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Friday, September 30, 2011

Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit

Click here for more information. “The Adaptive First Eucharist Kit is a wonderful tool that fits well with the Flutie Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. It encourages attendance and participation in church, which is important to so many families affected by autism. Children with autism are much more successful when they have the proper support and tools in an educational setting. The kit is a valuable tool that provides a child with autism an opportunity for a successful First Holy Communion.” —Lisa Borges, Executive director, The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, Inc

Link:

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dressing autism in a banana suit does no one any favors

Stafford County teen Bryan Thompson — Colonial Forge High School’s very own “Banana Man” — is free. The 14-year-old gained infamy after school officials suspended him for 10 days forrunning around the field at halftime during a school football game while wearing a banana suit. The principal recommended that Thompson be expelled. Thompson returned to school Sept. 26 after his 10-day suspension was shortened to five days. Banana Man’s 15 minutes, it would seem, are up. The question is: How much damage did those 15 minutes cause? “Autistic ‘banana man’ becomes cause célèbre” screams one blogger’s headline. “Autistic student cuffed & suspended for harmless ‘banana man’ stunt” shouts another. Business Insider proclaimed “Autistic high schooler suspended 10 days for ‘Banana Man’ halftime stunt.” Thompson’s behavior might have been harmless, but the coverage has been another story, because it unnecessarily evoked autism for a stunt that any class clown could have pulled. Did the family play the autism card to try to get school officials to lighten his punishment? Did the media trumpet that aspect of Thompson to make him a more sympathetic character or to call Colonial Forge school officials on what many thought was a gross overreaction to a benign disruption? It doesn’t really matter now. What matters is that at a time when advocates for children with autism are fighting for greater resources and trying to educate the public about a condition that affects 1 in every 110 children (1 in 70 boys), the headlines are pointing the public toward misleading perceptions of what autism really is. The autism spectrum is vast, but public perception of children with autism should not be of a boy gleefully traipsing around a football field in a banana suit. If anything, the more accurate perception should be of a child sitting in a cafeteria, alone and overwhelmed, wanting desperately to connect to one of the groups of friends around him, but almost always on the social outskirts.

 Click here to read the full article.

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Infants at risk for autism could benefit from motor training

In a new study published in the journal Developmental Science, researchers from Vanderbilt University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that early motor experiences can shape infants’ preferences for objects and faces. The study findings demonstrate that providing infants with “sticky mittens” to manipulate toys increases their subsequent interest in faces, suggesting advanced social development. This study supports a growing body of evidence that early motor development and self-produced motor experiences contribute to infants’ understanding of the social world around them. Conversely, this implies that when motor skills are delayed or impaired – as in autism – future social interactions and development could be negatively impacted.

 Click here to read more.

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Teaching Teachers about Autism

This morning, I read an article online at Education Week titled, "Where Are the Autism Teaching Competencies?" (1) This commentary calls attention to the fact that only a few states have set forth autism competencies for teachers. What is most interesting is that a few states, both Virginia and California, have successfully this accomplished this task. Yet the majority of states haven't figured create or adapt currently existing autism teaching competencies. Why are Competencies Important?A parent or non-teacher may ask, "What does it specifically mean to me that my state has no autism teaching competencies? Why is this so important?" Simply put, it is important for schools to understand and utilize best practices when teaching children with autism. With no specific state autism teaching competencies, schools and teachers are left on their own to decide what is best practice and evidence based - if they are even looking at this issue at all.

 Click here to read the full story.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

D҄uck Duck Goose' Apps for Children with Autism

Alvin and Bridget rushed over to their daily schedules early one morning. Bridget liked schedules without surprises. She had just finished circle time and was ready to begin language arts. Unlike Alvin, Bridget did not speak much. Now Alvin spoke some words but he was mostly echo-laic. Neither child had a very long attention span. Over time, they were gradually staying on tasks longer. During the last few weeks, the teacher had been using the iPad to help draw out the children’s interests. At the beginning of the school year, Bridget and Alvin had played on the iPad with two Apps called Miss Spider’s Tea Party and the Monster at the End of the Book (www.callaway.com). The stories’ interactions, simplicity of words and eye catching art kept their attention. However, like any young child, Alvin and Bridget needed lots of different activities to keep their interests perked. So over one weekend, the teacher explored some new websites suggested by her daughter who was a speech pathologist. The teacher discovered www.duckduckgoosedesigns.com.

