Categories > News

High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger Syndrome (AS) are more similar to each other than different. In fact, many doctors and researchers think that both diagnoses may merge into one category in the near future.

For now though, there are few differences that are debated by those who think that there still might be a varying diagnosis.

Age of onset

One the most widely accepted diagnoses is that signs of HFA can be identified at a very young age, sometimes as early as between the ages of 6 – 18 months. On the other hand, the onset of AS is seen at a much later age, mostly between the ages of 5 and 9.

Language development

HFA kids seem to have a problem learning language and generally take a long time to learn to speak, read or understand words. Most AS kids, however, have little impairment in their language development skills. While they may not communicate with too many people, this is due to social impairment and not a problem with speaking or reading

Motor skills

This one is quite controversial, but the view is that impaired motor coordination and skills are found in people with AS but not in people with HFA.

Each of these differences are being debated today as many children who show one difference but not the other get diagnosed with either one of the disorders. Thus, we now have children whose are being diagnosed almost interchangeably, depending on the doctor’s inclination.

Which brings us to similarities in HFA and AS:

- People with both HFA and AS have average to above average IQs.

- They seem to have many development issues that require treatment, therapy and educational changes such as curriculum or teaching methods.

- Kids and adults with HFA and AS have trouble interacting and communicating with others.

While the debate continues, what you as a parent need to know are the areas of development that have obstacles in your child’s functioning. Treatment methods are generally common so it really doesn’t matter what your child has, as long as you can give him / her a happy childhood and prepare them for an independent adulthood.

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

Autistic children do not enjoy the same toys that kids without autism do. This is because autistic children have a different sensory processing system, which means that they touch, see, hear and feel toys very differently.

Here are some toys you can use for children who are autistic or who show early symptoms of being autistic:

For infants < 1 year old

Susan Senator shares a heartwarming story on how she picked toys for her autistic infant even when she didn’t realize that he was autistic. Here are some toys you can use for your infant:

Shape-O-Ball download

This toy brings the predictability of the same shape always going into the same hole and that’s why autistic kids love it. As they grow up, you can continue to use this toy to teach them the names of shapes. Pick a variant that have large shapes so that the infant cannot gulp them down and choke on them.

 

 

Music player for infants Fisher-Price-Laugh-&-Learn-CD--pTRU1-5265585dt

A music player like the Laugh and Learn CD player allows the child to use repetitive patterns with predictable outcomes. This is something that autistic children crave for.

 

 

 

For toddlers between 1 to 3 years old

National autism resources, a US based support system, provides some great choices for autistic toddlers. A couple of my favorites are:

Sound blocks Eco-Friendly-Rainbow-Soundblocks--pTRU1-5903754dt

Sound blocks consist of different blocks, each of which play different sounds. This is great for toddlers who seem to have an affinity to sounds.

 

 

Finger paint paper set alex-art-kits-for-kids-finger-paint-paper-and-tray-main-314294-5644

For those toddlers who are tactile, i.e. who seek to touch things, a finger paint paper set gives them the sensory pleasure that they crave.

 

 

For children > 3 years old

There are a host of toys, puzzles and board games for children from 3 and above. Browse through the national autism resources to find the best options for your child, tween and teen.

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.

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

A Special 1-Day Workshop Presented by Stephen Shore Ed.D.
Edmonton Alberta – Wednesday, May 9th 2012
Oasis Conference and Events Centre

Early Bird Registration Ends April 9th 2012!
Register today to ensure your seat.

Click here to Register as a Parent - 99 $79

Click here to Register as a Professional - 129 $99

Full event details at http://www.autismedmonton.com

OUTCOME OBJECTIVES

1. Develop greater understanding of what it is like to be an individual with autism
2. Recognize and successfully address common sensory issues that for students with autism
3. Learn effective educational strategies for social inclusion while addressing academics.
4. Create easy to implement, practical solutions for challenges teachers face
5. Educate students with autism in successful advocacy skills as part of an effective transition plan towards leading a fulfilling and productive life.

Going against conventional wisdom, this presentation examines how deficits and challenges so pervasively attributed to autism can be reframed as strengths. Employing an autobiographical structure combined with experiences of others with autism, participants will come away with practical solutions for considering characteristics of autism as potential springboards to success in education from preschool to post graduate, employment, effective self-advocacy, meaningful engagement in the community as building blocks for leading a fulfilling and productive life.

Full event details at http://www.autismedmonton.com

 

A Special 1-Day Workshop Presented by Stephen Shore Ed.D.
Winnipeg, Manitoba – Friday, May 11th 2012
University of Manitoba – Manitoba Room (Rm 210-214)

Early Bird Registration Ends April 11th 2012!
Register today to ensure your seat.

Click here to register as a parent99 $79

Click here to register as a professional 129 $99

Full event details at http://www.autismwinnipeg.com

OUTCOME OBJECTIVES

1. Develop greater understanding of what it is like to be an individual with autism
2. Recognize and successfully address common sensory issues that for students with autism
3. Learn effective educational strategies for social inclusion while addressing academics.
4. Create easy to implement, practical solutions for challenges teachers face
5. Educate students with autism in successful advocacy skills as part of an effective transition plan towards leading a fulfilling and productive life.

Going against conventional wisdom, this presentation examines how deficits and challenges so pervasively attributed to autism can be reframed as strengths. Employing an autobiographical structure combined with experiences of others with autism, participants will come away with practical solutions for considering characteristics of autism as potential springboards to success in education from preschool to post graduate, employment, effective self-advocacy, meaningful engagement in the community as building blocks for leading a fulfilling and productive life.

Full event details at http://www.autismwinnipeg.com

A Social Skills Training Workshop for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Presented by Jed Baker, Ph.D. – All Kids Can Succeed: Handling Challenging Behaviours and Reaching Social Skills – Vancouver, BC – Thursday, April 19th, 2012 – Norman Rothstein Theatre – 950 West 41st Ave (at Oak Street)

Early Bird Registration Ends March 19th 2012! Register today to ensure your seat.

Click here to register as a parent99 $79Click here to register as a professional 129 $99

Here are Just a Few of The Benefits of Attending:

This workshop is about understanding challenging behaviors in social communication disorders with an overview of behavior management techniques.

Specific, user-friendly strategies and techniques for providing relevant social skills instruction to children and teens with ASD will be shared at this workshop.

Enjoyable socialization methods are emphasized so individuals may experience success and desire to build skills. Social deficits affect life at home, school and eventually in the workplace. Conference participants will learn both highly beneficial strategies that can be used across a variety of settings and routines; and practical and effective solutions to assist “typical” peers, family members and professionals.

 

Next Page »