Grant Will Be Able to Certify More Autism Teachers

autism higher education

The College of Education’s online Master of Science in Special Education program will be growing this fall.

As part of Project OPERATE, the school has received 1.25 million dollars in grants that will pay for the tuition of nine students. The grant will fund education for students who are accepted to the accelerated master’s degree program every year through 2020. By having this grant, the school will become more competitive and even allow students from out of state or overseas.

Associate Professor Elizabeth Cramer says that they hope to target educators who have already worked with students on the autism spectrum. She also says that because the number of autism diagnoses are increasing, there is a need for more teachers who possess the expertise to work with them. 

Elizabeth Lane-Smith, 22, is currently obtaining her master’s degree in this program. She says that she likes it because instead of having to go back and get an autism endorsement, this program allows students to get a certification in both special education and autism. 

Lane-Smith also says that there is a great amount of flexibility within the program. Although there aren’t many interactions with teachers and peers, students are able to take two classes at a time and log in at any location.

Students who will be receiving the grant as part of their tuition payment will be required to a research project to present at the annual South Florida Education Research Conference. They will also be participating in three professional development seminars online.

By Sejal Sheth

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Autism Insurance Coverage May Soon be a Reality in North Carolina

autism north carolina

In North Carolina, a bill that would require insurance companies to cover costs for autism treatment is in the process of being signed into law.

In the past, coverage for autism treatment has mostly been through efforts of the Senate. However, with recent help from Senator Tom Apodaca from Henderson, bills like this one are being passed easily and more often. Apodaca’s bill passed with a voice vote from the House Insurance Committee. 

And he is not the only House politician showing support. Another Representative, Chuck McGrady, says that we are past the point of arguing on bills regarding autism treatment.

The bill states that eligible children would receive up to $40,000 per year for autism treatment until their 18th birthday. Lorri Unumb, the vice president of state government affairs for Autism Speaks, says that a year of applied behavioral analysis costs an average of $14,000. She mentioned that only children with severe autism would need up to $40,000 worth of treatment.

In order to qualify for coverage, the treatments must have been demonstrated to be effective in published studies, in addition to being ordered by a licensed physician or psychologist. Unfortunately in North Carolina, behavioral analysts are not considered licensed professionals, but other bills are being worked on to clear that.

Originally covered in this article by Wral.com

By Sejal Sheth

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Co-founder of Auti-Mate.com Talks Autism Strengths and Talents

autiemates

Auti-mate.com is a collection of games designed to pinpoint and develop the strengths and talents of children with autism.

The organization is the first of its kind, allowing parents and caregivers to help find their child’s unique capabilities. The skills they focus on are visual thinking, understanding systems, exceptional memory, attention to detail, and focus.

So far there are two prototype games available: blocks and gears. “Blocks” is an advanced puzzle game that requires visual analytic thinking. It is based off of Samuel Calmin Kohs intelligence testing task in the 1920’s. “Gears” is about understanding clockwork-like mechanical systems like an engineer. The website has an autism-friendly interface that is structured and predictable, allowing the child to focus on the task at hand.

The inspiration for Autie-mate came from Co-founder Samuel Toth’s niece, who has autism. He is the software engineer for the company and has experience working in game development, digital marketing and productivity tools.

Ognjen Bubalo is the software engineer, and is also driven by the fact that a family member has autism. Somber Varnagy-Toth is a consulting psychologist who has been working within the field of autism therapy over the past 6 years. Specifically his studies show how the brain of an autistic person process information and how autism includes both talent and limitations. He too has experience with the tech world, as he was previously involved with the development of the HANDS app which helps autistic teens keep schedule.

There have been notable accomplishments from autistic individuals. But many others still go unnoticed. The team at auti-mate.com hopes to empower children all over the world to find their own strengths and productive roles in society so they may become independent adults.

Currently, the games are accessible through the website. It’s recommended to use a desktop or laptop computer because they are not yet fully optimized for mobile or tablet devices.

Auti-mate.com was one of the 15 finalists at the Social Innovation Tournament by European Investment Bank 2014. They also participated in the ITASD conference on digital solutions for people with autism in Paris 2014.

In the future, the developers hope to create more games that tap into autism strengths. They also to implement a timer feature which allow parents to set a specific time frame for their child to complete the game. Rather than turning off abruptly, the game would end naturally, smoothly, and gracefully.

To read the original article please visit Autism Daily Newscast

By Raiza Belarmino

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Toronto Family Finds A Safe Haven For Their Son

toronto autism

Liz Phipps received another phone call that was all too familiar from the director of a local community program. Unfortunately, he told her, her son Jack was being too disruptive and could no longer return to their facility.

Jack was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. He has limited verbal skills and tends to exhibit aggressive behavior. He’s even known to do be self injurious at times.

There aren’t many places in their Toronto neighborhood who have the necessary tools and staff to cater to children with special needs. At 6 years old Jack started to attend respite programs during evenings and weekends but nothing seem to be helping. It was tough to find a place that would or could take him in.

