Autism 2016: Promising Explanations

Scientists continue to dedicate themselves to unraveling and discovering the causes behind autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on a daily basis. 2016 proved to be a year of results, giving us hope that with the right amount of support and resources we can begin to have a better understanding of what causes the diagnosis.

ASD, is now estimated to affect one in every 68 children. Continuing the advancement of treatments and diagnosis is crucial to our community and this year has pointed us in the right direction.

As family and friends wind down the year, the research is still ongoing. Fortunately there are some promising explanations we’ve settled on. Let’s take a look.

What we do know is that many of these factors happen very early on in life. Some researchers have found many, if not most, autism cases can be traced to someone having common genetic variations or rare spontaneous mutations. Boys also appear to be at higher risk, but it’s possible that girls are simply being under diagnosed.

Other scientists, while not disputing the role of genetics, have found evidence that a developing fetus’ environment (i.e. the womb and mom) can influence autism risk. These include the mother’s exposure to smoking or air pollution, her gaining excess weight, and whether she’s an older or teenage mom or there’s a large age gap between parents. Babies prematurely delivered also appear to have an increased risk of autism and other neurological conditions.

Again, there’s no one single cause of autism, just things that make someone more likely to develop it. But there are definitely factors we know probably don’t contribute to autism risk.

These include vaccines, whether a child was delivered through cesarean section, and most recently induced labor.

Supporting research centers and organizations such as I Care 4 Autism offers families hope as they have top experts and scientists dedicating themselves to finding the answers that parents are looking for. Until then we provide the support.

Link to Research:
http://www.medicaldaily.com/autism-2016-what-we-learned-about-asd-year-potential-causes-diagnosis-405771

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Helping Your Autistic Child Cope With Holiday Stress

Photo via Pixabay by Gilmanshin

Photo via Pixabay by Gilmanshin

Holidays are a whirlwind of fun and excitement. Family gatherings, events, and trips make the holidays special, but can also be a source of stress for children with autism. Schedule changes, noisy decorations, and crowded events or family gatherings can overwhelm an autistic child. Certain precautions in anticipation of these situations can reduce stress and sensory overload during the holiday season.

Before the Holidays Arrive

As the holidays approach, remember to focus on sleep and nutrition first. Try to keep your child’s sleep schedule as close to normal throughout the holiday break to keep them well rested and maintain routine. Avoid major changes in diet despite the variety of sweets available everywhere you will go.

Talk to your child about the holidays and the changes in routine that might occur. Explaining what the family will be doing and when can decrease anxiety and help everyone focus on coping strategies when needed.

If your child is in school, prepare for the break by introducing appropriately scheduled activities to keep them focused. Adding some structure to their off days can set expectations during their holiday break.

Strategies to Use During the Holidays

Decorating the house can be a challenge with autistic children. Instead of bringing all the decorations out at once, plan for a more gradual integration into your home. Let your child check them out and put them in place when possible. Decorations involving flashing lights or music may bother some children. Allow them to interact with them at a store or another place first to give them an opportunity to adapt.

Shopping gets hectic this time of year. Give your child enough time to gradually adapt to crowds and other sources of stress. Be prepared for coping issues that might arise and be patient with your child.

Prepare your child beforehand if you put gifts under a tree. Piles of gifts in your home could be confusing for a child with autism. Talk to your child about how and when it is acceptable to open gifts, and advise them to wait for an adult before opening the gifts. Try to wait longer before putting out all the gifts to minimize unnecessary temptation.

If you plan on travelling somewhere by airplane, provide the airline with advance information. Inform them that you are traveling with an autistic child, and email any information on challenges or needs your child might have while traveling. This is especially important if a service animal is involved.

It is very easy to get caught up in a busy schedule during the holidays, but you may want to decline some invitations to keep the routine from getting too crazy for your child to handle. Read your child’s cues and respect their needs in different situations. Bring comforting toys and allow them to take a break whenever needed.

Family events also have a potential to become too overwhelming for autistic children. Prepare siblings, cousins, or other children to share gifts or be understanding. When needed, have a quiet space available for your child to retreat to in order for them to relax and play with their own toys.

Get your whole family involved to discuss how to handle and minimize disruptions and encourage positive behavior. Use behavior support strategies, such as social stories, to help your child cope with changes in routine. A visual schedule can be helpful to illustrate when there will be events and gifts, and to help prepare for more busy days.

Changing your expectations for the holiday season can improve the outcome. Instead of having the same expectations as other families, enjoy the moments that make your child and family happy. The holiday season can be full of wonder for your autistic child, which will make it a memorable one for you, too.

By Jennifer Scott

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Exercise for the Quality of Life and Joy

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According to the fall research provided by New York Medical College, physical exercises improve social skills in children with autism. The 4-month exercise program showed that regular exercising can significantly improve social responsiveness and physical endurance.

