After going through the process of diagnosis for a child with special needs, many parents are overwhelmed by the cost of private therapy and treatment. Then there’s the difficulty of scheduling therapies, and for some children, the trauma of separation from the parent during therapy.
What if there was a therapy that could be done at home for free? What if there was a therapy that strengthens the bond between parent and child while also encouraging the child’s emerging independence? What if there was a type of therapy broad enough to assist with all types of special needs, but flexible enough to be tailored to a child’s specific goals in physical or occupational therapy, speech or social skills, sensory integration or emotional regulation? It would be perfect if such a therapy was also demonstrated to be effective in decades of scientific studies, right?
Well, you’re in luck. With these five steps you can get started on play therapy today.
1. Time Management
The funny thing about play therapy is that it requires the caregiver to change his or her own behavior before any changes are observed in the child. The first step is to create pockets of time throughout the day — 10 minutes at first, but eventually up to 30 minutes — with no distractions: no telephones or televisions, no errands or chores. Everything will have to to wait for 10 minutes so that you can prove to your child that your attention is undivided. My disabled son is 10 years old, and the one “reward” that he has always requested is time with a family member. He knows intuitively how valuable that time is.
2. Non-Verbal Communication
The next change is to stop talking.
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
A simple checklist completed by parents can help doctors screen for signs of autism as early as the child’s first birthday, according to new research.
''I am hoping it will become the standard of care," researcher Karen Pierce, PhD, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of San Diego School of Medicine, tells WebMD.
She recently tested the screen, asking 137 pediatricians throughout San Diego County to take part. At the 12-month well baby visit, the doctors asked the parents to answer the 24-item checklist. The questions ask about their child's emotions, eye gaze, communication, gestures, and other behaviors.
"One of every four times, it will be wrong," she says. "The price to pay for that is actually very tiny" compared to the benefit of early intervention.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Melatonin for Sleep Issues in AutismA recent meta-review has found that melatonin is a safe and effective treatment for sleep disturbances in autism. While this finding should not come as a surprise to anyone, it is good that researchers continue to publish on subjects that can improve the quality of life for children with autism and their families.
The key findings here are similar to those in other studies. Melatonin can help children with autism fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It has minimal side effects and is well tolerated by most children.
However, while melatonin can help with some children, it is not going to work for all children. And melatonin does not seem to help if the problem is that your child wakes up during the night.
Or in simple terms, it can help your child fall asleep but it isn't a cure-all for the sleeping problems associated with autism.
The abstract really gives all of the relevant details, so here it is.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
MELBOURNE, Fla., April 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The current prevalence of autism spectrum disorder is alarmingly high. Although there is no cure for autism, it is possible to manage and treat the comorbid medical conditions associated with autism. One of these conditions, sleeping disturbance, can be challenging to treat. A new study published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology by Dr. Daniel Rossignol (International Child Development Resource Center, Melbourne, FL) and Dr. Richard Frye (University of Texas), sheds some light on sleep problems in children with autism and treatment of this problem.
These investigators found that, in general, children with autism had abnormally low levels of the hormone melatonin, a hormone that is necessary for the regulation and maintenance of sleep. The review points out that although investigators have identified some children with autism with genetic problems in producing melatonin, the number of children with this problem was very low. Importantly, the investigators identified 18 studies of melatonin treatment in autism, with 5 studies comparing melatonin to a placebo, and found that melatonin improved several aspects of sleep in the placebo-controlled studies. Specifically, melatonin significantly increased sleep duration by an average of 73 minutes compared to baseline and lowered the amount of time it took for the children to fall asleep by 66 minutes compared to baseline. Melatonin was well tolerated by most children and side effects were minimal.
One intriguing finding of the review was that some studies reported better daytime behavior in some children with autism when they took melatonin at night. "This was not surprising," states Dr. Rossignol, "when children sleep better at night, their behavior is usually better in the daytime. These findings are important because something as simple as a nutritional supplement could greatly improve both the lives of the children and their parents." Dr. Frye adds, "Our article provides evidence for dysfunction for an important metabolic pathway in autism spectrum disorder, the melatonin pathway, and further demonstrates that appropriate treatment to correct dysfunction of this pathway can be helpful to improving sleep and daytime behavior in children with autism. Hopefully, further studies can identify defects in pathways that can be easily corrected just like the melatonin pathway."
SOURCE Dr. Daniel Rossignol
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Epilepsy that is difficult to treat may be more common in those with autism than previously believed, new research suggests.
"In general, we knew prior to this study that people with autism have significantly elevated rates of epilepsy," says researcher Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Devinsky is also director of the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.
In his new research, he found that epilepsy in autism is often treatment-resistant. ''Among those with autism who have epilepsy, in many cases it is difficult to control with medication,'' he says. In the small study, about 55% of those with sufficient data available had treatment-resistant epilepsy, he tells WebMD.
