Categories > Autism Information

Rett Syndrome is a disorder in the grey matter of the brain that impairs children’s head growth, ability to speak and their motor skills. It is almost exclusively seen in girls. There is currently a debate on whether Rett Syndrome is part of the autism spectrum or not, but we would like to

Rett Syndrome is caused due to a mutation in the MECP2 gene and is one of the rare autism disorders that has a known cause. The biggest problem with Rett Syndrome is that it causes degeneration in the brain tissue when the child is between 1 to 4 years. This means that a toddler who seems to be learning at a normal pace suddenly sees a decline in motor function and spoken language.

Here are signs to pick up in order to diagnose Rett Syndrome at the earliest:

- Your daughter has stopped making eye contact with everybody.

- She doesn’t have any interest in toys around her.

- She is not able to walk or crawl with ease and prefers to sit in one place. This could happen even after she has learned to walk or crawl.

- Her head is not growing at the pace at which it was earlier.

- Your daughter starts to develop a characteristic and repetitive hand movement like clapping, tapping, wringing or jerking while she is awake.

- She is unable to say words that she had earlier learned.

- She starts having irregular breathing.

- Due to all of the above symptoms, she is irritable and may cry a lot.

- Your daughter starts having seizures

If your daughter has any of these signs, see a doctor and voice your concerns immediately. Early intervention will allow your daughter to live a more comfortable life than what she would have without treatment.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term used for a group of brain development disorders that leads to a partial or complete loss of a person’s ability to communicate, socialize or relate to other people. ASD is commonly referred to as simply ‘autism’.

Why is it a ‘Spectrum Disorder’?

It is called a spectrum disorder because it includes an umbrella of disorders such as autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. The term ‘spectrum disorder’ also means that different people are affected differently by ASD and do not have the same symptoms. So autistic people could have low IQs or high IQs, could be absolutely able bodied or have significant disability, could be over-sensitive or under-sensitive to certain senses. One size does not fit all.

Why does ASD happen?

A recent meta-analysis study points to a correlation between the corpus callosum, a large and complex bundle of nerves in the brain, and autism. Individuals with autism tend to have a reduced corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is supposed to be the part of the brain responsible for emotional and social functioning as well as higher cognitive processes such as decoding nonliteral meaning, affective prosody, and understanding humor.

When can we diagnose ASD?

Unfortunately, most parents diagnose their children after they are 2-3 years old, when they start behaving differently from other children their age. However, if you keep your eyes open for the signs of ASD, you can diagnose it as early as between 6-12 months of the child’s age. Watch out for signs:

- Is the child slow in learning to communicate?

- Does the child avoid eye contact?

- Does the child shun social contact and prefer to be alone?

In older kids, you’ll notice that apart from the above signs, they might be very sensitive to certain sounds or colors, they may not be able to read or speak, they might gaze at things for long periods of time or they might perform repetitive actions.

Share these signs with your doctor immediately to get a diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

Children with autism need to be taught everything differently. The longer you have waited to diagnose your child, the more he / she needs to cover up. Early intervention, before the child is 18 months old, makes your child ready to take on the world in a more confident way.

Treating children with ASD includes:

- Cognitive and language enhancement skills

- A specialized curriculum for studies

- Regular therapy

- Depending on the type of ASD, specialized skills training

- Medications

This website aims to give you all the information you need about ASD. By sharing our experiences and stories, we can all give our children the best help they can get

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects the social, emotional and cognitive development of children that continues until his/ her adulthood. It is characterized by deficiency in communication skills, social behavior, motor skills and mental functioning abilities.

The term ‘spectrum’ is used because it affects different children differently. While some children are only mildly impaired by their symptoms, others could be severely disabled. Parents of children with ASD find it extremely trying to live with their kid’s conditions. ASD in the family can cause mental and financial difficulties that can even lead to a rift in relationships. Thus, it is very important for parents of children with ASD to share their feelings with other such parents. Talking to other parents allows you to see things in a different perspective and focus on the joy that your children bring.

You have various options to find parents of children with ASD to talk to.

Autism parent support groups

Support groups range from those only for moms (or dads) to those for parents and family to those where you can take your kids along to too. This is a great way to meet other parents who are facing the same challenges that you are. You can share information, get advice or simply open your heart out for emotional support. Support groups prevent you from feeling ‘singled out’ and help you cope with the help of stories shared by other families.

Counseling

If you are undergoing depression or anxiety, or frequently have panic attacks, you need to see a therapist. Counseling helps you get professional help to sort your psychological problems. Just talking to someone honestly about your problems tremendously boosts your spirit and gives you the strength to live through and enjoy another week. A therapist may also prescribe anti-depressants if you are in dire need of help. If your marriage is getting affected due to your child’s ASD, a marriage counselor will help you separate the issues stemming from ASD and those caused due to other factors so that you can deal with the problem more effectively. Counselors can also get you in touch with support groups that will help you specifically.

