Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gazette Opinion: Making autism services a sure thing for Montana kids

With neither fanfare nor partisan fighting, the 2015 Legislature authorized the state to add services for children with autism to the Medicaid program. Gov. Steve Bullock proposed that change to allow all Medicaid-eligible children to get what they need. Life-changing lottery No longer will Montana children have to win a lottery to get the services that teach them to talk, to understand language, to interact socially and to develop other skills that are so difficult for children with autism. In 2009, Montana started a limited Medicaid program for such children, providing 55 slots statewide. The lucky kids who get those slots are eligible to receive intensive services for up to three years. Independent researchers found that among children who completed the program: 65 percent were able to go into regular public school classrooms; they no longer needed special education. 80 percent were verbal, up from 42 percent at the start of services. In 2013, the estimated lifetime cost of one individual with autism spectrum disorder was $3.2 million. Each child who was enabled to function well in a regular classroom represents millions of dollars in future savings with good prospects for living independently as adults. That’s the payoff from a Medicaid investment of $45,000 per year in preschool services. With the assistance of a 30-member advisory committee of parents and providers, the state Department of Public Health and Human Services is putting together a children’s autism plan. Novelene Martin, Developmental Disabilities Bureau chief, hopes the plan will be submitted to federal Medicaid administrators by Jan. 1, and that they will OK the program early in 2016.

 Read more: 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Autism not on the rise -- correct diagnoses are

A study looking at autism prevalence in Sweden over a ten-year period has concluded that although clinical diagnoses have risen, cases have in fact remained stable. It puts the increase down to "administrative changes" that have impacted how those on the spectrum are diagnosed and registered. "From the 1970s and onwards the reported prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has increased substantially," write the study authors. "The condition was considered rare, affecting fewer than 0.05 percent of the population, but it is now generally agreed that the lifetime prevalence is at least 1 percent in both young people and adults." In some parts of the world, that figure is even higher. The authors continue: "Despite the increase in reported prevalence of autism spectrum disorder, there is no direct evidence that this corresponds to an increase in the prevalence of the autism phenotype -- that is, the symptoms on which the diagnostic criteria are based."

 Read more here. 


Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother, Augusten Burroughs, in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself—and the world. A born storyteller, Robison has written a moving, darkly funny memoir about a life that has taken him from developing exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien yet always deeply human. A good read. FInd it wherever books are sold, downloaded or listened to.
Link here:


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Archived Webinar - Effective Approaches for Older Students with Autismand Attention Disorders

Change agents — leaders in special education– are transforming ways to help older students cope with ASD, attention deficits and related problem behavior that interferes with learning. What does the latest brain research suggest about how we can individualize services, help these students pay closer attention to oral instruction, develop self-regulation skills, complete assignments on time and meet their educational goals? Get insights and practical advice about results-oriented practices for educating middle and high school students who have been diagnosed with these disorders.

 Watch the webinar here. 


Monday, May 11, 2015

Community Based Functional Skills Assessment

The challenges associated with the transition from school services to adulthood for individuals with autism are well documented. Every individual with autism is different and as a result, there is no "one size fits all" plan for the path to adulthood. The most important factor in creating a plan is to focus on the individual. His or her strengths, needs, challenges and preferences will play a critical role in ensuring a successful transition process.

The CSA, developed through a contract with Virginia Commonwealth University's Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, was designed to help parents and professionals assess the current skill levels and abilities of individuals with autism beginning at age 12 and continuing into adulthood in order to develop a comprehensive plan. The CSA is the first tool to assess needs in the area of community-based living, from transportation to financial management to peer relationships and more.

The tool is divided into three levels based upon the age of the individual being assessed. Eight critical areas of functional life skills will be assessed: Career path and employment Self-determination/advocacy Health and safety Peer relationships, socialization and social communication Community participation and personal finance Transportation Leisure/recreation Home living skills

The assessment uses both a criterion-based observation and interview-based process to measure the individual's knowledge, skills and behaviors.

Click here to read the introduction and learn more about the CSA.


