Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
'Mom, I'm not like that," 21-year-old Tom Iland told his mother as they watched a TV news report about a young man with Asperger's syndrome who killed two neighbors in Orange County, Calif.
It was a poignant moment for 48-year-old Emily Iland. Her son, who also has Asperger's, was worried that others would think him capable of such violence.
It wasn't just Tom. Since the shootings in Aliso Viejo, Calif., people with Asperger's syndrome and their families have been thinking, talking and e-mailing one another. They have been sharing their fears and brainstorming about practical steps to allay public fears and forestall such tragedies in the future.
On Oct. 30, 19-year-old William Freund dressed in a paintball mask and cape, entered a neighboring house and killed Vernon Smith and his daughter Christina, 22, with a shotgun. He shot at others, too, before returning to his house and shooting himself. In the days afterward, it was revealed that Freund frequently posted in an online forum for people with Asperger's, a condition that causes profound gaps in the ability to read social nuances but is not generally associated with violence.Michael John Carley of New York City founded GRASP, a support group network for Asperger's syndrome and related conditions, in 2003. The shootings, he said, have galvanized his group's resolve to expand across the country. "I don't know enough about this young man to deduce if we would have been able to have an impact," he said. "Maybe there was some other diagnosis going on that we don't know about."
Carley, 41, was diagnosed with Asperger's in 2000, along with his son, now 9. "It's a very lonely place if you have no sense of shared experience with somebody with similar wiring to yours," he said.
People in the Asperger's community are not saying their disorder neatly explains the killings. In fact, some are upset that Freund's crime is being linked to Asperger's.
"What bothers me is the implication that there's something about Asperger's syndrome that causes people to do this kind of thing -- kind of, 'Look out for the dangerous Asperger people,' " said Jerry Newport, 57, who founded a Los Angeles support group for people with autism and Asperger's in 1993. He now lives in Tucson and travels frequently to speak on the topic.
"The only connection you can make between Asperger's and what happened is that his Asperger's syndrome may have set him up for ridicule as a child," Newport said.
Ways to help
Days after the slayings, Newport and others in the Asperger's community brainstormed ways to ramp up help, such as creating a crisis hot line staffed with people familiar with Asperger's and autism. They double-checked to make sure that their support groups had blanket policies of reporting threats to police.
One activist contacted the Orange County sheriff's office with an offer to put on an educational town hall meeting about Asperger's; another is in discussions with the New York Police Department about training for crisis intervention officers.
Although they don't excuse Freund's actions or know details of his case, many say they relate to some of the anguish he may have felt.
People with Asperger's, while often highly academically gifted, tend to lack basic social skills such as knowing how to read a face or hold a conversation, or when to tell little white lies. They are apt to talk relentlessly about their deeply held and sometimes quirky passions, be they city maps, industrial cooling towers or, for Tom Iland, anything pertaining to "Star Wars." The condition, which varies greatly in severity, affects an estimated one in 250 to 500 children, mostly boys.
The social awkwardness can add up to a childhood of ostracism and being the butt of playground jokes.
"I was alienated when I was in school. I was made fun of. And I did feel very alone," said Benjamin Levinson, 36, of Culver City, Calif., on the west side of Los Angeles. "I tried to make friends, but I never really could make any -- I just didn't know how." He received a string of incorrect diagnoses before finally learning in his 20s that he had Asperger's. "Looking back on my life, I know that there was a time between when I was about 13 to the time I was maybe 22 or 23, I was just really angry. ... Thank God I was able to get some help when I needed it," he said.
Life may be easier for the next generation of children with the disorder.
Today, because of far greater recognition of autism and related disorders, children with Asperger's syndrome are much more likely to receive a diagnosis early and get the help they need, such as support groups and social-skills education, said Laurie Stephens, an Asperger's and autism specialist with the Help Group. Among other things, that nonprofit organization runs Village Glen, a school in Los Angeles specifically for children with Asperger's and related disorders.
"These are people who really want to be able to get along with other people, but it just does not come naturally," Stephens said. "There are many hidden social rules, and they need to be taught them."
