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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Life skills/Transition Assessment tools for students

Suggestions from one of the Montana Autism Education Project consultants: I use several assessments to help our students narrow the career search and build on their existing skills. I start with a Casey Life Skills and I do one each year to help write or update my IEP goals by the end of the school and helps me assess their progress from year to year. I also use an assessment called Careers for Me II, that is both in booklet form and on the computer- it comes in three different levels and it works get even for the non-verbal students on the spectrum. At the end of this career interest Assessment, I have students produce a brief power point or flip chart on a career of their choice based on the questions they have to complete at the end of the assessment- which I then have them put into their vocational portfolio. Once they have completed a few of the career inventories, we sit down and go over their strengths , soft skills (work skills) they may already have, as well as settings and locations (inside work vs. outside) once we have compiled a list of these things we begin to look at jobs that match up- MCIS is a great site to use to give them a reality check on some of their ideas (start with the Interest Profile under assessments). I also refer often to Developing Talents, by Temple Grandin. Once you have them thinking about work or schooling after high school, I give them the BESI (Barriers to Employment Success Inventory) as well as opportunities to work in the school work study program so that we can then use work assessments and employer comment to give them real life application and also adds to their resumes. The work study evaluations (one per quarter) can then be attached to the IEP as well. I have done this with both low functioning students and my highest functioning students- with great results. Parents who say they can’t get their kids to think about what they are doing the next day begin to talk about next year, when I am a senior, and then when I graduate…

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Autism Ability To Remember Faces Tied To Oxytocin Love' Gene

Knowing how to recognize a face is essential to every friendship and familybond that a person will make. But if it is so vital, why do some people excel at it, while others struggle to remember acquaintances? New autismresearch points to a single gene mutation as the major culprit behind facial forgetfulness. The aberrant gene in question was the oxytocin receptor, a protein that coats certain brain cells and is designed to respond to oxytocin, the love hormone.

 Read more here. 

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Cognition and behavior: Sticky gaze may be early autism sign

Babies later diagnosed with autism tend to stare at objects after picking them up at much later ages than controls do, according to a study published in Behavioral Brain Research1. This delay may contribute to problems with joint attention — the tendency to seek out and follow others’ gaze — in autism, the researchers say. Babies who pick up an object continue to look at it for about a second afterwards, a behavior researchers call ‘sticky attention.’ At 1 year of age, however, they tend to look away as they touch the object, or immediately before. This may allow them to switch their focus to another object or person in the room. Studies have shown that babies later diagnosed with autism still show sticky attention at about 12 months of age2. The new study follows the development of sticky attention over time in babies at risk for autism and controls.

 Read more here. 

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Autism brains are overly connected, studies find

Three studies published over the past two months have found significant evidence that children and adolescents with autism have brains that are overly connected compared with the brains of controls1,2,3. The findings complicate the theory that autism is fundamentally characterized by weakly connected brain regions. Connectivity is a measure of how tightly synchronized two or more brain areas are. When two brain areas increase or decrease their activity at approximately the same time, the regions are considered to be strongly synchronized, or hyperconnected. For two decades, some scientists have theorized that altered or impaired brain connectivity underlies autism. Brain imaging studies initially revealed reduced brain connectivity in people with autism4,5,6. "I think it’s a very nice opportunity for the field, but also the general public, to become aware that network connectivity and abnormalities of network connectivity are really more complicated than just underconnectivity,” says Ralph-Axel Müller, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and lead investigator of one of the new studies. “Now we’re getting findings that are much more nuanced.”

 Read more here. 

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Is SSRI use during pregnancy an autism risk factor?

A few recent studies have suggested that using SSRI’s during pregnancy might increase the risk of a child later being diagnosed autistic. SSRI’s are commonly used to treat depression. Earlier this year a team from Bristol studied the question and concluded: In utero exposure to both SSRIs and non-selective monoamine reuptake inhibitors (tricyclic antidepressants) was associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders, particularly without intellectual disability. Whether this association is causal or reflects the risk of autism with severe depression during pregnancy requires further research. However, assuming causality, antidepressant use during pregnancy is unlikely to have contributed significantly towards the dramatic increase in observed prevalence of autism spectrum disorders as it explained less than 1% of cases. In other words, mothers taking SSRI’s may have more autistic children (50% increased risk) but that could be due to the underlying condition (depression) rather than the SSRI use.

 Read more here. 

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Exploring anxiety symptoms in a large-scale twin study of children with autism spectrum disorders, their co-twins and controls.

