Sunday, December 31, 2006

Kids Work Out to start The Day

Special needs kids in a Michigan charter school work out first before coming to class and seem to be behaving better in school.
"Kindergartners through sixth-graders with learning disabilities, speech impairments, autism and other special needs spend 30 minutes four times each week at Gymco, a 15,000-square-foot fitness center next to the charter school, 4120 Camelot Ridge Dr. SE off East Paris Avenue.
The school's occupational therapist, some classroom aides and Gymco staff oversee the morning workouts.
"We strongly believe that certain movement activities stimulate the brain in certain ways," Principal David King said. "Students are able to do significantly better both academically and behaviorally for the rest of the day."
That's true for Ryan, whose interaction with fellow students is more positive and less aggressive than a year ago, second-grade teacher Mary Donaldson said. And he comes to class ready to work."
Full article here.
Cool idea.

NYT Op-Ed: More Needs to Be Done Now for Kids on the Spectrum

This New York Times Op-Ed piece brings up a good point about the Combating Autism Act - while it may do enormous good for the generation to come, families with children with autism need help NOW. some choice quotes:
"In America, you have to be lucky or rich to get proper care for your young autistic child. "

"If we do not help these children, we are essentially condemning them to a lifetime of disability, unemployment and, for many, institutionalization. On human grounds, this is tragic. But it’s also bad economics. The few hundred thousand dollars needed to do intensive early intervention for four or five years — while a lot — is only one-tenth the expected cost of supporting someone for a lifetime on the dole."

"Insurance companies and others often deny coverage by arguing that treatment methods are experimental, but that assertion no longer holds water. Studies now show that 40 percent to 50 percent of toddlers undergoing intensive Applied Behavior Analysis, one of the best-known methods, can be mainstreamed in regular classrooms without personal aides by the time they reach school age. (The figure is close to zero for children not given special care.) Most of the other 50 percent to 60 percent make notable progress too."

"Once the Combating Autism Act is passed, and we hold out hope for the next generation, it is time to rescue the children who already are afflicted. Our options range from mandating that insurance companies cover therapies documented to work, to trumpeting the example of places that do provide coverage in the hope others will follow, to expanding autism Medicaid waivers.
The autism community is encouraged by the recent attention to this profound set of disabilities. But as a nation, we have been letting down 25,000 more children every year. Good will is not enough."

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dear Abby

I have been home this holiday week with my family, so posting has been difficult. Also, I missed this letter in "Dear Abby".
A small excerpt: "My problem is, Todd is so open with how he feels that he comes across as being rude, argumentative and disrespectful. He tells me that he's not trying to be, that he's just voicing his opinion and how he feels -- and that should not be wrong. In some ways, my son is right. But trying to teach him that there's a time and place for his opinions has proven extremely difficult."
Here is Abby's response:
"DEAR FEELING LOST AND GUILTY: Explain that honesty is a virtue -- unless it is used as a club to hurt others. Diplomacy is a skill that has to be learned. There is a time and place for everything, and before your son shoots off his mouth he should ask himself three questions: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it true? Instruct him that he needs to apply that rule to his interactions with his teachers and contemporaries.
If the young man is unable to do that, he could benefit by being evaluated by a licensed mental health professional because he may need therapy or coaching in social skills."

The replies from readers have been interesting too:

"Here I go, sounding like an old fogy, but "Feeling Lost and Guilty" (11/5), who said she and her loudmouthed, snotty son are "best friends," has brought her problem on herself. The No. 1 problem of parents today is that they try to be friends with their children rather than parents. Back when I was his age, parents were parents to their children -- not friends. There is a difference!"
Abby writes:
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: You are correct in saying that some parents shirk their responsibility by refusing to be firm with their children as well as responsible role models. However, before painting all parents of children with social problems with the same broad brush, please read on:
DEAR ABBY: Thank you for advising the mother of "Todd," the teen who doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut, to seek an evaluation. If the boy has a problem with empathy, it could be that he has Asperger's syndrome, an increasingly more common form of mild autism. This is a social disability, often more noticeable in the teenage years, when social expectations are more sophisticated. I should know -- I am a school psychologist and also the mother of a 13-year-old with Asperger's. -- MOM IN BERKELEY, CALIF.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Many Faces of Autism

