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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Eye tracking reveals early communication problem in autistic children

At 10 months of age, infants later diagnosed with autism rarely draw others’ attention to an object or event, a new study suggests1.
The results hint that early treatments that focus on joint attention — a behavior in which two people focus on the same thing — could ease communication problems in autistic children.
The study is the first to use eye tracking to assess how babies initiate joint attention. It fits with other research over the past few years showing that joint-attention measures may help identify autism before other autism traits emerge, and with long-standing work showing that initiation of joint attention is particularly relevant to autism.

Autism Mostly Caused By Genetics, Study Finds

In what’s being called the largest study of its kind, researchers say that the likelihood of developing autism is overwhelmingly rooted in a person’s genetic makeup.
Nearly 81 percent of autism risk is hereditary, according to findings published this week in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Heritability accounted for a varying level of risk across the countries studied, with a high of 87 percent in Israel compared to 51 percent in Finland.
Overall, however, the study found that the vast majority of autism risk was associated with genetics. Environmental factors “contributed minimally” and maternal effects such as the mother’s weight played a “nonexistent or minimal” role.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Unusual eating behaviors may be a new diagnostic indicator for autism

 Atypical eating behaviors may be a sign a child should be screened for autism, according to a new study from Penn State College of Medicine.
Research by Susan Mayes, professor of psychiatry, found that atypical eating behaviors were present in 70% of children with autism, which is 15 times more common than in neurotypical children. 
Atypical eating behaviors may include severely limited food preferences, hypersensitivity to food textures or temperatures, and pocketing food without swallowing.
According to Mayes, these behaviors are present in many 1-year-olds with autism and could signal to doctors and parents that a child may have autism.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

ASD Intervention: How Do We Measure Effectiveness?

Question 1: “What behaviors should change as a result of the intervention?”
Virtually any ASD intervention that is truly effective will result in observable change in behavior. For example, a speech intervention may very well result in increased spoken language (e.g., novel words, greater rate of utterances). An academic intervention should result in specific new academic skills (e.g., independent proficiency with particular math operations). An exercise purported to decrease the occurrence of challenging behavior will, if effective, result in a lower rate of specific challenging behaviors (e.g., tantrums, self-injury). 
As “consumers” of ASD interventions, you and your family member have every right to expect that the marketer will identify specific, objective, and measurable changes in behaviors that indicate treatment efficacy. Scientists refer to such definitions as “operational definitions” – these are definitions that are written using observable and measurable terms. If the marketer insists on using ill-defined, “fuzzy” descriptions of treatment benefit (e.g., “increased sense of well-being”, “greater focus and intentionality”, an increased “inner balance” or “regulation”), then “Buyer Beware!” These kinds of outcome goals will leave you guessing about treatment effect. Insist that operational definitions of target behaviors be agreed upon prior to starting the intervention.

Autism Non-Verbal Medical Alert Seat Belt Cover




















$26 on Amazon. 

Autism Behind the Wheel: Teaching Teens and Young Adults with ASD to Drive

CONTENTS

Monday, July 8, 2019

Great Ways to Improve Life and Social Skills In the Kitchen

Kids with autism are more likely than their peers to have food aversions, which leads to a poor quality diet. Inviting children into the kitchen to experience various textures and temperatures is often the first step to eventually tasting something new. Research shows that children are more likely to eat a meal when they are involved in its preparation and that children who are exposed to food outside of meal times tend to have diverse diets.
The benefits of cooking extend beyond diet. Cooking is a valuable life skill that fosters confidence and independence. Being in the kitchen with others can improve communication and social skills. Following a recipe teaches reading, listening, math, and sequencing. Learning to prepare food can promote sensory integration and focus. Finally, many parents find that cooking with their child is a gratifying opportunity for connection.

Math Teaching Tip: Build a Bridge from Concrete to Abstract with the "Concrete–Representational–Abstract" Approach

When working on math skills, it can be helpful to take more abstract concepts and demonstrate them with concrete objects and pictures. This allows students to obtain an understanding of the core concepts behind the math problems they're learning (Witzel & Little, 2016) and can help close gaps in mathematics knowledge (Allsopp et al., 2008).

One way to achieve this is to teach using an instructional method called the "Concrete-Representational-Abstract" (CRA) approach.

Episode 9: Gender and Autism

As our understanding of autism grows, researchers are finding that the way we diagnose autism may be biased.
They're also finding, through early research and small studies, that gender fluidity may be more prevalent in people with autism than the general population.
In this episode, we'll dive into both of these topics through the experiences of three autistic advocates.

Subscribe at the below platforms to get new episodes as they are released:

From Autism Speaks. 

FREE Being a Good Communication Partner to an AAC User




Mealtime and Children on the Autism Spectrum: Beyond Picky, Fussy, and Fads

Many parents of children on the autism spectrum struggle with their child’s severe eating problems with little or no professional help. In part, this is simply due to the limited number of specialists dealing with eating and feeding disorders. Furthermore, within this limited number of specialists few have much understanding and experience with children who have autism spectrum disorders.