Iland was a Village Glen student a few years back -- and he and his mother credit it with helping him make the transition to a regular high school, then to community college. He's now a junior at California State University, Northridge, studying for a degree in accounting. He still lives at home and has a mentor to help him with life skills.
"Violence and revenge isn't the answer," he said, talking on the phone from the CSUN campus last week. "I'm a big 'Star Wars' fan, and (in the films) those who seek revenge are the bad guys."
But special schools can serve only a few. To make the Santa Clarita, Calif., area public schools easier for her son and others like him, in 2003 Emily Iland pushed to start a peer mentoring program devised by the University of Minnesota in which children with disabilities are paired with nondisabled students.
Now she is working on a new project aimed at educating those in law enforcement about Asperger's and autism. She recently convened a training session for more than 275 judges, sheriffs and attorneys in Santa Clarita and is working on a DVD aimed at teaching youth with Asperger's to interact safely with law enforcement and communicate their anxieties and frustrations instead of letting them escalate.
Perhaps none of these things could prevent a tragedy such as the one in Aliso Viejo, she said, "but we're being as proactive as we can."
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Led by researchers in the U.S. and Canada, the study examined 26 adults diagnosed with either autism, Asperger's syndrome, social-emotional processing disorder, or both Asperger's and social-emotional processing disorder. The shared trait of these disorders is social dysfunction. The individuals took a variety of tests to measure famous face recognition, recognition of non-facial emotional cues (from voices or bodies), recognition of basic emotions (happy, sad, angry, fearful), and recognition of a complex mental state (reflective, aghast, irritated, impatient) presented by a pair of eyes.
Ten of the participants scored well within the normal range for famous face recognition, and the other 16 scored at an impaired level.
For recognizing facial expression, these two groups showed a surprisingly similar range of performance and variability. Out of a possible score of 80 points, the 10 with normal identity recognition scored an average of 62.3, and the 16 with impaired identity recognition scored an average of 59.8. Scores were also similar for recognizing non-facial expression. Out of a possible score of 84 points, the first group scored an average 59.5 and the second group scored an average 56.9.
"One might have thought that there would be a high correlation between identifying faces and understanding facial expressions, but that wasn't the case. Instead there was a correlation between facial and non-facial expression analysis," said study author Jason J. S. Barton, MD, PhD, FRCPC, a professor of neurology and ophthalmology at University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "These results suggest that problems with judging facial expressions in these patients may be related more to the processing of emotion than to the perception of faces."
Future study would include functional imaging of these individuals while they perform the identity and expression recognition tasks, Barton said.
The study received funding support from a grant by the National Institute of Mental Health, a Canada Research Chair, and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Senior Scholarship.
Earlier this year Barton was awarded the Norman Geschwind Prize for Behavioral Neurology from the American Academy of Neurology.
In Autism And Related Disorders, Recognizing Emotion Is Different Than Identity
The shock finding follows interviews with 1700 families on school satisfaction levels.
A report to be released today by the Parent Autism Education Committee shows 70 per cent of parents do not believe schools are taking enough action on bullying of students with disabilities.
Frustrated parents have also complained some teachers do not accept disability and have accused individuals of behaving poorly towards their autistic sons and daughters.
Between 54 and 70 per cent of parents did not believe schools were doing enough to address their child's academic difficulties, communication, sensory needs, behavioural problems, physical wellbeing, mental health, bullying or social difficulties.
A total of 2500 South Australians are registered with Autism SA, including 1500 of school age.
Chief executive John Martin said yesterday findings on child safety in educational settings were disturbing, as was a high incidence of students being sent home or suspended.
Fifty-nine per cent of parents reported seeing a GP about stress, anxiety or depression.
Sixty-three per cent of parents said they were not regularly given any resources to reinforce learning goals at home, and 36 per cent did not consider themselves "adequately informed" about their child's progress.
Thirty-five per cent of parents with children in government schools were "concerned" or "very concerned" about their child's education.
Of those surveyed, 38 per cent said they had been forced to take their children home from school early because of behavioural issues.
Australian Education Union president Andrew Gohl said it was "a strong argument" for increased staff and resources.
Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said the Government had provided more than $6 million this year to support the special needs of SA school students with autism and Asperger's Syndrome.