It is well-known that children with autism have a high risk of developing obesity and diabetes, metabolic syndrome, decreased peer interaction, impairments in balance, etc. Regular exercising helps children with autism improve their physical health and develop communication skills.
However, the research showed positive results, there is still a lot of missing data as it is “a major challenge for the researchers to study the populations of children with autism in real-world settings like schools”, Dr. Susan Ronan said. She is a lead researcher, DPT, PCS, assistant professor of clinical physical therapy. Dr. Ronan noted that her researchers team was “thrilled to have conducted one of the largest studies of its kind, particularly since many of the students who participated are from historically underrepresented communities.”

Students from 3 schools have been enrolled into this 4-month school based running and walking program. As controls they also served students without autism from 2 schools. The researchers wanted to examine the impact of regular exercising on endurance, socialization, communication and quality of life. The 20-minute classes were carried out by physical educators during the fall term twice a week.

The measurement parameters were: Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GAR)–3, the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-2), and the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, heart rate, 6-minute walking (6MW) test, and the Energy Expenditure Index. In total, 94 students took part in this research, age range 8-9 y.o.

The significant improvements were noticed in the 6MW distance between baseline and final assessments, distance walked increased from 416.0 m to 467.8 m (P < .001), ambulation velocity increased from 69.3 m/min to 78.0 m/min (P < .001), SRS t-scores during the study period (P = .01), as well as on the awareness (P = .005), cognition (P = .005), communication (P = .003), motivation (P < .001), and restrictive/repetitive behavior (P = .01) subscales. Dr Eric Hollander, MD, director, Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Program, and clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, New York City, and Chair of the advisory committee of Icare4Autism commented on the program that "individuals who got more exercise had better endurance," although he pointed out that there were no significant changes in BMI or blood pressure, "so maybe they need a more intensive program over a longer period of time. Dr. Hollander added that "Ultimately, what you'd like to do is get an improvement in the overall BMI, because many patients with autism are overweight or in the obese range, and then that increases your risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. I do think that the general idea is good and that this type of work is important. And I do think that obesity in this particular population is commonplace and is a big challenge and that physical exercise is a good idea." The source is: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/872301#vp_1

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Famous Autistic People

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“There is a plan and a purpose, a value to every life, no matter what its location, age, gender or disability.”
Sharron Angle – American Politician

There is a value to every life, all people differ in own way…mentally, physically, spiritually, etc. But it’s a real power to find your strengths, talents, love life the way is it and be happy every day. History knows many names of people who were thought to be disabled but they proved to the whole world that they have more abilities that anyone else.

Albert Einstein – had difficulty with social interactions, had tactile sensitivity, was very intelligent yet found his language difficult at times, and had difficulty learning at school.

Amadeus Mozart – had repeated facial expressions and unintentional constant motion of his hands and feet, loud sounds made him feel physically sick, and was unable to carry on an intellectual conversation.

Sir Isaak Newton – was very quiet and not good at “day to day conversations”. He was super focused on his work and sometimes forgot to eat. Also, he wasn’t good at making friends.This extreme focus is commonly found in autistics.

Charles Darwin – all his life he avoided people as much as he could. Writing letters was his prefer form of communication. Darwin collected a lot of things and had fixation on certain topics. He was described as “a rather obsessive-compulsive and ritualistic man”.

Stanley Kubrick – was growing up with the Asperger’s diagnosis. He had poor social skills, narrow and obsessive interests, literal thinking, inflexibility and more. If Asperger’s made Kubrick who he was, than autism is clearly a gift in this case.

Andy Warhol – was socially inept, used the minimum of words in his speech, didn’t recognize his friends and had an obsession with the uniformity of consumer goods. These and other symptoms in Warhol’s behavior made psychologists think that Andy was autistic.

There are many other well-known people who had autism or other disabilities but their talent made them a real gift to this world!

The source is: http://autismmythbusters.com/general-public/famous-autistic-people/

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Gene that leads to ASD development – New Finding

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The researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina have identified genetic mutations that can cause autism. The researchers from the Harvard Medical School and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have also joined this project. According to this study, a gene related to the development of such brain disorders as schizophrenia can be responsible for autism spectrum disorder. The researchers are sure that the new study findings may result in autism treatment methods.

According to the scientists, the culprit of the autism is the MEF2C gene, which is involved into muscles development. It’s highly concentrated in brain and associated with severe neurodevelopmental and intellectual disabilities.

“Like autism, schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder – something goes wrong during brain development that gives rise to the later onset of symptoms. The link between MEF2C and neurodevelopmental disorders is not surprising – it is enriched in parts of the developing brain important for cognition, social behaviors, sensory processing, motor control and language,” says Christopher Cowan, the researcher of this study.

The researchers removed the MEF2C from mice and monitored their social behavior. Mice, lacking MEF2C gene showed reduced interaction with other animals and demonstrated impaired language development, which was measured at ultrasonic frequencies with special microphones.

“What we found was really striking,” said Christopher Cowan. He added that “Without MEF2C, there’s a decrease in the connections that excite brain activity, and a big increase in connections that inhibit brain activity.”

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2016/10/26/Study-identifies-genes-that-may-lead-to-autism/6061477506064/

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