After lots of hard searching, the Phipps’ discovered Geneva Day Camp for Autism. Here, their son finally found a sense of belonging.

The transition was a life changing experience for everyone involved. Unlike she did in the past, Liz now feels at ease when she drops her son off at the camp. She no longer needs to worry that he may have a meltdown that is too much for his instructors to handle.

Geneva is a place where Jack can learn new things, have fun, and, most importantly, be safe. He’s made friends with other kids and and even started to talk with the staff. Liz says the staff genuinely love and cares for her son.

Now at 10 years old Jack’s behavior has certainly changed for the better. His parents can tell that he is really enjoying his time there. On the way to the camp he can be heard singing the words “happy happy happy” during the drive.

For Jack, the world is often a very challenging place, but at Camp Geneva he is able to get the consistency and support he needs to be successful. The Phipps family is truly thankful and relieved that a program like this exists.

To read the original article please visit TheStar.com

By Raiza Belarmino

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New York Jets Help Teen Ask Autistic Friend to Prom

new york jets prom

Asking someone to prom is an incredibly nerve-wracking experience. Seventeen year old Sarah Kardonsky recruited the help of the NFL’s New York Jets team players.

Her long time friend Mike Pagano has high functioning autism. Initially, he had asked Sarah to prom but she declined because she already had a date. After some time, Sarah decided she wanted to go with Mike instead. To make up for turning him down, she wanted to do something really special.

The savvy teen reached out to The Jets on social media to see if they would be willing help her out, and they agreed! During the high school’s morning announcements, wide receiver Saalim Hakim, cornerback Dexter McDougle, wide receiver Chris Owusu, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie appeared on the screen one by one. Each player gave a shout out to Mike and asked if he would go to prom with Sarah. His initial reaction was complete shock as he saw his favorite football team speaking directly to him.

As for the answer? Of course he said yes! Mike was so overwhelmed by the thoughtful gesture that all he could do was shake his head and give Sarah a big hug.

On June 4, 2015, Sarah and Mike were invited to the popular daytime talk show “The Ellen Degeneres Show” where millions tuned in to hear their story. Sarah described Mike as the sweetest guy, a truly inspirational person and who doesn’t let things get him down. Although he has high functioning autism, the high school senior isn’t angry with the world and loves himself for exactly who he is.

After hearing their story, Ellen gifted Mike and Sarah with crowns and personalized New York Jets jerseys that said Prom King and Prom Queen to wear to the dance. Moments later, a special video message from the Jets appeared on the big screen. Head coach Todd Bowles gave the teens four pre-game tickets and a box of swag including an official Jets helmet signed by all the players. The two were in such disbelief, they were rendered speechless by this act of generosity.

Original coverage by the New York Daily News

By Raiza Belarmino

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Arizona Community Gives Young Adults A Place to Fit In

arizona autism meetup

Parents of a young adult with Asperger’s have been making recent headlines when they started a new program to help others on the spectrum transition after high school.

During the first month after graduation, they noticed their son’s days consisted of just watching TV, playing video games, and spending hours isolated in his room. Wanting more, his parents started to look towards their community for some help.

Through a local Meet Up group, the family introduced themselves to other families who were in the same situation. Soon, the West Valley AZ ASSIST (Autism Spectrum Support Information & Strategies for Transition) was created.

The idea came from Executive Director Deb Weiding, who founded the group in Tempe, Arizona. She too is a mother to a young adult with ASD and had the same post high school experience. She discovered there were other families in her community who also needed assistance in helping their child transition into adulthood and socialize with others. The group has now expanded to include hundreds of members and spread to other neighboring cities.

Monthly meetings are held for parents and young adults to share experiences and their knowledge of services available, as well as provide support to one another. There are also social events such as game night, bowling, swimming, movie night and dining, where members on the spectrum can socialize and interact with one another.

West Valley AZ ASSIST is a place where those with autism can feel comfortable, included and cared for. It’s an environment where members are free from being bullied, made fun of, or shut out for who they are. The program brings together a real community of teens and young adults who share their experiences with dating, using public transportation, and living independently.

If you or someone you know is in the Glendale, AZ area, who is on the spectrum and would like to meet others alike please contact the West Valley AZ ASSIST group.

To read the original article please visit AZ Central

By Raiza Belarmino

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Boy’s Dragon T-Shirts Unleash his Inner Knight While Raising Autism Awareness

dragon shirts

Santino Stagliano, a 10-year-old with autism, has become the “Dragon Master” of t-shirt making. His t-shirts allow him to be creative while raising awareness about autism.

Stagliano started drawing after he realized he could communicate with his parents that way. Instead of being able to talk about his emotions, he would draw a dragon symbolizing the emotion he was feeling. By doing this, Stagliano has been able to come out of his shell and now is using his creative skills to help raise money.

