What in the World is Going On, February Edition

The new courses are designed to equip participants with knowledge to apply current theories to everyday practice and to provide them with a theoretical basis for the management of people with SPD’s. The courses are delivered as a pathway to certification by the Sensory Integration Network as a Practitioner, or Advanced Practitioner, of Sensory Integration.

This new program will produce highly qualified professionals to work with those who have SPD such as individuals with autism, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Dyspraxia and Developmental Coordination Disorder. It’s a great step forward in education and programming.

A recently published study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that although individuals with autism spectrum disorders are often preoccupied with television, computers, and video games (screen-based media), the majority (64.2%) spent most of their free time using non-social media (television, video games), while only 13.2% spent time on social media (email, internet chatting).

These results aren’t surprising because using social media involves using social skills, something people with ASD struggle with. Assistant Professor Paul Shattuck who lead the study, says that as kids with ASD’s age and as their cognitive skills improve, they spend more time using social media, which helps them to further develop social skills.

I recently discovered an excellent Facebook group called The Autism Discussion Page. The posts are written by Bill Nasen, MS, LLP and discuss tools that help children on the spectrum feel safe, accepted and competent. His philosophy is although each child is different with their unique strengths and challenges, there are some common strategies that can strengthen the social, emotion, and cognitive security for most children on the spectrum.

All of Bill’s presentations are organized on the Fragile World on the Spectrum website. He then opens the floor for discussion about these topics on his Facebook page. I noticed he does answer everyone who posts. Lots of effort here from someone who is clearly intelligent and understands individuals with ASD.

There is a lot of discussion and controversy around the new proposed criteria for autism in the upcoming DSM-V. The new definition would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests. The new changes would probably exclude people with a diagnosis who were higher functioning.

There was an outstanding article written in the New York Times on this subject, which includes statements from a wide range of researchers, people working in the field of ASD and parents; a very informative read on a hot topic right now.

We don’t often hear from fathers of children with ASD. One dad I know in Nova Scotia, Paul Peters, started his own blog called a Father’s Perspective on Autism. He has a daughter with autism. Paul’s posts are insightful and well-written. You can read his blog here.

It is challenging to find a curriculum on teaching sexuality to people with ASD. The recently published book Intimate Relationships and Sexual Health: A Curriculum for Teaching Adolescents/Adults with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Social Challenges is a comprehensive, well-researched curriculum and an up-to-date resource on sexuality, tailored to the unique characteristics of high-functioning adolescents and adults on the spectrum. The accompanying CD-ROM contains all the handouts for easy duplication and individualization.

Former Deputy Sheriff Robert Kahn, author of the Bobby and Mandee children’s safety series books, has a new book called Good Touch, Bad Touch. In this simple and engaging guide, Mandee and Bobby explain “good touches” (hugs and kisses from family members, a pat on the back, a handshake, or a high five) and “bad touches” (a hit, slap, punch, kick, bite, hard pinch, shove, or grabbing, tugging, scratching, tripping, or choking). They describe how to recognize each kind of touch, the differences between them, and how to respond.

There are some great, helpful features in this book such as the 8-question Bobby and Mandee’s Touch Quiz, how to teach the use of 911, and My List of Safe Grown-ups to Call – a blank form that parents and children can fill out together. Safety needs to be taught and this book provides a great framework to do just that.

Congratulations to Margaret Spoelstra, Executive Director of Autism Ontario for her appointment to the Order of Canada. Thanks, Margaret, for your dedication to advocating for acceptance and opportunties for all individuals with autism; as well as your tireless work with Autism Ontario Chapters, families, self-advocates and professionals.

The Globe and Mail wrote an article about the Ottawa Police Service and their new voluntary autism registry. The idea of the registry is to inform police of an ASD diagnosis and if they need to intervene with that individual at some point, the diagnosis is known and the police have some training in dealing with ASD.

“The goal of the registry is to inform police that a child or adult may not be able to speak to them or follow commands – often the case for someone with autism spectrum disorder, a term that describes a range of increasingly common disorders that affect social interaction and communication. Police are finding themselves increasingly interacting with people in crises. Factors including deinstitutionalization of care have meant that more people with mental illness, or disorders such as autism, are coming into contact with police. Arming officers with information about a person’s condition is one way to prevent harm – both to the officer and the individual.” To read the article in its entirety, click here.

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

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