Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Wide awake: Why children with autism struggle with sleep

Half of children who have autism have trouble falling or staying asleep, which may make their symptoms worse. Scientists are just beginning to explore what goes wrong in the midnight hour.

Read more here at Spectrum. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hiding in plain sight: Is popular image of autism as a male-dominated condition hurting girls?

The problem is that research has emerged that questions whether these sex differences are all genetically based. Could it be that some of the differences reflect how the condition expresses itself in males and females? Could it be that we may be misdiagnosing some cases of autistic girls who are hiding, painfully in some cases, in plain sight?

One of the leading theories is that girls are protected from genetic disorders because of their extra X chromosome. The best evidence for this came in a 2014 study published in American Journal of Human Genetics in which researchers reported that girls with neurodevelopmental disorders actually have more genetic abnormalities—mutations and deletions of genetic material–than similar boys, but the conditions do not show up as readily. What this data seem to suggest is that the genetic threshold for ASD may be lower for boys than girls. 

Take, for example, a 2012 study in the UK of 15,000 twins which compared symptoms to clinical diagnosis. The researchers found that for a girl to receive an actual autism diagnosis they needed to exhibit more behavioral problems, or significant intellectual disability or both to be diagnosed. More mild cases in girls were being ignored or given other labels (e.g. ADHD).
Another large study from 2013 in the Netherlands found that girls with milder symptoms (i.e. Asperger’s syndrome) were diagnosed, on average, two years later than boys with similar severity.

Archived Webinar - Teens and Screens: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In this webinar, Cheryl Cohen, MS, director of online and community programs at the Interactive Autism Network, will discuss:
  • The latest research, including her own, on how teens with ASD use technology in their day-to-day lives
  • What barriers teens with autism encounter using the Web
  • Parents’ concerns about online safety and screen time
  • Technology careers for individuals with autism

Sensory Therapies For Autism: How Much Sense Do They Make?

If you've spent money and time for your autistic child to receive therapies targeting "sensory integration" or other sensory-related methods and wondered if they do anything, here is your answer: No. Or probably not. Or who knows?
In other words, the evidence base for these therapies is fragile or nonexistent, at least according to a systematic review just published in Pediatrics, covering the findings of 24 studies. The review, by Vanderbilt researcher Amy S. Wietlauf and colleagues, focused on massage, sensory integration approaches, environmental enrichment, and auditory enrichment, tossing in the available few studies of music therapy and weighted blankets for good measure. That list likely sounds familiar to parents of autistic children.
According to the authors, the available evidence for the effectiveness of any of these interventions is limited, and even for those that seem to have an effect, how long the effect lasts is simply unknown. The longest term they could drum up was 6 months.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Virtual reality yields clues to social difficulties in autism

Take the Sally-Anne task, which is widely used in studies of autism to test ‘theory of mind,’ the ability to understand other people’s beliefs, intentions and emotions. The participant watches an interaction between two dolls and is asked to predict the behavior of one of the dolls based on an understanding of what the doll ‘believes.’
When children with autism answer incorrectly, the assumption is that they have failed to read the doll’s mental state and that similar failures explain their difficulties interacting with other people. However, many adults with autism pass this test, and even others that are more challenging, yet still experience severe social difficulties.
These observations clearly demonstrate that traditional tests of social cognition fail to capture key aspects of social interactions, particularly in adults, that are essential to understanding autism.
We need tests that allow us to precisely measure behavior in complex, reciprocal social interactions. To achieve this goal, we and others are investigating the use of virtual-reality technology as a tool for research and, potentially, therapy.

Eye contact is aversive for some adults with autism

One clue that a child may have autism is that she does not make eye contact with others. This feature appears in the first six months of life, leading some researchers to consider differences in gaze pattern a potential early marker for autism.
One theory holds that people with autism perceive eye contact during social interactions as unimportant: In other words, they are indifferent to it. Alternatively, they may avoid eye contact because it is uncomfortable or aversive.
Many autism therapies encourage children and adults to make eye contact. To determine whether this is the right approach, it is important to understand whether clinicians are teaching people with autism to pay attention to something that doesn’t interest them or forcing them to do something that makes them uncomfortable.

