What in the World Is Going On, November 2012 Edition

Holiday travel season is about to begin and for many parents that equals great stress, especially when it comes to flying. Over the past two years, Washington Dulles International Airport, along with airports in Atlanta; Boston; Bridgeport, Conn.; Manchester, N.H.; Philadelphia; and Newark, have offered hundreds of parents and autistic children “mock boarding” experiences, allowing them to practice buying tickets, walk though security lines and strap themselves into a plane that never leaves the gate. To date, Jet Blue, AirTran, Continental, Frontier, Southwest and United Airlines have participated in this mock experience. To my knowledge, no such program exists with Air Canada or Westjet.

This New York Times travel article goes on to suggest tips for parents who want to fly with their child on the spectrum. There are also some parent experiences spoken about in the article as well. With careful planning, you could have a bon voyage this holiday season!

We’ve long been aware of the health benefits of yoga, but did you know that researchers found that kids with autism spectrum disorder who did yoga at their elementary school behaved better than kids with autism who weren’t doing yoga? Kristen Patten Koenig, assistant professor of occupational therapy at New York University, surveyed teachers at a school in the Bronx who said a daily yoga program reduced the kids’ aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity. Yoga programs help reduce anxiety and if done daily, set the status of the classroom and allow the students to become calm, focused and ready to learn.

The yoga program is being implemented in more than 500 classrooms across the city of New York with students ages 5 through 21 with significant disabilities. You can read the results of Koenig’s study in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

There is much anxiety around the impending changes to the new DSM-V due out in the spring of 2013. One of the biggest fears people have is that those who previously qualified for services due to their diagnosis under the DSM-IV will no longer have their diagnosis when the new criteria kicks in.

In the largest study done to date examining the proposed changes to the autism diagnosis, researchers say far fewer people would be cut from the spectrum than previous studies have suggested. Under the new DSM-V, 91 percent of the children studied would still qualify for an autism diagnosis, according to the study published on October 1st in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The true test of the new DSM-V will come when clinicians of varying experience and backgrounds are left to interpret the DSM-V changes. To read more, click here.

Wandering or bolting is a constant source of worry for close to 50% of parents who have children with ASD. A new study published in early October in the Journal of Pediatrics found that 49 per cent of children with ASD attempted to elope, or run away, at least once after age 4. More than half of parents – 56 per cent – said elopement was one of the most stressful behaviours they had to deal with.

Dangers associated with this behaviour are very real – close calls with traffic, drowning, and other related dangers. Parents often fear being blamed for neglect when their children leave from safe places. More interventions are needed to address the issue of wandering or bolting as this poses a real safety concern.

Author John Elder Robison did a thought-provoking blog post this past month about his proposal to alleviate chronic unemployment for people on the autism spectrum. Robison, on the spectrum himself, proposes to end this problem by giving people with disabilities special employment status, and awarding tax credits on a sliding scale to companies who hire such individuals. He calls this the Workforce Disability Credit, or WDC.

People would apply for the WDC and when applying, a person would pass a functional evaluation, but instead of being awarded a support cheque, that person would get a rating that he’d take to employers. There would be financial support until the person found work under WDC, at which time his disability cheque would taper off or vanish to be replaced by a larger check from the employer. John’s points make sense and seem like they could work. He also presented some valid thoughts around the benefits to such a plan.

The Autism Global Initiative recently completed a 750 page curriculum and training for direct support providers to adults with autism. You can view samples of the curriculum units here. The curriculum was designed by a multi-disciplinary team of 15 curriculum experts across the United States. This first-of-its-kind training is designed to build capacity in residential adult services wherever adults with autism live, including in private homes with their families, group residential settings, assisted living, agricultural, and intentional communities.

Building Independence: How to Create and Use Structured Work Systems is a new publication about structured work systems. Individuals with ASD and related disorders are supported by a variety of people throughout their day, whether in educational and work settings, transition programs or at home. Structured work systems are one method that can be used to ensure that they develop and maintain their ability to work on their own, without assistance and prompting from others.

Briefly, structured work systems are designed to give visual information about what work needs to be done, how much works needs to be done, when the work is completed and what will happen next. Due to the predictability and sense of accomplishment that are built into the system, many individuals with ASD find the structured work time their favorite time of the day. Full of color photos and case examples spanning age and levels of functioning, the book provides an A-Z guide to work systems, including assessment, how to build them into the curriculum, IEPs, lesson planning and more.

Growing up with Asperger Syndrome (AS) can throw up all sorts of challenges, but never fear, The Brain Guru, The Sensory Detective and The Social Scientist are here to help! In this new book, The Asperger Children’s Toolkit, these likeable characters guide children with AS through some of the trickiest, stickiest conundrums known to humankind: from anxiety and negative thinking, to sensory overload, emotions, friendship and trust and social situations. By working through the activities and using the cut-out-and-keep tools with a parent, caregiver or teacher, children with AS will learn how to build upon their strengths and develop techniques for coping with areas of difficulty – as well as how to handle setbacks and celebrate successes along the way!

The important topic of staying safe in the digital world is also covered, providing children with the knowledge and know-how they need to use the internet, social networking and text messaging safely.

Original and highly interactive, with attractive colour illustrations throughout, this is an essential toolkit for every family with a child with AS.

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

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