She said the Government was "committed to supporting students with disabilities".
The Advertiser: Bullying of autistic students 'ignored' [23nov05]
Monday, November 21, 2005
ENID - A paintbrush, paint and a bare canvas changed Amanda LaMunyon's life.
Three years ago, Amanda's parents enrolled her in art lessons because she was having trouble paying attention in school.
Amanda, 10, has Asperger Syndrome, which is a milder version of autistic disorder. Asperger Syndrome is characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood, according to the disorder's Web site.
"I wanted to find something to keep her busy and make her feel good about herself," said her mother, Sherry LaMunyon.
The art lessons improved Amanda's performance in school and uncovered a hidden talent.
"God was good enough to give Amanda her talent, and it has changed her whole life," LaMunyon said. "It's changed the way people look at her and talk to her."
Amanda's mother said it has taken time for Amanda to realize that her work is good.
"In private she'll say 'It's not very good, is it?'" LaMunyon said. "I think the only reason she thinks well of her paintings is because people tell her how wonderful they are."
Richard Irwin, developmental pediatrician at the Tulsa Developmental Pediatrics & Center for Family Psychology, said it's common for individuals with Asperger Syndrome to have a uniquely outstanding academic or artistic ability.
"People with Asperger's learn differently than other people," Amanda's mother said. "It isn't that they can't learn, it's just that they learn differently."
Amanda doesn't take credit for her talent.
"Without God and my art teacher, Mrs. Lillian Foulks, I would have never learned to paint," Amanda said. "I never thought my paintings would be anything. I always thought I was just a girl who paints."
Foulks, 76, said when she started teaching Amanda how to paint three years ago, the young student could barely sit still.
"She would paint the easel, the table, and when she got that out of her system we would paint," Foulks said. "My easels have been every color you can imagine."
The teacher said she knows what it is like to be different and can relate to Amanda's situation.
"I have dyslexia and they didn't know what it was when I was going to school," Foulks said. "They just thought I was stupid. Even my teachers didn't realize what was wrong with me."
Amanda said she hopes others will be encouraged by her story.
"My art has opened many doors of opportunity for me," she said. "I have a dream that one day my paintings will hang beside the great artists all over the world."
A painting she did of Ronald Reagan caught Nancy Reagan's attention, and soon the former first lady will have a replica.
Plans are under way for Amanda to travel to California and present the painting to Nancy Reagan, said spokeswoman Wren Powell.
"I was just flabbergasted," Amanda said. "I couldn't believe Nancy Reagan wanted one of my paintings."
Amanda has been asked to include her artwork in a book titled "A Girl's Guide to Achieving in the Arts," which will be published in about a year.
Kristen Stephens, coordinator of educational outreach at Duke University, is writing the book. Stephens said Amanda's story could be an inspiration to other young girls.
"When I first saw her artwork I didn't know about her Asperger's," Stephens said. "Now it makes it even more amazing that she has found this outlet to express herself with.
"Amanda would be an inspiration to a lot of girls and that is one reason we are writing the book, to provide role models for young girls."
LaMunyon said her daughter has taught her how to accept people as they are.
"She's a little picture of hope," LaMunyon said.
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Others have come before him offering technology that made music and media free: first there was Napster's Shawn Fanning, then the European duo behind Kazaa. Those self-styled Robin Hoods quickly found themselves shut down or forced to stay just one step ahead of entertainment industry lawyers.
The 30-year-old Cohen's invention BitTorrent is the next generation. It makes it simple to download massive, bandwidth intensive files (everything from the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the latest episode of Desperate Housewives in high def to a file containing 400 Amazing Spider-Man comic books). BitTorrent is so popular that it now accounts for at least 20% of the entire volume of the Internet. And it's attracted over 45 million users. For high schoolers and college students, using BitTorrent is as natural as wielding a cell phone.
And yet talk to Hollywood and the establishment that should be crushing him seems in awe instead: "He's obviously a very brilliant guy," says Dan Glickman, president of Motion Picture Association of America, which leads the charge in cracking down on film piracy. The BitTorrent guys, says, Glickman, "have some revolutionary ideas and interesting concepts and we have been talking with them."
