Tag Archives: Mild Form Of Autism

Question?: Pdd Nos Symptoms

Thomas asks…

Could my little sister have a mild form of autism?Any advice or tips?

My little sister is 3 years old and screams alot for stupid little things that may happen.Some of her behavior makes me concerned that she may have a mild form of autism.She’s very smart for her age though.

admin answers:

Most children with autism are VERY smart for their age and have a HIGH physical abilities! My four year old son is autistic. I would like to also add after reading some of the other answers just now that there ARE different levels of autism. Some are higher functioning than others, and MR does NOT always go hand in hand with autism.

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Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASD, are a group of developmental disabilities characterized by abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and the presence of repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. Some professionals may use the term Pervasive Developmental Disorders, or PDD, instead of ASD.

Incidence
ASD or PDD occurs 4 to 5 times more often in boys than in girls. Symptoms are present before the age of three, although diagnosis may occur later. ASD affects individuals from all racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds.

Cause
Nobody knows what causes ASD. Scientists believe that there are chemical and biological differences in how the brain functions, and there may be genetic factors involved. Parents do not cause autism spectrum disorders. No factors in a child’s experience or in parenting styles are responsible for ASD.

Prognosis
ASD is a lifelong disability, but with intensive and early intervention, individuals with ASD can and do make excellent progress and improve their quality of life. While there is no known cure for ASD, there are many intervention strategies designed to address the problems associated with ASD.

Characteristics
Although difficulties in social interaction, communication, and restricted or repetitive behavior are general characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders, the specific diagnoses are distinguished by the types, numbers, and severity of symptoms.
Communication
Some children develop speech, and then regress, or lose communication skills. Others echo or repeat what they hear. Many individuals with ASD do learn to talk, while others rely on technology, sign, or pictures to communicate. However, conversational skills, gestures, and non-verbal communication strategies remain difficult for most individuals with ASD.
Social Interaction
Persons with ASD often have difficulty interacting with others, learning to play with peers, and developing friendships, even though some may be very interested in having friends. They often have difficulty using and understanding eye contact, facial expressions, and social rules. They can be unaware of the interests and perspectives of other people, and may, therefore, become socially isolated and misunderstood.
Interests and Behavior
Some persons with autism may engage in repetitive behavior, like switching a light on and off, spinning, or rocking. Some may play with toys in an unusual manner, like lining toy cars up instead of pretending to drive them. They may insist on doing the same thing in the same way, and may have difficulty with changes to their surroundings or routines. Individuals with ASD also have difficulty processing information from their senses. For example, they may dislike the feel of certain fabrics or the texture of certain foods. Some individuals are very active and have difficulty with sleep. Some engage in challenging behavior, such as aggression, self-injury, or severe withdrawal.

Types
Neither ASD nor PDD are specific diagnoses. The specific ASD/PDD diagnoses are: Autism, Asperger Syndrome (AS), Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). These specific diagnoses are considered “Spectrum disorders” because the severity of impairment varies from person to person and can change over time as a result of intervention. Because it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact diagnosis, some professionals may refer to individuals as being “on the spectrum”. For example, one child with ASD may struggle to learn to use words to communicate while another may be capable of carrying on a long conversation, but will only care to talk about certain topics. Many show a strong aptitude in one area, while remaining weak in others.
Autism
Autism is the most well-known form of ASD. Often the most noteworthy piece of this diagnosis is a sever impairment in social skills, People with autism may prefer to play or work alone, and seek social interaction only as needed. Autism can occur with or without mental retardation or other health problems, such as seizure disorders. The first signs of autism usually are recognized during the second year of life, and may include odd, delayed, or absent speech development.
Asperger Syndrome
Asperger Syndrome (AS) is marked by significant difficulties in social interaction but in contrast to autism, there are no obvious delays in the development of speech. However, individuals often have more subtle problems with language and non-verbal communication. Persons with AS are likely to have average to above average intelligence, yet may have difficulty functioning in traditional school and work environments. A unique characteristic that many AS individuals show is an intense interest in one or two subjects to the exclusion of others. When speaking, these individuals tend to be formal, and they may not be skilled at conversational turn taking. Individuals with AS are typically diagnosed later than individuals with autism.
PDD-NOS
PDD-NOS is an abbreviation for Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. The diagnosis of PDD-NOS is usually given to an individual who does not meet the exact diagnostic criteria for any of the other diagnoses in ASD, yet clearly shows unusual development in social interaction, communication skills or interests, and behavior. Often, individuals with PDD-NOS diagnosis have better social or communication skills than individuals diagnosed with autism and may have fewer problems with repetitive behaviors or restricted interests.

Taken from CARD’s “A Map for Your Journey”

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“SPEAK UP LOUD FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT”
Today 80% of the Autism population is under 18.