Abstract BACKGROUND: Although many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) experience difficulties with anxiety,the manifestation of these difficulties remains unresolved. The current study assessed anxiety in a large population based twin sample, aged 10–15 years. Phenotypic analyses were used to explore anxiety symptoms in children with ASDs, their unaffected co-twins and a control sample. METHODS: Participants included 146 families from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) where one or both children had a suspected ASD. Eighty control families were also included. The Revised Child Anxiety and Depression scale (Chorpita, Yim, Moffitt, Umemoto & Francis, 2000) was completed (self- and parent-report), along with diagnostic and cognitive tests. Children were categorized into four groups (a) ASD (b) Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP: mainly co-twins of children with ASDs, with high subclinical autistic traits) (c) unaffected co-twins (with neither ASDs nor BAP) (d) controls. RESULTS: Children in the ASD and BAP groups scored significantly higher than controls for all parent-rated (although not child-rated) anxiety subscales.There were no significant differences between the ASD and BAP groups for any of the parent-rated anxiety subscales. Compared with controls, unaffected co-twins showed significantly heightened Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety,and Panic symptoms. Significant associations were observed between certain anxiety subscales and both IQ and ASD symptoms. For example, greater parent-rated Social Anxiety was associated with higher IQ and increased social and communicative impairments. Significant interrater correlations were observed for anxiety reports in children with ASDs (r = .27–.54; p < .01), their unaffected co-twins (r = .32–.63; p < .01) and controls (r = .23–.43; p < .01)suggesting that children in this sample with and without ASD symptoms were able to report on their anxiety symptoms with some accuracy. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support previous reports of heightened anxiety in children with ASDs, at least on parent-reported measures. Unaffected co-twins of children with ASDs also showed increased anxiety, generating questions about the potential etiological overlap between ASDs and anxiety. Progress in this area now depends on more refined anxiety measurement in ASDs and continued investigation of interrater differences.

 Source. 

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Hospital-Diagnosed Maternal Infections Linked to Increased Autism Risk

Hospital-diagnosed maternal bacterial infections during pregnancy were associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders in children, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published Dec. 23 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The research contributes new evidence to a body of scientific literature on the role of infection in autism risk and points to areas for further examination. -

 See more at: 

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Mobile Devices to Support Transition for People with ASD - ArchivedWebinars

See more here. 

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

What you shouldn't say to an autistic child:

What you shouldn't say to an autistic child: Stranger coming up and saying "I have seen Rain Man". Wait, what? Not all children are like a blockbuster sensation... "Are you actually autistic or do you just have Asperger's Syndrome?" What are they thinking? Last I checked, Asperger's was most definitely on the spectrum and has now been absorbed into Autism Spectrum Disorder within the new DSM-V. "You must be very high functioning." I believe that is meant as a compliment, actually. This stranger needs to be educated on the fact that autistic children do not need to be very high-functioning to be smartest in their class. "Why are you doing that?" or "That looks so weird!" are probably some of the most ignorant statements autistic children hear. They feel like it, they enjoy it, they find it quite normal for themselves? Many reasons pop up which are exactly what a regular child would say. Everyone is different. People need to learn how to accept that. Stranger pointing to a body language book and saying, "I think this book can really help you..." Seriously? Maybe the stranger does not realize that autistic individuals perceive faces and body language differently and might not notice certain subtle messages sent through non-verbal means. "You are autistic? I am so sorry! That makes me so sad." That statement leaves me flabbergasted, let alone an autistic child. I'm pretty sure I can think of quite a few obscene responses to this one. It is quite sad that the individual has no clue what autism is all about. Quite a few geniuses out there are actually autistic savants. Anyone from Beethoven to Einstein to Bill Gates is believed to be an autistic savant, and always for a reason. "But you look so normal." "I never would have guessed." "But there is nothing wrong with you." Last I checked, autistic children were not aliens. They look quite normal, mostly act like the average population and have few behavioral signs for the most part that gives away their disorder. So no, there is nothing wrong with them, simply something different. Certain professionals staring at you with a fake smile and saying, "you cannot expect us to accommodate ALL of your needs." Wait, what? So you are allowed to pick and choose what needs you accommodate? I might need dim lights and few sensory distractions. My normal functioning friend might need a wheelchair to get into the building. Will you only accommodate one of us because that one has a physical disability? "You are autistic? Give me a hug, it is going to be okay..." and then, "what do you mean you do not want a hug?" First, you did not just find out I have cancer. Of course, I am okay. I was born with a disability or ability, depending on how you define it, that makes me stand out from the rest. That makes me special. Special people do not receive hugs from average people. Or maybe it is because I do not like hugs. Not everyone does, it is not just a trait reserved for autistic children. Strangers mentioning a study they read that might or might not be true about the cause for autism. Parents might want to know what caused it and children might sequester themselves in libraries or in front of a computer searching for it, but hearing a stranger say it is like a slap in the face. No one knows what causes autism. There is no cure for autism. It is not fun hearing a stranger who is not your psychotherapist psychoanalyze your situation. Strangers asking if you have tried this or that to cure the autism. Once again, there is no cure.There are only techniques one can use to lessen the meltdowns, help the children integrate into society and get a good night's sleep. Anyone but one's parents and therapists suggesting they try something new is generally unwelcome. Point is, what is being advised to do has probably already been tried ten times over. "Stop making excuses to be rude to people." Each case is different and they might not realize they are being rude in the first place. "But, you have a job!" Yes, autistic people can work. They may have a selected pool to choose from, wider or narrower depending on the individual, but they can create a career. Autistic children are just like the average normal functioning child. They have feelings, they like friends and they want to be loved just like anyone. They may need certain accommodations, likeweighted blankets in school and at home, but to have autism simply means one is different and not less; it is about time the world learned to accept that simple fact.