Archived Webinar - Handheld Technology Supports and Transition to Employment

Finding a job is hard enough, but what happens once you have one? Young adults with disabilities often have difficulty with learning job responsibilities and expectations. However, that ubiquitous smartphone can be used to support work skills! Join us to learn how handheld technology can help when navigating the transition to employment.

Watch the video here. 

Kids Like You And Me: Busting Myths About Autism

"The myth is that autistic kids sometimes don't feel emotion, and that is just not true at all. I can say from personal experience that autistic kids have emotions," says Logan, who joins Annie to clear up some misconceptions you might have about autism.
Learn about autism from Logan and his mom Lisa on this episode of "Kids Like You And Me."

Treating children with electroconvulsive therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy - in which a small electric current is passed through the brain causing a seizure - is now used much less often than it was in the middle of the last century. But controversially it is now being used in the US and some other countries as a treatment for children who exhibit severe, self-injuring behaviour.

Read more here. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Parent reports of autism features vary by country

Parents in the United States tend to rate their children’s autism features as more severe than do parents in four other countries, according to a new survey1. The work is one of the first attempts to zero in on how parents from different cultures perceive the condition.

The test also revealed subtle differences in what parents from different countries say about their children’s repetitive behaviors and restricted interests.

Parents in Poland were most likely to report that their children have restricted interests, and U.S. parents were most apt to identify their children’s repetitive movements. Parents in Greece were most liable to say their children have unusual routines and rituals.

Read more here at Spectrum.

Advanced Treatment Concepts and Anxiety and ASD: The Psychological Equivalent of Fever

August 10th, Billings

Advanced Treatment Concepts: The purpose of this presentation is to convey the generic power of behavior analysis by describing an array of behavior analytic treatment concepts, all of which are readily applicable to the behavior problems of persons on the spectrum and, indeed, to the behavior problems of all persons.

Anxiety and ASD: The Psychological Equivalent of Fever
This talk will discuss anxiety in straightforward terms; illuminate the extent to which it affects virtually everyone to a certain degree and the extent to which it affects persons with ASD even more. It will also discuss treatment both in terms of experimental study and clinical application. Finally, because the research on treatment of anxiety in persons with ASD is so limited, the talk will extrapolate from the abundant literature on treatment of anxiety in typically developing persons.

Read more and register here.

Archived Webinar - Nutrition Interventions to Improve Sleep in Your Household

Sleep - that elusive achievement. Ask any parent what it is they would give anything for more of and chances are one of the top three answers would be sleep! 
If you need more of it in your household, join us for a discussion on nutrition interventions and strategies to help the increase the Zzzzz's in your home. Presented by Kelly Barnhill, MBA, CN, CCN, Director of Clinical Services, The Johnson Center for Child Health & Development

Watch the video here. 

Helping Children Become Active Learners Using the DIR/Floortime Model


June 26th, 2017

Children diagnosed with Autism and related disorders have challenges that impact self-regulation, communication, social-emotional development, learning and the development of functional skills.  This presentation will introduce key principles of the DIR/Floortime model that can help children become active learners though a better understanding of how biologically based individual differences in communication, motor planning, and sensory processing, impact the learning process. 
Floortime offers interactive techniques that can be used to help children learn to attend and self regulate, to become engaged and reciprocal in interactions with others, and to begin to understand social problem solving.  These early functional emotional developmental capacities are necessary to engage in active, adaptive learning. 
This workshop will demonstrate intervention principles and technique that can help teachers, para-professionals, therapists, and parents prepare the child for learning and address challenges such as avoidance, shut downs, and meltdowns. Participants will learn how to interpret the child’s behavioral cues and to use developmentally targeted interaction techniques to address the child’s functional challenges.