In 2005, The Center For Disease Control announces that autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States. In 2005 estimated that 1.77 million Americans are affected by autism. In real terms the estimated autistic population of 1 million plus cases in 2004 could reach 5 to 25 million by 2015. In 1994 the autism rate was rare and was estimated to be 1 in 10,000. In 2004 the autism epidemic revised rate was estimated to be 1 in 200. In 2005 the autism epidemic revised rate is now estimated to be 1 in 166 by the Center For Disease Control. In 2015 the statistics indicate the estimated rate could be as high as 1 in 7, if this 1994 to 2004 exponential growth rate continues at its present rate.

Therefore no matter who you are or where you live, Democrat or Republican, if these statistics of the past carry forward through the next decade; your family may be devastated by autism in the next decade… The current autism epidemic could become the most devastating epidemic in history, with 10-15% of the population afflicted in the next decade that need long term care. Many experts associate a genetic predisposition triggered be high levels of mercury in the environment together as the cause of Autism.

The latest study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 12 American women of childbearing age has mercury levels in her blood above the levels considered safe for the developing fetus. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency experts have estimated that 630,000 infants are born every year with unsafe levels of mercury.

These higher mercury levels in the mothers body can be passed on during pregnancy. These 1 in 12 mothers could be unknowingly predisposing their unborn child to become autistic due to high levels of mercury passed on from the mother during pregnancy. It is now recommended that pregnant women not eat tuna fish, which is known to be high in mercury. Even small trace amounts of Mercury are known to be harmful to developing fetuses and never break down in the body. Mercury vapors can remain airborne for a year. These vapors can therefore travel around the world and we could be accumulating mercury in our bodies by inhaling them that over time.

According to a recent study of mercury emissions throughout the world. Coal fueled power plants in the U.S. Emit 48 tons of toxic mercury vapors into the air per year. China emits 1000 tons of toxic mercury vapors per year. The toxicity buildup of breathing these vapors along with mercury fillings over a period of decades within our bodies, may be the cause of the high levels mercury in women of childbearing age. Vaccines with mercury further spike an already high level of mercury passed on from the mother during pregnancy at a critical time in the infants development Vaccines with mercury may be the trigger that causes autism in children with a genetic predisposition for autism and an already high level of mercury passed on from the mother.

Acute mercury poisoning and Autism share many similar symptoms. Women who are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant should now consider have their blood tested for elevated levels of mercury. We must ask the government to make Autism Awareness and prevention a national priority. Those who are saying that the numbers were under represented in the past are burying their heads in the sand.

“Houston, we have a problem”, we are going to have the next generation devastated by this disease if left unchecked at its present growth rate. This epidemic must quickly become the major health initiative of our time just as the search for the cure for aids has. Otherwise the effects on the next generation, families, businesses and the economy will be catastrophic. We can no longer wait for this “simmering modern day plague of the 21st century” to arrive at our doorstep in the form of a lost generation of innocent, helpless, unsuspecting children that through no fault of their own will need a lifetime of care.

Autism Awareness is Key

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Question?: Asperger Syndrome Causes

Sandra asks…

Does China do any research on Aspergers syndrome?

I’ve always wondered being both a person with aspergers and Chinese heritage, there is very little talk about aspergers syndrome which is a mild form of autism. Aspies seem like the type of people the Chinese life styles would appaud for aspergerian work ethic and subjects of interest which could help China with its econmy. Cause there is much talk about aspergers in western nations but what about eastern nations like China is there anything about aspergers there?

admin answers:

Yeah they have done studies. They probably just reccomend giving the kid enough drugs to cure it. Look you’re asian therefore you can pass as not having aspergers. Do that. If anyone says anything just say “I’m Chinese this is how we act, I’m sorry if I have offended you.”
Look everywhere but America they cure mental illness the correct way “They give enough Valium or whatever drug to do it even if it is like 6-10 pills a day” they don’t have a bias against curing through medication like they do here in America. All Mental illness has a cure Every tolerance ends in plateu and there you go the cure.

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Question?: Treatment For Autism In Toddlers

Richard asks…

Autism question: young toddler already showing signs?

I have a young toddler showing some signs of autism already. The pediatrician has brought it up briefly and will prob setup some sort of screening test for it soon. I believe if he has it its not at the highest level.

I personally don’t know a ton about Autism, are there different levels of Autism?

Can it get worse or better with therapy?

What causes Autism and is there any medication to help in the future?

I always thought Autism was another name for a learning disability.

admin answers:

There are definitely different levels of autism. It can range from severe autism all the way to some simple learning disabilities. My son was diagnosed with PDD NOS at age 2, which is a mild form of autism. He basically has speech delays and some “quirks” in his personality as we call it.

The sooner your child is diagnosed and starts therapy, the better they will do later on. I highly recommend asking your pediatrician for a referral to a developmental pediatrician or neurologist. There is testing they can do (even at young ages) to see if your child falls on the autism spectrum, and then will recommend therapies/treatments.

