What in the World is Going On in Autism – April 2015 Editon

World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2nd this year. This year’s theme is Employment: The Autism Advantage. “Research suggests that employers are missing out on abilities that that people on the autism spectrum have in greater abundance than “neurotypical” workers do – such as, heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail.” Employment is an excellent issue to focus on as an estimated 80% of people with autism are not employed.

Jean Vanier was the winner of this year’s prestigious Templeton Prize. Vanier is the founder of L’Arche, an international network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live side by side.

Vanier started L’Arche back in 1964. He was living in France at the time and visited a friend at an institution for people with intellectual disabilities. He felt that the residents were being mistreated. All he could do at the time was to invite two of them to live in a small house.

Today there are nearly 150 of these small homes around the world. The key to the project’s success has been shared living support. To listen to the interview with Jean Vanier, click here.

In Halifax, a 5 year old boy with autism did a wonderful thing. Chase Faulingham used a few choice words to help rescue an injured man who has hidden behind a snowbank. Chase was out walking with his grandfather and he said “stop”. His grandfather didn’t hear anything but Chase persisted, saying, “Listen. Listen. Help.” A year ago, Chase could barely talk but now he was able to put a few words to help someone in distress. Well done Chase! To read more , click here.

There was a recent paper published online where scientists reported that the incidence of diagnosed autism was twice as high for assisted reproductive technology (ART) as non-ART births. The association between ART and autism was explained by the age of the mother and adverse perinatal outcomes such as multiple births.

This is the largest study of its kind done to date. The results indicate that reducing multiple births in ART may help decrease the risk of autism. To read more about this study, click here.

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?

Lisa Jo Rudy offers some answers to this questions in her article Why the “Best” Autism Programs May Not Work for Your Child. She offers some good insights into why a program works for one person and not another or sounds great on paper but doesn’t work in real life. Autism organizations can be like businesses and parents have to realize there are good and bad ones, just like there are in any other area of professions.

Although this newsletter article dates back from May 2013, it is worth telling you about because it deals with the topic of slow processing speed. Slow processing speed is associated with giftedness, ADHD, OCD and learning disabilities. This article gives the background of what slow processing is, how it presents in individuals, and strategies for school and home. Well worth a read if you know someone who lives life at a slower pace and feels demoralized or discouraged as a result.

The winter months are always challenging for children because they are indoors for several months. The Alberta winter hasn’t been too bad this year, but spring rains are ahead. Author Ilana Danneman gives 5 great ideas for indoor sensory breaks in her blog post 5 Indoor Sensory Break Activities That Are Sure to Improve Attention. All of the activities use simple materials found at home. Providing sensory breaks can make the difference between a productive or non-productive day. It can reduce frustration as well.

Swinburne University of Technology is offering a free on-line course on autism starting on April 2nd. This is an open university course geared for parents and carers of people with autism and those who work with people with autism. It is a self-paced course requiring two hours of contact per week. For details, click here.

Executive functioning issues can cause children to have trouble planning, managing time and organizing. The classroom environment can be particularly challenging. Amanda Morin gives some great tips in her blog post on Classroom Accommodations for Executive Functioning Issues. These strategies are simple to implement and use materials that are easy to find or make. Checklists and concrete, simply written directions can go a long way.

Judy Endow, adult with autism, has done another brilliant blog post on why an autistic adult does not look like an autistic child. She talks about the maturation process and how experience, accommodations, teaching and skill building can help a person with autism cope better in their day to day life.

A developmental delay is not stagnant. “Developmentally appropriate things that cannot be done at the correct age can often be accomplished later in life.” Judy raises many important points in her blog. Her insight on friendship is so true because even when there is a developmental age separation in the younger years which cause difficulties, this can disappear as we age as no one cares if there is an age difference when you’re in your 30’s or 50’s. Judy and I are 11 years apart and we never even think about it or notice it when we’re together.

Children and teens with autism can be particularly vulnerable to online dangers. The new book Online Safety for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum explains how you can help your child to navigate websites, chat rooms and social media safely.

Providing all the information needed to monitor, educate and guide your child’s computer use, the book discusses key concerns such as parental control, social networking, grooming, cyber bullying, internet addiction and hacking. The risks and the warning signs to look out for are clearly explained alongside useful advice and examples from real-life experiences. A Digispeak Dictionary is included that decodes the cryptic language of online slang and there are downloadable forms to help record your child’s internet use.

The practical solutions in this book will give you peace of mind and ensure that your child can enjoy the educational and social benefits of the internet in safety.

Help children to understand and manage their anxiety with this new engaging and imaginative workbook entitled Starving the Anxiety Gremlin for Children Aged 5-9.

The Anxiety Gremlin is a mischievous creature who loves to gobble up your anxious feelings! The more anxiety you feed him, the bigger and bigger he gets and the more and more anxious you feel! How can you stop this? Starve your Anxiety Gremlin of anxious thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and watch him shrink!

Based on cognitive behavioural principles, this workbook uses fun and imaginative activities to teach children how to manage their anxiety by changing how they think and act – getting rid of their Anxiety Gremlins for good! Bursting with stories, puzzles, quizzes, and colouring, drawing and writing games, this is a unique tool for parents or practitioners to use with children aged 5 to 9 years.

These are the highlights of what in the world is going on in autism for April 2015.

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