Politicians are failing children, especially those with special needs. IMAGINE THE STRESSES of raising an autistic child. In the most severe cases of autism, children shut out the world around them, behave in ritualistic ways and communicate through shrieks and screams.
Laurent Mottron, professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal and Michelle Dawson, a postal worker on an involuntary disability leave, make an unusual research and writing team. Michelle Dawson and Dr. Mottron have co-authored six published papers in journals such as Brain, Neuropsychology and the Journal of Autism and Behavioral Disorders and are causing a stir in both the autism and scientific communities.
An international team, led by neuroscientists at the University of British Columbia, have discovered the “on-off switch” that controls how chemical messages are exchanged in the brain, a finding that may lead to new therapies for autism, schizophrenia and mental retardation…
If the largest percentage of cases of autism occur in those with compounding co-morbid (co-occurring) conditions, then the idea of ‘pure’ autism is actually referring to a rarity… Most people are aware of the co-occurrence of treatable gut and immune issues co-occurring in a fairly large part of the autistic population (see Shattock, Waring, Gupta). It ain’t rocket science to understand the effect of chronic digestive system and immune system disorders on impairing the efficient supply of nutrients to the brain.
Autism does not simply affect how people relate to others but has a wide range of effects, a study suggests. US researchers compared 56 children with autism with 56 who did not have the condition. Those with autism were found to have more problems with complex tasks, such as tying their shoelaces, suggesting many areas of the brain were affected.
Students with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD and other diagnoses that fall within the autism spectrum experience significant challenges in communication and social skills. In addition, they may demonstrate behavior challenges that can prevent successful participation in school and family activities.
For many with autism, engaging in a social interaction is like playing a game without knowing the rules. Some individuals report that the social demands of making small talk or walking into a party can create stress, anxiety, and panic; they may feel as if everyone else knows the secrets necessary for success and they do not. Liane Holliday Willey (1999), a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, illustrates how stressful it can be when one does not understand certain social requirements:
While driving on my way to an appointment I was cut in front of three times. I steered clear of a car that was edging over my way to avoid an accident. I saw a near miss when a car ran a stop sign. I pulled over for a siren but cars passed me who didn’t bother to follow that law and I had cars honk at me for going the posted speed limit in a school zone. Were all of those drivers autistic?
Some of the most important skills your child needs at school come from lessons that begin at home. A mother tells me how excited she is about her toddler’s “educational” computer game. Just click the mouse and presto: One, two, three oranges bound into a bucket. Isn’t that a fabulous way to learn counting? What is my opinion, as a preschool teacher?
Cuts have occurred in education over the past several years in our Alberta public education system. While all children suffer from cutbacks, the ones most affected tend to be the children with special needs. With class sizes growing and classroom resources diminishing, another educational option for the special needs child is available – homeschooling.
Parenting in North America is an isolating experience. Most families do not have extended family living with them or near by to help with childcare. We live in communities where we barely know our next door neighbors let alone the people three doors down.
Most parents say they would do anything for their children. Their children’s health and well being is the most important thing – the #1 family concern. Some families are put to the test when it becomes evident there is something wrong with their child. They have to struggle, make sacrifices, and demand an inner strength from themselves that they never thought possible.
Kaitrin Beechey is a young artist with Asperger Syndrome, living in Cambridge Ontario. Although non-verbal until she was seven years old, Kaitie was always very graphic, captivated by intricate detail, pattern and repetition. These traits dominate her drawings of hidden fantasy worlds that unknowingly surround us. Through her art, Kaitie interprets and records everyday things that most of us overlook.
As part of a qualitative methodology course at the University of Ottawa in the Faculty of Education, graduate students were invited to conduct a “pilot research study” employing one of the five traditions of inquiry identified by Creswell (1998). Struck by the phenomenological approach, I chose an “incident” of interest to me – the case of a boy with Asperger’s syndrome who had used a ventriloquist’s puppet to communicate in an unusual way with his family, friends and ultimately – himself.