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.

Helpful Guidelines When Planning, Making and Using Visual Supports

A visual support can be anything that shows a student what to expect and/or what is expected on the student. The image itself may take any one or a combination of forms: objects, photographs, line drawings, printed words. The benefits of using visual supports with students with ASD are well established and can be obvious to even the casual observer in a classroom, home or community setting.

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Ensuring Success for Individuals with Special Needs

Whether you are dealing with a recent diagnosis, transitioning a person to adulthood, starting a child in school, or are somewhere in the middle of these, it is important to ensure success for an individual with special needs. What can you do to help a person have the best life possible?

Here are some things to consider:

A Good Doctor – Having a supportive doctor who listens can make all the difference to a family. Find one that is knowledgeable at giving referrals to specialists for matters they can’t deal with, can see you quickly when problems arise, and can offer help with difficult problems from sleep disturbances to challenging behaviors. A doctor also needs to sign the Disability Tax Credit form (T2201 form).

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First Day on the Job

In my June 1st blog post, I wrote about volunteering as a way of introducing the world of work to people with ASD. My two children, Marc and Julia, were going to start volunteering at a local Farmer’s Market organized by my figure skating group once a week in July. We had our first 3 hour shift yesterday and I am happy to report that it went very well.

I’d like to share what made this a successful experience for Marc and Julia.

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Computer Use among Adolescents with ASD

This study caught my eye at the CAOT conference in Saskatoon, SK June 15 – 17th. The study looked at how adolescents with an ASD used computers (how often, amount of time, and what did they look at) and the associations between computer use, autism symptoms and friendships.

The information for the study was collected by mailed surveys completed by parents and adolescents during the summer months of 2009. Participants ranged in ages from 12 – 18 and the parents ranged in age from 31 – 60 with an average income of $85,000. Their findings would probably not surprise most parents.

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Teaching Healthy Sexuality – Whose Job Is It?

I attended an interesting poster session last week at the Canadian Association for Occupational Therapists conference in Saskatoon, SK. The title of the session was Parental Perspectives in Sexual Health Education of Physically Disabled Children. Although it pertained to physical disabilities, the information was applicable to intellectual disabilities as well.

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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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