Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Does It Mean To Have Asperger Syndrome?

What is this Asperger's Syndrome, anyway? As I alluded to in my previous post, Neurological Disorder or Natural Diversity?, after many years of knowing that I was different, I finally learned why when I read Wired Magazine (The Geek Syndrome), which described an autism spectrum disorder called Asperger's Syndrome. The more I read the descriptions of these people, the more I saw myself.The clincher came when, at the end, they provided a copy of Simon Baron-Cohen’s Autism Quotient Test, a questionnaire designed to indicate the presence of autistic traits. I took it on the spot and scored very high – and I realized I was onto something, and I began to learn about Asperger’s and what it meant to my life So, overall, what does it mean to have Asperger’s? How does it affect how a person interacts with the world? What are the challenges?

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What it's like to walk down a street when you have autism or an ASD

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Monday, August 29, 2011

PECS Training in Havre and Great Falls September 19-20, 2011

August 18-19 in Havre. 
September 19-20 in Great Falls. 


Friday, August 26, 2011

Helping Students with Autism Successfully Transition into a New SchoolYear

Click here to read more. Question: How can I help my child with autism successfully transition into a new school year? Answer: By Shannon Kay, Ph.D., BCBA-D The beginning of a new school year can be an exciting time for students. Typically developing students may be nervous on the first day of school, but after riding the bus in a new outfit and finding out their new teacher’s name, anxiety usually turns into excitement. Students with autism and other developmental disabilities can also have successful back-to-school experiences, but for them a pleasant transition usually requires extensive planning on the part of an educational team and family members.

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IOM says vaccines cause few side effects

After a close review of more than 1,000 research studies, a federal panel of experts has concluded that vaccines cause very few side effects, and found no evidence that vaccines cause autism or type 1 diabetes. The report, issued on Thursday by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies of Sciences, is the first comprehensive report on vaccine side effects since 1994.

 Click here to read the full article.


Brief Report: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in Children with AutismSpectrum Disorder: A Clinical Trial.

Brief Report: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Clinical Trial. Bent S, Bertoglio K, Ashwood P, Nemeth E, Hendren RL. Source Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA, Abstract We sought to determine whether HBOT leads to parental reported behavioral changes and alterations in cytokines in children with ASD. Ten children completed 80 sessions of HBOT and all improved by 2 points on the clinician-rated CGI-I scale (much improved) as well as several parent-completed measures of behavior. The lack of a control group limits the ability to determine if improvements were related to HBOT. Enrolled children did not exhibit abnormal cytokine levels at baseline and no significant changes in mean cytokine levels were observed. Although this study was limited by the small sample size and by the variable nature of cytokines, we found no evidence that HBOT affects cytokine levels or that cytokine levels were associated with behavioral changes.



Virtual Education Targets Rise of Autism

When bullying in her teenage daughter’s Maryland public school became too intense, Ruth Zanoni decided to try home-schooling, using online education as a supplement. Ms. Zanoni’s daughter, now 14, has Asperger syndrome, often described as a high-functioning form of autism. She was academically advanced in some subjects, such as writing and literature, but was sometimes overwhelmed by sensory stimulus. And her lack of social skills made her a target for bullying. At home in Howard County, Ms. Zanoni’s daughter did well pursuing math through videos from Khan Academy, a not-for-profit provider of online educational videos and activities, and working on her social skills using an online role-playing game, but she faltered taking French and then Italian online. Ms. Zanoni said she had to work hard to keep her daughter on task online and felt she needed additional face-to-face support. Ms. Zanoni eventually found a private school that specialized in working with students like her daughter. “There’s a huge value to online education [for students with autism], but it depends on how it’s introduced and the nature of the person,” Ms. Zanoni said.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Are You All Alone with Adult Autism?