It follows research published last week in the Journal of Child Neurology finding those with both autism and epilepsy have a higher death rate than those with autism alone.
Autism spectrum disorders, a group of developmental disabilities, affect about one in 110 U.S. children, according to the CDC. Epilepsy, a brain disorder involving spontaneous seizures, affects about 3 million Americans, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Library Journal recommends it, and mom bloggers are loving Special Needs Kids Go Pharm-Free. See why with their reviews below. Click to listen to an author interview with It’s Your Health Network.
Sandra Frank, Ed D, RD, LDN says author and dietitian Judy Converse’s work “…is very much needed and ground breaking in the field of dietetics.” See why Special Needs Kids Go Pharm Free and Special Needs Kids Eat Right topped Dr. Frank’s Dietitian’s On Line blog on World Autism Awareness Day for 2011.
Food Sensitivity Journal: “If I were master of the universe, I would make sure every pediatrician and every new parent has access to this book.”
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered in mice a molecular wrecking ball that powers the demolition phase of a cycle that occurs at synapses those specialized connections between nerve cells in the brain and whose activity appears critical for both limiting and enhancing learning and memory.
The newly revealed protein, which the researchers named thorase after Thor, the Norse god of thunder, belongs to a large family of enzymes that energize not only neurological construction jobs but also deconstruction projects. The discovery is described in the April 15 issue of Cell.
"Thorase is vital for keeping in balance the molecular construction-deconstruction cycle we believe is required for memory formation," explains Valina Dawson, professor of neurology and neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins Institute of Cell Engineering. "It's a highly druggable target, which, depending on whether you enhance or inactivate it, may potentially result in new treatments for autism, PTSD, and memory dysfunction."
The measure, Senate Bill 1593, would allow out-of-state companies to write health-insurance policies in Arizona. Those companies could have a competitive advantage if they're based in a state with few or no mandates on coverage. So, to give Arizona insurers a level playing field, lawmakers on Wednesday added a controversial amendment that would waive Arizona's 32 insurance mandates, which require insurers to cover a host of treatments and services.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
“Methyl B12 therapy is one of the best treatment options for kids in the spectrum,” Dr. Sidney Baker, who has a private practice in Sag Harbor, said. “By best, I mean quick, cheap and safe.”
Autism and Insurance: a Push for Coverage
For those parents, unlike Henderson, whose children need more therapy and treatment than the school or state provides, insurance is the next step -- but it too is often little help. Many insurance plans exclude autism treatment or refuse to cover behavioral therapy because they say it is an educational, rather than a medical, treatment.
Recently, however, the insurance situation has been changing. In the past three years, the advocacy group Autism Speaks has coordinated a push to get states to pass laws mandating that insurance companies cover autism treatment.
"Our community had gone for far too long at the mercy of insurance companies who used autism as the basis of denial for meaningful, necessary, evidence-based interventions," says Peter Bell, executive vice president for programs and services at Autism Speaks.
The organization's push is working: In 2006, only Indiana had such a law in place. Today, 25 states do.
"Children are receiving treatments, making tremendous progress and are often able to transition into a school environment with less support," Bell says. "This is an investment in the future."
In Massachusetts, Debe Needham Chamberlain has seen that change firsthand. She and her husband, both special education teachers, paid out-of-pocket for their son T.J.'s $150-per-session occupational therapy for three years and worked extra jobs to make the money. The bill mandating autism coverage was signed into law in last summer, and just recently, for the first time, T.J. was able to see the occupational therapist with only a co-pay.
"This is such a godsend," Needham Chamberlain says. T.J. was lucky to be able to attend school in the district where his mother teaches, which offers ABA therapy in school, but the district they live in does not. "People mortgage their houses so that their children could get services," she says. Now, with the new law, they are moving T.J. back to his home school district, and insurance will cover out-of-school ABA therapy.
Others, particularly insurers, believe that the laws are a mistake. Susan Pisano, vice president of communications for the insurers group America's Health Insurance Plans, says that AHIP generally believes that legislative mandates are a bad way to structure benefit plans -- not just for autism but for all conditions.
"The cumulative impact of thousands of mandates across the country has been to raise the cost of coverage -- in some cases beyond what small employers can afford," she says.
And, she says, many of the therapies mandated in some of the new state laws are educational rather than medical -- and so should be provided by school districts.
But Bell, of Autism Speaks, disagrees.
"Autism is a diagnosis you receive from a medical professional," he says. "School and teachers do not give an autism diagnosis."More ...
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
At a time when autism diagnoses are soaring nationwide, many parents and professionals insist that ABA therapy is the best way to help these children live normal lives.