What makes BitTorrent different from its predecessors is one thing: Cohen, himself. Unlike the rebels of the past, Cohen has made no attempt to allow his users any degree of privacy, and has no problem when the MPAA and it's recording industry cousin, the Recording Industry Associations of America, launch suits against people posting copyright-infringing material using BitTorrent (like the real examples above – just scroll through TorrentSpy http://www.torrentspy.com/latest.asp or Pirate Bay http://thepiratebay.org/recent.php for more). He says: "A lot of people in tech have been going 'Ha ha, we're sticking it to them' which is counterproductive, unpleasant, and unlikely to make a lot of money."
Instead Cohen has been working with the industry to try to set up a marketplace where licensed or original BitTorrentized material can be bought and sold – his company would take a cut somewhere along the lines. Think of it as part iTunes, part eBay for bandwidth-intensive content. Some Hollywood execs, like recently departed Disney CEO Michael Eisner, think the concept's time has come: in his last days in office, he gave a speech to peers in which he said they shouldn't shun technologies like BitTorrent, but embrace them, arguing that content is king. Last month venture firm DCM-Doll Capital Management bet that Cohen could indeed make BitTorrent a business, investing $8.75 million in the startup. The San Francisco-based company now has 12 people and should be up to 20 by the end of the year.
Getting Hollywood to not just appreciate BitTorrent, but make it thrive is one hurdle. The other is a personal one: Cohen suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism that makes concentrating on technical details a snap, but picking up on normal social cues incredibly painful. Cohen spent two years working on BitTorrent — solving a puzzle surrounding huge downloads that had plagued the Net since its early days – and even longer working on living with his Asperger's. He accomplished the first. The ultimate test of whether he has beaten the second is whether he can make the jump from brilliant coder to businessman.
The full story is here as well and has more personal info on Bram
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Marc Fleisher sits opposite me doing something which would have been impossible for him 20 years ago He is demonstrating how an object placed near on edge of a table can cause great anxiety.
He does so in an extremely articulate way, and opens my eyes, illustrating clearly the challenges he has faced during his 38 year life.
This remarkable man has a degree in maths and a masters, both from Brunel University, and has just completed his second book.
His first was an autobiography, which was in his head, chapter by chapter, in perfect order before he wrote it. The publisher barely changed a word from his first draft.
The second book, which has just been published, was harder work. It is a guide on how to deal with life, for people with autism.
Marc, who has lived in High Wycombe all his life, has mild Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism which affects thousands of people.
He has been the victim of abuse, of misunderstanding, and of misdiagnosis. But with lots of support, and much determination and passion, he has achieved what even a few years ago, was thought to be impossible.
He is now an experienced public speaker who campaigns for rights, research, funding and understanding of autism.
"The most important thing is that people with autism deserve the same rights as everyone else. I'd like people to know that if they have any form of disability, it does not mean that you can't set yourself high goals and reach them."
He lost his mother to cancer in 1991, but she, and other members of his family, provided an essential support that has helped him succeed in so many areas.
He says: "My family have been very supportive. They always believed I that I could go further."
This contrasts to other people, including the doctor who diagnosed him as "mentally retarded" when he was young.
He was eventually properly diagnosed, and attended the Chinnor Resource Unit for autistic children through his school years. It provided exactly the right sort of help, but there are problems in the support system.
"When youngsters with autism leave school, there is often a great big void. All the support they get through their school years is gone, and we need that gap to be filled up. In many cases that can only be done through good support from the Social Services."
There is still a lack of understanding about the condition.
"The biggest gap in my life has got to be socially. I am very lonely sometimes. It is a loneliness that almost never goes away. I feel stuck on a desert island, like I can talk to my family on a radio, but don't ever get to see someone for years and years. That fear, that incredible isolation for years, that's how it feels."
There are other problems which seem less serious, but which present constant challenges.
"Autistic people take everything literally. I went for a drink with a friend in a pub, and he offered to pay for the drinks by saying "It's on the house, mate". This completely threw me, and I looked on the roof for the drinks, and was the laughing stock of the village. I only found out a few hours later the true meaning of it. So called grey areas can be a problem. If you give instructions to somebody autistic you have to be very precise.
