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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Autism Eats - A Very Cool Idea



Going to a family restaurant should be an enjoyable experience. A time to relax, enjoy good food and spend time with your family. Let someone else do the cooking and cleaning.

Unfortunately, for those of us who have a child with autism dining out can be anxiety provoking and stressful. As parents, we may feel that "all eyes are on us" when our kids exhibit certain behaviors, have outbursts or refuse to sit still. Other diners may be disturbed and the well intentioned wait staff doesn't really know the best way to help out.

Many of us decide it is just not worth the effort and that is unfortunate.

We created Autism Eats to bring the fun back to eating out.

Our dinner parties are held in private rooms of restaurants or function facilities. Food is served buffet or family style so there is no waiting. Music and lighting are adjusted to accommodate those with sensory sensitivity. These are family dinners and all attending have a loved one on the spectrum so there is no need to apologize, explain or feel uncomfortable. It is an opportunity to enjoy a night out and socialize with others who have many of the same joys and challenges in common.

Read more here. 


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Archived Webinar - Creating Inclusive Educational Environments through SocialLiteracy

Over the last year, Social Emotional Learning has gained steam as a valuable component of student learning for both special and general education students. In addition to the many social and academic benefits of SEL, it can also be a valuable means of creating more inclusive educational environments, which benefit students with and without disabilities.

In this webinar, we will discuss "Social Literacy" as a strategy for promoting inclusive practices. We will focus on how to apply social emotional learning with ALL students through the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes, and skills.

Attendees Will Learn: How social literacy can contribute to creating more inclusive educational environments Strategies for teaching social literacy to general and special education students to promote inclusion How families and educators can work together to create social literacy at home and in school.

View the archived webinar here.

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Skepticism About Study Linking Antidepressants And Autism

Over-hyped, overstated and probably just wrong. That’s my summary of the latest high-profile study of autism, which reports that mothers who take antidepressants increase the risk of autism in their unborn children by up to 87%.

The new study, which appeared this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, received widespread attention, both uncritical (Washington Post, Huffington Post) and more cautious (CBS News). But it was that 87% increase that caught most people’s attention. Many scientists, including me, read this news with skepticism. It seems particularly unlikely given that exactly two years ago, another large study reported exactly the opposite conclusion. The 2013 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that antidepressant use during pregnancy was NOT associated with an increased risk of autism. What’s more, the 2013 study looked at exactly the same class of antidepressants, selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as the new study. 

 So what’s going on? Was the 2013 study just wrong? It seemed the only way to answer this was to read the new study, written by Anick Bérard and colleagues. Looking over the new numbers, my conclusion is that Bérard simply tortured the data until she got the results–and the press headlines–that they wanted. Let’s look a bit more closely.

    Read more here.

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Autism Advocate Magazine

Click here to read the latest issue. 


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Autism: Extremely Premature Babies At Higher Risk

A new study conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden examined the differences in the brain's of children born very premature compared to those born full term. "We were surprised by how many -- almost 30 per cent -- of the extremely preterm-born children had developed ASD symptoms," said Ulrika Ådén, researcher at the Department of Women's and Children's Health at Karolinska Institutet and neonatologist at the Neonatology clinic at Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, in a news release. "Amongst children born after full term pregnancy, the corresponding figure is 1 per cent."

 Read more here. 

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Do Girls Have 'Protection' from Autism?

Despite having fewer ASD diagnoses, girls with the condition tend to have more of its genetic mutations than boys do. In particular, girls have more large duplications or deletions of DNA, called copy-number variations, in their genome. Older girls diagnosed with autism generally have more severe symptoms than boys, including lower IQ scores. So, if females have more of these variations in their DNA, and genetics are a risk factor for autism, why would fewer girls be given a diagnosis of autism? There may be something protecting girls against symptom severity — a concept that's come to be known as the "female protective effect." But what is this protective effect? Is there a gene that blocks the effect of other genes, or turns on compensatory genes? Does some sort of environmental factor in females, such as the presence of specific hormones, alter the way the autism genes are expressed? Are the genes that control for brain development in boys and girls regulated differently?

Read more here. 

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Monday, December 14, 2015

About That Study Linking PCOS and Autism in Kids

For the uninitiated, polycystic ovary syndrome (or PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects as many as one in ten women and is marked by irregular periods, acne, excessive body hair, and weight gain. It's also the leading cause of female infertility, so when new research suggested that women with PCOS are more likely to have kids with autism spectrum disorder, many might have thought, This is a joke, right? Here's what everyone should know about this study. Researchers in Sweden looked at children born between 1984 and 2007 and, using their country's National Patient Register, compared diagnoses of PCOS in mothers with records of autism spectrum disorder (or ASD) in children. Writing in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, they found that women with PCOS are 59 percent more likely to have a child with ASD than women without the endocrine condition. The risk increase for obese women with PCOS was even higher, at 113 percent. Cue alarm bells across the internet. But there are several things to consider here, perhaps the most important being that this is the first study to find such a connection. Even the authors acknowledge that the results need to be replicated before we all get concerned. Next, the research highlights the relative risk of having a child with ASD — the absolute risk is still pretty low. For example, about one in 68 children in the U.S. (or 1.47 percent) has been diagnosed with ASD. A 59 percent increase translates to about one in 43 children, or a 2.3 percent incidence — scary, but not exactly epidemic levels. The authors also said that the prevalence of PCOS diagnoses in their sample was lower than expected, so we may not have the full picture here. And finally, overall autism rates in this study were much higher than the expert consensus: Researchers think it’s slightly higher than one percent, but in this study, 10 percent of all kids had ASD (23,748 out of 232,544 total). So, yeah, these findings might be more preliminary than we think.
Read more here.

