherlands just completed a comparative study on computer-based communication patterns of those with autism and those without.
“Plaat and Co. began by recruiting volunteers for both groups and asking them to fill out a number of questionnaires about the way they use the Internet and various computer-based forms of communication. They also asked individuals to fill in a standard questionnaire about their well-being and a standard test that measures their degree of autism. They also collected basic details about their sex, age, occupation, whether single or in a relationship, and so on. Finally, they mined the resulting data looking for interesting correlations.”
They found clear differences between the groups. “Plaat and Co. say that people in the autistic group tended to use computer-based communication just as much or more than the control group and tend to appreciate it more and in different ways. They also have more online friends on average than the control group.” To read more about this study, click here.
Wandering or elopement is an all too common occurrence in schools for people with an ASD. Schools should have a protocol in place, but often don’t nor do they have proper risk assessments. Autism parent and advocate Leigh Merryday created her own elopement plan for schools called the SPECTRUM Alert for Schools. Each letter in the word SPECTRUM stands for a step in the protocol. To read about the steps, click here. Schools are responsible for a child’s safety. Preventative measures can go a long way.
Dr. Jonathan Weiss, ASD research chair at York University, recently completed a study on mother of children with ASD and a psychiatric disorder. It is no surprise that these moms experienced a higher level of stress than moms of those children with just an ASD. The findings of this research were: individuals with ASD and psychiatric disorders demonstrated more unpredictable behaviors, repetitive behaviors and asocial behavior compared to individuals with ASD only. They also had poorer rated health with more frequent stomach-related and sleep problems. Mothers of sons and daughters with ASD and psychiatric disorders reported higher levels of burden and a poorer quality of the parent-child relationship than mothers of sons and daughters with only ASD.
The question is – what interventions and support will be put in place to help these mothers and individuals with these additional challenges? Services are really lacking in this area and what little is available has long waiting times. To read more, click here.
A dental visit can be a nightmare for a person with autism. Some dentists are reluctant to treat patients with autism, but with some accommodations patients with autism can be calm and cooperative. Autism Speaks has a dental professionals toolkit which is available for free download. Dr. David Tesini also has a 40 minute video for professionals and a 12 minute one for parents to help with dental visits.
The New York Times published a wonderful article on dental difficulties and autism and how to support both dentists and patients to have successful appointments. In Calgary, Dr. Brad Krusky is a superb pediatric dentist with experience in working with autistic patients. He is located in Marda Loop.
Sensory integration dysfunction and autism are still misunderstood. Often it is the underlying cause for challenging behavior. The article Ten Myths about High Functioning Autism and Sensory Integration Disorder relays experiences, insights and opinions of over 150 individuals with high functioning autism (HFA). A good read!
Getting children on the spectrum to eat a variety of healthy foods can be challenging for many. Sensory issues come into play as well as oral motor difficulties. Some children will only eat foods that have certain textures or colours. SLP Becca Eisenberg gives 5 tips for better eating in her blog post Five Tips to Get An Older Child with Special Needs to Eat Healthy. She also has a great website called Gravity Bread that helps parents communicate and enrich mealtimes and food preparation with their children. She has recipes, book recommendations, apps, and a special needs section on her website. Check it out!
Women and girls are continuing to be under-diagnosed with autism because they display different characteristics of the disorder. Most diagnostic tools have been based on observing males, not females. We often accept social anxiety and shyness in girls as part of who they are and not part of a possible diagnostic profile. Caroline Hearst, now living in New Zealand, was diagnosed at the age of 55. You can read about her in this excellent article in the UK’s Daily Mail.
“Girls might cope in the early years but in their teens things become difficult. They may struggle to get a job or, when progressing up the career ladder, get into trouble for not behaving appropriately. They can’t pick up on subtle social cues such as body language. If you can’t do that instinctively it’s mentally exhausting. Most of them feel relieved at the diagnosis and finding out why they are different. It’s not a label, it’s a pathway to getting the right kind of care and support.”
My most read Facebook post this month was written by a 20 year old person with Asperger Syndrome from the UK. The blog Ten Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Autism and Romantic Relationships hit a chord with people. It really dispels the myths around socializing, affection and the need for relationships. It is often assumed by the neurotypical population that people on the spectrum are happiest being alone; that simply isn’t true. Seeing Double, Understanding Autism is an insightful blog written by someone who is very articulate and intelligent.