United Press International's PedMed is publishing a series of articles on autism, utilizing many different resources. The first installment looks at the many different types of autism.
"Although all show some degree of difficulty in socializing, communicating and imagining, like snowflakes, no two cases of autism are exactly alike, researchers say.
Their newfound recognition of the condition's diverse complexity and multi-faceted nature carries over to the research field, where the seekers of causes and cures are starting to look for ways to subdivide the disorder and crack its armor of secrecy piece by piece. "

Bush Signs

President Bush signed the Combating Autism Act. (Next step - appropriations.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

French Scientists Find Gene Mutation

French scientists have identified genetic mutations in a small number of children with autism which could provide insight into the biological basis of the disorder.
They sequenced a gene called SHANK3 in more than 200 people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which includes autism, and found mutations in the gene in members of three families.
Reuters article here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grandin Doc on Google Video

Via MindHacks : a full length documentary on Temple Grandin is available at Google Video.
It looks like it originally aired on the BBC.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Kids Speak at Autism Awareness Assembly

This is an interesting idea, especially in light of the article I posted previously.

"[Amy] Shulman [special education teacher] liked the fact that her small group of autistic students, along with another class of students with mild intellectual disabilities, helped educate the "mainstream" students.
"We see the difference — it's making (other students) stop and realize they are a part of the school community." "

Create Rituals That Connect You

This article came at just the right time for me.

[It is from the Catholic Herald, so it has a Christian perspective.]

"Consider the child who likes his routine. Consider the child with autism, sensory integration, or other neurological challenges. The hullabaloo and the expectations of the season only accentuate the very real stresses that exist for these children."

"Stress sneaks up on us, and as a result we often don't even realize it's taking its toll. Kids never say, ‘Gee, Mom or Dad, I'm really hurting.’ Instead they throw tantrums, hit their siblings or the neighbor kids, forget their homework, start having toileting accidents... complain of headaches and stomachaches and refuse to sleep in their own bed or go upstairs alone.""And to make matters worse, 90 percent of their stress is tied to our own."Children sense our tension. We compound it with disruptions in routines, sleep deprivation, and all sorts of poor eating adventures. And, though we certainly don’t set out to, we put pressure on them, too. They know they are supposed to be happy and they are troubled when the party that is supposed to be fun is really very trying. They know they are supposed to behave especially well in front of Great Aunt Hilda and instead they have a total meltdown."

The essay also offers some good advice, like limit television, preserve nighttime rituals, make sure your children are getting enough sleep - stuff we know, but might forget during this busy time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Now Available on DVD

"Mozart and the Whale" is now available on DVD. Full details at DVD Talk.

Stars: Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Autism and the amygdala

This press release from the National Institute of Mental Health nicely summarizes some seemingly contradictory studies examining the size of the amygdala in people with autism.

Peer mentoring

A Saginaw, Michigan school system has set up a peer mentor programs for kids on the spectrum. Full article here.
"There are social skills that peers can teach and adults can't...These are the skills that are so critical in life, to get jobs and have relationships."
Also cool? Some mentors have siblings with autism. So they get to share what they know and be a positive influence. And this quote from the article really makes you think:
"I've given presentations to every grade level about autism and children have come up to me after each and said they hadn't known what it was," [Amy J.] Idzior, [ the district's autism coordinator] said. "They said they would have acted differently if they'd known. They seemed really sad and kind of disappointed in the adults for not explaining it before."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Congress Passes First Ever Autism Bill

In case you hadn't heard...
Congress passed the $945 million dollar "Combating Autism Act"

MSNBC says, "The focus? Everything from early diagnosis, to breakthrough treatments, to possible environmental factors that may cause autism."
More details from CNN:
"The Senate, acting a day after House passage, approved by voice legislation that authorizes $945 million over five years for autism research, screening and treatment. The bill, which goes to the president for his signature, would increase federal funding on autism by 50 percent.
The legislation provides the National Institutes of Health with a list of possible research areas related to autism spectrum disorder, including an examination of whether the alarming increase in autism diagnoses is caused by environmental factors."