What in the World is Going On in Autism – April 2014 Edition

The month of April is an important one for autism because of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd. All over the world, communities find ways to draw attention to this ever increasing diagnosis. This year marks the 6th annual recognition for autism when the United Nations first announced this date back in 2007.

Autism Speaks has the Light It Up Blue campaign to help communities plan activities around this important day.  Local autism and disability organizations in Calgary, AB are teaming together to have an event in Olympic Plaza from 11 am – 2 pm. They’ll be celebrating with bubbles so it’s sure to be loads of fun. There is no charge to attend. How will you mark World Autism Awareness Day?

Jeff Moco from Chatham, ON wrote a thoughtful editorial piece about World Autism Awareness Day. He highlighted the waiting lists for services, frustration with government policies, never-ending appointments, and the bureaucracy parents face trying to get basic supports for their child. Jeff’s suggests the following in order to make a difference – “This World Autism Awareness Day, help someone challenged by autism by lending a helping hand or a supportive ear. Even better, call your local MP and ask them what they are doing to help those with autism. If you have some free time, perhaps send a message to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services or even the Premier.”

Speaking of parenting, my Facebook post of the blog “What Parents of Autistic Children Will Never Tell You” was the most read one this past month. The marriage strain, challenges for siblings, worry, battle for services, stress and loneliness so many of us feel struck a chord. I don’t think there is a parent who doesn’t feel worn out from all of the concerns around raising and caring for a child on the spectrum. Thanks, Jo Worgan, for taking the time to write this post and articulating what so many of us experience.

Tax time is fast approaching. Knowing all of the benefits you’re entitled to as a family raising children with disabilities or as an adult with autism can be daunting. Where do we find tax information that is understandable? The Canadian Association for Community Living did an excellent post last month about taxes. Can’t do your own taxes? Did you know there is a community volunteer tax program (CVITP)? CVITP was created to help eligible taxpayers who do not know how to prepare their income tax and benefit returns, and who have low to modest income and a simple tax situation. You can also find answers to what disability benefits you qualify for by clicking here.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recently released the new statistic for autism rates. It’s now 1 in 68, quite a dramatic rise from the 1 in 88. The report says this newest estimate is 30 percent higher than previous estimates using their tracking system. Some new changes – almost half of children identified with ASD have average or above average intellectual ability (an IQ of 85 and above) compared to a third of children a decade ago.

If parents have any concerns about their child’s development, they can track developmental milestones using this tool. If milestones are being missed, talk to your doctor right away as early intervention can change long term outcomes for children with autism. There was a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine stating that autism begins in the womb. Patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These changes were dotted about in brain regions involved in social and emotional communication, and language.

This patchy nature in the brain may explain why some toddlers with autism show signs of improvement if treated early enough. The plasticity of the infant brain may have a chance of rewiring itself to compensate for the changes. To read more, click here.

Inclusive education is a much talked about topic. Parents are hard on teachers and they, in turn, are hard on themselves. Lisa Friedman’s article entitled Eight Inclusion Mistakes Even Good Educators Make is a great read to help educator’s avoid common pitfalls in education. Underestimating a student’s ability because of results on standard assessment testing or working too much in isolation can limit a teacher from supporting a student to be all that he can be. Making these errors doesn’t make someone a bad teacher. For more issues on inclusion, check out the Think Inclusive website. There are lots of great articles on this site around parenting, education and community inclusion.

Hair and nail care can be challenging for those on the spectrum. Clipping nails and cutting hair can send a person into sensory overload, not to mention many people have had negative experiences around these two things. The Autism File’s article on successful hair and nail care is excellent. Author Jane Miller introduces the Practice without Pressure (PWP) rules. Number one – presume competence. We are often too quick to make assumptions about a person’s level of functioning based on speech or actions. By following the 8 rules of PWP, you’re bound to have success in a variety of tasks that you try.

With so many educational apps available, how do you know which ones are the best? Different Roads posted a series of questions to ask when assessing an app.

  • Does the game or activity get more or less difficult based on the user’s performance?
  • If the app is billed as an “interactive story,” in what ways it is interactive?
  • What specific skills does the app practice?
  • Is the user easily able to navigate the app? Is there a back button or clear organization about how to move from screen to screen?
  • Are you able to have more than one user for the app? Some apps only allow one user, which is not useful for a classroom environment.
  • What kind of noises does the app use? Some apps have sounds for incorrect answers that your learner may find highly reinforcing, which is counterproductive to say the least.
  • How long is the playing time for one round? Or how long is the story?
  • If the app is a game, is there a natural end to the game or would you have to stop it mid-game?
  • Does the app keep any data or records about the user’s performance? If so, are you able to easily view this information?

The concerns and considerations when using apps outlined in this article will be very helpful for parents and educators so do have a read.

Spring is always a busy time in the publishing industry. Whole Body Listening Larry author Elizabeth Sautter has a new book out entitled Make Social Learning Stick! How to Guide and Nurture Social Competence Through Everyday Routines and Activities. This book offers a “social learning diet” of concepts and actions that can be used in everyday life to increase verbal and nonverbal language, listening skills, understanding of hidden rules, perspective taking, executive functioning, and more. The activities are recipes for social and emotional learning for which parents, teachers, and therapists typically already have the ingredients.

With close to 200 fun and easy activities, including contributions from leading experts, this book offers numerous ways to embrace teachable moments throughout daily routines without having to do extra work! Events like getting ready for school, preparing dinner, going to the doctor, and celebrating Thanksgiving become opportunities for teaching and reinforcing expected social behavior. Geared toward children in preschool through elementary school, the ideas are meant to inspire creativity that suits each specific child. Activities can be easily tailored to meet a child’s developmental level, needs, or challenges.

Finally, there is a new book dealing with sexuality and the more severe end of the autism spectrum. Sexuality and Severe Autism: A Practical Guide for Parents, Caregivers and Health Educators is a practical handbook that guides you through the process of teaching about sex and sexuality, answering all of the most crucial questions, including: Why is it necessary to teach this subject to my severely autistic child? When is the right time to start talking about these issues? How detailed and explicit should I be? What methods are most appropriate? It addresses male and female issues separately and covers public and private sexual behaviours, sexual abuse, cross-gender teaching and liaising with school, in addition to the more obvious areas such as physical changes and menstruation.

This will be the ideal guide to teaching about sexual issues for any parent, caregiver or health educator caring for a person on the severe end of the autism spectrum.

These are the highlights of what in the world is going on in autism for April 2014.


  • Whole Body Listening Larry at Home

    Whole Body Listening Larry at Home, 2nd. Edition

    Author: Kristen Wilson & Elizabeth Sautter - Illustrated by Eric Hutchison
    Publishing Info: Paperback 35 pages / 2011
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    This colorfully illustrated storybook provides fun ways to teach children an abstract but essential idea – that their eyes, hands, brains – their whole bodies! – communicate, engage with and affect the people around them. Parents, teachers and therapists use this book to teach this challenging concept through illustrated scenarios at home, in the car, with friends, with grandparents – and a number of other very recognizable situations.

    $27.95 Product Details »


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