The example of the object falling off the table describes what he calls the depth of feeling.
Marc explains: "This is a very important point and can often be overlooked. If I put an object on the edge of the table, so it may or may not fall off, an autistic person looks at this object, and sees that it might fall on the floor and make a loud clatter. Many autistic people are susceptible to loud sounds. So they will look at this object, and it will be illuminated in their mind."
He compares this to a person knowing a loved one was far away hanging off a cliff, and that they had to make it there to save them. When the autistic person makes it to the precarious object, he says: "The incredible relief and the happiness, has exactly the same intensity of feeling as (rescuing a loved one from falling off a cliff)".
He does stress that many people do not have autism as acutely as others, and that there is no known cure for the condition, so the focus must be on helping people manage and live with the anxieties.
With the help of friends he has learned to do many things in life. One hurdle was going shopping. His fear was that he would forget to pay, get arrested and be taken away. He calls that a worry chain, a sequence of events which leads to the ultimate concern separation from loved ones, or being in a situation out of his control. His other fear was getting on the the Tube and getting across London. He can now use the whole Tube network, and his next objective is to get on the buses.
The story of his life, and his second book, a guide to dealing with life with autism, are incredible achievements, but more importantly are very well written, and great to read, either for advice and guidance, or just as an insight into a slightly different, endlessly fascinating world.
When Autism Isnt A Disability (from Bucks Free Press)
When I was a freshman, someone asked a friend of mine if I was autistic. Having almost no knowledge about what autism was other than a dim memory of a Rainman-like character rocking in the corner and nonverbal, I was appalled. How could anyone possibly think I was like that?
Two years later, I rediscovered the subject of autism after seeing a Lifetime movie on it. I was intrigued by some of the concepts in it, and started reading everything I could find about autism, purely out of intellectual interest. Somewhere along the way, I realized that a lot of what I was reading sounded like me. I learned that autism is actually a spectrum disorder, which means that there are people who are affected by it on all different levels. I discovered something called Asperger's Syndrome, which is high-functioning autism and markedly different in its presentation than what we could call classical autism.
People with Asperger's Syndrome, I learned, have trouble reading social cues and understanding nonverbal language. They have trouble knowing what to say in conversations; when to start talking and when to stop talking. They fail to notice subtle conversational cues like change in tone of voice or body posture. In fact, they have trouble with social language in general. They are often highly intelligent and greatly knowledgeable in many subjects, especially with special interests that they pursue, but have trouble conversing with their peers. Because of this, they have trouble making friends and many will go through all of high school and college without having ever really made a single good friend. Because of this social rejection, AS kids will often try to shut the world out.
Sensory issues are very prevalent in people with AS. They can hear the sound of a person tapping their pencil from across the room, the smell of cigarette smoke or cleaning agents will drive them crazy, lights are either too bright or too dim, and they often have a hard time finding clothes that they can bear wearing because of the way they feel on their skin. Often they will have "sensory overloads" and need some time out from an activity to process all that is happening to them. Their brains simply process information in a different way and do not organize incoming sensory information very well.
Eye contact can actually hurt for this reason. Social interactions for the person with AS can be like trying to put together a five hundred piece puzzle before the time is up - the AS person must try to search through their databases of what is appropriate to say in any given situation and then try to find an answer that matches. It is almost like speaking a different language: AS people tend to speak in a more concrete and factual way and are usually very genuine.
It is this genuineness, though, that endears us to many people. We don't play guessing games with people; we say what we mean. As employees and friends, we are quite loyal. We have the ability to focus completely on tasks of interest for hours at a time and also to remember large amounts of facts related to our interests quite easily.
When I was finally diagnosed with Asperger's this past summer, it came as an enormous relief to me. I finally knew why I had always hovered on the outside of social life, always wanting to join in but somehow never being able to figure out quite how. I had an explanation for all the social blunders I had so painfully committed in the past; an explanation for why certain things that didn't seem to bother others bothered me so much. I could find other people who understood me and were like me. It didn't change who I am: a label like Asperger's carries some pretty heavy connotations with it, but in the end I am still the same old me, a psychology student at a liberal arts college in Baltimore, who loves country music and smoothies from Smoothie King. It just gives me a new way with which to understand myself.