Eric Larsson, a Minneapolis psychologist and leading advocate, says ABA is more than just a treatment - it's a way to rescue children "from the ravages of autism." He tells parents that nearly half of children can recover if they start ABA soon enough.
"They're coming to us because they want to cure their child," he said. "Just like you or I would do if we had cancer."
But other autism experts say the benefits of ABA treatment have been blown out of proportion. They say there is scarce evidence that it's really better than less costly alternatives.
"A lot of claims out there are inflated," said Barbara Luskin, a psychologist with the Autism Society of Minnesota. "Autism is a difference in the way your brain is. You're not going to cure it."
This year, for the third year in a row, the Minnesota Legislature is debating whether to require the state's health insurance plans to cover ABA treatment for autism, a speech and behavior disorder that is said to affect 1 in 110 children nationally.
More than 20 states have adopted such mandates since 2007, says Lorri Unumb of Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group.
Ultimately, she hopes it will become the law of the land as part of national health reform.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Yoga For Students With Autism: American School for the Deaf Offers Yoga Program For Students With Autism
The four students at the American School for the Deaf, sitting on mats in the cafeteria, take direction from yoga instructor Aaron West, while interpreter Vicki Watson translates into sign language.
The poses are fairly typical for a class of first-timers, but before the class began, the school's staff members weren't sure how the students would take to it. Age 15 to 17, most of the students were not just deaf, but also autistic. This is the first time the school has offered a yoga program for its autistic students.
The idea for the program came from Bonnie Nicol, who is the PACES Clinical Program Coordinator at the school. She has a son who is handicapped and took advantage of a similar program. Administrative assistant Peg Higgins coordinated the program. An avid yoga buff, Higgins said the program sounded perfect for the small group of autistic students at the school. (The American School for the Deaf has six students with autism, although others fall within the autism spectrum.)
Autism Research Article Review: Shank3 Mutant Mice Display Autistic-like Behaviours and Striatal Dysfunction | Ultimate Autism Guide
- This Shank3 study provides valuable insight into one possible cause of autism spectrum disorders. Although these studies were conducted on mice they were able to conduct several social tests that mimicked autism-like behaviors. Unfortunately, animal studies do not always correlate well to humans.
- It is known that autism has many more sources than just mutations in Shank3. Although the researchers were able to create a mouse model that mimics the social withdrawal and self-injurious behaviors often associated with autism, they used homozygous Shank3B-/- mice to achieve this. Most cases of autism associated with Shank3B in humans are heterozygous Shank3B+/-.
- Shank3B-/- model may be useful for future autism drug tests and for future studies focused on neuron function and social behavior.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Researchers lead by Laurent Mottron at the University of Montreal have confirmed scientifically what has been an anecdotal truth – people with autism enjoy unrivaled visual expertise. On a neurological level, they concentrate more brain resources in the areas associated with visual detection and identification and less in the areas used to plan and control thoughts and actions.
The researchers collated 15 years of data that covered ways the autistic brain works when interpreting faces, objects and written words. The source of the data included 26 independent brain-imaging studies that looked at a total of 357 autistic and 370 non-autistic individuals.
This effort to draw conclusions across various studies enabled scientists to observe that “autistics exhibit more activity in the temporal and occipital regions and less activity in frontal cortex than non-autistics. The identified temporal and occipital regions are typically involved in perceiving and recognizing patterns and objects. The reported frontal areas subserve higher cognitive functions such as decision-making, cognitive control, planning and execution”. Study Confirms Enhanced Visual Abilities for Individuals with Autism |Autism Key
Thursday, April 7, 2011
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Acamprosate can help treat patients with autism, Fragile X syndromeRelated:
In small, early clinical trials, adults and children with autism and Fragile X syndrome have shown improved communication and social behavior when treated with acamprosate, according to Craig Erickson, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine and chief of the Riley Hospital for Children Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center at Indiana University Health.
Acamprosate, which affects chemicals in the brain by blocking certain receptors associated with mental health, has approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcoholism in adults.
Dr. Erickson is the inventor on a pending utility patent for the use of acamprosate as a therapeutic agent for Fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited form of intellectual disability and the most frequent single gene cause of autism.
"We have been treating small numbers of both adults and children," said Erickson. "We have observed improvements in eye contact, social interaction and speech. This is very early work, but it appears promising.
"We have a lot to do. We need to determine appropriate doses and forms for the best drug delivery. Larger studies will be needed to determine effectiveness and tolerability. And we expect to find many interesting things along the road, for example whether this drug could work better in those with Fragile X who have autism than in those whose autism is from an unknown cause."
Read more at http://www.news-medical.net/news/20110405/Acamprosate-can-help-treat-patients-with-autism-Fragile-X-syndrome.aspx