Therapy definitely helps immensely. I have several friends who had mildly autistic children, and with intensive therapy, the no longer carry a diagnosis of autism. Its possible to overcome mild cases, or the diagnosis will change to something like ADD, etc.

There is no known cause for autism, but is mainly thought to be either genetic. Depending on what your child’s issues are, there are some medications out there that can help.

Like I said, I highly recommend getting your child evaluated by a developmental pediatrician or neurologist ASAP. I wish you the best of luck!!

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Question?: Autism Symptoms In Adults

Paul asks…

Why do you think autism is more often diagnosed in the last decade?

Why do you think autism is more often diagnosed in the last decade?

admin answers:

I think the main reason is that there is a lot more knowledge and awareness about autism now than before.

Autism is a rather young diagnosis, not because autism didn’t exist before or was less common, but because it wasn’t recognized and diagnosed the same way it is today.

People with all kinds of developmental disorders and various mental disabilities used to be lumped together into one group and thought of as imbeciles or thought to be possessed by demons. They were hid away somewhere in institutions and were not visible in society. Nowadays there is a lot more knowledge about those disorders, so they are being diagnosed more accurately as separate disorders and they are being treated and accommodated. People who have them are being included in general society more than before and have therefore become more visible. A lot has changed in just a few decades.

There is also a lot more public awareness of autism now than before, so people are more likely to know what autism is, recognize some of the signs and seek diagnosis and help if they suspect that they or their children may have it. It is also not a taboo anymore or something that people try to hide in shame.

A lot of people who are adults today are undiagnosed or have only recently been diagnosed, because autism was little known when they were growing up and they were therefore never diagnosed or they were misdiagnosed with something else.

I doubt that autism is really on the rise as much as people think it is. I think the increase seen in the statistics can mostly be explained by increased knowledge and awareness and more accurate diagnosis.

I’m 28 years old and have a mild form of autism myself. I wasn’t diagnosed with it until I was in my twenties, but the symptoms were there my whole life, just unrecognized due to limited knowledge/awareness about autism spectrum disorders.

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Question?: Autism Symptoms In 3 Year Old

Laura asks…

Does anyone know of a website or resource where you can find out what chemicals are known to cause autism?

My 3 year old son may be diagnosed with a mild form of autism soon (we were warned today that that’s what the signs point to). There is also groundwater contamination in our neighborhood of chemicals known to rise through the ground and get trapped in the house. Does anyone know where I can find more information? I’ve researched the specific chemical (and those resources don’t seem to say anything about autism), so I was hoping to research the autism end instead.

admin answers:

You should start at the largest organization for autism’s website. Http://www.autism-society.org/ From here, you could find local support groups for autism and many of them have forums on the web…you should pose your question to them also.
I’ve never heard anything about chemicals causing autism, but I have heard that lead can cause autism-like symptoms. Best wishes to you.

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How To See Autism As A Genuine Perspective And The Reasoning Of An Autistic Mind

For starters I am an Aspie, an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism. It seems awfully strange that I am autistic, yet I have such great language skills, especially with typing. I would write with my hand, but my hand-writing is illegible. With that being said, I have a lot to say about my perspective as an autistic man.

First off, if you know someone with autism, then you have more than likely been touched by said person, as we are often very gifted in one way or another, despite our difficulties with communicating with those we interact with. We all feel a need to belong, whether we are autistic or not! We want nothing more than to please our loved-ones, and sometimes this is hard, as we tend to go overboard with things. Autism often comes with what is known as stemming, something that we use to normalize our environment.

Let me take you on an adventure inside of an autistic mind, and how you should view autism as a genuine, yet unique perspective!

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the normal-functioning of the brain, in an otherwise healthy mind. The way we see the world is above and beyond normal understanding and functioning in the world, where we sometimes don’t understand our culture and society, and when we oftentimes dislike the cultural-norms, as we see the world as too entangled with social-customs, where problems could be solved with instead logic and reasoning, while at the same time we could affect the world with a high-capacity of intuition.

Autistic people feel that the world is unstable, mostly because of the social taboos, which are otherwise natural to us. The world would be much different if we made more sense, and not trying to control how we consume our culture. People want us to eat certain foods, when really we just want to enjoy our meals the way we want, in a healthy way, a way that most people feel is immoral. Why exactly do people believe that all wild-strawberries are poisonous? They hear it from their parents, who heard it from their grandparents, but why don’t they do their own research, or ask a professional?

We often hear that we can’t use our imagination for fun things, that we must work hard, everyday, all day, something that we want to change, as we know that humans are very social animals, and all we want is to explore our imaginations! Our perspectives show our wish to reconnect with our true-nature, the nature of exploring and enjoying life, while everyone else puts too many expectations on us. Everyone should just do what it is that is most enjoyable in life, and not being a drone!