This morning, a friend directed my attention to a short video on the PBS site which features two families with adults on the autism spectrum. The families were very similar. Both were white and middle class (one family looked to be wealthier than the other, but neither seemed rich or poor). Both families consisted of a mother and father in their later years (retirement age) with an autistic son in his twenties. Both young men were verbal and responsive, but both were significantly challenged with what appeared, at least on the surface, to be intellectual and cognitive challenges as well as an overwhelming need for sameness and routine. In both cases, the end of school services had signaled the end of therapies, and the end of many opportunities. One young man, however, spent the day in a sheltered workshop; the other worked in a grocery store with a full time job coach. Each seemed very comfortable with his work setting. In other words, both had significant, daylong, supported situations in which they were gainfully employed outside of the home. And in both cases the supported situation appeared to be funded by some kind of federal or state program (they were not private settings). The parents' worry, therefore, was not so much "how can we cope with this situation." The worry was "what happens when we die?"

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Peter Bell on handling the upcoming needs of autistic adults

In a single generation, autism has become one of the most common developmental disabilities, affecting an estimated 1.5 million Americans. With so many children diagnosed in the 1990s, over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of them will reach adulthood. How do we handle the upcoming needs of the adult autism community? On August 3, Congress will begin considering the renewal of the Combating Autism Act of 2006. Signed into law by President George W. Bush, it authorized nearly $1 billion for combating autism spectrum disorders through public awareness and enhanced federal support for research and treatment. And there’s a lot that we can do from a private sector standpoint as well. To talk about the steps autism advocates recommend, Alison Stewart spoke with Peter Bell, executive vice-president of Autism Speaks, and the father of a teenage son with autism

 Click here to watch the video.


Autism Awareness Training for First Responders

Firefighters and EMTs are trained to handle emergencies. When the world changes around them, they modify training to meet these changes. Now there is a new type of training that needs to be addressed—training for an autism emergency. Autism is one of the fastest growing disabilities in the world and it is not going away. It affects over 400,000 individuals from ages 3 to 22 in the United States, an increase of over 2039% since 1992. 1 out of every 100 children is born with some level of autism and this figure continues to grow every year. If we are not aware of this disorder and the vast spectrum of symptoms it encompasses, we will not be ready to handle the emergency effectively. A simple uneducated or untrained mistake can result in the loss of a fellow firefighter or even the individual. We can't afford mistakes like this, especially when the training is now available. Individuals with autism are so unique and their actions so unpredictable that it's not only for their safety, but the firefighter and EMTs as well. If you walked into a fire and went to grab the individual, and he or she acted out not in fear of you, but in fear of being touched, you can get hurt as a result. There is no room for mistakes in the field. Everyone's safety is important. Learning how to effectively interact with an individual with autism is the one training we can't afford to overlook. Knowing what to do and how to approach individuals with autism is the first step in effectively handling any emergency situation.

 Click here to read more and take the pre-test.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Newsletter - Science in Autism Treatment

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Preliminary Reports from the Children's Autism Waiver

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved Montana’s new autism home and community-based services waiver for children (Children's Autism Waiver) to become effective January 1, 2009. The new waiver will initially serve about 40- 45 children diagnosed with autism who are at least 15 months through age four when enrolled into the waiver. Enrollment will be limited to a maximum three-year period at an average cost of $40,000 per year per child. Services include 20-25 hours per week of intensive in-home habilitation training by a children’s autism trainer, respite, waiver-funded children’s case management, adaptive equipment/environmental modification, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, transportation, individual goods and services, and program design and monitoring for children. Attached are the Preliminary Report on Child Outcomes in Montana’s Childhood Autism Waiver and the Executive Summary. "These data underscore the projections that agencies are making that between 10% and 20% of the children who have participated in the CAW will be able to attend general education services without support.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