7 Steps to Take A Stand Against Bullying

In 2012, Autism Speaks partnered with the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Ability Path and the PACER Center's National Bullying Prevention Center to create a movement toward a bully free world through our BULLY Project. Together with our partners, we released a Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit full of resources and information specifically tailored to parents, educators, and students dealing with bullying and children with special needs.
Based on this Toolkit, we have put together seven steps that you can take to help take a stand against bullying. The Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit contains a number of additional tips and resources to accomplish each of these steps. The links are included with each step.

1. Start the Conversation

Because individuals with autism may not realize that they are being bullied or may be unable to communicate what is happening at school or in the community, the first step is to get the conversation started so they understand what bullying means and why it is not okay. Teach your child or your student to know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate treatment from classmates. Make sure your child feels comfortable telling you when he or she feels bullying may be happening. Encourage him or her to talk to you about his or her feelings at school. Be supportive.
The Anti-Bullying Toolkit contains sections for parents as well as educators on how to talk to your child about bullying. Resources to help your child understand bullying roles can be found here.

2. Develop a Plan

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Girls Get Autism Diagnosis Later Than Boys

On Tuesday, Dr. Paul Lipkin, director of medical informatics at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, presented new findings on nearly 10,000 children with autism, using data from the Interactive Autism Network registry. On average, boys were diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, at about 7.1 years old, while girls were diagnosed at 7.6 years. Digging deeper, the researchers also compared types of symptoms for about 5,100 of these children. Girls were more likely to have problems with social cognition -- the ability to recognize and interpret social cues, says Lipkin, the director of IAN. What other kids learn by experience doesn't come as naturally to them. Boys were more likely to exhibit obvious mannerisms, such as hand flapping and other repetitive behaviors, and to have narrowly restricted interests. Autism is much more common in boys. In the IAN registry, the ratio of enrolled boys to girls was about 4.5 to 1. The gender gap only held for higher-functioning children, with a slightly narrower gap for pervasive developmental disorder, a moderate diagnosis on the autism spectrum. However, "in those with frank autistic disorder, there was no difference in age of diagnosis" Lipkin says. "Those children's problems are quite overt and easily recognizable, even to the general public. So when girls are having those severe problems, they probably aren't looking much different than the boys." The new findings come as no surprise to clinical psychologist Shana Nichols, owner of the Aspire Center for Learning and Development in Melville, New York. Nichols says many girls arrive at the Center between ages 10 and 12. Until then, they've been able to get by with their peers. But even earlier, she says, "parents often say they've noticed their daughters aren't quite as attuned to the social nuances -- although they're good at faking it." By sharing common activities and nodding and smiling during conversations, girls with autism may look like they're participating well, Nichols says. But in reality, she continues, there's "a more surface-level, almost an intellectual understanding of the social interaction." Amy Keefer, a clinical psychologist with Kennedy Krieger's Center for Autism and Related Disorders, starts seeing patients around age 8. With autism, she says, "boys' interests tend to stand out more." For example, boys may have a deep fascination with city sewer systems, while girls may be really into the movie "Frozen." Intense focus on their area of interest is what sets girls with autism apart, Nichols says. Being a girl who "really, really loves horses" is not the same as "being a girl who really loves horses and also knows a million different facts about all the different breeds, and that becomes an exclusive interest." Keefer says when kids with autism play with others, it's different. "Maybe the girl tells her friends what to do," she says. "It has to fit her rules and be exactly her way."

 Read more here. 


How Sex of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Access toTreatment Services Relates to Parental Stress

This study examined the relationship between parental stress and access to services in families of children with ASD, as well as how this relationship differed by the sex of the child. Parents of girls in our sample rated parental distress and parent-child dysfunctional interaction significantly higher than parents of boys.

 Read more here. 


Inclusive Curriculum May Not Help Disabled Kindergartners Make Friends

Inclusive classrooms that use disability awareness curricula do not necessarily help children with disabilities make new friendships, according to a new study published in the journal Topics in Early Childhood Special Education. The findings also showed that having at least one best friend helps children with numerous problem behaviors and low social skills gain peer acceptance. Inclusive classrooms are defined as those that integrate children with special needs into a mainstream classroom. “We found that inclusion in and of itself does not equate to increased acceptance, classroom membership, or peer relationships. This research emphasizes the importance of individualizing class-wide programs based on children’s support needs.”

 Read more here.