As mentioned above, an autistic person only wants to get enjoyment and entertainment out of life. If everyone were to do what they enjoyed, the world would be a very happy and satisfied place! There are always jobs that you will enjoy, even if it isn’t extravagant. You, believe it or not, can enjoy being a janitor, but if you don’t enjoy it, you only take the job because you feel that “somebody has to do it”! Look, there are people out there who would enjoy that line of work, so leave it to them, and go after what you enjoy!

The autistic mind takes in from their environment, but they take what they get out of it and turn it into something remarkable! They try to make their living more meaningful and enjoyable, also more entertaining. If you were to live as an autistic person, you would totally change your attitude about how people should function! All you would want is to live a life that is meaningful, and you would constantly try to make the world a better place to live, not just for you, but for all who are in your perception.

Joseph D. Smith employs the Aspiezine, a topical blog and social network for those affected by and with autism, whether you are autistic or not!

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Autism Spectrum Disorders Round-Up Week 10 / 2012

Author with Asperger Syndrome shares life with Eureka audience – Peoria Journal Star

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It turns out the McHenry County-based author had a good excuse for his social-interaction difficulties and bizarre behavior. At age 30, he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism.

Four years later, the Finches’ marriage no longer appears to be on the rocks. And Finch’s life, which includes his and Kristen’s two children, looks much less rocky.

Raising awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s

sdcvs.wordpress.com3/6/12

A one day workshop created and delivered by Janette Smeeton (previously of Life Matters).

How much do you understand about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Asperger’s Syndrome (AS)? Take a moment and reflect on the image that comes to mind for you when thinking about this subject. This could be a stereotypical image of a person who struggles with disability or maybe someone who is a genius? The truth is that they can both be correct with a very broad spectrum of characters in between

Why the Sun’s Ian McGarry was wrong to treat Asperger Syndrome

jamescusack.wordpress.com3/6/12

In Britain, football is not a trivial matter. This was reflected in the extensive debate on 5live’s Monday night club on the sacking of Chelsea football club manager Andre Villas Boas. Early on we’d ascertained that Villa Boas had been sacked as results were not good enough, and that this was probably due to a poor relationship between the manager and players. But the debate delved deeper as host Mark Chapman tried to question why the relationship between the players and manager had failed, with a specific focus on the manager’s behaviour. Then Sun journalist Ian McGarry attempted to explain Villa Boas’s behaviour by stating that he had heard him described as: “borderline Aspergers” (a form of autism).

Experts Present Latest Findings on Triggers and Therapies at the Autism … – MarketWatch (press release)

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The Autism Research Institute, a pioneer organization in the biomedical, whole-body approach to autism, will host leading experts at the Autism Research Institute (ARI) Conference from Thursday, April 26 through Sunday, April 29 at the Newark Airport Marriott in Newark, N.J. The conference is open to the public and cost to attend is $79 per day, with discounts to those who qualify. Free evening workshops are also open to the public.

New language app for children with autism based on ABA therapy launched – Examiner.com

news.google.com

Applications for teaching children with autism for the iPad and iPhone has been increasing, since the creation of the iPad. A new app was launched on March 5, 2012 that enables parents, and professionals alike, to utilize the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) teaching style in any setting for developing early language skills.

The app is Tell Me About It and the company is Different Roads to Learning, Inc., as reported by PR Newswire

Autism On Twitter
(Most mentioned in last 24 hours)

Taking things for granted

Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds

Enter your name and email to receive the first chapters of my book “Asperger’s Syndrome in Layman’s Terms” free

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Discover the Signs of Autism

Autism is considered to be a variety of mental retardation, or an occasion as a severe form of obsessive-compulsive illness. The first term of autism appeared around 1912 when psychiatrist Eugene Bleurel used the word to refer to patients who were self-absorbed and out of touch with the rest of the world. The term autism is derived from the Greek word autos, meaning self.

The term shows the communicative isolation that is the foremost feature of the illness. In fact the term referred to schizophrenic individuals who displayed catatonic behaviours and not to autistic patients as it is known today. The autistic syndrome may be described as mental retardation or mental illness. A mild form of autism identified as Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder and it was discovered by Dr. Hans Asperger.

A more general description of autism described by Dr. Leo Kanner was provided. Both doctors recognized the intense isolation experienced by their child patients was the central function of the condition. Mental retardation and obsessive-compulsive disorder is unquestioned today but researchers refined Drs. Kanner and Asperger’s work. Autism is thought as a family of related diseases which today are known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs).

Three other conditions round out the pervasive developmental disorder family Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder. Another diagnosis, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) is used to indicate PDDs of unknown origin. All these developmental disorders are characterized by communication and social impairments. Different causes for the underlying impairments are different one from another; they differ by profiles and intensities of impairment typical of each condition.

