Friday, May 18th, 2012
As a health editor, autism is a common topic of conversation, and I’m always interested to hear about new research on the disorder. A few months ago, I had the chance to meet with Dr. Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism and Related disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, about a study that has just been released that could be helpful in detecting autism spectrum disorders earlier—an important finding, since early interventions are key to treatment. Here’s what I learned: In typical development, if you lay a six-month-old down on his back and pull him up gently by his arms, he’ll have enough head and neck control to bring his head up with his body. But in the study, researchers found that those at risk factor for developing the disorder (in this case babies with an older sibling on the autism spectrum) may not have the same control, and they’ll keep their head tilted back as they’re being pulled up. Curious to know the connection between head control and autism, Dr. Landa offered me this explanation: “Infants rely on motor development for social interactions and play development, so when we see motor delays during infancy, we want to address them.”
What’s great about the pull-to-sit test is that parents can do it at home and pediatricians can perform the same test in their offices. If you’re curious to try it, remember to make sure you have your child’s full attention. Otherwise, he may keep his head held back to look at an interesting toy or other person in the room. Another super important thing to remember: “We don’t want parents to think that just because their child shows a head lag he’s going to develop autism,” says Dr. Landa. “But it is important to talk to a pediatrician or other professional who can help parents better understand the implications.”
Click here to see an example of typical head and neck control.
This video shows an example of head lag.
Image: Baby holding feet
Videos: Kennedy Krieger Institute
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Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
For parents of children with autism, safety is a real concern. Nearly half of kids with autism try to wander away from a safe area, found a study by the Interactive Autism Network and Kennedy Krieger Institute. Of those children, more than one-third aren’t able to communicate who they are, where they live, or how to reach their parents and caregivers. Tragically, last year 10 children with autism drowned after wandering away.
But there are preventive steps you can take. These tips are courtesy of Autism File, a British magazine and web site.
- First, educate your child and explain as best you can what to do if he gets lost, and teach him his name, address, and phone number, hopefully until he can recite it from memory. (I’d add that this is probably not realistic for kids younger than at least 5.)
- Alert your neighbors that your child may be prone to leaving the house or yard, and ask them to direct your child back home and/or let you know if they ever see her on her own.
- Install wind chimes on your doors and windows. This is a great idea–easy enough to do, and works well to let you know that your child may be trying to leave.
- Talk to anyone who cares for your child about this issue, and discuss it with your local police department, too. Share helpful details about your child’s personality and tendencies.
- Consider a GPS tracking device for your child so that you’re able to quickly find him if he does get lost. (One we’ve heard good things about: Amber Alert GPS, where you attach the device to your child–such as around the wrist, ankle, even as a necklace–and then track him via your smartphone or computer.)
Image: Red garden swing hanging in garden via Shutterstock.
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Amber Alert GPS, autism, autism awareness month, Autism File, interactive autism network, Kennedy Krieger Institute, lost, safety, wandering | Categories:
GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, News, Your Child
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
I just learned about a fantastic ice-skating program for children with disabilities. It’s called I-Skate, and it was developed at the wonderful Kennedy Krieger Institute with help from Olympic skating champion Dorothy Hamill. I-Skate teaches children who have all kinds of challenges—some have conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy; others are cancer survivors; others have missing limbs—to feel comfortable on the ice. Throughout the four- to five-month course, the children, who range in age from 5 to 18, reap the health benefits of being active. They get the much-needed psychological boost that comes from mastering a skill. And perhaps most importantly, they form friendships with other children. The latest session wraps up at the end of the month and the children will celebrate with a performance for their family and friends.
We at Parents are big fans of anything that helps kids feel included, especially programs as innovative as this, so I-Skate gets a gold medal in our book. You can find out more or help support its efforts here.
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