 Source

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Autism Patients Carry Common Sequence Variations In Gene, Study

A recent study reveals that autism patients are more likely to carry specific sequence variations of a particular gene. Interestingly, the same gene is also linked to empathy quotient in the general public, the researchers claim. The variations in the gene are possible indicators of Asperger Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

 Read more here. 

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Autism Study Links Bowel Symptoms and Rigid, Repetitive Behaviors

Specifically, they looked at children who experience severe constipation that alternates with periods of diarrhea or stool leakage – a pattern often seen by gastroenterologists who care for patients with autism. The investigators found that children with these GI symptoms were more likely to have difficulties with repetitive or compulsive behaviors, as reported by their parents. This was in comparison to children with autism but no chronic constipation. “Our findings add support to the conclusion that children with both autism and GI disturbances are at greater risk for severely disruptive, autism-related behaviors,” says study co-author Pat Levitt, of Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The study also involved investigators at Vanderbilt University Medical School and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. All three medical centers are part of the AS-ATN.

 Read more here. 

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Studies Suggest Female Brain Has Inherent Protection from Autism

It is well-known that autism affects boys more often than girls. The current ratio is 4 to 1, and is even as high as 8 to 1 at the higher end of the spectrum. While the reason for this gender inequality is currently unknown, scientists are searching for a reason why females are less likely to be diagnosed with the disorder. A recent study at Yale University suggests that the female brain may somehow be inherently protected from developing autism. Researcher Stephen Sanders and his team observed variations in genes and mutations between male and female subjects. They found that girls actually had substantially more high-risk genetic mutations associated with autism than boys, yet they were less likely to develop autistic behaviors. These results imply that female brains may have more inherent protection against developing the disorder than male brains.

 Read more here. 

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Top Ways Schools Provide Autism Inclusion

Learning can be difficult, especially for those with disabilities, but autism memoir author Monica Holloway, of Cowboy & Wills [Simon & Schuster], overcame this adversity with her son with the help of autism-friendly schools, programs and educators. Says Holloway, "My family and I have witnessed how schools have evolved over time, offering much more teacher-specific autism education and training, presenting learning materials in ways that our kids can process information and attending to sensory needs of our kids. It is very encouraging to see inclusion for our kids continue to emerge over time." Qualities that Holloway has found in autism-friendly schools include: Enthusiasm about autism. Trained, professional educators and staff understand the characteristics of autism and enjoy pursuing strategies to help kids reach the best success. Inclusion. Inclusion and socialization of those with special needs can promote good understanding and acceptance for all involved. All children in the academic setting acquire new and desired qualities through inclusion, not just the child with special needs. Personalization. No two children are the same. Schools with special education programs know that each child learns differently, with his or her own individual needs, strengths and challenges. Team approach. Parents and professionals work together towards goals and have open lines of communication, including collaboratively sharing progress at home and in school. Routine. Knowing that many children with autism need or like to follow a routine, many special education programs establish clear timelines for students' activities and transitions.

 Read more here. 

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Sensory Integration: Changing the Brain through Play

This month, researchers with Philadelphia’s Farber Institute of Neuroscience published a ground-breaking study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. This study is among the first scientifically rigorous clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of occupational therapy using sensory integration (OT-SI) for improving the ability of children with autism to participate meaningfully in daily life. [Read our news story on this study’s findings here.] The new study is important because it used a randomized, controlled trial to assess OT-SI intervention while assuring that it was delivered in a way that met all the characteristics of sensory integration intervention. It showed that children who received OT-SI in addition to their other autism treatments achieved greater improvements in their ability to function in daily life than did children who received the same standard autism treatments without OT-SI. As the autism community knows well, many individuals with autism have difficulty processing and integrating sensory information. These sensitivities can create great barriers to participating in daily life for those with autism and their families. As a result, interventions that address sensory difficulties are among the most requested by parents of children with autism. Unfortunately, OT-SI – which can change brain function – is sometimes confused with other sensory-based strategies that help calm individuals but don’t have long term effects. Examples of the latter include weighted blankets and compression vests. OT-SI has also remained poorly understood, in part, I think, because it looks like mere play. To the uninformed onlooker, it can be hard to see the serious neuroscience beneath the play. I’d like to use a classic scenario to illustrate.