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Autism spectrum disorders are synonymous with pervasive developmental disorders. A person can have a pervasive developmental disorder and not carry the diagnosis of autism in particular. Because of their insidious nature of autism spectrum of disorders are difficult to recognize. Parents are seldom motivated to assume the worst about their children’s atypical behaviour and symptoms until they become impossible to ignore. Most parents do not bring their children in for formal diagnosis until they are between 18 months and three years of age. As time goes by parents and physicians learn what to look for and more children are diagnosed at earlier ages.

Methods and techniques for identifying pervasive developmental disorders early continue to be refined. The preferred method for identifying autism and related pervasive developmental disorders the behavioral observation has been preferred. Children’s lack of eye contact and social reciprocity are recognized as the major causes of autism. A characteristic of autism and related disorders is the presence of the stereotyped repetitive movements. When they are concerned about a PDD like autism it can be difficult for parents to know what specific signs to look for. A list of warning signs and milestones all revolving around the crucial team of communication deficits.

Such circumstances should be concerned about his child if: the child does not: babble or coo by twelve months, use gestures to communicate and the child does not wave, grasp objects or point to objects by twelve months, say single words by the age of sixteen months and does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months, the child has a loss of any language or social skills at any age. Only a psychiatrist or psychologist observes the child’s behaviour and interviews the parents or guardians he may administer one or more formal tests designed to measure PDD-like behaviour and compare it to normal children behaviour so that the degree of the child’s impairments can be determined.

The doctor will review the test results and observation notes and make a diagnosis based on observable criteria.

It is important for a parent to observe a child’s behaviour and verify its mental health. This method will show if any case of autism appears and it is true also that a specialist should be consult.

More informations about autism symptoms or about autism symptoms checklist can be found by visiting http://www.autism-info-center.com/
More informations about autism symptoms or about autism symptoms checklist can be found by visiting http://www.autism-info-center.com/
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A Leg Up On Life

A Leg Up On Life

Adults With Autism Are Getting Help With Life Skills

CAITLIN KENNY WRITES a list of goals on a white board for her client, Jonathan Ross, as he logs his recent meals into a computer at his New Haven apartment. Kenny is helping Ross, who has Aspergers Syndrome, with his diet and social skills as part of a pilot program run by the state’s Department of Developmental Service. (CLOE POISSON / January 9, 2008)

By KATHLEEN MEGAN | Courant Staff Writer

January 20, 2008

Above Jonathan Ross’ computer is taped a list of his long-term goals: Lose 200 pounds. Get a job. Become more socially active.

Next to it is another note that says, “I believe in myself,” written five times.

“So have you been saying it?” asks Caitlin Kenny, his life-skills coach, referring to the “belief” note.

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“Yes,” Ross replies. He’s been repeating it out loud once in the morning and again later in the day.

If you were to meet Jonathan Ross, you might not know there was anything different about him. He is perfectly affable, has interesting observations and lives in a well-organized apartment.

But for years, Ross, who is 47, has had trouble making friends, following through on his life goals and leading an independent life. Finally, a few years ago, a doctor told him he has Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder that is considered a mild form of autism.

Asked how it is that Aspergers affects him, Ross spoke about his feelings: “There’s some connection that has to be made, and I don’t have the connection” to form relationships with people.

“If there are seven things in life you need to do things, I have six of them, and that seventh thing, I don’t have,” said Ross. “It’s some kind of learning experience that you have that I don’t.

“I feel like if I could get my hands around that one thing: Maybe I could get something out of life different.”

Now Ross has hope that his life might change for the better. A couple of years ago, the legislature approved a $1 million pilot project to assist adults of normal intelligence with diagnoses on what is called the autism spectrum. That spectrum ranges from people who experience severe difficulty in processing and understanding social and emotional aspects of communication — those with the diagnosis of classic autism — to much milder forms of the disorder, such as Aspergers syndrome.

With about 1 in 150 children having a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, the disorder is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States, according to the Autism Society of America. The pilot project is the first to offer a comprehensive set of services to adults with normal intelligence on the autism spectrum. Launched in the New Haven area in July 2006, the program serves 28 people, and state officials hope to receive more money to expand into the Hartford area this year.

“Our mission is for them to lead independent lives,” said Kathy Reddington, who is autism coordinator for the state’s Department of Developmental Services. James Loomis, a psychologist who is an expert on autism disorders and runs a social skills group for the pilot, said that in some cases adults with this disorder have “negotiated a life and they kind of cope and do what they do. We try to get them a job that’s more satisfying, a more satisfying life.”

Often it is not so much the job as the social interactions around it that can cause problems, Loomis said.

People on the spectrum can take comments overly literally and often don’t understand sarcasm or misinterpret facial expressions or gestures.

