Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Clinic Notes: Catch a Falling Star

A recent cover story in time magazine talked about our failing public education system and possible ways to fix it. According to a recent article (The Painful Parallel Universe of Special Ed Parenting By Bob Sipchen in the LA Times.
much the same criticism could be made of our failing special education program for children with autism and other neuropsychological disorders. Special Ed teachers have too many students with to many diagnoses and a crippling curriculum. They are often pressured into advancing special ed children even though they have not mastered the material or else they may loose funding. Aides in the special ed classroom often do the work for the child because they are not showing progress A child's rate of learning and learning style may not be considered in such an environment. No child left behind is a noble goal but special ed teachers must have the resources and the time to achieve such a goal.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Clinic Notes: ABA for Normally Developing Children

Thirty-seven years ago when I was in graduate school ADHD was in the new as much, if not more than autism is today. Parents were rushing their kids to pediatricians, many begging that they be put on Ritalin. Now it's déjà vu all over again. Parents of small children are now concerned that their child could have autism because they have not reached their developmental milestones as rapidly as some of their peers. These children do not have developmental delays because they still have not reached the end o their maturational period, but their parents are running scared. Reassuring parents that their child is developing normally is not enough. They want ABA to speed up the acquisition of skills for their child. This presents an interesting dilemma. Do I provide ABA for these children or say "sorry" and go to a child on my waiting list who has a diagnosis of autism?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Clinic Notes: Asperger's and ABA

Without question Asperger's is often misdiagnosed as ADHD or bipolar mood disorder and children are given psychotropic medications that do nothing for the conceptual problems and the social problems that are the core of Asperger's. It wasn't that long ago that in my clinic children diagnosed with Asperger's did not usually present until their preteens or teens. But now I am getting children referred with a diagnosis of Asperger's at a much earlier age, often 5-6 years of age. This makes it much easier to run Discrete Trial Training (DTT) on stimuli and concepts that will cause problems later in school. Socialization drills can also be started much earlier when children are kinder to children that are different.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Clinic Notes: Autism Questions Redux

When people find out that I have a clinic for children with autism the first question they usually ask me," Is autism increasing?" And the second question is usually, " What cause autism?" I can throw our some stats and research findings, but, unfortunately, I can't answer either question with any degree of certainty. And I can't do much better on the third question: "Does the mercury in vaccinations really cause autism?" I simply say this question is hotly debated and I am undecided myself at this point. A recent article, (Regressive Autism: Putting Together the Pieces By Michael Wagnitz
makes a strong argument for mercury. He cites data from first baby haircuts that find children with autism have seven time higher levels of mercury than normal children. Wagnitz also cites data which finds that monkey brains dosed with mercury have cellular changes which are already known to cause neurodegeneration and these cellular changes are found in autopsies of brains of children previously diagnosed with autism. In the future perhaps I can give better answers

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Clinic Notes: What Causes Autism?

Everyone has a theory but know one knows what causes autism according to a recent article (No Easy Answers In Autism
Theories abound, but no known cause or cure for baffling disorder By Lisa Schencker, for the Californian
Well that's obvious and as the article points out there is no cure and a lot of "businesses" will prey on the ignorance of parents desperately looking for help. Genetics are one of the culprits but something in the environment is also responsible. The data on vaccines being the culprit is equivocal. I think we can rule out social and psychological causes. So that leaves the environment. Well what could be wrong with today's environment? How about the air, the ground, the food, the water, etc. And it is going to be hard to track down the causes or causes. Like everyone else I have a theory. I use to enjoy hunting quail. "Birds" as they are called in the south. Dogs would point the birds, we'd walk in and flush them, and when they flew we would shoot. Quail are delicious, all white meat. But the quail in the south are gone. There are many theories why--almost as many as there are about the causes of autism. I think it has to do with agriculture--fertilizer, pesticides etc. Larger animals survive but the smaller animals are always affected first by poisons. In parts of the south, like Texas, where there is only pasture or open land and no agriculture the quail are still around. Something is killing the quail and something is causing autism. I wouldn't be surprised to see that it was the same culprit.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Clinic Notes: Loosing Children with Autism

One of the first drills we run in my clinic after we have children compliant is the come here drill, so that children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders will come when they are called. Obvious safety issues are involved with this drill and most kids do learn to come when called. But every year I have a child or two with autism or some other neurodevelopmental disorder get lost. Some get out of the house at night while their parents are asleep. Others bolt when a parent is carrying on groceries and thinks their child is right behind them. That's what happened most recently. Mom was carrying in groceries from the car and thought her four year old was right behind her. But when she sat the groceries down and turned around she was not there. Mom ran out of the house and noticed a few small footprints leading to a 100-corn field. She called and called but the child was non-verbal. Night was falling and mom frantically called family and numbers to search the cornfield. Two hours later she was found sitting on the ground paying shucking corn. Fortunately, it was a warm night and this story had a happy ending. The parents purchased a GPS tracking bracelet the next day. According to a recent Schafer Report (http://tinyurl.com/2bczkp) parents can now purchase sneakers with a GPS chip. A monthly subscription costing $19.95 is also required. A small price to pay considering that sometimes there is not always a happy ending for children with autism or some other neurodevelopmental who get lost.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Clinic Notes: ABA, Autism, and a College Education

According to a recent article in the Schafer Report (3/7/07) an increasing number of children with autism want to go to college. (By Shaya Tayefe Mohajer for The Associated Press, Huntington, WV. http://tinyurl.com/3y49da). We have children with ADHD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, and a host of neurological disorders attending college now so I don't why students with a diagnosis should be left out. And I'm sure that I already have students with Asperger's or high functioning autism in my classes now. My question as a college professor is what accommodations do we make for students diagnosed with autism. My question as a clinician is how do we make these accommodations. For students with a diagnosis of ADHD we have to give them all of the time they want on tests and let then take their test alone in a quite room. What accommodations will we have to make for children with autism who have sensory issues? And will we have to adapt out teaching methods--perhaps using ABA to teach college classes? This could be interesting especially if the federal government gets involved.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Clinic Notes: ABA and Criminal Intent

In recent Schafer Report (3/2/07) an article stated that early diagnosis of autism, when the brain has more neuroplasticity, is critical for effective treatment and yet very difficult. Part of the problem is getting parents, pediatricians, and other caregivers to recognize the early signs of autism and part of the problem is finding effective ABA, speech, and OT that is affordable and accessible. In the state where I practice the "Tennessee Early Intervention System" will pay for service up to age three. So if we can screen and identify kids by age two we have a year to work with them. After age 3 the school system is responsible for services and this is when the system often breaks down. Some school systems are very good about paying for services. Other schools systems depend on their special education programs to treat autism. Of course, most special education teachers are not trained in ABA so the school system usually sends the teachers to a few wrkshops. This does not solve the problem. It keeps the children with autism in special education and builds the census and funding. But the children with autism usually do not get the level of professional services that they are entitled to. The school systems know this and I think withholding services for these kids is criminal. There is no other word for it.