Maureen Bennie's Autism Blog
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Autism News - Blog

Maureen Bennie’s blog on a wide variety of subjects pertaining to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Maureen is a mother of a son and a daughter ages 24 and 22 with autism. She has managed an at-home Intensive Behavioral Intervention Program for eight years for her children. She has written hundreds of articles and book reviews that have appeared in publications and on websites throughout North America and the UK. Maureen also gives presentations both live and online across Canada on various topics about autism, available books and resources and how to use them.

What in the World is Going On – December 2012 Edition

Principal investigator Johanna Montgomery, from Auckland University’s Centre for Brain Research in New Zealand, has discovered a genetic mutation in people with autism that cuts communication between brain cells to about one-tenth of normal levels. The study found that a protein which helps brain cells transfer data through neurological pathways called synapses was mutated in autism sufferers. This could be a reason for their cognitive and behavioural difficulties. Published in the October Edition of Journal of Neuroscience, Johanna Montgomery said the mutated protein called Shank3 provided exciting possibilities in the search for autism treatments. Even with this new discovery, treatment is still years away.

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What in the World Is Going On, November 2012 Edition

Temple Grandin, the most famous person in the world with autism, recently had a brain scan done. She has exceptional nonverbal intelligence and spatial memory. Temple’s brain had a host of structural and functional differences compared with the brains of the control group in this comparison study.

Temple was 63 at the time of the brain scan. Her brain volume was found to be significantly larger than that of three neurotypical controls matched on age, sex and handedness. Some children with autism have abnormally large brains, though researchers are still working out how head and brain size changes across development. It was interesting to find that many of Temple’s strengths like memory and visual perception correlate with her brain differences.

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Sexuality – Considerations and Practical Teaching

I attended a presentation last week on practical approaches to teaching sexuality and want to share what I’ve learned. Teaching sexuality is often a daunting task whether you are a parent or professional. When it comes to ASDs, there is a two-fold problem: physical development is often typical while cognitive and social-emotional development are delayed and some sexual behaviours may be rooted in other causes such as sensory issues, rigid patterns of behavior, or the enjoyment of negative attention. You have to be a detective and investigate the reasons why sexual behavior is being exhibited; the cause may not be what it appears to be. For example, excessive touching of the genitals may be because pants are fitting too tightly and the touching may not be pleasure seeking related at all.

Analyze behavior and plan interventions to reduce inappropriate behavior. Ask the question, “What are they trying to get out of this?” You can teach and model something more appropriate, offering suggestions on what you can do instead.

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What in the World is Going On October 2012 Edition

Confused about interventions for autism, what options are out there, and how effective they are? Autism Research reviews a different treatment, therapy or intervention each month. September’s review was on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The review is offered in a basic, intermediate and advanced version. They are also open to suggestions for what to review in the upcoming months. The latest autism research is also posted on this site.

Issues around schooling have been at the forefront for parents with the start of new school year. Time featured a great article on why kids with autism are a target for school bullies. A new study revealed that 46% of autistic children in middle and high school told their parents they were victimized at school within the previous year, compared with just over 10% of children in the general population. What makes them easy targets is they have trouble recognizing social cues, which makes them awkward around others. They also often engage in repetitive behaviors and tend to be hypersensitive to environmental stimuli, all of which makes children with the disorder ripe targets for bullies who zero in on differences and enjoy aggravating their victims.

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Living the Good Life – A Model for Success

One of the greatest fears a parent of a child with autism has is how and where will their child live when they are no longer able to take care of them. What will their adult lives look like? How will they spend their day? What does a meaningful life look like in adulthood?

I attended an excellent presentation this week given by Neil Walker of Kerry’s Place Autism Serivces (KPAS) located in Southern Ontario. Neil described the KPAS philosophy which I’d like to share with you because it has been a big part of the KPAS success story and positive outcomes for those with ASD. Their values could be adapted to any new organization wanting to provide services for adults or be the guiding principals of what parents should be looking for in order to ensure a high quality of life in adulthood.

