Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Finding a Friend in School

When a student is in school, academics are the main focus. However, one aspect of learning that is not given enough emphasis is community building and developing relationships/friendships; the social aspect of education. Social goals and building friendships are mentioned in school conferences but are seldom fully explored and many times a student’s support team thinks academic success is the key to future accomplishments in secondary education and employment as well as helping to provide for a rich social life. This idea needs rethinking.

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School Community Tool Kit

The purpose of this kit is to provide helpful information about students with autism and tools and strategies to achieve positive interactions and increase learning for all members of the school community. With help from respected experts in the field of autism and special education, and experienced parents, caregivers and teachers, we’ve included an introduction to autism and specific strategies for supporting students.

 The School Community Tool Kit is broken down into sections including, a section on how to use the tool kit, a note to families and caregivers, an "About Me" profile form, and more.

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How Does an Empty Nest Affect Parents of Autistic Young Adults?

The transition from child to adult is a profound one, for both child and parent. As adolescents mature and develop their own identity, they yearn for independence and often find it through higher education or a career. Inevitably, the child becomes an adult and moves out of the family home. This can be an emotionally challenging time for mothers and fathers. But for parents of autistic children, the change can be quite dramatic. Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) share a unique bond with their children. The behavioral, physical, and communication impairments that individuals with ASD experience can often result in a residential custodial relationship with a parent that lasts well into adulthood. The responsibilities that these parents face, sometimes with no end in sight, can add immense of amounts of stress to the intimate adult relationships of the parents. Until recently, few studies have looked at how this shifts when ASD children grow up and leave home. To address this question, Sigan L. Hartley of the Waisman Center and Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently conducted a study that examined the level of marital harmony in 199 mothers of children with ASD. Hartley followed the mothers for 7 years, during which the children transitioned from living at home to living independently away from their parents. The mothers were assessed for levels of marital happiness based on the symptom severity of the child, the household income, education level of the mother, and other children with disabilities. Hartley found that the more significant the behavioral impairment of their child, the less satisfied the mothers were with their marriages. The most satisfied mothers were those with high household incomes, close mother-child bonds, and the least amount of ASD-related behavior issues. Surprisingly, the transition from caregiver to empty nester had no effect on marital satisfaction for the women in this study. Hartley said, “Interventions aimed at managing the behavior problems of adolescents and adults with ASDs may help strengthen parents’ marital relationship.” Reference:Hartley, S. L., Barker, E. T., Baker, J. K., Seltzer, M. M., Greenberg, J. S. (2012). Marital satisfaction and life circumstances of grown children with autism across 7 years. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029354



Friday, August 10, 2012

Kids with autism more isolated

Adolescents with autism are far less likely than their peers with other disabilities to hang out with friends after school or attend group activities. A Washington University researcher recently found that half of teenage students with autism spectrum disorders were significantly more likely than teens with learning disabilities, mental retardation and speech and language impairments to not be invited out to social activities. Analyzing data-including surveys of parents and school officials-on 11,000 special education students, Paul Shattuck, an autism expert and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, found that kids with autism are more isolated than their peers and tend to interact in one-on-one situations. "Not surprisingly, conversational impairment and low social communication skills were associated with a lower likelihood of social participation," Shattuck says in the study.It suggests group activities and programs, such as clubs and sports, as one area of intervention. But perhaps less obvious is the potential of social networking in promoting such relationships.Shattuck recommends that future research study ways to take advantage of electronic media to help those with autism spectrum disorders improve their interactions and connections with others in social situations.



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Comparing Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders in a DevelopmentallyDisabled Adult Population Using the Current DSM-IV-TR DiagnosticCriteria and the Proposed DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria

The proposed change in diagnostic criteria for autism (from DSM IV to DSM 5) has been a topic of much discussion. To put it mildly. Little, if any, data has been available on how this change may affect the adult population. A recent study seeks to address that void: Comparing Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders in a Developmentally Disabled Adult Population Using the Current DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic Criteria and the Proposed DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria Reseaerchers studied autistic adults with intellectual disability. They found that 36% of their study population would lose their diagnosis under DSM 5.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Miss Montana Overcame Many Challenges On Her Way To The Crown

When Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana 2012, discusses her desire to help people with autism, she’s not speaking in flowery beauty pageant platitudes about trying to make the world a better place. She’s speaking from experience. Wineman, of Cut Bank, was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder, including borderline Aspergers Syndrome, when she was 11 years old. The diagnosis followed a two-year process that included counseling, an exhaustive battery of tests and at least one misdiagnosis. Wineman was often teased and bullied at school and said she usually avoided interaction with others when she was younger. “I felt so alone growing up, and I still do at times,” she said Thursday during a conference on autism at the Montana State University Billings downtown campus. “Nobody understood what I was going through. I separated myself from my classmates and spent most of my time alone. I stayed quiet to hide my speech problems. Due to these overwhelming and daily struggles, I looked at myself as a punching bag for others, and a burden to my family.” Wineman said the diagnosis helped her understand why she was different from other kids. And with support from her mother, teachers, counselors and her three siblings, she matured into the poised, confident 18-year-old, whose stand-up comedy routine left the audience rolling in the aisles at the Miss Montana pageant.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pets May Help Kids With Autism Develop Social Skills

Introducing a pet into the home of a child with autism may help that child develop improved social behaviors, new research finds. The study, from French researchers, is the first strong scientific evidence that animals may help foster social skills in individuals with autism, but it also reinforces what clinicians have been hearing anecdotally for years.

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