Course #8789

6 OPI Renewal Units will be available

Understanding Research: An Autism Researcher Answers Your Questions

Consumers and patients are bombarded with information about medical research and autism treatments almost daily. Often these articles and social media posts include terms that can mean many different things. J. Kiely Law, research director and co-founder of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN), answers some common questions about what research really is – and isn't. Dr. Law is a physician, a researcher, and the mother of a young adult with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Interactive Autism Network: The terms "evidence-based medicine and treatment" or "science-based medicine" are used a lot. What do they mean?
Dr. Law: It means that an idea or treatment has been scientifically tested and, based on those test results, the idea is valid or, in the case of a treatment, the treatment works. The more times the test is repeated with the same result, the more evidence there is that the idea or treatment is valid. For example, cars go through a series of tests to make sure they are safe, and medical science does the same thing. Science uses a specific way of testing an idea, called a hypothesis. This way of testing is called the scientific method, and its purpose is to remove anything from the test that could bias or invalidate the results.

IAN: Sometimes providers or businesses publish patient testimonials about how a therapy or product works to treat autism. Is that similar to research?

Read more here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What makes a gene an autism candidate? Not everyone agrees

Novelty is a slippery concept in genetics: Literally, it simply means that a gene’s connection to a certain condition has never previously been noted. But many researchers say that being first to implicate a gene isn’t enough. Genes also must pass a stringent statistical bar to become candidates, or they remain merely curiosities.
In autism, this issue has come to the fore in the past few months.

Researchers have ditched the autism-vaccine theory. Here’s what they think actually causes it.

Genes and the microbiome are some of the most promising leads.

The strongest evidence of a cause: genetics

Autism spectrum disorder is a collection of close to 1,000 different conditions, with symptoms ranging from delayed speech development to asocial behavior and repetitive movements. 
But “of all the causes of autism, the thing we know with the greatest certainty is that it’s a very genetic disorder,” said UCSF geneticist and autism researcher Stephan Sanders. “If you look at a child with autism, then look at their siblings, you’ll find the rate of autism is 10 times higher in those siblings than in the general population. This has been looked at in populations of millions.”

Exposure to infections and certain medicines during pregnancy may be linked to autism 

Not everyone with those genetic mutations has autism — and that’s because researchers believe it’s not mutations alone that cause the disorder.
In many cases, you need that underlying genetic predisposition or mutation to collide with a range of potential environmental triggers. And finding those environmental risk factors is where things get murky pretty quickly. 
Researchers have proposed dozens of potential environmental contributors to autism — including air pollution, pesticides, antidepressants, and viruses. And few of them have very robust science behind them, in large part because it’s much trickier to confirm the environmental causes of a disease.

Archived Webinars from the National Autism Association

WebiNAAr Recordings
NAA’s WebiNAArs are recorded and archived on our website.
For free access to all recorded webiNAArs, please register here.
Recorded WebiNAArs:
Vision Therapy’s Role in Attention, Stimming, Toe-Walking and other Visual-Motor AbilitiesPresented by:  Larah Alami, OD FAAO & Barbara Kotsamanidis-Burg
Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and Neuro-Modulation: The Potential of Cannabinoids in Treating AutismPresented by: Dr. Ronald Aung-Din
Wandering: How Affordable Smart-Home Technology Can Help Keep Our Kids SafePresented by: Holly Mero-Bench & Kevin Meacham of Vivint Gives Back
The Many and Varied Uses of SymbolsPresented by:  Anne Johnson-Oliss, M. Ed
Solutions to Help Children Self-Regulate: The Science Behind Deep Pressure Therapy
Presented by:  Lisa Fraser, CEO of Snug Vest
Bridging The Gap: A Guide for Autism Families to Establish Relationships with their Police Department
Presented by: Jerry Turning, Police Captain and Autism Dad
At Home with Autism:  Your Blueprint to a More Peaceful Home
Presented by:  Janeen Herskovitz
Haircuts, and Doctors, and Dentists, OH MY!
Presented by:  Colleen Spano, Founder & President of Sunshine Behavior Consulting
Ready, Set, Potty!Presented by:  Brenda Batts, Ph.D., Director of Focus on the Future Training Center
I Want to be Treated Like a Girlfriend Again . . and Other Thoughts of Long Ago
Presented by:  Mary Romaniec, Author, Advocate, Mom
Learn to Thrive, Not Just Survive:  Stress Reduction for Special Parents
Presented by:  Siobhán Wilcox, Stress Management Consultant, Author
A Street-Wise Approach to the IEP Process:  You are your child’s CEO
Presented by:  Mary Romaniec, Author, Advocate, Mom
Preventing Restraint and Seclusion in Schools – What Can Parents and Advocates Do?
Presented by: Barb Trader
Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum – the Basics
Presented by: Chantal Sicile-Kira
The Role of Enzymes in Autism, Gut Health and Food IntolerancesPresented by: Dr. Devin Houston
Autism & Wandering for First RespondersPresented by:  Lori McIlwain
Sexual Education for Kids on the Autism Spectrum
Presented by:  Brodie Simmons
Natural nutritional immunotherapy: An integrated protocol for the treatment of autism spectrum disordersPresented by: Marco Ruggiero, M.D., Ph.D
Income Tax Planning for Families with Children with Special NeedsPresented by: Michael Beloff, CFP®
Oxalates: An Important Etiological Factor in the Diagnosis and Treatment of AutismPresented by: William Shaw, Ph.D.
How Hyperbaric Therapies Can Help Improve Inflammatory and Autistic ConditionsPresented by: David Dornfeld, DO
Seizures in Autism Spectrum DisorderPresented by: Richard E. Frye, M.D., Ph.D
PANDAS/PANS in AutismPresented by: Scott Smith, P.A.
Using Diet & Nutrition to Help Your Child
Presented by: Julie Matthews, Certified Nutrition Consultant
Autism-Related Wandering: Keeping Our Kids Safe
Presented by: Wendy Fournier, NAA President

