What in the World Is Going On – July 2013 Edition

Another theory has emerged on a possible cause for autism – pollution. Lead researcher Dr. Andrea Roberts, of the Harvard School of Public Health, found that exposure to vehicle fumes and industrial air pollution dramatically raises a woman’s risk of having a child with the autism. Researchers analyzed information from about 325 women who had a child with autism and 22,000 with children who did not. A clear link was established between being pregnant while living somewhere with high pollution levels and having an autistic child.

Dr. Roberts stated, “Our findings raise concerns since, depending on the pollutant, 20% to 60% of the women in our study lived in areas where risk of autism was elevated.” The researchers on this study said, “To our knowledge, our study is the first to examine the association between air pollution and ASD (autism spectrum disorder) across the United States.” To read more, click here.

Asking children with autism make eye contact has long been something therapists, teachers, and parents have asked for. New research suggests that a lack of eye contact may be due in part to how their brains process visual information, rather than being purely a social deficit.

“In the study, children with autism showed activity over a larger area of the brain’s cortex when an image was placed in the periphery of their visual field, compared with when the image was placed in the center of their visual field. The opposite was true in children who did not have the disorder.” The inability to control eye movements may cause someone to think the lack of eye contact means a lack of interest in social engagement. This can cause a cycle of an adult disengaging with a child with autism simply because the adult thinks the child isn’t interested in them. To read more about the results of this study, click here.

The new DSM-V is now out and not everyone is happy about the revisions. Allen Frances from Duke University, former member of the DSM-IV tasks force, says there are two fatal flaws in the definition of ASD that make it impossible to interpret and use reliably. Frances says one of the flaws comes at the end of the ASD criterion:

“Note: Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social communication disorder. ”

The problem with this statement is if gives the raters the choice of using DSM-IV criteria or DSM-V criteria, depending on their personal preferences. To read more of Frances’ viewpoint on the new DSM V, click here.

Something positive to report from NewScientist – German software giant SAP has declared that it intends to gain “a competitive advantage” over its rivals by actively employing people with autism spectrum disorder. “SAP announced last week that it will employ 650 people with autism by 2020. This is approximately 1 per cent of its total workforce, which roughly reflects the frequency of autism in the general population. It will work with Danish company Specialisterne, a consultancy that employs software testers and programmers who have autism.”

While this initiative will give hope to some people on the spectrum, there are still many who can’t work in the high tech job sector. What this may do, though, is set the stage for other employers to follow. People with autism are employable when they have the right supports. Keep your eyes open for Autism Calgary’s new technology employment initiative which promises to be very exciting and potentially a leading example in Canada.

The start of summer means no school, holidays, warm weather and more time outdoors. It is also typically the season where wandering incidents and possible drownings increase. If a child with autism goes missing, strongly suggest that searchers be immediately dispatched to nearby water. Water and traffic-related fatalities remain the leading causes of death following wandering/bolting incidents in children & some adults with autism.

The National Autism Association has a Caregiver Checklist to help prevent wandering incidents. If a person with autism does wander away, do not blame, criticize, or judge the parent in relation to the wandering issue. In light of the recent flooding incidents in Southern Alberta, these suggestions may potentially save a life.

The Mission Project iPad Initiative is an innovative program designed to teach adults with developmental and cognitive disabilities how to use an iPad to: increase independence in their daily lives, connect socially within & outside of their community, find new & appropriate activities of leisure, further their education with new and meaningful information, and improve management of their health. This blog is written by Sarah Mai, an OT and Assistive Technology specialist in Kansas City, MO. Sarah is a frequent poster who provides load of links, videos and apps recommendations to use with the adult population.

Getting children with special needs to help out around the house is not always an easy task. Some household chores need be modified and you have to keep your expectations realistic depending on your child’s abilities. Parent Brenda Kosky Deskin has created a list of nine chores with modifications that can work for children with exceptional needs. Having your child participate in chores makes them feel part of the family and builds skills that are necessary for a successful, independent life.

Autism Classroom News is a great website run by autism consultant, Chris. She provides lots of helpful tips for educators who work with students with autism; however, much of the information she provides is applicable across a variety of settings so this site will be of interest to parents and therapists as well. Check out her visual check-in stations post. She provides a list of links and the books she recommends can be found on our website’s bookstore.

Typified by a lack of adaptability, rigid behaviour, narrow interests, obsessions and poor problem solving skills, limited flexibility is often the cause of behavioural difficulties and presents a considerable barrier to learning, social development and independence for students with autism and related disorders. The new book, Developing Flexibility Skills in Children and Teens with Autism, addresses these concerns around inflexibility.

Using the principles and philosophy of the author’s unique 5P approach, this book provides a comprehensive framework through which to support children and young people with autism and related disorders in developing flexibility skills and increased independence. The book also offers a means of reducing behaviour issues which arise from poor flexibility. It provides a number of useful tools for flexibility assessment and intervention planning at individual and organizational levels. It explores the links between flexibility and participation, introducing further assessment tools and ideas. The book is accompanied by a CD-ROM of useful resources that will further support practice.

Living on your own for the very first time can be exciting yet nerve-wracking–you’ll search for roommates, interview for jobs, manage finances, and form relationships. But adjusting to this new life can seem especially difficult when you’re on the Autism Spectrum. In her new book Living Independently on the Autism Spectrum: What You Need to Know to Move Into a Place of Your Own, Succeed at Work, Start a Relationship, Stay Safe, Lynne Soraya provides you with valuable advice as she guides you through each step of your transition into adulthood. These real-life strategies will help you cope with the feelings brought on by this change as well as deal with common challenges, like: budgeting and handling bills, finding the right residence and/or roommates, discovering a career path that complements your talents, interacting with coworkers and clients, building relationships with friends and potential partners. With this book, you will gain the confidence, support, and guidance you need to finally experience life on your own.

Time Timer has just created a new timer with some great features such as a carry handle and plastic covered front. They also just released a new version of their watch for both adult and youth called the Time Timer Watch Plus. Have a look at the links to see a list of their features.

These are the highlights of what in the world is going on in autism for July 2013.

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