It is paramount to teach public washroom safety to boys, yet how many of us actually teach this? In the new book Tom Needs to Go, author Kate Reynolds created a visual resource to help parents and carers teach boys and young men with autism or other special needs about how to use public toilets safely. It covers the subtleties of social etiquette including where to stand and look, as well as practicalities such as remembering to lock the cubicle door. With simple and effective illustrations throughout, the book is the perfect starting point for teaching independence when using public toilets.
Bill Nason’s popular Facebook group, The Autism Discussion Page, has now been made into two books. I highlighted the first book of the two in last month’s column. The second book, The Autism Discussion Page on Anxiety, Behavior, School, and Parenting Strategies, covers anxiety and stress, challenging behaviors, stretching comfort zones, discipline, and school issues. It also provides more general teaching and mentoring strategies for coaching children on the autism spectrum in basic daily living strategies to improve their day-to-day lives.
These are the highlights of what in the world is going on in autism for November 2014.
Delta Calgary South Hotel
135 Southland Drive SE, Calgary, AB
Learn practical skills that can be immediately implemented into existing curriculum and training programs, at home or in school!
Friday, November 14
One of the world’s leading autism experts, Professor Gary Mesibov, former director of Division TEACCH in North Carolina, in the United States is coming to Calgary to speak to families, educators and therapists!
The TEACCH program has developed and taught strategies and programs (commonly referred to as structured teaching) that has served people with ASD all over the world of all ages and all levels of functioning. Structured teaching is based on the understanding of the neurological differences that research has identified in people with ASD and then adjusting educational, self-help, social and community-based program approaches to more closely match the learning strengths and needs of our children and youth with ASD.
This presentation will describe some of the learning differences that have been identified in people with ASD, and will show how these can be accommodated by making adaptations in how educational programs are created and delivered to assist people with ASD to think, learn and understand more effectively and independently in the home, school and community. The emphasis will be placed on educational programs in inclusive settings as well as home and community-based strategies.
Dr. Gary B. Mesibov, internationally acclaimed speaker, was the Director of Division TEACCH at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1992 until 2010. Prior to Dr. Mesibov’s appointment as Director of Division TEACCH, he served as the Division’s Co-Director from 1987 and the Associate Director from 1983.Dr. Mesibov also serves as Professor of Psychology, Dept. of Psychiatry, and Clinical Professor, Dept. of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In 2010 he was given the American Association on Intellectual Developmental Disabilities award for service to people with disabilities and in the same year the Autism Society of America gave him their highest award, the Founders Award, given to those who have made substantial contributions to the field of autism spectrum disorders over a period of years. His world-wide contributions to the autism community have been numerous. Through his work, he has improved the lives of people affected by autism.
Saturday, November 15
Late, Lost and Unprepared: How to Help Youth Build Better Executive Functioning
Executive functioning is an umbrella term for the mental processes that serve a supervisory role in thinking and behavior. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders, attention disorders and learning disabilities all have weak executive skills. For example, they may be disorganized and have trouble with planning, have weak ability to monitor their own behavior and performance, and struggle with situations where they must shift flexibly from one thought or behavior to another. We can help these young people by creating plans that include both short-term supports for daily success and long term strategies that facilitate the development of executive skills and build greater independence over time.
This workshop will provide parents, teachers and other professionals with an understanding of executive functioning and how to help children who have weak executive skills. First, we will focus on what research tells us about executive functioning. We will use that information to consider practical principles of intervention, and we will apply these to intervention planning and to creating an “EF Smart” environment. Participants will have the opportunity to consider the needs of an individual child and to create an intervention plan over the course of the day. There will be ample time for questions and discussion to enhance learning.
Joyce Cooper-Kahn, Ph.D. is a clinical child psychologist with specific expertise in the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with executive functioning deficits. She is the author of two books on executive functioning: Late, Lost and Unprepared: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning (Woodbine House, 2008) written with co-author Dr. Laurie Dietzel, and Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators, written with Margaret Foster, M.A. (Jossey-Bass, 2013).
In her work, Dr. Cooper-Kahn brings together science, clinical experience, and an appreciation for the daily demands of those raising and teaching children. Her passion lies at this junction where psychology informs daily life.
For over 20 years, she has specialized in helping children, families and schools to successfully manage the full range of developmental challenges affecting children. Dr. Cooper-Kahn has worked in a variety of settings, including Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Kennedy-Krieger Institute. She is also the co-founder of Psychological Resource Associates, a private mental health practice in Severna Park, Maryland.
To register for this conference, or for more information, click here.