What in the World is Going On – September 2013 Edition

September is back to school month and educational issues are uppermost in many people’s minds. I came across a good article on effective IEP meetings on a site dedicated to ADHD. The article gives tips on how to prepare for an IEP meeting, what to do during it, and how to follow up afterwards. Since student accommodations are critical to success for someone with special needs, you’ll find these tips helpful.

Making and keeping friends at school is another thing parents worry about for their children with an ASD. With communication and socialization being areas of struggle, Dr. Lawrence Tucker gives 5 helpful tips for making friends.

Keep in mind too that play styles of those on the spectrum differ from neurotypicals. Kathy Ralabate Doody, assistant professor of exceptional education at SUNY Buffalo State, observed children on the spectrum at play and noted, “Children with ASD chose to engage in play that provided strong sensory feedback, cause-and-effect results, and repetitive motions.” By knowing the kind of play that children with ASD prefer, educators and clinicians can use such play as positive reinforcement in educational and treatment settings. “This information is especially helpful for children with ASD who have difficulty communicating their preferences,” said Doody. To read more about preferred play in children with autism, click here.

Every parent worries about bullying, harassment and general safety for those on the spectrum. We witnessed the ultimate in hate and harassment this summer when 13 year old Max’s grandmother received an anonymous letter telling her to have the boy euthanized or leave his Durham, ON neighbourhood. This story made headlines around the world and caused a public outcry. The courts will not treat this as a hate crime, though, since the letter targeted an individual which leads to the question where do we draw the line? How do we best protect those with ASD who are so vulnerable? What recourse do people have when they are victims of hatred and/or bullying?

There have been numerous opinion piece articles published as a result of this story. Here is one from a mother in Guelph who also experienced a hurtful letter. And then we have Montreal mom, Katherine, mother of 11 year old Benjamin, who wrote a story of kindness and hope. I doubt there is any parent who has not experienced hurtful comments or intended well-meaning advice that was uncalled for. We have to take those awkward moments and use them to educate and inform people about ASD. There are many joys to parenting children with ASD – talk about the positive side too!

There is a new on-line video from the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Maryland Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics to help physicians and parents recognize the early signs of autism.

The goal of this video tutorial is to improve recognition of the early signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in one-year-olds among pediatricians, parents and early intervention providers. “Currently, ASD-specific screening begins within pediatric practices at age 18 months. However, experts agree that these screeners are imperfect and usually require parents to provide rigid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to questions about behaviors that often present inconsistently in toddlers. As a result, the early signs of ASD may be missed.”

“The nine-minute tutorial consists of six video clips comparing toddlers who show no signs of ASD to toddlers who show early signs of ASD. Each video is presented with a voice-over explaining how the specific behaviors exhibited by the child, as they occur on screen, are either suggestive of ASD or typical child development.”

Gastrointestinal (GI) problems are an all too common worry for parents of children on the spectrum. GI problems can range from constipation, eating a limited range of foods, food intolerances, and behavioral changes associated with GI discomfort. Susan L. Hyman, M.D. answers your most frequently asked questions around GI issues in this blog post from the Autism Science Foundation. There is an excellent article reference list at the end of the post also worth investigating.

And speaking of constipation, Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network just launched a new, free downloadable toolkit called the Guide for Managing Constipation in Children Tool Kit for Parents. The purpose of this guide is to provide strategies and resources for parents of children with autism who have problems with constipation along with issues that can make treating it difficult. The toolkit covers an overview of constipation, information about daily treatment of constipation, and specific tips and strategies to relieve constipation including increasing fiber in your child’s diet, positive reinforcement in bowel movement training and medication options.

Growing older with autism is a topic that is not addressed with the same fervor as early intervention, yet a person is an adult a lot longer than they are a preschooler. As adults with autism age, they will face health issues, housing concerns, and unique challenges because of their diagnosis. “Policymakers are aware of the impact on society of the ageing population, but the same focus has not been given to people with learning disabilities and autism.”

As a nation, are we ready for an ageing population with autism? With no best practices or strategies in place, we are bound to fail this group as a whole. To read more about the issues around ageing and autism, click here.

If you enjoy reading autism research news but don’t have the time to surf the net daily, let The Autism Daily Newscast do the work for you. They compile a review of the autism research headlines each week in succinct paragraphs that will keep you in the loop of all the latest developments.

Because I touched on GI issues in this edition, I would like to highlight a new book called Feeding Your Child with Autism: A Family-Centered Guide to Meeting the Challenges. This book thoroughly discusses feeding disorders in children and explains the types of supports families can use at home, as well as what professional help they should consider. The authors, experts in feeding issues and disorders, stress that regardless of the type of behavior exhibited, it’s important to identify the underlying root cause and tailor a treatment plan using ABA methods.

Feeding Your Child with Autism is full of insightful case studies and proven problem-solving strategies to help make mealtimes a more enjoyable experience for children and families!

The new Practical Mathematics for Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Delays dispels the common misconception that children on the autism spectrum find mathematics easy. In fact the opposite is true for some, and exposure to basic mathematics in the early years can be crucial in establishing the foundations for understanding later in life.

This new book provides practical strategies and tools for teaching key mathematics concepts to children with an autism spectrum disorder and other developmental delays. The authors emphasize the importance of incorporating a child’s special interest into learning in order to help them engage fully with new concepts. Topics covered include colours, shapes, categories, numerals, sequencing, addition and subtraction and using money, and the book includes worksheets and activities for incorporating mathematics into daily living skills.

This is an essential resource for teachers, teaching assistants and parents who wish to develop mathematics skills in children with an autism spectrum disorder and other developmental delays.

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

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