Unfortunately, so many people are not as lucky as I was to gain this understanding. There is comparatively little information available about Asperger's; it was only put into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (the official handbook of what is and what is not a psychological disorder), a little over ten years ago in 1994. Misinformation and a lack of information abound. There are so many people out there that are wondering why they are different, who are desperate to find the missing piece but have never even heard of Asperger's. Many people with AS do go to college; this is a disorder that does not affect intelligence, only social functioning. On this campus alone, it has been estimated to me that there are at least seven identified students with AS. There are probably many more who never bothered to identify themselves to the college or who might have it but not know.
I explain all of this just to give the average person an idea of what it is like to live on the autistic spectrum. Someone once described it to me as living next door to a candy store and never getting to go in: the feeling of wanting so much to interact with others in the way that you see everyone else around you doing but somehow not being able to work out how it is done. I feel that it is only by learning about each other's struggles and truly trying to understand them that we can build a world that is safe for everyone to live in. A kind of world where people don't have to be afraid of being different, but can instead embrace their unique challenges and strengths. A world where we can truly grow and improve because we are taking advantage of everyone's strengths, not just the strengths of a selective few. That is the kind of world that I want to live in. It's the kind of world I think we all want to live in.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Nearly 50% of children with pervasive developmental disorders and hyperactivity responded to the drug, but the magnitude of the response was less than that seen with children with ADHD, reported investigator David J. Posey, M.D., of the Indiana University School of Medicine here, and colleagues in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
Seventy-two children, ages five to 14 years, participated in the randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. The trial included a one-week phase to test whether the participants could tolerate three different dose levels of the medication. This was followed by a four-week crossover phase during which the children were given one of three doses of Ritalin or placebo in random order to assess effectiveness.
Children showing a positive response were treated for an additional eight weeks to ensure that gains were stable. Response to treatment was assessed by parents and teachers using standardized ratings of behavior.
Thirty-five children (49%) responded to the drug, which is less than response rates of 70% to 80% reported for children with ADHD. Responders were defined as those who showed at least a 25% decrease in hyperactivity symptoms. Some children showed as much as a 54% decrease in symptoms. The effect sizes ranged from 0.20 to 0.54, suggesting a small to medium magnitude of response.
The drug did not improve symptoms of irritability, lethargy, social withdrawal, stereotypy, or inappropriate speech. Increased social withdrawal was associated with higher doses of the medication, which is consistent with adverse events reported in other studies.
Overall, 18% of the children withdrew from the study because of adverse events, most commonly irritability. Other adverse events at the highest dose included appetite decrease (24%), difficulty falling asleep (16%), and stomach or abdominal discomfort (12%).
"At present, methylphenidate is a reasonable choice to target hyperactivity in the context of pervasive developmental disorders, given modest group effects and a response rate that approaches 50%," the study authors concluded.
"However, caregivers should be cautioned about the strong possibility of adverse effects. In addition, practitioners should be prepared to suspend treatment if considerable adverse effects are reported," they added.
The authors also raised the possibility that "the use of psychostimulants added to another psychotropic medication may be associated with a greater rate of response than when used alone. For example, persons with autism already receiving an antipsychotic medication might be protected to some extent from adverse effects associated with psychostimulants (e.g., irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite)."
Ritalin is also sold under the brand names Concerta, Metadate, and Methylin. The study was not supported by any of the drug-makers.
Ritalin May Ease Hyperactivity In Autism-Related Disorders - CME Teaching Brief - MedPage Today
Rhonda Brunett and Wendy Williams
Parents of children with autism
Some kids may be misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A number of people have the idea that people with autism are so profoundly affected that they can't talk. If they are talkers, many assume that they converse like Dustin Hoffman's character in "Rain Man." But autism involves a wide spectrum. Asperger's Syndrome is an autistic disorder that is at the high-functioning end of the spectrum.
Many refer to those who have Asperger's Syndrome as having a "dash" of autism, or "mild" autism. However, there is nothing mild about this syndrome. Many children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at an early age have been misdiagnosed. Rather, they should have received the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome.
