What in the World is Going On – December 2012 Edition

A new study released in the journal Child Development found that babies with autism don’t show outward signs of the neurological disorder in the first six months of life, but after that time develop differently than other children. “These findings indicate that not all children with ASD may be detected at the same age,” wrote the researchers, from Kennedy Krieger, Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School. Because of this, the researchers suggest physicians administer general developmental screening by age 1, followed by autism screening at 14 months and at regular intervals through the preschool years.

This study provides further evidence that ASD is complex, can happen at different ages and presents differently in each child. It notes that an autism diagnosis comes from observing a young child’s development over time, rather than at one specific age. How physicians screen for autism varies across the provinces; some physicians use assessments like the M-CHAT only if parents express concern, there is family history of the condition, or they spot potential signs. To read this article in its entirety, click here.

Big news for autism research in Canada – a new research chair was created this past month. This chair will aim to improve the treatment and care of Canadians with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) throughout their lives. The chair is funded by the Harper Government in partnership with Autism Speaks Canada, the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance, NeuroDevNet, and the Sinneave Family Foundation, located in Calgary, AB.

Dr. Jonathan Weiss at York University is the recipient of the new Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Treatment and Care Research Program.  He and his team will examine why people with ASD are prone to develop mental health problems, evaluate new treatment strategies to help youth and adults with ASD deal with these issues, as well as other stressful events like bullying, and find ways to improve access to care for all. To achieve these goals, they will work with people with autism, families, service providers, and government to share cutting edge research that will inform mental health care policy and practice across the country.

There was a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision made against the North Vancouver School Board which has put schools on strict notice that they cannot evade their responsibility to accommodate children with special needs. The court concluded on Tuesday, November 6th that the North Vancouver School Board had discriminated against a dyslexic child who was not given adequate help to attain literacy.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Yude Henteleff, a Winnipeg lawyer representing the Learning Disability Association of Canada. “This is a profoundly important victory. Time and time, school divisions say: ‘We can’t afford this.’ Well, now they can’t afford not to.”

Private education is out of reach for many parents of children with special needs. Public education has an obligation to provide the funds to support students with extraordinary needs. A family should not have to go broke trying to provide a decent education for their child. A. Wayne MacKay, a Dalhousie University law professor, said that the court has left governments a certain amount of wriggle room to reduce spending on special-needs programs – but only if they can show that their budgetary concerns are truly pressing.

Special-ism is a blog/e-magazine featuring article around special needs. They cover topics such as communication, school, sensory, diet, and therapies. Judy Endow, an adult with autism, wrote an article for them entitled Is Autism a Disability or a Difference? Judy is a brilliant writer and provides a unique insight into autism being both on the spectrum and a parent of an adult son with autism. She has the ability to take us down a path of thinking differently about autism. I encourage you to read her latest monthly post on the website.

If you enjoy watching videos to learn more about what’s going on in autism, check out Autism: Talking with the Experts. This 12 minute clip features Canadian researchers Dr. Wendy Roberts and Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, and 15-year-old Braxton Hartman speaking frankly about the fractured ASD support system and the dire need for immediate reform.

There’s a new app out called Questioning Autism. It’s designed to help concerned parents understand the signs and symptoms of autism, and to convey their observations to their pediatrician. The app features 12 simple questions, and the ability to share the observations with notes via email. Parents and caregivers can track a child’s progress over time and save their observations for multiple children. Helpful resources are also included and the ability to share the app socially. This app was created by a father of a son with autism.

Looking for a new book to teach reading to an older child? Try Reading Again –How to Motivate and Teach Older Beginners Ages 10 and Up fits the bill. This book can help turn older beginning readers into first-time readers or significantly improve their reading abilities. The reading method presented here is appropriate for people with intellectual disabilities, as well as for students whose native language is not English (ESL students).

Veteran special educator, tutor, and parent, DeAnna Horstmeier presents a savvy approach tailored to the interests and vocabulary of upper-elementary, middle, high school, or adult beginning readers so as not to frustrate or embarrass them with materials written for very young kids. In keeping with current research showing that students are most successful and motivated when they read about their own experiences, Try Reading Again includes instructions for creating and using original stories about a reader’s own life as well as age-appropriate stories written by the author for different reading comprehension levels.

Hot off the press – The Boys’ Guide to Growing Up gives boys with intellectual disabilities the facts they need to navigate puberty. Written at a third-grade reading level for boys aged 9-16 with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, fragile X, or other special needs, this book is the companion to The Girls’ Guide to Growing Up, also by Terri Cowenhoven. The author, a certified sexuality educator, draws on more than 20 years experience conducting workshops on puberty and sexuality issues with boys, girls, families, and professionals.

The book’s succinct text, realistic illustrations, and learning activities enable boys to read the book themselves or follow along with the aid of an adult. It’s reassuring, matter-of-fact tone shows boys what changes–inside and out–to expect during puberty, and how to manage them.

The Boys’ Guide to Growing Up gives practical advice on commonplace concerns such as shaving, what to do about zits, and how to smell nice. More complex and essential topics are covered too, such as how to know when flirting is reciprocated (or not!), how to hide or discourage an erection in public, what information is okay to share with others versus what should remain private, and how to stay safe. It’s a must-have book for boys on the brink of puberty, teens who are in the midst of it, and the adults who care for them.

These are the highlights of what in the world is going on in autism for December 2012.

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