For instance, Loomis said, one client thought a boss’s frequent use of the expression, “give me a break,” meant that he had broken something.

Peter F. Gerhardt, president of the Organization for Autism Research in Arlington, Va., said that Connecticut is among the leaders in recognizing the “economic and human benefits” of providing this type of service to adults with autism spectrum disorders.

“People with autism tend to be pretty significantly under-served after graduation from high school,” said Gerhardt. “People with Aspergers tend to be more or less ignored by the post-21 system because when they do a 30-minute interview, they may present as a bit quirky, but they don’t come across as having a true disability.”

However, he said, such individuals do need services on an “intermittent but consistent basis.” With help, he said, they can move from needing public resources to contributing to them.

Though he had worked for 20 years, Ross had had trouble finding steady work since he was laid off three years ago and in that time his physical health has declined.

He gained weight and his diabetes worsened. His days were often spent alone in front of his computer or driving around New Haven.

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Since he joined the pilot program in November, he has a date book full of events and appointments. Kenny helps him with myriad skills: developing a healthy diet, cooking, getting exercise, going out to cultural activities and calling acquaintances.

Through the program he also has been linked to a job developer, a nutritionist and attends a once-weekly group session on social skills.

Ross said his top priority at the moment, and something he hopes will help him land a job, is to lose weight.

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“What did you have for breakfast today?” Kenny asked him when she arrives. Ross says he had one egg and cheese at McDonald’s.

“That’s good — down from two. Did you get hungry?” asked Kenny, who works with Ross five days a week. Ross said he didn’t.

And then on a white board set up prominently in Ross’s living room, Kenny erases last week’s guidelines and replaces them with new suggestions from the nutritionist: make sugar-free gelatin jello and pudding; go to the gym five times a week; continue to purchase light yogurt and fruit for snacks; and eat lunch at home three or four times a week.

“I’ve lost 10 pounds already,” said Ross who started in the program in November. Ross’s family has been very pleased with the pilot program. His brother, Michael Ross, said “He hasn’t had these kinds of services any time in his life.

“What has barely begun has filled a void … Not that he didn’t have an existence, but this is a program that is giving him and a lot of others hope for a more fulfilling life.”

Jonathan Ross said the most important thing he has learned through the pilot is: “I’m not the only one that has these types of feelings, that I’m not really all alone.”

The participants in the pilot vary greatly and include twentysomethings who were diagnosed with autism as toddlers and have had services ever since then as well as people like Ross who are in their 40s and 50s but only recently discovered that they are on the autism spectrum.

For the younger clients, the program provides services to fill the vacuum that occurs when they age out of the educational system. Lois Rosenwald, co-director of the Connecticut Autism Spectrum Resource Center, was instrumental in developing the pilot program. “We put a lot of energy into birth to 3 and somewhat through the teen years, but depending on when they graduate, they fall off the end of the earth.”

“Why put resources, energy and money into them and then have nothing when we know that if our young adults are supported into the next stage, they are going to do OK,” she said.

Shannon McEvoy is one of those young adults with Aspergers who had services all the way through school and now at the age of 24 is trying to figure out what she might do.

With the help of the pilot project staff working with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, McEvoy now has a volunteer position, assisting with recreational programs at a local nursing home. She loves the job and is hoping she might eventually get paid to work in the field.

“The people there like me,” said McEvoy. “They like to see a smiling face, it makes them feel better.”

McEvoy has a “mentor” through the program who meets with her a couple of times a week to go over practical skills, like budgeting or how to do laundry, and also to make sure she has fun. They have gone to museums, Mystic and the movies. She also has a job developer and attends the same social skills group that Ross does.

McEvoy said the social skills program has helped her a lot. “If something makes me mad, it’s taught me different ways to handle it.”  said McEvoy.

For Yvonne Murry of Beacon Falls the pilot project has transformed her life. With their help, she found an at-home educational program through which she can get a high school diploma and has also found an at-home job that is perfectly suited to her: She is proofreading puzzles.

Through the program, she now has an “education coach” who is helping her with her school work, a job developer who helped her find the job, a life-skills coach who has taught her how to cook, and she attends the social skills group. Her next goal is to get her driver’s license.

She said the project has helped her to “explore other options and meet different people … My inner world has opened up and I’m not as frightened as before to challenges that may occur.”

Contact Kathleen Megan at kathy.megan@courant.com.


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A New Approach to Treatment for Some Forms of Autism

 

What do we mean when we say autism is a ‘spectrum disorder?’

When the term, ‘spectrum disorder’ is used it means that there are a range of symptoms, which can be attributed to autism. Any one individual may display any combination of these symptoms, in differing degrees of severity. Therefore an individual at one end of the autistic spectrum may seem very different to an individual at the other end of the spectrum.

Who first discovered autism?