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What in the World Is Going On, September 2012 Edition

The start of a new school year is on most people’s minds these days. Everyone wants to start the year off right. Teachers may find the School Community Toolkit a helpful resource to learn more about autism, inclusion, educating classmates, the rights of students with autism, instructional methods in teaching students, assistive technologies, therapies used, and ideas for a team approach. There is also an All About Me form for parents and caregivers to use about introducing their child to school staff. Another great All About Me form to be used for school or community activities can be found here.

There was a great UK blog post this past month from Carole Rutherford on classroom sensory scripts. This covers physical aspects of the classroom, a new teacher, unfamiliar fixtures and fittings in the new classroom, and much more. “Going into a new classroom with a new teacher can be difficult for every child. But when you add all of the sensory scripting that a child with autism has to add to the things they are expected to learn each day, it is not surprising that many of our children suffer from anxiety and stress on a daily basis, day in and day out.”

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What do I need to know about a student with autism?

Answer: It would be a challenge to find a school anywhere that does not have a student in it with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Most teachers will have a student with ASD in their classroom at some point in their career. Because the symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe, a teacher may not recognize new students in their classroom with an ASD from year to year.

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What in the World Is Going On August 2012 Edition

Kids Cooperate out of Connecticut, US has developed a new way of using innovative technology to build social skills for teens with ASD. e-Hangouts brings teens together in safe, facilitated friendship circles to socialize and support each other. Using Google’s secure video conferencing technology, groups of 9 peers and a facilitator meet for 30 minute sessions to check in, play games, and hangout in a way that builds confidence, develops social skills, and scaffolds the development of real friendship.

Groups are available to teenagers ages 13-15, 16-18, and 18 and over. Members are placed according to their developmental needs and interests. e-Hangouts are best suited to those with high functioning autism, Asperger Syndrome, ADHD or are shy. Teens learn how to sustain relationships, build resiliency, read social cues and much more!

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The Case for Long-Term Support of Children with ASD

There are many reasons for continued programming for children with autism spectrum disorder. Firstly, ASD’s are lifelong and on going with no present cure. We know that early intervention programming has made significant gains for our children and helped them with behavior, communication, social interactions, and sensory issues; however no human being is a stagnant entity.

Children with ASD’s grow, develop, and change, as does a neurotypical child. The problems present at age 5 are not the same problems at age 7 or 12. Yes, they are rooted in the same causes such as the inability to read the hidden social curriculum, anxiety, on-going sensory problems, and restricted behavior patterns, but new strategies need to be developed on a continual basis to meet the new challenges.

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How can I help with my child’s language development?

Answer: Perhaps you fit one of these parenting scenarios. You suspect your child has a language delay and are on a six-month waiting list for an assessment. In the meantime, you want to take affirmative action to help your child. Or maybe your child has been diagnosed with a language delay, is receiving therapy, but you want to provide additional parental support at home. There are several strategies a parent can use at home to assist in language development: following the child’s lead, balance turn taking, match what your child is doing, wait for communication, and listen to communication attempts.

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What in the World is Going On – July 2012 Edition

Wandering can be a potentially dangerous behavior for those with ASD. Dennis Debbault, host of the Autism Risk Management website, has provided 8 helpful tips to keep your wanderer safe.

The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper recently ran an excellent article about undiagnosed husbands with Asperger Syndrome. Martial arts teacher Sandra Beale-Ellis was doing some Asperger Syndrome research for one of her recently diagnosed students. When she began reading, she realized her husband Joe fit the diagnosis. Joe, who is the founder of Kent Karate Schools, owns hundreds of salt shakers he has been collecting since he was ten, which sit in neat rows in their house. He is also obsessed with castles and runs an online tearoom review site.

After two years of persuasion by Sandra, Joe saw a psychologist and after a three-hour interview, he was diagnosed with mild Asperger’s. This late diagnosis points to a bigger issue – there is a lack of understanding among GPs in spotting autism, meaning a third of adults with undiagnosed autism go on to develop severe mental health problems. Read more about Sandra’s story here.