Originally, the Stagliano family had Santino’s drawings printed on shirts. After Lisa Stagliano, Santino’s mother, posted a picture on Facebook, the shirts became popular among friends. After awhile, the Stagliano family decided to sell them as part of a small nonprofit called Santino’s Dragon Drawing Inc. Each shirt is sold for $15 and a portion of the proceeds now go to the Center for Autism, where Santino spends one day a week. His first donation was over $2000. 

Santino Stagliano was originally diagnosed with autism when he was 5 years old. He had difficulty socializing and was anxious in crowded or loud environments. With the help of his shirts, Santino has grown in many ways. Now, he loves hugging people, high-fiving, and taking pictures. He has also developed a positive outlook and a desire to help people.

Information sourced from The Huffington Post

By Sejal Sheth

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Could Autism be Linked to Gender Dysphoria?

gender dysphoria

Most autism parents, therapists, and teachers are aware that autism is four times more likely to occur in boys rather than girls.

Less common in the industry dialog, however, is that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is more likely to occur in transgender individuals than the general population. Not only does this phenomenon introduce a possible link between gender identity and autism, it also raises questions about the four-times-more-common in males statistic.

Many studies conducted across the world have supported this new theory. In one 2012 study, a team of British researchers found that in a group of neurotypical participants, female-to-male members (FTM) showed autistic traits more frequently than male to female (MTF) people or gender typical men and women.

Another study, which assessed children and adolescents in a gender identity clinic in the Netherlands, discovered that 8 percent of the participants were also diagnosed with ASD. While the correlation between autism and gender dysphoria does not yet have a clear explanation, it could be analyzed using the extreme male brain theory (EMB). This model attributes the cause of autism to over-systemization––a typically male trait––and a low level of empathy, also more common in males.

British scientist Simon Baron-Cohen applied this theory to individuals with ASD, noting that people on the autism spectrum generally perform better on systemization tasks than neurotypical individuals––hence the term “extreme male brain.” Surprisingly, this theory was supported by other studies looking at sex and ASD.

“While the EMB theory focuses on cognitive abilities,” said Kyle Simon to the Huffington Post, “other factors related to sex and gender have been found to correlate with ASD.”

Research found significantly higher levels of male hormones in autistic individuals than the neurotypical control group. This discovery evokes many questions about both gender dysphoria and autism. For example, could the imbalance in sex hormones be the cause of both autism and gender dysphoria? What would happen if female hormone levels were higher? As of now, only time will tell until the answers are revealed.

By Nina Bergold

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Autistic Youth’s Brains React Differently to Stimuli

autism sensory stimuli

Recently, a study that was published in JAMA Psychiatry has found that children on the spectrum who are overly sensitive to stimuli show differences in brain reactions.

These findings could enable researchers to posit new types of interventions which would help more than 50% of the autistic population.

Shulamite A Green, a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, says that these findings could significantly improve the lives of autistic individuals as well as their families. She says that often times, parents don’t want to leave their homes because taking their child out is too difficult.

Green also says that this research will help to understand how to treat sensory over-responsitivity, or SOR. By looking at brain imaging research and magnetic resonance imaging, the team from UCLA may have found a compensatory mechanism in the brain that helps regulate responses for autistic individuals without SOR.

The study focused on adolescents between the ages of 9 and 17. They also looked at those with autism and those without. In the study, there were three types of sensory stimuli- hearing loud noises, being rubbed on the inner arm wit a scratchy wood fabric, and experiencing auditory and tactile stimuli simultaneously. 

Green says that for the individuals with ASD but not SOR, their brains may be compensating through connectivity between their prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Both of these regions in the brain are connected to attention, threat response, and emotional reactions. 

Although there is no definite treatment for SOR, the team feels confident in their work towards finding one. One treatment that could be effective is creating coping skills for dealing with external stimuli. 

The UCLA team is continuing their research. They have recently received a grant from the Simons Foundation, which will help them continue their work with Autism Spectrum Disorder and SOR.

Information from this article sourced from Autism Daily Newscast

Written By Sejal Sheth

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Swedish Study Doubts Autism Epidemic

international autism prevalence

With the number of diagnoses of autism seemingly increasing every day, it seems as though an epidemic of sorts has arisen. However, a new study has found that instead of autism occurring more commonly, more people are simply being diagnosed with it.

In the United States, the prevalence of autism diagnoses has more than doubled since the government started keeping track in 2000. Fifteen years later, it is now estimated that there is a 1 in 68 chance of being diagnosed with autism.

Christopher Gillberg, who is the head of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Center at the University of Gotheburg in Sweden, says that there has been an increasing amount of money spent on research to understand what causes autism. However, Gillberg also says that findings tend to indicate that awareness of autism is increasing, so therefore more people are being properly diagnosed.

In carrying out their research, Gillberg and his team looked at two datasets that included 1.1 million children over a ten-year period in Sweden. One set detailed the health of all Swedish citizens and the other had information about twins born in the country. All of the data sets included whether or not the individual had autism.

By using several different statistical methods to compare the data, the research concluded that the reasoning for the increase in diagnoses was due to more knowledge, rather than a greater incidence of autism.

Written by Sejal Sheth

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