 Read more here. 

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Gene Change Plus Prenatal Exposure to Pollution Ups Autism Risk

Recent studies have suggested that exposure to high levels of pollution during pregnancy increases children’s risk of autism. A new study shows this risk is higher if a child has a particular gene variation. The research is among the first to show evidence of gene-environment interactions in autism. The study, published in the journal Epidemiology, was led by Heather Volk and Daniel Campbell of the University of Southern California. Autism Speaks is currently funding an expansion of their research.

 Read more here.

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Autism highest among Minneapolis' Somali and white children, U studyfinds

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder is the same among Somali and white children living in Minneapolis, but Somali children tend to develop a more severe form of the developmental disorder, according to a new report released Monday by University of Minnesota researchers. The study's data revealed that 1 in 32 Somali and 1 in 36 white children aged 7 to 9 were identified with autism in 2010 — numbers that are statistically indistinguishable, according to the researchers. Both Somali and white children in Minneapolis were, however, more likely to have been identified with autism than their non-Somali black or Hispanic peers. The data showed that the prevalence of autism was 1 in 62 among the city’s black children and 1 in 80 among its Hispanic children in 2010. Overall, 1 in 48 Minneapolis children were identified with autism in 2010. That number is fairly close to the national parent-reported prevalence of 1 in 50 that was reported in March 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But it is much higher than the CDC's more official 1 in 88 estimate, which is based on 2008 data from 14 communities across the United States. (That estimate is expected to be updated in 2014.)

 Read more here.

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New Study Highlights the Importance of Social Interaction for AutisticChildren

Peer solicitation -- a child inviting another to play -- can improve reciprocal social interaction among children with autism, according to a Vanderbilt University study released today in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Researchers studied playground interactions between children with autism and typically developing peers and found the two groups play similarly when engaged in independent play with kids they just met. While the children with autism initiated and engaged in less play overall than typically developing children, the researchers found that other children can facilitate and increase interactions by simple requests. These findings highlight the pivotal role that peers have in social interaction, noting that it only takes a single child to prompt other children -- with or without autism -- to interact.

 Read more here. 

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Could a Tiny Worm Help Treat Autism?

Adults with autism who were intentionally infected with a parasitic intestinal worm experienced an improvement in their behavior, researchers say. After swallowing whipworm eggs for 12 weeks, people with autism became more adaptable and less likely to engage in repetitive actions, said study lead author Dr. Eric Hollander, director of the Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Use of the worms relates to the "hygiene hypothesis," which holds that some autoimmune disorders might be caused by a lack of microbes or parasites present in the body during earlier, less hygienic times, Hollander said. These bugs might help regulate the immune response in the human body. "We found these individuals had less discomfort associated with a deviation in their expectations," Hollander said. "They were less likely to have a temper tantrum or act out." The whipworm study is one of two novel projects Hollander is scheduled to present Thursday at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Hollywood, Fla. The other therapy -- hot baths for children with autism -- also was found to improve symptoms, Hollander said.

 Read more here. 

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Intervention for Sensory Difficulties in Children with Autism: ARandomized Trial

Abstract This study evaluated a manualized intervention for sensory difficulties for children with autism, ages 4–8 years, using a randomized trial design. Diagnosis of autism was confirmed using gold standard measures. Results show that the children in the treatment group (n = 17) who received 30 sessions of the occupational therapy intervention scored significantly higher (p = 0.003, d = 1.2) on Goal Attainment Scales (primary outcome), and also scored significantly better on measures of caregiver assistance in self-care (p = 0.008 d = 0.9) and socialization (p = 0.04, d = 0.7) than the Usual Care control group (n = 15). The study shows high rigor in its measurement of treatment fidelity and use of a manualized protocol, and provides support for the use of this intervention for children with autism. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for practice and future research.

 Read more here. 

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Friends: Connecting People with Disabilities and Community Members

This new manual provides concrete, "how-to" strategies for supporting relationships between people with disabilities and other community members. It describes why such friendships are important to people with disabilities and why it is important to promote community belonging and membership. The manual includes specific activities to guide users in creating a plan for connecting people. It is designed for agency staff, but can be used by parents, support coordinators, teachers, people with disabilities, and others to support community relationships. .

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013