Respite care

At times, you can break down and feel like you are unable to take care of your child with ASD. Opting for respite care will allow you to take time out and use this time to talk to other parents with similar problems. In respite care, a trained nanny can take care of your child for a few days or weeks. You should use this time to share your feelings with your counselor and / or parent support group.

Nobody wishes for an autistic child, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking for signs of autism in your baby. Research shows that early intervention, even as young as six months, can strongly improve your child’s autism and allow them to live a healthy, social life.

The autism spectrum is quite vast and there are no ‘one size fits all’ symptoms. However, all autistic children will show some degree of autism related problems. Here are X signs that you should look for in your child, from the time she is born till she is eighteen to twenty months old:

1. Slow in learning to communicate

Autistic children are typically self-absorbed. They tend to live in their own private world and do not seem comfortable around others. They have trouble learning language skills and often do not start speaking even after most children their age have. They may not respond to people who try to communicate with them. Many parents may even suspect that their children are deaf, but they are simply ignoring people around them. Many autistic children also have problems communicating non-verbally i.e. they cannot gesture correctly with their hands or express their feelings using their faces.

2. Avoids eye contact

Children do not make eye contact when they are babies. However, you can still pick up on some signs. When you talk to your baby, she will ideally look at your face. Slightly older kids will look up when you talk to them. Autistic kids do not feel the need to look at you when you speak. Research suggests that autistic children may find even the friendliest of faces threatening. The amygdala – an emotion center in the brain associated with negative feelings – lights up to an abnormal extent when an autistic child casts a direct gaze upon a non-threatening face.

3. Prefers to be alone

Autistic children do not like to be touched or played with. Your infant may start crying every time she is picked up for any reason other than drinking milk or a diaper change. She may simply ignore people’s attempts to play with her and look another way or show her discomfort by wailing loudly.

As a parent, you need to:

Keep a close eye on your baby’s emotional, social and cognitive development. If your child is lagging behind her peers in all three, her chances of being in the autism spectrum are very high.

Older family members and well-wishers may tell you not to worry, but ignoring signs is the worst thing you can do. As a parent, trust your instincts. If you feel that something is wrong, it might just be. Developmental delays could be a symptom of a variety of problems and need to be checked into. Even if your child may not have autism, it’s good to know what else is causing this delay.

If you see signs of autism, talk to your doctor immediately. Make a list of events and episodes before you do so. This will give the doctor a lot of information that will help her diagnose your child better. Early intervention helps accelerate emotional, social and cognitive development in children.

Children with autism have the uncanny habit of speaking the truth all the time. This results in really embarrassing situations sometimes!

Autistic children (and even adults) have minds that tell them that being honest is more important than being polite. So you may hear sentences like “You’re fat”, “You’re ugly”, “I don’t like this Christmas present” or “I hate this grilled chicken.”

The book reading

When my son, Jonathan, was in the fourth grade, we took him to the library, which turned out to be quite an eventful trip! All the little kiddies and their moms were sitting on the library floor listening to a new author, Mrs. Spalding. She was reading a children’s dinosaur story that she had just finished writing and had not yet published. The children were all behaving so nicely, sitting with their legs crossed in perfect form. When Mrs. Spalding was talking about the dinosaur book, she asked the kids a lot of questions as well. The children would raise their hand and reply and it was all very interactive and engaging. At the end, the children started raising many of their own questions.

During this time, Johnny, who was in the back of the room, was frantically waving his hand in the air trying to get Mrs. Spalding’s attention. Finally, she called on him and out of his mouth came words that not only embarrassed me, but probably embarrassed her as well. “Mrs. Spalding, well, um, this is boring.” I looked around to see what all the other parents were thinking and, sure enough, they were glaring holes through me! I’m sure they were thinking, “What kind of a mother does this child have?” Jonathan was just being very truthful and said it the way he felt it, which is so typical of kids with autism.

Teach them to apologize

I took the opportunity as a way to teach Jonathan how to apologize to people for things that might hurt their feelings. I also explained to Mrs. Spalding a bit about autism and how there was nothing meant to hurt her feelings. It all worked out well in the end, even though the parents probably still thought I was in need of parenting skills! Well it was never going to be the perfect situation now, was it?

Sometimes, the truth just makes you laugh

But it’s not all bad. This literal telling of the truth also means that autistic children expect that everything you say is literally true too.

In the first grade, Jonny was just learning how to apply sentences to a context and not always take them literally. He did not like to go outside to play, probably because of the social challenges on the playground. One day, he decided to tell his teacher, Mrs. Shincaryk, that he was too sick to go outside to play because he had a tummy ache.