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SOCIAL COGNITION AND STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS Billings January 2016

Billings January 28, 2016 8:00am—5:00pm On-line registration: www.msubillings.edu/smart Workshop description: The social communication and social thinking needs of individuals on the Autism Spectrum are often the most challenging aspects of parenting, treating and teaching this population. This workshop will address numerous strategies, many of which were originated by Michelle Garcia Winner, a known guru in the area of Social Thinking®. The presenter will provide detailed information, video demonstrations and materials that will enhance the attendee’s ability to help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and other diagnoses that cause difficulty with social interaction, perspective taking and other Theory of Mind issues.

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Key Findings: Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism SpectrumDisorder Among 4-Year-Old Children

Main Findings Based on tracking in five communities across the United States, we found that the estimated number of children with ASD varied by community, from 8.5 per 1,000 4-year-olds in an area of Missouri to 19.7 per 1,000 4-year-olds in an area of New Jersey. Fewer four-year old children were identified with ASD than eight-year-old in the five communities where CDC tracked ASD. This might be because, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age two years, previous CDC data show that many children with ASD are not diagnosed until after age four years. CDC plans to follow-up with these four-year-old children when they are eight years old to understand more about changes in the number and characteristics of children with ASD as they grow. Four-year-old children identified with ASD were more likely to have intellectual disability than eight-year-old children in the same communities identified with ASD. Among four-year-old children, girls and white children were more likely to receive their first comprehensive, developmental evaluation2 by age three years compared with boys and black children. Researchers looked at the earliest age at which children with ASD had a comprehensive, developmental evaluation.2 They compared the earliest age of evaluation for the four-year-old children (born in 2006) who were diagnosed with ASD by age four with the earliest age of evaluation for the 8-year-old children (born in 2002) who were also diagnosed with ASD by age four. About half of the four-year-old children had an evaluation by the time they were about two years and three months old while about half of the eight-year-old children had an evaluation by the time they were about two years and eight months old. This suggests that children born in 2006 received evaluations at younger ages than children born in 2002. The difference of five months is important because the earlier a child is evaluated, the earlier that child can receive a diagnosis of ASD and be connected to services.

 Read more here. 

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Sex differences in brain may underlie neurodevelopmental disorders morecommon in males

Many early-onset neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, are more common in males than females. The origin of this gender bias is not understood, partially due to a major gap in research on sex differences regarding how the brain typically develops. According to a new study presented today at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, female infants have larger volumes of gray matter around the temporal-parietal junction of the brain than males at the time of birth. The temporal-parietal junction, or TP, which is found under the temporal bones near the ears, integrates the processing of social information as expressed in others' faces and voices, a function that is impaired in those with autism spectrum disorders. Sex differences in this area of the brain may be a clue as to why males are at higher risk for certain forms of autism spectrum disorders

 Read more here. 


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OUTGROWING AUTISM?

The headlines read "New study suggests autism can be outgrown", or "outgrowing autism: a doctor’s surprise and wonder." The stories are based on studies reporting that 7-9% of children with a documented early autistic syndrome disorder (ASD) have no symptoms of the disorder on follow-up later in childhood or adolescence. That is good news. The question is how to account for it.
Is it possible to simply "outgrow" autism? Was the initial diagnosis wrong? Did some interventions work? Or might there be other explanations for this welcome news?

Read more here:

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Taking Antidepressants While Pregnant May Raise Autism Risks, But It'sComplicated

So of course, dozens of studies have attempted to parse whether antidepressants are safe during pregnancy. Their results are inconclusive, which is probably not reassuring to expectant mothers. Into this situation comes a new study from Canada that finds expectant mothers who take antidepressants are more likely to give birth to children who end up diagnosis with spectrum disorder. That may sound worrisome, but the effect here is quite small. "It shouldn’t be alarming people," says Alan Brown, a psychiatrist at Columbia who is not involved with the study. The relative risk for autism went up 87 percent when women took antidepressants during their second or third trimester. But for context, the rate of autism is around 1 percent, so it could go up to 1.87 percent with antidepressants. Add another wrinkle: Untreated depression is bad for baby, too. "Depression is a serious disease," says Bryan King, a psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, who wrote an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics accompanying the study. "Untreated depression is associated with lack of nutrition or lack of sleep or fatigue and stress, which we know can cause problems in terms of fetal development." The fact that several previous studies on autism and antidepressant use during pregnancy have come up mixed, and the small effect size in this most recent one, says King, should reassure mothers with severe depression who choose to continue their regimen.

 Read more here. 

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Puberty and Adolescence

Puberty can be a time of mixed feelings for parents and pre-teens. It may be a time of pride and celebration, as well as a time of worry and confusion. It is hard for pre-teens to understand the many changes that come along with puberty. Also, parents may feel unsure of how to explain these changes to their child.
All parents eventually face the challenge of teaching their children about the natural changes of puberty. However, parents of pre-teens with ASD may need the help of additional strategies to ease the transition. Our aim in developing this tool is to provide guidance on the subject of puberty that can be directly applied to pre-teens with ASD. In doing so, we hope to increase families' understanding of puberty and their ability to adapt to these changes with confidence.
Topics include:
  • Body changes
  • Self-care and hygiene
  • Public vs. private rules
  • Staying safe: Strangers, secrets and touch
  • Elopement
  • Safety planning for increased aggression
  • Internet safety
Download ATN/AIR-P Puberty and Adolescence Resource: A Guide for Parents of Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder here.


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