Autism was first recognised in the mid 1940’s by a psychiatrist called Leo Kanner. He described a group of children, whom he was treating, who presented with some very unusual symptoms such as; – atypical social development, irregular development of communication and language, and recurring / repetitive and obsessional behaviour with aversion to novelty and refusal to accept change. His first thoughts were that they were suffering some sort of childhood psychiatric disorder.

At around the same time that Kanner was grappling with the problems of these children, a German scientist, Hans Asperger was caring for a group of children whose behaviour also seemed irregular. Asperger suggested that these children were suffering from what he termed ‘autistic psychopathy.’ These children experienced remarkably similar symptoms to the children described by Kanner, with a single exception. – Their language development was normal! There is still an ongoing debate as to whether autism and Asperger’s syndrome are separable conditions, or whether Asperger’s syndrome is merely a mild form of autism.

What is the cause of autism?

In the 1960s and 1970s there arose a theory that autism was caused by abnormal family relationships. This led on to the ‘refrigerator mother’ theory, which claimed that autism in the child was caused by cold, emotionless mothers! (Bettleheim, 1967). However the weight of evidence quickly put this theory to bed as evidence was found to support the idea that the real cause was to be found in abnormalities in the brain. This evidence was quickly followed by findings, which clearly demonstrated that the EEG’s of children with autism were, in many cases, atypical and the fact that a large proportion of children also suffered from epilepsy.

From this time, autism has been looked upon as a disorder, which develops as a consequence of abnormal brain development. Recently, evidence has shown that in some cases, the abnormal brain development may be caused by specific genes.

However, we should not forget that genes can only express themselves if the appropriate environmental conditions exist for them to do so and so, we should not rule out additional, environmental causes for autism. We should not forget that autism can also be caused by brain-injury, that an insult to the brain can produce the same effects as can abnormal development of the brain, which may have been caused by genetic and other environmental factors. I have seen too many children who have suffered oxygen starvation at birth, who have gone on to display symptoms of autism. So, it is my view that autism can also be caused by brain-injury.

There are also other possibilities, which can ultimately produce the type of brain dysfunction, which we recognise as autism. There is a great deal of research being carried out at the moment in the area of ‘oxidative stress’ and methylation and it’s effects upon the integrity of neural networks. There is also the debate surrounding mercury levels in vaccines, which is as of yet, unresolved.

The fact is that ‘many roads lead to Rome.’ – There are likely to be several factors both genetic and environmental, which can ultimately lead to the type of brain dysfunction, which we call autism.

 

So, how do we recognise autism?

On a descriptive level, autism involves a dysfunction of the brain’s systems, which control communication, socialisation, imagination and sensory perception. My theory is that it is the distortions of sensory perception, which are so characteristic of autism, which exacerbates many (but not all) of the other difficulties. Imagine a child suffering from autism who suffers distortions of sensory perception. For instance, the child who suffers distortions of visual perception, might find situations which require eye -contact to be exceptionally threatening, or on the other end of the scale might become obsessive about specific visual stimuli. The child who suffers distortions of tactile perception, might at one end of the spectrum find any situation which requires physical contact to be terrifying, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, they might be a ‘sensation seeker’ to the point of becoming self -injurious. The child who suffers distortions of auditory perception might at one end of the spectrum, be terrified of sounds of a certain pitch or intensity, whereas at the other end of the spectrum, they might actively seek out, or become obsessive about certain sounds.

 

Treatment

The question is, what can we do to help redress these distortions of sensory perception. Well, we believe we can learn from the newborn baby. When baby is born, he sleeps for most of the time, only spending short periods of time interacting with this new environment in which he finds himself; – a new environment which bombards his senses with new sights, noises and smells. So he retreats into the safe, calm environment of sleep, which provides the sensory safe haven which up until recently was the sanctuary of the womb. Very gradually, as baby adjusts his sensory system to his new environment, he spends more and more time in the waking world, interacting and learning to communicate, – but he adjusts very gradually!

There is possibly a neurological explanation for this. There are structures within the brain, which act to ‘tune’ sensory attention. These three structures, which allow us to tune our attention are structures, which enables us to ‘tune out’ background interference when we wish to selectively attend to something in particular. They also enables us to ‘tune in’ to another stimulus when we are attending to something completely different. They are the same mechanisms of the brain, which allows us to listen to what our friend is saying to us, even when we are standing in the midst of heavy traffic on a busy road. It is these mechanisms that allow us, even though we are in conversation in a crowded room, to hear our name being spoken by someone else across that room. It is these mechanisms, which allow a mother to sleep though various loud, night-time noises such as her husband snoring, or an aeroplane passing overhead and yet the instant her new baby stirs, she is woken. It is a remarkable feature of the human brain and it is the responsibility of three structures operating cooperatively; – these are the ascending reticular activating formation, the thalamus and the limbic system.