 Click here to read more.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning to understand non-genius autistic people

And I am quite familiar with autism, as my youngest brother, Jonah, is on the autistic spectrum. There was a point in my life when I had to explain what autism was nearly every time I spoke about him. But I rarely have to do that anymore. As soon as I mention his diagnosis, acquaintances sigh with recognition, as if they know what that means. And, no doubt, they know more than they once did: autism awareness has never been higher, with one in 110 children born now diagnosed. But I wish I were still given the chance to explain. Too frequently, they follow-up with statements about his intellectual gifts — “Oh, he must be really smart then.” — a sign of the influence of the stories about those with high-functioning autism. I usually laugh, and respond, “ah, yes, he is smart.” But I don’t mean ‘smart’ in any way that society currently values. At nearly 16-years old, Jonah can’t count change or multiply. He has favorite books, but he flips through them too frantically to actually absorb the text. I swell with triumph whenever we have a conversation that lasts longer than 30 seconds, an actual exchange rather than repetitions of his favorite topics, which include pasta shapes, wheeled vehicles, and what we’re having for dinner that night. What I see as his ‘smartness’ is his view of the world, little influenced by the social and societal pressures that feed my own insecurities.

 Click here to read the full article.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism




Abstract

The cognitive science of religion is a new field which explains religious belief as emerging from normal cognitive processes such as inferring others' mental states, agency detection and imposing patterns on noise. This paper investigates the proposal that individual differences in belief will reflect cognitive processing styles, with high functioning autism being an extreme style that will predispose towards nonbelief (atheism and agnosticism). This view was supported by content analysis of discussion forums about religion on an autism website (covering 192 unique posters), and by a survey that included 61 persons with HFA. Persons with autistic spectrum disorder were much more likely than those in our neurotypical comparison group to identify as atheist or agnostic, and, if religious, were more likely to construct their own religious belief system. Nonbelief was also higher in those who were attracted to systemizing activities, as measured by the Systemizing Quotient.



Click here to read the article.

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Lessons from the MMR scare


Please join BMJ Editor Fiona Godlee for a discussion of the stunning investigation she published earlier this year that revealed the MMR scare was based not on bad science but on deliberate fraud. The three-part series was produced by journalist Brian Deer, who spent seven years investigating Andrew Wakefields infamous study linking the MMR vaccine with autism, discovering Wakefield had been paid by a lawyer to influence his results and had blatantly manipulated the study data.

In an editorial accompanying Deerӳ report, Godlee and colleagues noted, Science is based on trust. Without trust, research cannot function and evidence based medicine becomes a folly. Journal editors, peer reviewers, readers, and critics have all based their responses to Wakefield's small case series on the assumption that the facts had at least been honestly documented. Such a breach of trust is deeply shocking. And even though almost certainly rare on this scale, it raises important questions about how this could happen, what could have been done to uncover it earlier, what further inquiry is now needed, and what can be done to prevent something like this happening again.Ԡ



Click here to watch the video.

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Films About Autism

Autism Speaks provides a short list of films about or related to autism.

 Link

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Researchers find no link between income, autism

A new study found no association between how much Utah families earn and their children’s risk of being diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. That finding, published Thursday in the journal Autism Research, contradicts earlier studies that suggested links between autism and higher income, and between intellectual disabilities and lower income. Judith Pinborough-Zimmerman, assistant research professor at the University of Utah Department of Psychiatry, and colleagues used census data to analyze 26,108 8-year-olds born in Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties in 1994. They examined the gender and ethnicity of the children, the age and education levels of the parents, and how household income changed over eight years, comparing families who had a child with autism or an intellectual disability to the general population. They found “no clear association” between income and the risk for autism or intellectual disabilities. They looked at a range of demographic factors and found: • Children with ASD but not intellectual disabilities were significantly more likely to be male and to have mothers of white, non-Hispanic ethnicity. • Children with both ASD and intellectual disabilities also were more likely to be male, but were more likely to have mothers older than 34 years of age.