New CMU brain imaging research reveals why autistic individuals confuse pronouns

PITTSBURGH—Autism is a mysterious developmental disease because it often leaves complex abilities intact while impairing seemingly elementary ones. For example, it is well documented that autistic children often have difficulty correctly using pronouns, sometimes referring to themselves as "you" instead of "I." A new brain imaging study published in the journal "Brain" by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University provides an explanation as to why autistic individuals' use of the wrong pronoun is more than simply a word choice problem. Marcel Just, Akiki Mizuno and their collaborators at CMU's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI) found that errors in choosing a self-referring pronoun reflect a disordered neural representation of the self, a function processed by at least two brain areas — one frontal and one posterior. "The psychology of self — the thought of one's own identity — is especially important in social interaction, a facet of behavior that is usually disrupted in autism," said Just, a leading cognitive neuroscientist and the D.O. Hebb Professor of Psychology at CMU who directs the CCBI. "Most children don't need to receive any instruction in which pronoun to use. It just comes naturally, unless a child has autism." For the study, the research team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the brain activation pattern and the synchronization of activation across brain areas in young adults with high-functioning autism with control participants during a language task that required rapid pronoun comprehension. The results revealed a significantly diminished synchronization in autism between a frontal area (the right anterior insula) and a posterior area (precuneus) during pronoun use in the autism group. The participants with autism also were slower and less accurate in their behavioral processing of the pronouns. In particular, the synchronization was lower in autistic participants' brains between the right anterior insula and precuneus when answering a question that contained the pronoun "you," querying something about the participant's view. "Shifting from one pronoun to another, depending on who the speaker is, constitutes a challenge not just for children with autism but also for adults with high-functioning autism, particularly when referring to one's self," Just said. "The functional collaboration of two brain areas may play a critical role for perspective shifting by supporting an attention shift between oneself and others. "Pronoun reversals also characterize an atypical understanding of the social world in autism. The ability to flexibly shift viewpoints is vital to social communication, so the autistic impairment affects not just language but social communication," Just added. Autism was documented for the first time in 1943, in a landmark article by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins University. In that first article, Kanner noted the puzzling misuse of pronouns by children with the disorder. "When he [the child] wanted his mother to pull his shoe off, he said: 'Pull off your shoe.'" Kanner added that, "Personal pronouns are repeated [by the child with autism] just as heard, with no change to suit the altered situation." Because his mother referred to him as "you," so did the child. Just's previous brain imaging research in autism has shown that other facets of thinking that are disrupted in autism, such as social difficulties and language impairments, also may be attributed to a reduced communication bandwidth between the frontal and posterior parts of the brain. He refers to this as the "Theory of Frontal-Posterior Underconnectivity." In each of these types of thinking, the processing is done by a set of different brain regions that includes key frontal regions, and the lower frontal-posterior bandwidth limits how well the frontal regions can contribute to the brain's networked computations. The brain's communication network is its white matter, the 45 percent of the brain that consists of myelinated (insulated) axons that carry information between brain regions. An emerging view is that the white matter is compromised in autism, specifically in the frontal-posterior tracts. In a groundbreaking study published in 2009, Just and his colleagues showed for the first time that compromised white matter in children with reading difficulties could be repaired with extensive behavioral therapy. Their imaging study showed that the brain locations that had been abnormal prior to the remedial training improved to normal levels after the training, and the reading performance in individual children improved by an amount that corresponded to the amount of white matter change. Ongoing research at the CCBI is assessing the white matter in detail, measuring its integrity and topology, trying to pinpoint the difference in the autistic brain's networks. "This new understanding of what causes pronoun confusion in autism helps make sense of the larger problems of autism as well as the idiosyncrasies," Just said. "Moreover, it points to new types of therapies that may help rehab the white matter in autism." ### In addition to Just and Mizuno, a psychology doctoral candidate and first author of the study, the research team included CMU's Yanni Liu, a postdoctoral associate, and Timothy A. Keller, a senior research psychologist; Duquesne University's Diane L. Williams, an assistant professor of speech-language pathology; and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Nancy J. Minshew, a professor of psychiatry and neurology. This research was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Autism Speaks Foundation. To read a preprint of the article that will appear in "Brain,"
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