Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Clinic Notes: God and ABA

In almost 40 years of clinic work with children I thought I'd seen every problem imaginable and successfully dealt with most. But then a dedicated mother of a child with Asperger's, who was working hard to mainstream him, told me about her child's struggle with the power of prayer. "School is getting harder and harder for me," her child had told her. "Why won't God help me? I pray and pray but He won't help me. Why won't God help me? Mom tried to explain that maybe God was helping by leading the family to my clinic where he received speech and ABA. But I don't think her child bought that. I live and practice in a small southern town and most of the children that I see attend Church regularly. They learn in Sunday School that God answers prayers and Asperger's kids tend to take everything literally. He was praying for help in school, but school wasn't getting any easier. In fact it was getting harder and harder and he couldn't keep up. What could I say? What could I do? I kept up the ABA drills, offered tangible reinforcers and praise. But this child wanted more than I could offer. Tonight, when this child comes for his appointment, I am going to do something I have never done. We are going to say a little prayer before we start.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Clinic Notes: Where Were All the Asperger's Children When I was Growing Up?

Children with Asperger's Syndrome tend to have social problems and eccentric behavior. Their verbal behavior, especially conversation, is often described as unusual. Speech is often abnormal with problems in inflection and their speech also tends to be repetitive. Children and adults with Asperger's tend to perseverate on certain topics in their conversation and not understand that they may be boring others. Although the diagnosis has been around since 1944, only recently are children being regularly diagnosed with Asperger's. This got me to thinking about kids I grew up with, teachers I had in school, and "characters" I have run into or heard people talk about that were described as weird, geeks, strange, not all there, delinquents, etc. Did any of them have Asperger's? And if they did what happened to them?
I do remember many of these kids were bullied and picked on and everyone made fun of them. They were also always in trouble. Interestingly, I don't remember any of them being in special ed or receiving special services such as speech, OT, or ABA. Recently, I was able to track down some of these kids I had known in elementary school on my high school website. Of course this is not a precise statistical scientific study, but they all seemed to be doing ok. They had families and good jobs. I wish I had been nicer to them back then. But now that I've tracked them down I don't worry as much now about how the kids with Asperger' who come to my clinic are going to turn out. I'm thinking they will do just fine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Clinic Notes: Is the Increased in the Number of Children Diagnosed with Autism Real?

In a previous blog I responded to this question, but now a new study came out and in the February Issue of Epidemiology, which found that most of the increase is real. The authors state that only a third of the increase could be accounted for by changes in diagnostic criteria. Other researchers conclude that the autism epidemic is caused by diagnosing children with mental retardation and learning disabilities as autistic. I don't buy it. In my clinic I am seeing the same number of children in other diagnostic categories, but a geometric increase in the number of children with autism. We need to be looking for the cause of the increase and not arguing about whether or not it is real.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Clinic Notes: Do You Know Where Your Child with Autism Is?

Every year one or two of the kids with autism who comes to my clinic gets lost. Mom is carrying in the groceries and thinks her child is behind her, but they have darted off someplace. Or a child with autism can't sleep and gets up during the night and wanders out of the house. I caution parents about security and double locks on the doors, but some child always gets away. A civic organization in my community brought GPS bracelets for all of the children with autism who live in the county and a GPS tracker for the Sheriff Department and that has helped a lot. But some of the children don't get the bracelets or take them off and get lost. So far all have been found safe, but tragedies have been reported in other communities.
Google upgraded its mobile maps and tracking people who have a mobile phone is now going to be as easy as surfing the internet. Of course, some type of sensor will have to be made available for children with autism, hopefully something they can't take off easily, but that shouldn't be a big problem. I don't know how many children with autism are lost each year and drown or suffer some injury or other fatality each year. If this new Google technology saves just one child it would be worth it. And I wouldn't be surprised if Google would foot the bill.