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Where Are the Autism Teaching Competencies?

States are no strangers to classroom standards. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2002, the federal government required states to create teacher standards and place highly qualified teachers in every classroom. Nearly a decade later, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers spearheaded the initiative to create common-core standards to “allow teachers to be better equipped to know exactly what they need to help students learn and establish individualized benchmarks for them.”

Today, all but four states have adopted the common standards to improve math and English/language arts skills. We like both initiatives. Setting the bar high is a good thing for all involved. We are, however, disappointed to see so few standards set for teaching competencies for those working in special education classrooms, and, more specifically, for those teaching children on the autism spectrum.

 In 2010, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that an average of one in 110 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. According to the group Autism Speaks, government figures also estimate autism diagnoses are increasing 10 percent to 17 percent annually. Even with these alarming numbers, only a handful of states have adopted autism competencies that provide training for educators. We believe the need for standardized competencies is urgent. Here’s why:

 Click here to read the story.

 (NOTE: Although the article raises some very good points, note that because of the author's affiliation this could be considered an advertorial.)

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World

For weeks, Justin Canha, a high school student with autism, a love of cartoons and a gift for drawing, had rehearsed for the job interview at a local animation studio. As planned, he arrived that morning with a portfolio of his comic strips and charcoal sketches, some of which were sold through a Chelsea gallery. Kate Stanton-Paule, the teacher who had set up the meeting, accompanied him. But his first words upon entering the office were, like most things involving Justin, not in the script. “Hello, everybody,” he announced, loud enough to be heard behind the company president’s door. “This is going to be my new job, and you are going to be my new friends.” As the employees exchanged nervous glances that morning in January 2010, Ms. Stanton-Paule, the coordinator of a new kind of “transition to adulthood” program for special education students at Montclair High School, wondered if they were all in over their heads.

 Click here for the full article. 

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Raising an Autistic Child.

Parenting is challenging at the best of times, but occasionally something comes along that’s a whole lot bigger than the sitter getting sick or baby refusing to sleep. Tom Fields-Meyer’s middle son, Ezra, was two-and-a-half years old when a preschool teacher dropped the hint there might be something wrong. The eventual diagnosis? Autism. At the time, neither dad nor mom knew much about neurological disorders, although it was clear says Fields-Meyer, that their son, now age 15, was “a bit unusual.” But the diagnosis set the stage for development, discovery and ultimately acceptance. The Juggle asked 48-year-old Fields-Meyer–whose book, “Following Ezra,” comes out Tuesday–to share some highs and lows of raising an autistic son alongside two other sons:
 Click here to read more.

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Girls with autism face adjustments in middle school

As Maggie grew older, her parents Rick and Laura suspected more and more that their daughter had autism. They knew that boys usually were diagnosed with autism more frequently than girls were. In fact, boys have 4 to 5 times more of a chance to be identified with autism than girls do. For girls, current statistics indicate that 1 in 315 have autism. In Maggie’s case, her cousin had been diagnosed with autism as a toddler. The question for her family was whether Maggie had autism, too. Like Maggie, some girls who are socially awkward may initially learn how to "fit in" with their peers. Later on, as social nuances become more difficult to understand, high functioning girls with autism have increasing difficulties relating to the classmates.

 Click here to read more.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

ASD Outcomes in Adulthood

Below is a presentation given at the last IACC (Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee) meeting. Prof. Shattuck has done some excellent work in recent years. He’s one of the people looking into the areas I find critical and underserved. If you want to hear about research which can have a real impact on the life of this generation of autistic youth, you should set aside the time to listen to this talk. Prof. Shattuck is looking at the critical transition from school to adulthood. How well are autistic students making that transition (largely, not so well as it turns out). What are the factors that help make that transition successful? If we don’t look into these questions today the problems will only continue unresolved.
 Click here to watch the video.

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Autism Talk TV - Ep. 16 - What's the Deal With Women, Fatherhood, andExecutive Functioning?

Click here to watch the video.

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