A wiring issue
Asperger's Syndrome is a neurological condition. The brain is wired differently, making this disorder a lifelong condition. It affects communication, social interaction and sensory issues. Asperger's is often referred to as the "invisible syndrome" because of the internal struggles these children have without outwardly demonstrating any real noticeable symptoms. Thus, difficultly assessing someone with Asperger's Syndrome is even more impacted. In fact people with Asperger's have average to above-average intelligence, and are even referred to as "little professors."
Children with this disorder struggle with a problem and internalize their feelings until their emotions boil over, leading to a complete meltdown. These outbursts are not a typical temper tantrum; for children with Asperger's Syndrome (and for their parents), these episodes are much worse.
Many Asperger's children may appear under receptive or over receptive to sensory stimulation and therefore may be suspected of having vision or hearing problems. Therefore, it's not unusual for parents or teachers to recommend hearing and vision tests. Some children may avoid gentle physical contact such as hugs, yet they react positively to rough-and-tumble games. Some Asperger's children have a high pain tolerance, yet they may not like to walk barefoot in grass.
Early intervention is key
If any developmental delays are presenting themselves, early assessment is critical, which means being evaluated for a preschool screening. Before the age of three years old early intervention is KEY for vast improvement possibilities.
Every child deserves a chance to succeed in school and deserves a great experience when it comes to their education. It's unfortunate that many children with Asperger's are either diagnosed later in life or they are pushed through the school system. Along the way, they are often referred to as weird, odd or very different from the other children. Because of their often above-average intellect, some of these children could be future CEO's, scientists, or other prestigious professionals. This is a silver lining for weary parents.
Take away tips: Characteristics of children with Asperger's Syndrome
* Lack of social skills
* Difficulties understanding the subtleties in conversation or abstract concepts
* Poor eye contact
* Taking slang literally ("Toss the dishes in the sink" means the dishes will be thrown into the sink)
* Often plays alone; lack of interaction with peers
* Impaired fine motor skills (Writing or using scissors is difficult)
* Unabashed rule-followers
* Unusual attachments to stuffed animals (inordinate dismay when a stuffed animal is thrown)
* A diet limited to the same foods
* Ritualistic, rigid or compulsive behavior; tantrums occur when routines are broken
* Insists on watching the same movie again and again
* Lines up objects or toys
* Hand flapping or spinning
There are numerous online resources, books and support groups that can help those concerned or who want to become better educated on the subject of autism and Asperger's Syndrome.
In Illinois, many parents are turning to Asperger's coaches for help and support. To learn more about autism/Asperger coaches visit the Asperger's Tips web site.
From Autism To All-Star
Rhonda Brunett is author of the book, From Autism To All-Star (see book review for more details) or go to the From Austism to All Star web site for the story of one families journey with autism.
Autism One radio
Rhonda Brunett and Wendy Williams also gave a radio interview to Terri Small on Autism One internet radio. The audio file can be listened to online or downloaded to an MP3 player or iPod.
Autism One radio is a worldwide, web-based radio station for the care, treatment, and recovery of children with Autism.
Auties.org is a new web site for (and run by) people on the Autistic Spectrum. Its aim is to provide an opportunity for people with autism to market their skills directly to the public and seek employment. Its free for people to list themselves so spread the word!
Reality based ranting by the original Doubting Thomas
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Over the weekend, over 1200 participants came together at the Reliant Park Astrodome to walk in the second annual WALK NOW event in Houston, TX! It was truly a special day for the autism community and Cure Autism Now in Houston raising over $145,000 to fund Cure Autism Now’s mission to find the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism. Thank you for helping Cure Autism Now continue to take significant steps into solving some of the challenges surrounding autism.
As you head into the final quarter of 2005, keep fundraising for WALK NOW Houston to reach and surpass your fundraising goal! Donations are accepted until January 29, 2006 to help you reach your goal and collect each incentive along the way! Thank you for your hard work and raising over $145,000 for WALK NOW. Keep it up! Proceeds from WALK NOW support Cure Autism Now’s mission to find the causes, effective treatments, prevention and a cure for autism. The money you raise will enable us to fund biomedical research and innovative treatments.