Medical, behavioral, and environmental factors, including sensory difficulties, must be considered when feeding and eating problems occur. Within the scope of this article, medical and behavioral factors will be addressed briefly. Medical issues and frequently, behavioral issues, need to be assessed and addressed by working with the appropriate professionals. The environmental and sensory related issues will be discussed and outlined in more depth. It is the environmental and sensory related problems that families can often adjust on their own once they better understand their child’s needs.

Read more here at the Indiana Resource Center for Autism. 

Webinar on Repetitive Behaviors in Autism

July 17, 2019

Register here. at Spectrum.

Supplements, worms and stool: How families are trying to game the gut to treat autism traits

Every two weeks, Alex Chinitz swallows the strangest of brews: fruit juice with 20 to 30 larvae of Hymenolepis diminuta mixed in. That fancy Latin word is the name of a helminth — a tapeworm, to be precise — that can grow to 30 centimeters.

Research on the microbiome — the collection of microbes that live in and on the body — is still in its infancy, says Mauro Costa-Mattioli, professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Just the idea that microbes could influence the brain was “unthinkable a few years ago,” he says. The pace of research has accelerated over the past few years, but microbe-based medicines are not yet in sight.
Still, many parents and clinicians are not waiting. A growing number are experimenting with specialized diets, probiotics, stool transplants and parasites, trying to game the gut to address core autism traits. About 19 percent of physicians surveyed in 2009 said they recommend probiotics to the autistic people they treat. An unpublished survey of 100 people found 2 adults trying stool transplants at home for autism.
These unregulated therapies can be costly and unpredictable — and they pose significant, even life-threatening, risks. Home-grown stool transplants and parasites, for example, can introduce deadly infections. This month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert about fecal transplantsafter two recipients contracted an antibiotic-resistant infection and one of them died.

Pablo - A New Show on Netflix

PABLO, a young boy with autism uses his creativity to invent a world where he can better process the complex emotions he feels in various social situations. Each episode opens with five-year-old Pablo (William Burns and Oliver Burns, voiced by Jake Williamson) facing a new and potentially frightening event, such as a friend's birthday party or a haircut. As he draws with his magic crayons, he's transported to a magical world where his animal friends -- Wren (voiced by Sumita Majumdar), Tang (Michael White), Mouse (Rachael Dickson), Noasaurus (Tony Finnegan), Llama (Rosie King), and Draff (Scott Mulligan) -- help him understand what he's feeling and gain the confidence he needs to face the unknown.

The series uses a mix of live-action and animated sequences to differentiate between Pablo's real-life experiences and those that take place in a world of his imagination, where his animal friends help him process his complex emotions and find the courage to face the unknown. Featuring a core cast of actors with autism and using real-life experiences of kids and adults on the autism spectrum as its inspiration, this series is an excellent tool for helping kids on the spectrum identify their own emotions. It also offers a unique glimpse into the effects of autism for viewers without firsthand experience.

Review from Common Sense Media. 




Large study supports discarding the term ‘high-functioning autism’

Autistic people described as ‘high functioning’ because they do not have intellectual disability often still struggle with daily living skills, according to a study of more than 2,000 people on the spectrum1. The data should put the term ‘high functioning’ out of commission for good, the researchers argue.
The study, the largest of its type, shows that individuals deemed high functioning often have poor ‘adaptive behavior’ — the ability to perform basic tasks such as brushing teeth, tying shoelaces or taking the bus.
Researchers coined the term ‘high functioning’ in two papers published in the late 1980s2,3. It has since become shorthand to describe people with autism who have strong language skills and do not have intellectual disability (an IQ below 70).
For years, autistic people have objected to the label, as well as its counterpart, ‘low functioning,’ saying these terms do not reflect how much support they actually need.

Age of Majority Tool Kit


NAA's Age of Majority guide is a free, downloadable toolkit for caregivers in need of information and resources to prepare and support their child through the transition from adolesence to adulthood. 
This item is provided by NAA at no charge. When you complete the order process, you will receive a link to download the booklet in PDF format. The link will expire in 72 hours.

Stimming, therapeutic for autistic people, deserves acceptance

Rhythmic, repetitive behaviors are a hallmark of autism. Hand-flapping, spinning in circles, body rocking, vocalizations such as grunting and muttering, and other habits can be disquieting to people unfamiliar with them. Scientists and clinicians have long puzzled over what these behaviors mean — and how to respond to them.

But growing evidence suggests that repetitive behaviors have been misunderstood — and that they may in fact be incredibly useful. My colleagues and I have found that the behaviors give autistic people a sense of control, helping them cope with overwhelming external stimuli, and a way to calm and communicate their moods. On the other hand, many autistic people say that engaging in repetitive behaviors makes them feel like social outcasts.

Read more here at Spectrum.