Is Your Child Safe on the School Bus?

So what can we do to help ensure the safety of our kids?
  • Ask your child’s school to provide autism training to all bus drivers, monitors and aides.
  • If there are no cameras installed, talk to your school district: Abuse can still happen, but with cameras, it can be proven and addressed. Ask if there is a camera installed on your child’s bus, ask how long the recordings are archived and how you can request to review video if you have reason to suspect a problem.  Confirm that personnel background checks are done and ask if bus drivers and monitors receive specialized training prior to working with children with disabilities.
  • Introduce yourself to your child’s bus staff, relay any concerns they should be aware of regarding your child’s individual needs.  For example, “Please use an eyes on, hands off approach,” or “My child needs to be supervised, but does not like to be touched.”

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Short sleep is unhappy bedfellow for autism features

The fewer hours of sleep children with autism get, the more severe their features, according to a study of more than 2,700 children with the condition1.
Insufficient sleep appears to take the biggest toll on a child’s ability to make friends: Every four-minute decrease in sleep duration is associated with a one-point increase in a score that reflects a child’s difficulty in forming peer relationships.
The findings, published 16 March in Autism Research, add to mounting evidence that sleep problems can exacerbate core features of autism.
“When kids don’t sleep well, it often affects their behavior during the day, contributing to increased meltdowns and difficulty going with the flow,” says lead researcher Beth Malow, director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Sleep Division in Nashville, Tennessee.

Archived Webinar - Mobile Technologies for Everyday Cognitive Support

Mobile phones and tablets are rapidly evolving consumer technologies that offer rich opportunities for supporting everyday tasks and vocations. Drawing on a decade of research into the use of these tools as assistive technology for cognition, this presentation will include discussion of: (1) the strengths and weaknesses of consumer handhelds as cognitive-behavioral aids, (2) onboard apps for task support, (3) add-on apps for task management, behavioral support, way-finding, and healthy living, and (4) strategies for leveraging these tools for people with cognitive-behavioral challenges to support functional independence in everyday life.

Go here to find the webinar. (Account set-up required.)

Archived Webinar - Speech Dude Tells More: Practical Technology for Moderate to Severe Students

In this presentation, participants will be introduced to a wide variety of innovative technology tools that can be easily integrated into teaching and learning in for students with moderate to severe disabilities. Google extensions and other cutting-edge tools will be discussed, along with simple implementation strategies to increase access to content and improve student engagement and productivity, with special emphasis on high school aged and transitional students.

View the archived webinar here.

Archived Webinar - Finding and Funding Assistive Technology for Young Children

Assistive technology (AT) can be a powerful tool for young children with disabilities. This workshop discusses a variety of ways to acquire, fund, and reuse AT.

