What in the World is Going On January 2013 Edition

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December alarmed people worldwide. Equally alarming were the media reports that Adam Lanza, the gunman, may have had Asperger Syndrome. This sparked a frenzy of response from the ASD community. Individuals with ASD may now face additional prejudice, stigmatization, or fear from peers. Judy Endow, adult with autism and parent of a son with autism, wrote an excellent article for schools about concerns over meltdowns possibly leading to another violent incident like Sandy Hook. She sites some excellent articles about there being no evidence or reliable research between autism and planned violence, how schools should deal with meltdowns, and how to avoid the stigmatization of students on the autism spectrum in light of the recent media reports.

Autism Speaks just released the Top Ten Autism Research Advances for 2012. The year 2012 brought progress in more established areas of autism science, including genetics and behavioral therapies. This included evidence that intensive early intervention can change autism’s underlying brain biology and new insights into the complexity of autism genetics. Some of these genetic discoveries also held promise for identifying new targets for treating autism’s core symptoms.

Dr. Thomas Insel, Chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) and Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)/NIH, wrote a blog in late December reviewing the scientific progress made in autism. His blog post reiterates what was highlighted in the Autism Speaks Top Ten list, but it is another source to read if you like to be “in the know” about the latest scientific developments in autism.

The American Academy of Pediatrics in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities have put together an autism webinar featuring presentations by national autism experts. The webinar was designed to provide healthcare professionals with the latest information on diagnosis and management of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and highlight resources to help children with ASDs and their families.

One of the most popular posts I did this past month on the Autism Awareness Centre’s Facebook page was about Calgary’s Southcentre Mall, in conjunction with Renfrew Educational Services, organizing a special sitting with Santa for children with autism. The event was held in on a Sunday morning before the mall opened and provided a sensory –friendly way to see Santa without bright lights, loud music, and crowds. Because the event was so successful, plans are underway to do it again next year. The event will be held over two days. There is no reason why any community couldn’t organize such an event. To read more, click here.

If you homeschool an older child on the spectrum or know someone who enjoys self-directed learning, check out the Khan Academy. All of the site’s resources are available to anyone free of charge. They have over 3600 videos on K-12 math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and the humanities with playlists on finance and history. Each video is a digestible chunk, approximately 10 minutes long, and especially purposed for viewing on the computer.

I just discovered a blog called Autism News Beat written by a writer, former journalist, and father of a 16-year-old autistic son. The site was created to help journalists cover autism related stories. It is the blogger’s intention to offer constructive reviews of print and television news coverage, and to do original reporting on this subject. This is good evidence-based reporting and not emotionally-based reactions. You don’t have to be a journalist to enjoy this site.

If you’re looking for autism blogs, visit the Autism Hub. It’s a central point for blogs about autism from autistic people, family members, and students/professionals, and a great place to find many frequently updated links to original blogging with a diversity of perspective and interests. If you are a blogger, you can submit a request to be listed on their site.

The rules of physical contact can be tricky to grasp and children with special needs are at a heightened risk of abuse. An Exceptional Children’s Guide to Touch: Teaching Social and Physical Boundaries to Kids is a friendly picture book that explains in simple terms how to tell the difference between acceptable and inappropriate touch, thereby helping the child with special needs stay safe. Each story covers a different type of touch from accidental to friendly to hurtful and will help children understand how boundaries change depending on the context. It explores when and where it is okay to touch other people, when and where other people can touch you, why self-touching sometimes needs to be private, and what to do if touch feels inappropriate.

When teenagers or adults with autism spectrum disorders are ready to enter the working world, they may find themselves confused by all the new unwritten rules. How do they learn to make eye contact during interviews or keep small talk confined to the break room?

The recently published book, The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment, breaks down the employment process into steps, including finding a mentor, networking, and preparing for, completing, and following up on a job interview. Once a job has been landed, tips are provided for attendance, dress and grooming, workplace relationships, social events, and more.

These are the highlights of what in the world is going on in autism for January 2013. Happy New Year!

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