Saturday, May 22, 2010

Clinic Notes: Bullies and Asperger's

I always worry about the Asperger's kids that I see who are mainstreamed. In the early grades other children are kind to them, but is middle school and high school the bulling starts, especially in schools where there is poor supervision. A recent article on a program in Toronto caught my attention. The program takes a novel approach, deprogramming bullies by Teaching Kindness 101. The school was concerned after the suicide of a15 year old in Massachusetts that was caused by bullying. After reviewing all of the anti-bullying the school found that the programs that worked the best taught positive behaviors such as kindness and empathy. The program starts in the early grades and includes bringing a mother and baby into the classroom to help children understand empathy and the perspective of others. If the baby cries the teacher helps the children understand the reason and what could be done to help the baby. Google Roots of Empathy (ROE) for more information and see if you can get an anti-bullying program started in your school.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Clinic Notes: Parents' Age and Autism

A recent study in the journal Autism Research looked at parents' age in over 5 million births in California. Previous studies have found that the risk of having a child with autism increases with the age of the father. And in the new study the effect of the father's age was strong even when the mother was young. If the father was over 40 and the mother under thirty there was a 59% greater likelihood of autism. More mothers over 40 gave birth during the study period, but the increase in mothers over 40 could not account for all of the increase in autism. In my clinic I do notice lots of older parents with autism. I don't think I have ever seen teenage parents with a child with autism and I have not seen any stats on very young parents and autism.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Clinic Notes: School and Autism

Many parents who have children with autism have problems deciding on what to do about school. Most public schools put children with autism in special ed classes along with children with a variety of other diagnoses. Usually, the education and behavioral management is not adequate in these special ed classes for the child with autism. The school may say that they offer ABA, which usually means that they have sent a special ed teacher to a one day ABA workshop. If parents home school the child with autism the child may fare better because sensory issues are often less and the parent can target their child's educational needs. The downside of home schooling is the lack of socialization. A recent study in Australia found that children with autism who went to weekly play groups developed social skills. A lack of exposure to play groups delayed social development on the other hand. I think some parents, depending on their child's special needs, should consider home schooling in the early years along with weekly playgroups. Home school curricula that meets state requirements are easily available and if the parent can get some ABA training then this may be a better option for many children with autism.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Autism and Ipads

Autism is a communication disorder. Some children with autism are completely non-verbal, some have articulation problems and are difficult to understand, while others have problems with pronouns, tense, or sentence structure. Some children with autism learn to communicate by pointing and/or tantruming when the do not get what they want. Many of the behavioral problems seen in children with autism are due to the frustration over not being able to communicate. Sign language and Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) have been used in the extensively to try and establish communication in children with autism. Recently, electronic communication systems where a child presses a button with a picture on it and a computer generates a voice which "speaks" for the child has been the treatment of choice. These systems work very well, they are easy for the child to use, and the frustration over not being able to communicate disappears along with the behavioral problems. Unfortunately, these communication devices cost around $8000. The Apple Iphone can be converted into a mini electronic communication device with a download from the Istore and I understand that the new IPad has a similar app. The Ipad will be much more affordable but will not have as many options or be as indestructible as the $8000 device. Since language acquisition by age 5 is a good predictor of how children will do the cheaper IPad is something to consider.