Johnny’s aide, Caraly, heard this news, went to him and said “Johnny, a birdie told me that you don’t want to go outside to play because you have a tummy ache. Is this true?” Johnny replied “What? I didn’t know Mrs. Shincaryk was a bird! It’s really cool to have feathers though.”

Johnny’s literal understanding of what Caraly said was very endearing to us all. It’s times like these when you thank God for having such special little ones.

Hyperlexia is a syndrome characterized by an intense fascination with letters or numbers. Children with hyperlexia show a very advanced ability to read, much higher than kids their age. Hyperlexic children often begin reading at very young ages, sometimes at age two.

Mix this condition with a child with autism and you’ve got yourself a whole lot of confusion. Between 5 – 10% of children with autism are estimated to be hyperlexic as well.

My oldest child, Jonathan, was all of two and a half when this incident happened. My husband and I took him to the park at Edmonton, Alberta for a family outing. We were both holding each of Jonathan’s hands and playing with him. “1-2-3 weeeee!”, “1-2-3 weeeee!” we went. That’s when Jonathan spotted a truck with the words ‘recycle’. The next thing we heard out of his mouth was “re-cy-cal”. My husband, Jim, and I looked at each other in amazement as we realized he had just read his first word.

Now Jonathan was autistic and just barely learning how to talk, let alone read. We were so taken by surprise that we actually didn’t believe it at first. We thought, “Wow! We have a gifted child in our hands.”

We were so excited that we called the Autism Society to tell them all about it. We spoke to a lady called Anita who, after hearing us patiently, informed us that this was hyperlexia and while it was certainly wonderful that Jonathan was able to speak, he may not be comprehending what he’s saying. Poof!

Hyperlexic children are brilliant at visual and auditory memorization. This means that they easily pick up things that they see and hear. They do not learn language the way that most other children do – sounds to words to phrases to sentences to conversations. Instead, they memorize what they hear and have a challenge in deconstructing sentences to find the meaning of smaller phrases within them. Therefore, they cannot comprehend what they read. In fact, they also find it very difficult to create original expressions.

Long story short, some children with autism demonstrate this phenomena and can lead many parents down the wrong pathway. What Jonathan was doing was showing an innate ability of repeating things that he heard other people say when they saw the visual construction of the word ‘recycle’.

Such kids are amazing readers and with the right communication strategies, you can gradually increase their comprehension skills. With hyperlexic children on the autism spectrum, enhancing their comprehension skills will give them a boost that can even make them surpass their peers in language and communication. That is really something you should be aiming for!

For me, I’m glad that we were given the right direction to recognize it for what it was. Thanks to that, we took immediate measures to get Jonathan into a proper intervention program to encourage his comprehension skills.

My youngest son, Alex, has had many, many challenges in his life. He was diagnosed with mild ataxic cerebral palsy at the age of six months. Thankfully, we were able to dig up and use resources to help our newest born. This included speech and language therapy that meant that we had to shell out to the tune of $350 from our pockets three times every week.

While these resources are by no means easy to accumulate, we soon started seeing the benefits of our decision. Thanks to this early intervention, we now call him Mr. Chatty Cathy. We are sure that had he not had an early intervention, he may not have ever spoken.

Children with autism have a lot of trouble communicating. They often don’t start babbling at the age they’re supposed to and show a lot of delay in starting to talk. You start realizing this when all of the similar aged kids around you start talking but your child wont. Instead, your child starts engaging in repetitive behavior like staring at certain objects like their feet or other people.

Sally Rogers at the UC DAVIS MIND INSTITUTE in California conducted a small pilot study on early intervention of autism. The study showed that 5 out of 7 babies between the ages of 7 and 15 months who showed signs of autism were able to catch up with the developmental growth of other kids their age after an early intervention program.

Today, statistics show that 25 – 50% of autistic kids who receive early intervention can move into general education streams by Kindergarten. Additionally, several others move into general education by the next few grades. Many others need significantly less service provision in the future.

During his early years, one of the major challenges Alex had in his communication was an inability to hold concepts together in to a complete thought. This was one of the problems that we tried to deal with. For example, when pictures of a baseball bat, a football, a softball, a cash register and a pair of skates were shown to Alex, he had a difficult time understanding that that was a sporting goods store. Slowly, but gradually, we trained his mind to read these patterns and make conclusions. He’s still not great at this stuff, but the bottom line is that we’re happy he can talk and communicate with us. His life would be much more difficult without having this type of early intervention.

Subsequently, Alex’s doctor stated that Alex no longer qualified for cerebral palsy and we were elated. “Alex is not a CP kid”, he said. This was great news at the time.

Not many families are able to diagnose or afford early intervention. It would definitely be helpful if parents had a DIY kit on strategies to use for their kids. Our goal with Autism Today is to make resources available for everyone through early recognition, diagnosis and subsequent strategies for improvement of an autistic child.