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Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware – Know Your ASD Services

I had an eye-opening experience this week with my social worker about my children’s services. I’ve almost run out of funding on my current contract that will expire next month. Part of the reason for this is because I have not been accessing all of the correct programs. When I said I didn’t know about a certain program, I was told it is my job as a parent to know what the programs are available and what I should be accessing. It’s on a website, which is transparent, and I should be able to figure out all of the information from there. I was dumbfounded because how do you ask a question and search for information when you don’t even know the right question to ask?

I had a similar experience when my son was younger and was still in diapers until the age of 9. A parent told me in passing that I was eligible for funding for diapers because my son was over the age of 3. Why had no one on my professional team ever told me about this program? Same thing with the disability tax credit – another thing I stumbled upon on my own quite by accident.

It boils down to this – caveat emptor or buyer beware. You have to think of yourself as a consumer even where autism supports and services are concerned, read the find print, and do some investigating to find out what you qualify for. So where do you start and who is in the know?

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Who should be told about an autism diagnosis?

Answer: Receiving an autism spectrum diagnosis is a life-changing event. Now that you know, the next question becomes who should you tell? What do you base this decision on? It can be difficult to know how much information to give because you don’t want to overwhelm people yet you need to give enough information to educate and inform. There will be some trial and error in disclosing because there’s no way to predict another person’s reaction; some reactions will be positive and others will be negative. Negativity often stems from fear so an initial negative reaction can turn positive once a person is more comfortable with autism and what it’s all about.

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Autism Awareness Centre Celebrates 9 Years

This month, Autism Awareness Centre Inc. (AACI) celebrates 9 years of service in the autism community. Our journey has been a remarkable one. When we first started the company, we had 90 books in our bookstore. Now, we have over 500 and continue to expand the collection monthly. I spend a great deal of time researching new books, reviewing them, writing book reviews for publishers, and help authors bring their new works to an enthusiastic readership. We added a French books section 7 years ago. We were one of the first bookstores to develop a Girls Only section, finding information pertinent to girls – a gender not often discussed in the field of autism. I’ve seen tremendous growth in the autism book industry over the past 9 years and have tried my best to pass on new information to all those who visit AACI. Our monthly book blasts keeps our readership on the cutting edge of new publications.

We’ve travelled throughout Canada with our bookstore supporting other autism and related disability events. AACI has represented speaker/authors, organized book signings, donated books for door prizes, and been on-site to answer questions about resources, websites and much more! It’s been a great source of pride for us to support and enhance community events. Thank you to all those organizations who have made us feel so welcome and a part of things.

Our website has expanded considerably over the years. I started blogging 3 years ago and have written about many autism topics. Although the concept was to be a weekly blog, constant travel and family demands have caused me to miss a week of posting here and there. Thank you for your patience with the blog! We’ve added a monthly Q & A which addresses your most pressing and frequently asked questions. The Help/ Resources links section continues to expand monthly. Last month, a Technology section was added to address this growing field. The website will continue to evolve and grow to meet the changing needs of the autism community.

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What in the World is Going On June, 2012 Edition

Transition planning is a process that should start in the early years of middle school and continue through the first few years following graduation from high school. The Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) has created the Transition to Adulthood guides and will assist the individual with ASD and his or her team in reviewing the issues of adulthood related to employment, postsecondary education and adult living during these years. Implications for the individual with ASD to consider are highlighted throughout the guides. Identification of resources and many active links to important information are provided. These are guides are available for free download.

Summer is just around the corner and with that comes outdoor activities. If you’re looking for an alternative to a traditional bicycle, have a look at the Buddy Bike. This a great option for people that can’t sit unsupervised on the back of a tandem bike. The smaller rider sits in the front seat while the rear rider controls the steering. It is shorter in length than a typical tandem and has a lower front seat so both riders can safely enjoy the view. It can support up to 380 pounds.

 

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