Having made such a bold claim, allow me to furnish you with the evidence to support it. The three structures just mentioned receive sensory information from the sense organs and relay the information to specific areas of the cortex. The thalamus in particular is responsible for controlling the general excitability of the cortex (whether that excitability tunes the cortex up to be overexcited, tunes it down to be under excited, or tunes it inwardly to selectively attend to it’s own internal sensory world.) (Carlson, 2007). The performance of these neurological structures, or in the case of our children, their distorted performance seems to be at the root of the sensory problems faced not only by newborn babies, but the sensory difficulties our children face and yes, as the newborn shows, their performance CAN be influenced, – they can be re-tuned.

I believe the sensory system of some children with autism is experiencing similar difficulties to that of a newborn, – at one end of the autistic spectrum, the cortex is being over-excited by these structures and the person is overwhelmed and has difficulty accommodating the mass of sensory stimulation within the environment. At the other end of the autistic spectrum, the cortex is being under-excited and the person has trouble in perceiving sensory stimulation from the environment. The question is; – How do we facilitate the re-tuning of this neurological system in individuals who have autism

The newborn retreats into sleep, a self imposed dampening of incoming sensory information. Whilst the child with autism does not do this, many children with autism attempt to withdraw from their environment because they find it so threatening.

We believe at Snowdrop that for the child at the end of the autistic spectrum who is suffering an amplification of sensory stimulation, we should create a setting where he can retreat from a world, which is overwhelming his immature sensory system. This ‘adapted environment,’ which should be as free as possible from all visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory stimulation will serve as a milieu where his sensory system can re-tune itself. Of course it may just be a single sense like vision, or hearing, or tactility, or any combination of senses, which are causing the difficulties and the environment may be adapted appropriately. The child suffering these difficulties will usually welcome this adapted environment, which is in effect a ‘safe haven’ for his immature sensory system. He should be given free access to, or placed within the adapted environment as needed and you will notice hopefully that he will relax and begin to enjoy being within its safe confines, where there are no sensory surprises.

This procedure should be continued for as long as necessary, – for several weeks or months. Indeed, some children might always need periods of time within the ‘safe haven.’ As the child begins to accept and be at ease in his safe haven, stimulation in whatever sensory modality is causing the difficulties, should begin to be introduced at a very low level, so low in fact that it is hardly noticeable. If the child tolerates this, then it can be used more frequently until it becomes an accepted part of the sensory environment. If the child reacts negatively in any way, then the stimulus is withdrawn and reintroduced at a later date. In this way, we can very gradually begin to build the level of tolerance, which the child has towards the stimulus.

For the child at the other end of the autistic spectrum, the child whose sensory attentional system is not exciting the cortex enough, with the consequence that he is not noticing enough of the stimulation in his sensory environment, the approach needs to be the exact opposite. These are the children who we see producing self-stimulatory behaviour. I believe that this behaviour is an attempt by the nervous system to provide itself with what it needs from the environment, – a sensory message of greater intensity! We see many children with autism ‘flapping’ their hands in front of their eyes, or becoming visually obsessed by certain toys, movements, colours etc. I propose that this is a reaction by the nervous system to attempt to increase the intensity, frequency and duration of the sensory stimulus due to a problem with perceiving visual stimuli from the environment.

Of course, children with autism display a far greater range of difficulties than a theory, focused upon a malfunctioning sensory – attentional system could explain. I am not attempting to claim that sensory problems on their own are an adequate explanation for every facet of autism, – that would be ridiculous! This is merely a possible explanation of a range of issues experienced by some children who have autism, which could be produced or exacerbated by the child suffering distortions of sensory perception. For instance, the following symptoms within the autistic spectrum could possibly be explained at the sensory level.

Failure to make eye contact.

Difficulty in sharing attention with anyone.

Avoiding interaction with others

Avoiding physical contact

Seeming disconnected from the environment.

Appearing not to notice anything visually.

Visual distraction, as though the child is looking at something which you cannot see.

Visual obsession with particular features of the environment.

Inability to ‘switch’ visual attention from one feature of the environment to another.

General discomfort with the visual environment.

Appearing not to hear anything.

Auditory distraction, as though listening to something which you cannot hear.

Auditory obsession with particular sounds within the environment.

Inability to ‘switch’ auditory attention from one sound within the environment to another.

Inability to ‘tune out’ extraneous sounds in the environment.

General discomfort with the auditory environment.

Appearing not to feel much sensation.

Appearing to bee distracted by tactile stimuli of which you are not aware.

Obsession with particular tactile sensations within the environment.

Appears unable to ‘switch’ tactile attention from one sensation to another.

General discomfort with the tactile environment.

Difficulty in communicating with others.

 

 

 

We believe at Snowdrop, that our sensory re-tuning environments offer the best chance for children to overcome such distortions of sensory perception.

 


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