Historically children with developmental disabilities were excluded from pain research, but this past month a new (as yet unpublished) study showed conclusively that people with autism exhibit abnormal brain responses when a painfully hot object is placed against their skin. The brain’s response to pain has three phases – early, intermediate and late. In an experiment with 17 people with autism and 16 people without, a small piece of metal was taped to the skin and heated to the point of causing discomfort/pain but not injury. The people without autism were still responding to the pain ten seconds after it stopped, but the people with autism had no brain response after the ten seconds.
Feeding a child on the autism spectrum can be a great challenge for parents. Creating healthy meals, eating a variety of foods, eating too little or too much food, focusing on only one texture or food presentation, and gut/digestive issues are just some of the worries parents have when feeding their children. Here are a few helpful hints that I have learned as a mother of two children with autism who are both on specialized diets and struggle with eating.
I am frequently asked the question about how to introduce the topic of menstruation to girls on the autism spectrum. Mothers worry about how their daughters will react to the event. Will there be sensory issues around blood flow and the use of sanitary pads? How will they feel about this change in their body? Will it be painful? How do you teach hygiene around menstruation? Will menstruation be understood and accepted?
Assistant Professor Paul Shattuck who lead the study, says that as children with ASD age, and as their cognitive skills improve, they spend more time using social media, which helps them to further develop social skills. So how can we get our kids technology time more social so they can build these skills?
Because of sensory processing issues, individuals with autism may exhibit hyper or hypo sensitivities to heat and cold. A child may not feel how cold it is in the winter and take off his coat. Another person may start to shiver as soon as they come out of the sun and enter an air-conditioned room.
A good night’s sleep is important. Without it, children can be irritable, struggle with academics, engage in more repetitive behaviours, become easily fatigued, and are more likely to suffer from unintentional injury. Over the long term, poor sleep can lead to adult obesity, anxiety in adulthood, and sleep problems throughout adulthood.
I’d like to share some thoughts for making travel with children on the autism spectrum successful. I have spoken about predictability in past blogs. Individuals with autism need to know what is going to happen to them. Leaving home means everything is going to be different. Here are 10 ideas to create predictability when travelling:
Hiring someone to care for your child with autism can be daunting. Allow time to find the right person and be honest with applicants about your family’s needs. It takes time to form a mutual trust relationship with someone new.
It is an overwhelming task for parents to choose the right program for their child with autism. We do our research through media, family, friends, and ask other people in the autism community what is working for them. We then enroll our child in that program only to find it isn’t working for them. So what went wrong?
Receiving an early autism diagnosis remains a concern for parents because new research shows that pediatricians are still dismissing parental concerns about autism.The study found that doctors often reassured patients that their child would grow out of it rather than refer them to a specialist or send them for developmental testing.
Sitting on Santa’s knee and telling him what your Christmas wishes is a childhood tradition, but for children with autism this isn’t always a reality. Long line-ups, loud music, screaming children, and a busy shopping mall can be too stressful for a child with autism. Enter the Quiet Santa Program – geared to children with autism and special sensitivities. The…
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?
How and when do you tell a child about their diagnosis of ASD? Is there a right age? How do you know when the child is ready to hear the information? These are frequently asked questions around helping a child understand they have ASD.
It is recommended not to start this process before the age of 7. Children under that age generally don’t have enough understanding to grasp what autism is all about. When parents feel anxious about wanting to talk to their young child about autism, I usually suggest they begin with celebrating differences and building positive self-esteem. A couple of good children’s books to start with are It’s Okay to Be Different or Special People, Special Ways. Let them know that each of us is unique, deserving of respect, and we should appreciate different ways of seeing the world.
This week I attended an excellent seminar about how to best serve immigrants who have a child with a disability. One of the guest lecturers began the presentation in Spanish; her Power Point slides were also in Spanish. Although I could understand the overall meaning of what she was saying and had visual support with the slides (I have a good background in French), I found myself having to concentrate twice as hard as I normally do. I was worried that I was missing important details of what was being said, even though I understood the information generally. What a great way to open this topic by putting us in the shoes of a person who doesn’t speak the language fluently.
Looking for an appropriate person to provide respite or in-home care can be a daunting task. The person needs to be a good fit with both the child and the family. How do you find the best person? What qualities to you look for?
Before you even start looking and interviewing, ask the following questions and write down your answers:
- What are our family values?
- Do you want someone who shares your family values or do you want to introduce your family to different ways of thinking?
- What kind of pace does your family feel comfortable with?
- What is your lifestyle – casual or formal?
- Is your family structured with routine or are you spontaneous?
- Do you value privacy or are you more open with personal issues?
- How much time are you willing to devote to train someone or do you want someone with a lot of experience?