When I co-authored “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children with Special Needs” with Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Heather McNamara, the biggest dilemma we faced was what to call the book ,as folks both did and did not want to be labeled in certain ways. It was reported to be the most challenging title the Chicken Soup people wrestled with to date. What we learned was that people on the autism spectrum and other spectrums for that matter, are people first before their condition!

Some of my favorite people are on the autism spectrum! My dad, my son, Stephen Shore, my sister (maybe) and even a bit of me! When my son was diagnosed in 1992 I embraced his autism and mostly tried to focus on his gifts, strengths and talents rather than the deficits he displayed at the time, after I got over the initial denial of it all. Of course I had the same challenges families face in those beginning years and could have chosen to have a negative attitude and chose instead to focus on the positives as much as I could. As part of his early intervention, before the days of behavioral interventions, I wasn’t about to wait around for science to prove to me whether certain methodologies were legit or not. I just wanted to find tools that would enable him to have the best life he could have.

Of course I used my own “mom” common sense compass, built into most moms, though I tried things to help my son that were not necessarily science based. They were “mom” based. My real question is who are we to “fix” people? All people are broken in some way, and to different degrees. ALL people have different ways of being though certainly no one is “better” than the next person. If we feel with our hearts and souls while helping people through tough times, in whatever way makes sense at the time, the world will be a better place!

Our time on the planet is all-together too short to waste on efforts that take an extraordinary amount of time to prove one way or the other. Often, by the time double blind studies are concluded, methodologies have changed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Polyanna, with an altruistic view, and I do believe in research with a true return on investment. I propose that we focus to create a better overall society that promotes everybody flourishing.

Autism is not a disease, an illness or a disorder, it’s a different order and people on the spectrum as well as other spectrums, are wonderful souls and deserve the best, most successful lives, whatever that might look like. Thanks for being you, John!

Karen Simmons
CEO, AUTISM TODAY

There are no words to express the sorrow we at Autism Today feel for the families of Newton Connecticut. A loss on an unimaginable scale has taken place and we grieve along with everyone touched by this tragedy. It is essential that we understand how to help our children through this time and that we educate the community with solid information about autism as well.

It has been reported that the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School had autism. In the weeks and months to come there will be much more information about his condition, but today it has never been more important to understand that autism / Asperger’s is not a mental health condition. Autism is a neurological condition that now affects 1 in 88 of us. As a community, we can help other understand that and decrease the stigma of violence a lack of empathy that may be attached to autism through coverage of this terrible event. Please talk with your friends, family, and neighbors about autism and what it is and isn’t.

If you have a child with autism who has heard about the shooting, what should you do? I believe the best thing we can do for our children is assure them they are safe, allow them to ask questions, and remember that your child looks to you for answers and stability. Keep your answers simple and direct and allow them to lead the conversation without over stimulating them with too many facts at once. Limit their exposure to news events for a while to decrease anxiety. Many children, both with and without autism see news events as “happening now” even though the event is simply being replayed. Finally, take care of yourself. As a caregiver for an autistic child your ability to cope and provide positive guidance will ultimately depend on how well you take care of yourself and your own anxiety.

We wish you and your family the best during this very difficult time and we welcome you to call us if you need support or help in finding resources you can use.

Karen Simmons and the Autism Today Family

BE A PART OF THE ART!
The ART of AUTISM Tour takes on Hollywood on May 19th! Keri Bowers – Advocate, Speaker, Seminar Leader, and Filmmaker – will host The ART of AUTISM, at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre to celebrate the talents of individuals on the autism spectrum. Music, dance, drama, monologues, art, film, and great fun. Performers include: Arrest My Sister, The Miracle Fly Kids, Autism Movement Therapy Dancers, Taylor Cross, Diane Isaacs, Susan Sheller, Nick Guzman, Dani Bowman, Kennedy Moore, Ballet for All Kids, and more.

HEARTS AND ARTS AWARDS will be presented to Janet Grillo for her work in advocacy and film (Fly Away and Autism the Musical); Naomi Heller (posthumously) for 30 years of dedication to children with Special Needs (Founder Intercare Therapy, Inc.) and Susan Baukus, behaviorist, for her dedication to children with special needs.
Debbie Hosseni will share her book, ARTISM: The ART of AUTISM, published by Autism Today, and a couple of guests will win free books and films at the event. Come see Trevor Aykin’s spray art LIVE, and artist Joel Anderson will be there to sign books as well!

Tickets are 20 bucks, visit www.itsmyseat.com to purchase.

This event will make you laugh and cry. BRING TISSUE!

www.normalfilms.com for more information

The ART of AUTISM; Hollywood is principally sponsored by Intercare Therapy, Inc. with co-sponsorship by Autism Today, Debbie Hosseini, and

PAUSE4kids.

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