Maureen Bennie's Autism Blog

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.

Introducing the World of Work to People with ASD

As our folks on the autism spectrum age, we begin to wonder what will the future look like for them. How will they support themselves? Will they find meaningful and rewarding work? Entering into the work force can be a tricky business and one that needs some preparation. I think there is no better way to introduce the world of work than through volunteering.

Volunteering can happen before a person is ready for paying work. It’s a great way to try a variety of different jobs without being tied into a contract. There is not the same pressure as paid work, yet there are expectations. The volunteer experience can introduce them to a community they may not have known and in turn, an extra support network can be created. Skills important for job success such as patience, conversation skills, customer service, answering the telephone, computer skills, perserverence and problem solving can be practiced. If the volunteer work is for a particular event, they can be part of the planning process and see their work come to fruition at the event.

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Effective Use of Visual Supports

People on the autism spectrum tend to learn best using visual supports rather than through auditory input. Seeing it, rather than saying it, helps the person retain and process information. Temple Grandin, the most famous woman in the world with autism, describes being a visual thinker in her excellent book Thinking in Pictures.

Visual supports can be used to: create daily/weekly schedules, show sequential steps in a task such as a bedtime routine or getting dressed, demonstrate units of time, make a “to do” list, or to aide communication.

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A Review of Autism Treatments

Last week in the Globe and Mail, there was an article about the effectiveness of autism treatments over the past decade. Two of the findings published in the journal Pediatrics that stood out to me were:

  1. Intensive behavioural and developmental therapy results in improved cognitive performance, language skills and behaviour in some young children, but few studies in this area were rated of good enough quality to single out specific approaches.
  2. There is little evidence of benefit for most medications used to treat ASD.

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Siblings and Autism

Siblings of children with autism play a unique role in the family. Important as that is, they are often the ones who get less attention, not enough alone time with parents, and adjustments to make in their lives due to the demands of the child with autism. The key to family harmony is fostering an understanding of autism and the importance of the role a sibling plays in a child who has autism.

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Factors That Impact Learning

Teaching students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be both puzzling and challenging. The big question most teachers ask – how do we create a meaningful curriculum for our students? Before we even think about planning curriculum, we have to look at factors that impact learning.

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Great Resources for Teachers

Educating children with autism can be a daunting task for teachers. Learning styles differ greatly with this population. Many ASD students have an IPP, need an adapted curriculum, and classroom accommodations. Social and communication difficulties can make group work difficult and inclusion a challenge. I was a teacher for 13 years and understand the demands and challenges of educating students on the autism spectrum. I’ve gathered a list of resources that I think would be helpful to teachers.

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Start a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

For families who have a child with a disability, a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) is a great way to start saving for a more secure future for them. This plan is intended to help parents and others save for the long-term financial security of a person who is eligible for the Disability Tax Credit.

The RDSP program began in 2008. Before the RDSP came into being, disabled people who were receiving payments from the welfare system could lose those benefits if they were receiving any financial aid from their family. Now, anyone can contribute to an RDSP on behalf of someone who qualifies for the disability tax credit.

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Nova Scotia’s Autism Through the Lifespan Report

The Nova Scotia Government formed an advisory committee to help it improve services to those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Autism Management Advisory Team (AMAT) included representatives from local autism organizations such as the Provincial Autism Centre, Autism Society Nova Scotia, Autism Society of Cape Breton, AnnapolisValley Autism Support Team, and three government departments: Education, Community Services and Health.

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The Death of A Myth: Dr. Wakefield and the MMR-Autism Link

On Thursday, January 6th, the Globe and Mail ran an article about one of the great research frauds in recent history – Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s study that developed a probable link between the MMR vaccine as a cause of autism. Dr. Wakefield first published his findings in The Lancet on Feb. 28, 1998. He wanted the MMR vaccine replaced by three separate shots, then strangely enough he patented his own measles vaccine to replace the MMR one.

In 2004 a British journalist from The Sunday Times, Brian Deer, published evidence of Dr. Wakfield’s ties to the MMR lawsuit launched by a group against the vaccine. He was on their payroll and his research was going to be the centerpiece of the group’s claim. The children in the lawsuit were recruited unethically and there were other flaws in Wakefield’s study. For years, scientists have been trying to reproduce his findings but none have ever found a link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

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Adult ASD Services: What Happens After High School?

The Edmonton Journal published two letters this week about the lack of services for adults with autism. Anyone with a child over the age of 18 knows there is not a wide range of services and programs available for a person who is no longer in school. In the province of Alberta, an autism diagnosis does not guarantee funding in adulthood through PDD if the person has an IQ over 70. Deciding who qualifies for adult services based on IQ shows we have moved back into the dark ages. Other provinces are following suit with this way of thinking.

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Quest for Autism Services

Parents are in a constant quest for services, no matter what the age of their child with ASD. The need for services changes with both age and circumstances. What services for people on the autism spectrum are out there and how are they accessed?

Recently Diagnosed

If you are a parent who has recently received a diagnosis, finding services can seem like a maze. A good place to start is to visit your provincial government website and look under Child and Family Services. This will be called different things in different provinces, but most governments use a similar title. The government will list how to obtain funding, what programs are offered or subsidized, and what government policy is on assisting families with a disability.

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A New School: Easing the Transition

Moving to a new school is a big event in a young person’s life. Whether it be attending school for the first time or transferring to another school, the transition can cause fear or anxiety for a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Working together, parents and staff can help make this move a successful one by keeping in mind that a person with ASD needs predictability.

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Advocating for Your Child at School

Advocating for your child at school is not an easy task. To be effective, you have to keep your emotions in check, be concise about what problems your child is experiencing, bring possible solutions to the table, and be prepared to wait for change to take place.

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The Alberta Family and Disabilities Study Initiative

I am a participant in an Alberta Family Life Survey for families of children with disabilities. This is a three year project at the University of Alberta designed to help gain an understanding of the multiple roles parent-carers have and what resources they need to keep the family running. I just received the preliminary results of the first survey. I’d like to share some of the highlights of what 538 families said.

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Staying Together – Marriage and Autism

Marriage is work and a lot of it, even when the relationship is a strong and loving one. About 60% of all marriages end in divorce. That is a staggering figure.  I’ve read that the failure rate of marriages that have a child with autism is 80%, although I have never seen a confirmed study of this number.  Does the autism factor put marriages at a higher risk for breakdown?

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