View the webinar here. 

Archived Webinar - From Portable to Wearable Supports for Daily Living

Devices from Apple, Google, Pebble and others offer a great deal of customization through a number of built-in accessibility features as well as apps that can be installed to support a number of individual needs. For this session we will focus on the use of wearables as a support for executive functioning, our ability to plan and executive key tasks related to daily living. We will explore a number of built-in features and apps for setting up and managing calendars, to do lists, reminders and other tools that can help all of us stay on track as we seek to complete important personal goals. In addition to these aids for daily living available on a number of wearables ranging from fitness devices to smart watches, we will explore the availability of accessibility features such as screen reader support, magnification and other display adjustments for those who need them to interact with their devices.

Watch the webinar here.

Sex and other foreign words

Society teaches people with autism from a young age that they are incapable of love, says Jessica Penwell Barnett, assistant professor of sexuality studies in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Barnett leads sexual education sessions for college students with autism. The stereotype of children with autism as cold, emotionless robots is painful, pervasive and entirely misleading, she says. “Some are very aware of this social representation — it’s like a cloud that hovers over all of their thinking about whether they can be in a relationship or whether another person is going to want to be with them.”
In fact, many people with autism both desire and sustain lasting relationships. “There’s no incompatibility with being on the spectrum and being in a romantic relationship, being in love, being part of a committed partnership,” Barnett says. Like Shore, an estimated 47 percent of adults with the condition share their home — and their life — with a romantic partner.
That doesn’t necessarily mean relationships are easy for people on the spectrum. Some features of autism, such as inflexibility, anxiety, sensory overload, difficulty communicating one’s own — and sensing others’ — personal needs and limits, would seem to lend themselves to relationship disasters. But that thinking is based almost entirely on conjecture. Scientists have been slow to study how and why people with autism form satisfying relationships. 

Parents’ ages influence autism traits in general population

Studies have suggested that advanced age in men is associated with an increased risk of autism or schizophrenia in their children. There is also evidence that children born to young women (below age 20 or 25, depending on the study) are at heightened risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and substance use3.
The two new studies link having young or old parents to a range of features in the general population. “When you do a population-type study of the community and don’t select people from a specific clinic, you’re able to generalize more to the population,” says Raquel Gur, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.
Gur and her colleagues found an increased risk of autism among children of men older than 32. They also found that children of parents younger than about 30 are more likely to show features of ADHD or schizophrenia than their peers.
The other study, co-led by Avraham Reichenberg’s team in New York City, shows that children born to men older than 51 or younger than 24 lag behind their peers in acquiring social skills. Both studies were published in the May issue of the Journal of American Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Parent perceptions may contribute to placebo problem in autism

Parents of children with autism report substantial improvement in their children’s behaviors when they participate in a study, even when the children are not receiving a treatment, a new study suggests1. By contrast, clinician ratings of the children’s autism features do not vary.

“We don’t know if the kids changed a little or if the parents just thought they changed,” says lead investigator Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
In either case, the findings suggest that just participating in research can influence parent responses. These gradual shifts in parents’ perception of their children’s difficulties may contribute to the large placebo effect seen in autism trials.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Autism for Administrators - Billings

August 2nd

Morning Objectives: Participants will (a) define the major characteristics of autism and identify symptoms commonly associated with the disorder and state whether they are part of the official definition or not, (b) identify two ‘gold standards’ for diagnosing autism and state the difference between diagnosis and verification, and (c) identify at least two accommodations and two alternate assessments for students who have autism.

Afternoon Objectives: Participants will (a) identify and describe several classroom and academic interventions for students with ASD, (b) describe social and behavioral approaches to increasing these skills in students with ASD, (c) identify the need for crisis planning and supports including FBA and Function-based interventions, (d) list at least four considerations for improving policies at their own school or district, and (e) inform others of current research which applies to students with ASD in their school or district.

About the Presenter: Cheryl Young-Pelton is an Associate Professor of Special Education for the Department of Educational Theory and Practice. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in special education, and developed the Behavior Analyst Certification Board approved course sequence and intensive practicum in applied behavior analysis at MSUB.

See more information and register here.